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Archive for January, 2011

••• UPDATE to the update: The ‘hoarding’ of American wealth

January 31st, 2011 Comments off

••• UPDATE — An economist of some note, who chooses to remain anonymous, forwarded me some more information on the hoarding of wealth in American … Please read and let us know what you think

••• cbpp-ms-income-inequality-2008

••• cbpp-pulling-apart-state-analysis-income-trends-2008

From Monday …

I have come across the term hoarder (or hoarded) a couple of times today. The first I thought was interesting, the second kind of made me stand up and take notice.

The first came from someone who formerly wrote a column for me at a different newspaper. … The text and link to which he refers is included.

The second was included in Phil Hardwick’s blog on our website.

Enjoy, and let me know what you think …

Hoarder comment No. 1

For some reason, I was motivated today to read FDR’s First Inaugural Address. A link to it is below, and I suggest that you read it carefully and see how 1929-1933 is so congruent with 2007-2011.

Franklin Roosevelt saved capitalism by excoriating those who were perverting it and calling them out. They called him a socialist, but he saved the country.

One would think that the 1930s would have convinced Americans for all time that “trickle-down” economics is ultimately a disaster.

The moneychangers, as Roosevelt called them, are not philanthropists concerned about the average American. Cutting their taxes does not produce more jobs; it produces more hoarded wealth and higher annual bonuses.

They are today’s perverters of capitalism, and they must be called out as Roosevelt called them out.

http://www.bartleby.com/124/pres49.html

Hoarder comment No. 2

Speaking of small business, I couldn’t help but raise my eyebrows at this post from Gene Marks blog in the New York Times:

BEST CASE AGAINST LOBBYISTS Huffington Post’s Zach Carter and Ryan Grimm write about how the small-business lobby hurts small business: “Two years into the Obama administration, small businesses are still struggling to obtain credit and hire new workers, while big businesses withhold payments from them, horde cash and enjoy record profits. But if the top small-business goal for the past two years was to elect Republicans, the N.F.I.B. has done its job.”

See Phil Hardwick’s blog …

House immigration bill devastating to the Mississippi business community

January 27th, 2011 Comments off

A Mississippi House bill passed Thursday afternoon places the burden of responsibility for illegal immigration on the employers of the state

Thursday’s 80-36 vote came after a short explanation and no debate.

The bill would also allow law officers to check people’s immigration status during traffic stops or other encounters.

POLL QUESTION: Are you for a new House bill that is tough on immigration in Mississippi, but also tough on business employers?

However, the business community has now been placed squarely at the forefront of the immigration debate as the House bill calls for fines of a minimum of $5,000 per day per employee to a maximum for $25,000 per day per employee.

And that applies to small and large businesses as well as everyday citizens, who might have an undocumented housekeeper or lawn service worker.

Businesses found to have broken the law would lose all tax breaks and incentives provided for them and a clawback provision would force previous offenders to pay back money already credited to them over a period of time.

“Illegal aliens are not coming to Mississippi to sell drugs,” David Norquist (D-Cleveland) said Thursday afternoon. “They are here to make money and send that money out of Mississippi and back to Mexico to support their families and the economies of the towns the families live in.

“What we have here with this bill is the penalties have to outweigh the risk of hiring illegal aliens,” Norquist continued. “If employers weren’t hiring illegal aliens, there wouldn’t be an illegal alien issue in Mississippi.”

With the shift of emphasis from law enforcement to Mississippi employers, the bill would make a fund in which all of the fines, from $5,000 to $25,000 a day, would go to re-imburse officials enforcing the law.

This leaves Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant in a precarious position as this bill moves into the Senate.

Does Bryant back the bill, which is tough on immigration?

Or will Bryant back the business community and water down or kill the bill?

On the enforcement side, the state auditor will have the authority to chase offenders, which leaves open the possibility of Howard Industries having to pay back more than $3 million in incentives after a human resources manager was charged after a sweep saw 595 illegal aliens placed on administrative arrest. Of those arrested, nine were charged criminally with aggravated identity theft and ultimately pled guilty to federal identity fraud charges.

Pro-business organizations, like the Mississippi Economic Council, the Mississippi Manufacturers Association, the Associated Builders and Contractors of Mississippi as well as BIPEC (Business and Industry Political Education Committee) are certain to take a hard stand against the bill.

Meanwhile, organizations like the Tea Party are likely to support the bill as hard on illegal immigration.

Tupelo is capital of Northeast Mississippi

January 26th, 2011 Comments off

In a story we published on our website today, a South Carolina firm has consulted Tupelo to work together to be more consumer friendly.

Tupelo is already the capital of Northeast Mississippi.

Located on the interstate-like U.S. 78 and US. 45, people from as far away as Corinth, Columbus, Oxford and across the state line in Alabama, drive to Tupelo to work, shop and play on a daily basis.

I lived in the Tupelo area for about six years, and there is no question that Elvis’ hometown is already the center of the retail for that part of state, regardless.

What Tripp Muldrow, of Arnett Muldrow & Associates in Greenville, S.C. suggested is that Downtown Tupelo and The Mall at Barnes Crossing should be partners. This group rightly suggests the two groups could increase their market share if they work together to promote Tupelo as the complete shopping package — the Barnes Crossing district with its national brands and downtown with its independent stores and restaurants.

Tupelo has always been at the forefront of promoting regionalism, which has worked great the last 50 years. A teaming of the mall and downtown areas would make Tupelo more of a force to reckoned with.

Much of the state, like the Mississippi Delta and Metro Jackson could learn a thing or two from how Tupelo has conducted its business the last half century. It has done it right up until now, and there is no reason to believe now is any different.

Idea of texting for faster service insults state’s restaurant owners, and it should

January 20th, 2011 Comments off

Ask Mississippi restaurant owners what they think of the new, hip idea of texting your waiter or waitress for faster service, and you may hear words I cannot print in this publication.

In fact, I guarantee it, but I was able to cobble together a few comments we could print.

“Just give her a holler as she walks by. In Doe’s, nobody is very far,” said Don at Doe’s Eat Place in Greenville.

“We like the small tight spaces that the restaurant set-up entails.

“Texting your waitress for faster service? No, don’t like the idea. Less personable, not friendly.”

You want a beer at Doe’s? Go get it yourself. You’ll see four or five tables  full of people you know on the way. That seems like more fun anyway.
Right?

Well, even with cool, quaint places, Fridays and Saturdays can be difficult in regard to customer service.
Your waiter gets busy, and getting an appetizer or even the check can prove aggravating. But don’t expect restaurants in Mississippi to buy into the latest technology that has been introduced.

Doe's Eat Place in Greenville

Doe's Eat Place in Greenville

TextMyFood is a new service that allows customers to communicate with their server via text messaging.

A story on National Public Radio last week highlighted a restaurant in Massachusetts with the service and detailed why many would or should opt in.
Bob Nilsson, the president of TextMyFood, told NPR the goal of the service is to increase the amount of money customers will spend. For example, guests are more likely to order another round of drinks if they text the request in the moment. If they can’t find the server, they often pass.

But Mississippi restaurant owners were more than a little offended by the mere mention of texting for service.

John Currance, owner and chef at City Grocery in Oxford

John Currance, owner and chef at City Grocery in Oxford

“I honestly cannot say how discouraging this is,” said John Currance, owner of City Grocery in Oxford. “Dining is about an overall experience. All an electronic service like this threatens to do is move us more in the direction of becoming more of a fuel stop…

“I find this service patently insulting because I believe that the dining experience is one which should remain as personalized as possible.”

Jeff Good of Bravo, Sal and Mookies and Broad Street Bakery

Jeff Good of Bravo, Sal and Mookies and Broad Street Bakery

Jeff Good, from Bravo!, Sal and Mookies and Broad Street Bakery in Jackson, was in agreement.

“Have we really come to that?” an indignant Good asks.

“Are we there now… That’s where we are now? We have to text our waiters to get good service?

“In my world, I could not ever imagine having a waiter looking down at his hands on his phone to be checking if Table 54 needed more iced tea.”
But Nilsson argues that his service doesn’t eliminate human contact.
“There’s always a server at the other end,” he told NPR. “You just want to have that contact sooner. If you can’t see them and can’t make that contact, rather than waving your arms or getting up, just use the natural communication and let them know what you need.”

Sounds like it’s losing human contact to me, as well as Good.

“The very definition of service and hospitality is to be one-on-one,  engaged… and responsive to the needs and the nuances of people.

“So you won’t be seeing any texting in our world,” Good continued.

As for Currance, he would rather see all of us, as busy folks, slow down and enjoy a nice meal in a good atmosphere.

“We, as a people, need to stop focusing on what we can do to speed life along and impersonalizing our surroundings, and this is exactly what this service facilitates,” he said. “(It’s) both dehumanizing and potentially puerile.

“It occurs to me, also, that this becomes an intermediate measure for poor management. If when a place becomes too busy for staff to keep up, shouldn’t management step in to adjust? This seems to be a simple and ineffective side-stepping of that area of responsibility.”

Currance walks the walk to go along with the talk.

At City Grocery, almost 20 years after it opened, waiters still hand-write tickets to turn into the kitchen because, Currance says, it maintains an elemental relationship between the front and back of the house. It matters how the servers write the tickets and how the kitchen ultimately responds. It personalizes each of them and establishes a line of communication that is absolutely irreplaceable.

“And I would really wonder what the priorities were of any organization if texting were to become the methodology for service delivery.

“I think that is the antithesis or service,” Good concludes.

“ With each tick of the clock, it seems, we are pulled farther from that as a reality, but if all you are concerned about is speed and efficiency, eat in your car,” Currence says as we wrap up.

I wish that had been my line.

Well said, John.

Contact Mississippi Business Journal editor Ross Reily at ross.reily@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1018.

More than 99 percent vote for raising alcohol by weight

January 18th, 2011 Comments off

With more than 1,200 votes cast in an Mississippi Business Journal online poll, readers overwhelmingly believe that both chambers of the Mississippi legislature should reconsider their stance that would raise the maximum alcohol content in beer made and sold in Mississippi from 5 percent to 8.

However, Sen. Dean Kirby, R-Pearl, argues against a microbreweries beer bill, because he doesn’t want to put his committee members in an uncomfortable position during an election year, it is obvious that political gain is more important than business success.

POLL QUESTION: Should leadership in both chambers reconsider their stance regarding legislation that would raise the maximum alcohol content in beer made and sold in Mississippi from 5 percent alcohol by weight to 8

Even Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, a Republican candidate for governor, took the same position in a story in the Mississippi Business Journal this week. Bryant said he didn’t see a reasonable benefit to increasing the alcohol content in Mississippi.

If that is the case, Bryant and Kirby must be against more jobs and a better tax base for Mississippi.

In a conversation with the Mississippi Business Journal last week, Coast businessman Dave Dennis, a Republican candidate for governor, said he would be for such a bill and that any concerns about alcohol and morality is about personal responsibility, not politics.

Read Clay Chandler’s Mississippi Marketplace for more information.

Kirby, Bryant prove to be anti-business; Dennis for personal responsibility

January 17th, 2011 Comments off

I have written before about the term “anti-business” and that the perception often doesn’t match the label.

However, when Sen. Dean Kirby, R-Pearl, argues against a microbreweries beer bill, because he doesn’t want to put his committee members in an uncomfortable position during an election year, it is obvious that political gain is more important than business success.

POLL QUESTION: Should leadership in both chambers reconsider their stance regarding legislation that would raise the maximum alcohol content in beer made and sold in Mississippi from 5 percent alcohol by weight to 8

Even Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, a Republican candidate for governor, took the same position in a story in the Mississippi Business Journal this week. Bryant said he didn’t see a reasonable benefit to increasing the alcohol content in Mississippi.

If that is the case, Bryant and Kirby must be against more jobs and a better tax base for Mississippi.

In a conversation with the Mississippi Business Journal last week, Coast businessman Dave Dennis, a Republican candidate for governor, said he would be for such a bill and that any concerns about alcohol and morality is about personal responsibility, not politics.

So, if Dennis sees the financial and jobs benefit of the bill, why not Bryant and Kirby. I’m assuming they would rather see government impose its will on Mississippians instead of allowing for personal responsibility.

Maybe they could meet me for a beer to discuss it.

I mean, there’s no use in being a hypocrite, right?

Perception hard to avoid with feet in your mouth

January 14th, 2011 Comments off

Quick, which state is last in healthcare?
Education?
Race relations?
Gov. Haley Barbour, while I am sure he already knew, is getting a full dose of perception as he prepares to announce whether he is going to run for president in 2012.
Just last week, a headline on the Bloomberg website read, “Barbour’s Comments on Kidneys, Klan Underscore Struggles in Mississippi”.
The story, in part, went on as such:
Governor Haley Barbour’s boyhood memories of Mississippi’s civil-rights strife are diverting attention from his stewardship of a state that might be the launchpad for a 2012 presidential run.
Supporters say Barbour, a 63-year-old Republican who has led Mississippi for seven years, has been the state’s biggest booster, getting re-elected with a 58 percent majority even as he increased taxes and spending. The former lobbyist and Republican National Committee chairman led the recovery from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He lured employers including General Electric Co. and Northrop Grumman Corp. to expand, though the state remains ranked last in per-capita income and education.
That record has been overshadowed in the past two weeks by criticism of his views on race, an inescapable issue in a state where segregationist violence disenfranchised blacks for generations.

We like to think we have moved on.
But stories like this always seem to pop up.
When then Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm took shots at Mississippi a couple of years ago, we were all appalled.
Granholm was defending tax increases when she said, “Now is the time to stand up for those priorities. What we’re fighting for is Michigan not becoming Mississippi.”
We threw all kinds of stats at her, including how Mississippi’s unemployment rate was much lower than in Michigan.
“Shame on you Governor Granholm,” Mississippi’s State Senator Dean Kirby wrote in an e-mail. “Have you compared your tax structure to that of Mississippi? Have you ever been to Mississippi? Shame, shame shame !!”
Shame, shame, shame, indeed.
OK, now let’s take a look at the real issue here, whether it be about the Barbour story or the Michigan story — perception.
We still have a perception problem. Folks around the country view us as uneducated and backwoods.
We know that’s not true.
But it wasn’t so long ago that New York’s Charles Rangel made similar comments that enraged us all. Instead of firing back, we must do a better job of educating folks about our wonderful slice of the South.
It should be pointed out that whatever music Granholm listens to likely was born in Mississippi.
She should be reminded that every major form of music in America got its roots in Mississippi — from Elvis Presley and rock n roll in Tupelo to country and western in Meridian to blues and jazz in the Mississippi Delta.
Gov. Granholm should be reminded of the great literature and writers who have come from Mississippi — from Faulkner to Welty.
We also would like to point out the great journalism tradition that we have in Mississippi ranging from Pulitzer winners of the 1940s with the Delta Democrat Times to a 2006 Pulitzer winner in the Sun Herald of Biloxi.
Mississippi is a wonderful place, and we would like the opportunity to show everyone what we are talking about.
Having said all of that, there are plenty of reasons that Mississippi isn’t always at the top of the popularity list.
We all know the reasons — education, racial tensions, etc.
But we can’t make the outside world’s job easy. Gov. Barbour has got to be smarter about what he says, regardless of whether is running for president.
He is still representing all of us out there. And when he makes comments like he has made recently, he gives the Rangels and Granholms and Bloombergs of the world ammunition to use.
In this world, we either do or don’t, all on our own. We have to make our own way. We created the perception that others have of us and we must make the difference in changing that perception.
First, we must own up to it.
Second, we must do differently than we did.
If we don’t, we deserve what we get.

Contact Mississippi Business Journal editor Ross Reily at ross.reily@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1018.

Waveland mayor should cancel raise, not postpone

January 11th, 2011 Comments off

The Waveland Board of Aldermen has postponed raises for themselves and the city’s newly-elected mayor. Did you get that?

They have postponed their raises, when they should have been canceled.

The Sun Herald reports the four-member board voted unanimously in a special-called meeting yesterday to defer their raises until they can be discussed more fully during budget negotiations, which Mayor David Garcia said would start as soon as March.

These people just don’t get it.

According to the report from The Sun Herald, Garcia said he only recently learned the raises could be deferred. Garcia acknowledged that he and the board have been ridiculed by some residents over the raises, but said that did not play a part in the board’s decision.

Not only is Garcia a terrible mayor, he is a liar too.

Last month, the aldermen voted to give themselves and Garcia pay raises. Then earlier this month, the city fired 11 workers and cut the hours of four others in a cost-cutting move.

Is there any doubt Garcia will be a one-and-done mayor?

Not here.

Get ready to pay high price for coal plant

January 10th, 2011 Comments off

There’s been a lot of hype in recent weeks about how lignite plants across the country are going to be the wave of the future for the energy needs of America.

Since the ground-breaking of the Kemper County Coal Plant in December, Mississippi Power and Southern Company as well as Gov. Haley Barbour have talked a lot about what an economic boom the plant will be for the state.

What everyone fails to mention and point out is that utility rates, for those the new lignite plant will serve, are going to go up nearly 50 percent.

That doesn’t sound like much of an economic plan for the regular citizens of Mississippi.

There’s also a lot of talk about how many people will be employed by the new lignite plant. However, no one ever seems to be able to answer the question about how many Mississippians will be employed in the construction of the plant.

Will the construction be done by lots of outsiders?

Is all of this really good for Mississippi?

If higher utility prices and no jobs for actual people living in Mississippi is good for Mississippi, then I would hate to see what is bad.


Waveland mayor has lost his mind; Garcia should resign

January 5th, 2011 Comments off

You really can’t make this stuff up.

It was just a few weeks ago I wrote:

Did you read last week about the Waveland mayor and alderman giving themselves a raise?
No, it is not a joke.
When virtually everyone in the United States has done without a raise for the last 18 to 24 months, the Waveland Board of Aldermen has voted to increase salaries for the next four years for themselves and the mayor.
And by 20 percent!

OK, now comes word that the city of Waveland has laid off 11 workers and reduced four full-time positions to part-time.

The Board of Aldermen voted 3-1 early Wednesday morning after a 3½-hour executive session that began Tuesday night.

Mayor David Garcia says the move was made because of shortfalls in the budget.

However, Garcia has not returned phone calls from the Mississippi Business Journal requesting an interview.

The layoffs include seven public works employees, which includes the four full time to part-time workers; a court clerk; a city hall clerk and six in the police department that did not include any patrolmen.

There are more than 100 city employees. Garcia says the city expects to save $800,000 in salaries and benefits.

So, while 11 folks are without a job, Garcia has a little extra money to buy groceries.

Maybe his plan all along was to have extra personal cash so he could help support the poor bastards he was about to send to the unemployment lines.

Garcia’s salary was raised in mid-December from $60,000 to $72,000 annually. He was making $63,383 a year as fire chief.

Aldermen, paid $14,400 annually, will bring in $1,200 more a year.

As I said in a previous column, how arrogant must you be to vote yourself a payraise during the worst recession in 80 years?

But to then turn around and lay off 11 people is the ultimate slap in the face.

Maybe, in this economic climate, cuts needed to be made. But to make the cuts after giving yourself a raise proves, not only a lack of sensitivity, but a lack of intelligence.

When Garcia and his henchmen originally gave themselves a raise, we suggested that things would take care of themselves at the next election.

The last time I remember a mayor voting himself a raise was in Indianola, Mississippi.

That was a couple of years ago.

Last year, the incumbent mayor was ousted by Steve Rosenthal, largely because voters believed they had been taken for granted.

I suggested that Garcia and the Waveland Board of Alderman, should figure out a way to make this salary issue right, or wait until the next election, because the voters will take care of it.

However, after this latest gaff, it’s time for Garcia to resign.

He obviously has no idea what he is doing.

Contact Mississippi Business Journal editor Ross Reily at ross.reily@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1018.