Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Everyone Lies in Business

So it's really come to this.

Honestly, I couldn't decide whether to write a big old "f--- you" to Stan Kroenke (who I imagine will enjoy dining with Pol Pot and Hitler in ten years or less), to take the high road on this one, or to try to split the difference.

The more I thought about it, what good will calling Stan Kroenke a "small, petty man who uses his billions to try to compensate for other areas of his (ahem) life" accomplish?

What good would it be to call Roger Goodell a "no good liar who has now sympathized with chronic domestic abusers and cheats, all in the pursuit of the almighty yankee dollar?"

No, that's not the approach I need to take now that it's final that the Rams are, in fact, moving to Los Angeles next season.

Instead, let me impart a lesson that guided me through this entire process, from start to finish, and held my attention like a slow-motion car crash throughout:

Everyone lies.

Especially in business.

We had sportswriters on every side of this thing trying to figure out what was real and what wasn't. Desperately trying to sort the B.S. from the truth.

But what does that fact tell you, right on its face? It means that, implicitly, there was a LOT of B.S. floating around the pool for the entire past year!

The NFL telling #STLNFL to "keep doing what you're doing."

(Never mind the two hand slaps the league office tried to levy against the Task Force. The NFL said it, so it MUST be true!)

The numerous reports that "Carson has 26 votes!"

(Even though on the first secret ballot, that support proved about as real as Pam Anderson's...well... you know...).

Roger Goodell's long-winded "f-off!" to St. Louis at last year's Super Bowl presser:


None of it mattered. And as I suspected from the start, it was for that very reason above:

Everyone lies.

As a licensed attorney, I've known this all too long. Your opponent lies. Opposing counsel lies. Your own client lies. Everyone involved in a business transaction lies at some point.

It's disheartening for good, hardworking folks to hear. I understand that. I've always been keen on the "handshake agreement" myself. That my word should be good enough to cement a deal under almost any circumstances.

But there's a reason that a handshake deal often doesn't hold up in court. There's a reason that contracts exist and "get it in writing" is the mantra of any business owner.

It's because people are dishonest. Yes, Stan Kroenke most certainly is. The statement he released is absolutely sickening:

“This has been the most difficult process of my professional career,” Kroenke said. “While we are excited about the prospect of building a new stadium in Inglewood, California, this is bitter sweet. St. Louis is a city known for its incredibly hard-working, passionate and proud people. Being part of the group that brought the NFL back to St. Louis in 1995 is one of the proudest moments of my professional career. Reaching two Super Bowls and winning one are things all St. Louisans should always treasure.

“While there understandably has been emotionally charged commentary regarding our motives and intentions, the speculation is not true and unfounded,” Kroenke said. “I am a Missouri native named after two St. Louis sports legends who I was fortunate enough to know on a personal level. This move isn’t about whether I love St. Louis or Missouri. I do and always will. No matter what anyone says, that will never change. This decision is about what is in the best long-term interests of the Rams organization and the National Football League. We have negotiated in good faith with the Regional Sports Authority for more than a decade trying to find a viable and sustainable solution. When it became apparent that we might not be able to reach an agreement, it was then and only then that we looked at alternatives.”

What a prick.

Keep chasing those dollars, Stan. I'm sure it will buy you one of the nicest funerals you've ever seen, maybe at the 50 yard line in that new stadium you're so generously building in Inglewood. 

Oh wait, you won't get to see your own funeral? You won't get to take your billions with you after you, like everyone else in this world, croak?

(Don't worry Stan--I don't need to go to your funeral. I just want to know where you're buried. You know...so I can pis bring flowers every year.)

This is the ultimate dishonesty, to practically stand on the arch and piss on the town's citizens and then tell them "Oh, no, that was a hell of a rainstorm, wasn't it?"

Unfortunately, it doesn't stop there. Kevin Demoff was a loyal soldier and truth concealer throughout this entire process. Whenever I've questioned Kevin's motives among my peers, it's always been met with a "Yeah, but he's just doing his job..." 

Where have I heard that one before?

What happened to morals, Kevin? What happened to "doing the right thing?" They may seem like foreign concepts to you, but honestly, right now, I'm embarrassed that my alma mater can claim you as one of its own.

Unfortunately, I knew that these guys were lying from about a year ago on. Few listened, mind you, but that's just the truth. Thems the breaks.

But what could we do about it? When confronted, team officials consistently denied that any of this was going on. Stan was too cowardly to even face reporters. THEMS SO SCARY WIT' THEM QUESTIONS AND WHATNOT!

As media members, all we can do is ask questions. And if we don't like an answer, we can follow up. We can check and cross-check sources to our hearts' content, but that doesn't mean that what they're peddling is worth any more than what I just left in the toilet.

And it's left to us to figure out the degree to which everyone's lying. Honestly, that's been the best skill that I've developed through covering the Rams--knowing when someone is full of shit, and when to read between the lines. Sometimes the lies have been more egregious than others, but overall, they've all served the league's agenda: move the Rams back to L.A. Have to hit more women that $25 billion number, right Roger?

So if you take anything away from this move, if you take any of this into your business and private life, make it this:

Everyone lies. Some are better than others at it. But learn to separate the true scumbags from the posturers.

The posturers won't look you in the eye.

The scumbags will.

-D.J.



Saturday, January 9, 2016

How to Solve the Corporate Inversion / Jobs Dilemma

I know it's been a while, but honestly I've been working on a lot of stuff. So sue me. (Please don't sue me).

One of the problems I'm always rolling around in the back of my head is how to make more jobs for ordinary, hard-working folks in this country. This is especially true in light of the coming automation of a number of jobs that have traditionally formed the backbone of the U.S. labor force.

There's also a problem with corporate inversions, whereby (and this is incredibly simplistic) companies create offshore shell companies and transfer all assets to them in an effort to skirt the somewhat draconian U.S. tax laws.

Nothing I've seen on either issue has really moved the needle for me. Until now...

You see, tonight I spent a long time thinking about this stuff. (Yes, it's a Saturday night, and I'm a loser, and blah blah blah, but I actually had a moment of clarity while watching the Blues game with buddies tonight).

I think I've come up with a solution.

Here goes:

For every "full-time job" (let's say $40,000 salary + $10,000 benefits = $50,000) a company has, they get a $30,000 tax credit/deduction/whatever is more advantageous to them.

It doesn't matter if the employee makes $40,000 (plus benefits) or $3 million. Each employee counts for one unit under this scheme. Obviously the figures would be tied to a cost of living increase, 

Maybe the numbers are off, but I'm looking for a tax system where companies are rewarded for the number of jobs they create as opposed to profits they generate. Profits go to shareholders. The public very likely never sees a dime. How do we create a benefit for the common working man or woman? 

Make it worth the company's while!

Essentially, you shift any "entitlement burden" from the state (where everyone, rich and poor pays in) to companies, who could absolutely use more help, but who are incentivized at present to wring increasingly more out of employees while hundreds of thousands go unemployed, not paying taxes, and feeling pretty awful about themselves.

Why not make it so that in light of dwindling traditional jobs, we entice companies to hire folks as opposed to trying to wring more blood from the stone? Honestly, I think this is a happy medium between the wholly Libertarian crowd and some more progressive ideas. 

Of course, there are a bunch of questions already:

1) How do you prevent cronyism? Like a company just hiring a bunch of its CEO's kids?

Honestly, I think this is a bigger issue for small businesses than the behemoths. Let's say Jerry's Shoe World has Marla, Edith, Luanne, and Goober as employees, all relatives. Should Jerry get tax protection for hiring all of his relatives? 

Here's the problem: you can come up with a bunch of regulations w/r/t hiring practices, and it really doesn't matter ultimately. All it does is impose a bunch of B.S. on Jerry, who will find a way to hire Luanne anyway.

On the other hand, at least Jerry is paying these folks cash. They will, ostensibly, use that cash on rent, food, entertainment, and utilities (no, I'm not a hopeless Monopoly fan). 

But at the same time, I don't want Bob Sears to hire 150 Sears descendants to "keep the store," especially since Sears is in TROUBLE...from what I've heard...

2) There aren't enough $40,000 jobs out there!

I disagree with this one. I think that companies would find this new plan a lot easier to work with than the current plan. As such, hopefully a company with a lot of cash on hand (cough, cough, APPLE, cough, cough), would CREATE more $40,000 jobs to avoid the punitive tax system we have in the U.S.

3) How would this be more appealing than corporate inversion?

I'm not some "pie-in-the sky" idiot who thinks that companies will take this up regardless of whether it's good for them or not. I'm not an accountant, either. I don't know all of the ins and outs. But we DO need to do something to keep Americans employed and companies around.

But what I do know is that if we increase incentives to keep American jobs around, or even to create new American jobs, I honestly couldn't care less if companies are headquartered in Charlotte or Dublin. If we have more jobs, we have more taxpayers. Really, in some ways it comes down to shifting employer ideas about what constitutes "a job" more than anything else. This is just the first step.

Our current plan isn't working. We need some "out there" potential solutions. The President and the numerous frontrunners have entire TEAMS dedicated to this stuff. In all honesty, I just hope to catch an eye and go from there.

So there's my pitch. Questions? Comments? You know where to leave them...

-D.J.