Sunday, October 10, 2010

Why Art Should Overtake Commerce

In the opening scene from one of my favorite new (old) shows, Studio 60 (brilliantly written by the always controversial Aaron Sorkin) the executive producer of a live television show cuts in on a live broadcast to rant about the state of society, media specifically. He states, “There’s always been a struggle between art and commerce. Well let me tell you, art is getting it’s ass kicked.

While the show first aired back in 2006, I think the message at the center of the controversial first episode still rings true today: art has been getting it’s ass kicked. In my opinion, that is one of the first things that needs to change in order to pave the way for a new culture, less focused on commerce and more focused on creativity.

When I say art, I’m not referring to a specific form, rather the product of human creativity, the creation of elements that affect the human emotion, and the medium of expression used to create something meaningful beyond a monetary measurement. I know that’s a mouthful. In general, I mean innovation in the form of anything not political, governmental, economical, or legal in nature. We’ve been down those roads and we’ve failed miserably. It’s time take to take a new step towards progress, by letting art overtake commerce. Here’s what I mean.

In his article in the New York Times, Paul Kruegman states, We are no longer the nation that used to amaze the world with its visionary projects. We have become, instead, a nation whose politicians seem to compete over who can show the least vision, the least concern about the future and the greatest willingness to pander to short-term, narrow-minded selfishness."

So if politicians and government aren’t getting things done, who will? That’s where the artists come in. Take Google, arguable the most innovative American company existing today. Regardless of the “big brother” arguments they face daily, they are truly pushing the boundaries of how we use technology. Think all Google is doing is revolutionizing the search engine? Wrong. Read about how they are creating the self-driving car and you may just reconsider. Already thinking about the negatives (cab drivers, bus drivers - out of work), think again. It’s innovation like this that creates jobs.

Look at Facebook, another one of the most innovative companies of this generation. At first glance, many would say they’ve brought us down with Farmville, internet obsession, etc. I look at it in a slightly different manner. They’ve stimulated the marketing and PR industry. They created customer service jobs by forcing big businesses to hire social media representatives and they forged the way for the creation of small businesses to offer services to help companies manage their Facebook presence. They even gave entrepreneurs and bloggers a platform to raise awareness and build a community around their message. It has pushed us forward as a society and a culture, and it was always an act of creativity and art first, and a platform for commerce second.

Things don’t have to be large scale either. There are thousands of young entrepreneurs out there just waiting to make their dream a reality. The problem? All the bailout money is going to banks and financial institutions that do nothing but blow the billions of dollars they're given. How about funding 100 innovative small business ventures that will first help create a new culture and second help drive consumer spending and commerce (Birk
could do it). The government is so greedy that they don’t think about starting over for the future, rather they just think about trying to patch up the past. At some point, we must move forward, and art is often the leading driver of change.

Studio 60 clip:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Welcome to the Grand Ole' Party

Why do I often favor the republican party? Because unlike their democratic counterparts, everything isn't about fairness, freedom, and equal opportunity, it's about common sense. What am I talking about? I'm talking about what I would consider the foundations of a republican party member.

1. Fiscally conservative: realizing that operating under a deficit or an extremely unbalanced budget never produces positive results.

2. Socially conservative: doing what's right for the largest pool of people is always the best option

3. Neoconservative: bringing democracy and human rights to the countries we assist, not just invading and attacking them

4. Free market money: understanding the idea of individual achievement and it's importance in the overall economy

5. Reaganomics: understanding that a reduction in government spending would increase economic spending (no more tall-taxing)

6. Gradual change: a minimal, gradual change in the social, economical, and political landscape often leads to larger gains in the long run

A lot of individuals have challenged president Obama and his status as a democratic president. In my opinion, you need more than a party favor to form an opinion. I tend to fall more in line with those that critique president Obama on his progress thus far rather than his political party affiliation. One critic states,
"what a president can do is to challenge the ideas of the powerful and rally those who have become aware that the current system is destructive to the future of the planet. What president Obama has failed to do is the one thing he promised to do: to speak the truth and tell us and the country what really happens in the corridors of power and what the constraints are that he is facing."
If there is in fact a change, a hope that we can one day be equal under an unbalanced budget, as an organized group of tall-taxed citizens that attacks countries and takes no prisoners, then by all means, sign me up. Until then, I'll remain (at least partially) my allegiance to the Grand Ole' Party. But hell, who knows, I still think I'm joining the tea party.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Why America Needs a Payroll Tax Holiday

In a recent and ongoing feature over at the Huffington Post titled, the "America Needs Jobs" series, several contributors have called for a variety of initiatives that could provide incentives for the creation of new jobs, rewards for those currently working, and a number of other possibilities that would drive action and spending back into the economy. While all of the topics they cover struck a chord (forget retrofitting), I believe the easiest and most accessible change could come in the form of a payroll tax holiday, something that I think everyone in America could benefit from.

In a bold, but could-be-controversial statement, Huff Post editor Dan Froomkin states,

The only reason we still have a payroll tax is because it's been specifically used to fund the two most successful and progressive social programs in American history: Social Security and Medicare.

Otherwise, we would have gotten rid of it ages ago. On its own, it's the most regressive tax imaginable: 12.4% of your salary (typically split between you and your employer) no matter how little you make, and capped at an annual salary of $106,800.
Now here's where I start to form my own opinions. Call it my democratic moment of the day, but I feel as if the lower working class (ie. fresh graduates like myself) really get screwed on this payroll tax, whereas the older generation, making the big bucks comes away pretty much unscathed. Sure they pay more in taxes, but only up to a certain point, a point in which (if you're already making over 106,800) doesn't hurt the bank. But regardless of the price point, the economic class, or the percentage of salary, the payroll tax is literally a tax on employment. They're charging us to work.

So, why am I so in favor of the idea of a payroll tax holiday? Below states it best:

A reduction in the payroll tax would boost the economy in several ways. Like any reduction in taxes, it would mean that individuals would be able to keep more of their earnings, and thus have more money to inject into the economy. If you were to lower or eliminate the payroll tax for a period, it would make it effectively cheaper for businesses to hire new workers, or to at least maintain their current workers, until the economy improves.
So how could a payroll tax be implemented? Typically, in one of three ways (or all three). One, the government could put the employer contribution on holiday, making it less expensive for a company to take on new hires. Two, the government could put the employee contribution on holiday, allowing them to take home their full paycheck each pay period. Or three, the government could do both (wouldn't that be nice).

So what's stopping us? Typical political bull(sh*t). The left is already complaining that higher paid workers will get more money back than their lower paid counterparts. That's obvious, but at some point you need to realize that everyone will be benefiting, regardless of by how much or how little.

In a recent interview CNBC host John Harwood asked President Obama about a payroll tax holiday.

"Well, this is something that we've examined," Obama said. "And we are going to be working with businesses to see does it make sense for us to initiate some additional incentives in order to hire."
Yes Obama, it does make sense.

If nothing else, I'd say one thing's for sure. New hires and small businesses could truly benefit from the payroll holiday. Students are coming out of school with more loans than ever, are getting paid less than ever due to the troubled economy. We're often lucky to get a job, so discussing salary is typically a mute point. Although the national average in 2009 was around 48k out of college (with a Bachelors Degree) very few young professionals in smaller cities and lower paid industries are able to earn 3/4 of that amount when they are just starting out. For someone making 30k, making payments on an apartment, a cell phone, a car, on top of student loans makes it almost impossible to come out ahead.

So what I'm getting at is this: Something needs to be done to stimulate this economy. No one in the middle to lower class has any money nor any confidence to go out and make some. We're getting taxed to work. The money that we make is just enough to pay off our everyday essentials. Where's the extra go? There is no extra. And that my friends, is the problem.

Are you in favor of a payroll tax holiday? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.