Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Christmas Message of Hope from Jerry R. Mitchell

We all need at times to see a great light - especially when we find ourselves in darkness - the darkness of doom and gloom, the darkness of despondency and despair.

At the moment there are many people in this country who feel that they are without hope. Many feel burdened with financial and other problems and we must remember them in our prayers. However, it is important that we do not lose hope, despite the troubles that may face you in your daily lives.

2010 has been a difficult year for many of you, and as it draws to a close we can hopefully look forward with optimism to a brighter 2011, with the much hoped for economic upturn, and the possibility of new employment for those who have joined the unemployment lines in the past year.

As the holiday season approaches our thoughts also turn to family and friends at home in America and elsewhere in the World. We will, of course, also remember our loved ones who are no longer with us, when we come together at family gatherings to celebrate Christmas.

Christmas is a time for celebration, but this year it is a more somber occasion for many. Some of those things which could once have been taken for granted suddenly seem less certain, and naturally give rise to feelings of insecurity.

The families of soldiers now serving overseas carry an extra burden of worry while they are away, In such times as these, we can all learn some lessons from the past. We might begin to see things in a new perspective, and certainly we begin to ask ourselves where it is that we can find lasting happiness.

We live in very challenging times and are confronted by so many things that can easily get in the way of our Christian journeys. We all experience something similar at this time of year. We receive and we send cards. It is a lovely time to be greeting one another.

Christmas is a time for reflection and a time to appreciate the sacrifices made by others on our behalf. Each year it seems amazing how quickly time flies and already Christmas is upon us. What an exciting time!

As a Christian, I say hope and optimism are part of our lives. You can only be successful and achieve your goals if you believe in them. There is a movie however that my family and I watch every year at this time - It's a Wonderful Life. The film stars James Stewart as George Bailey, a man whose imminent suicide on Chirstmas Eve brings about the intervention of his guardian angel, Clarence Odbody (Henry Travers). Clarence shows George all the lives he has touched and the contributions he has made to his community.

Each year as I watch it, my heart is truly touched as I reflect upon the difference George Bailey made on the lives of so many. The movie shows the difference in a small town had George Bailey never been born.

What difference are we making day-by-day and year-by-year in the lives of others? Are we concentrating on the right things? Are we making a positive difference in the things we do and the decisions we make?

This Christmas, let's all make a difference. Reach out to someone in need, look for opportunities to help others and use our time and resources well.

Last but not least, for all who celebrate Christmas, remember the real meaning and keep Christ in Christmas.

I wish all of you and all those whom you love, a blessed Christmas - a Christmas rich in the knowledge of God's love for you and rich in the peace of God's care for you.

Jerry R.Mitchell is the President & CEO of Jerry R. Mitchell and Associates, Inc. He is an entrepreneur with a passion for helping companies grow. He's worked in the Fortune 500 world and been part of twelve companies eight of which either went public or were sold/merged with larger companies. Jerry is also Chairman of Modularis Inc. and is President & Founder of The Midwest Entrepreneurs Forum.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Take This Poll on Business Changes That Will Come With the Health Insurance Reform Elements Being Enacted in 2011

I created this poll on LinkedIn. Please take it there @ - OR - leave your choice in the comments section below. Thanks!

How will the higher cost and more regulations of Health Insurance Reform coming in 2011 affect your business decisions?

A. Hire less employees due to higher cost.

B. Ask employees to contribute more to cost.

C. Overhaul employee benefits package to lower cost.

D. Offer cheaper less coverage plans.

E. No longer offer health insurance benefit.

Thank you for your participation. I appreciate your time and opinion.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Michelle Obama’s “No Real Change” Disappoints Loyal Democrat

One Reason President Obama is Losing the Women’s Vote

Do you remember the constant message during the presidential campaign that an Obama victory would bring real change to “Washington as usual” pledged on the stump by both candidate Barack and potential first lady Michelle? Do you remember feeling a vote for Barack Obama would bring “Hope & Change” to the political process and America? Loyal Democrat and Obama supporter Leslie Harris does.

Leslie Harris is the President and Founder of the 501c3 non-profit organization Women On The Move. WOTM is a phenomenally growing brand in the philanthropic grant and scholarship giving non-profit sector. Ms. Harris’ vision and the company’s motto is “Promoting Positivity in Women”.

Women On The Move is also an emerging star in the online media sectors especially their consistently highly followed and iTunes downloaded blog talk radio programs. WOTM offers diverse programming with shows like The Round Table, Minding Our Business, Worth Reading, and specials featuring interviews with diverse industry leaders.

Women On The Move is a group that seeks and includes women of all ages, marital status, sexual orientation, employment levels, economic status, ethnicities, religions, and political affiliation if any. WOTM encourages women to “share their views, listen respectfully, agree and disagree about the important events of the day that affect women, the world, our families and ourselves.”

Ms. Harris spells out the vision and mission clearly on the WOTM website: “We want women who want to share their stories, their advice, their ideas, their recipes, with women who are looking for stories, advice, ideas and recipes. We want women who want to share their businesses by networking. If a subject affects women or affects the world it is considered neither too small nor too large to discuss in our forums, blogs, and news items.”

“Women On The Move is not a group that will seek, as a group, to promote one political party over another. Instead, we seek to provide a forum for all points of view to be heard, agreed with, disagreed with, argued and informed.”

“Women On The Move is not a group that hates men. We are a group that believes that the very fact that we are women is a gift, a blessing, a burden, an opportunity, a detriment. Just like men, we have an obligation to give back to society. We want women who are proud to be women and want to give back.”

Anyone would agree WOTM is an organization that should fit seamlessly into promoting and affecting real hope and change in America for women as well as men. That’s what Leslie Harris believes and works toward.

Ms. Harris is a loyal Democrat and is proud to put her money where her mouth is in making political financial contributions. She contributed to the Obama presidential campaign. She receives fairly constant solicitations by phone and email for additional contributions.

She was excited to receive a non-transferable invitation from the Democratic National Committee and The Women’s Leadership Forum cordially inviting her to a reception for First Lady Michelle Obama on November 22, at a private home in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. The attendance required a $5,000 minimum contribution.

Ms. Harris sent an email to the DNC reception contact, Florida Finance Director Jessica Clark, inquiring about having 10-15 minutes of Ms. Obama’s time to “talk about women’s issues, as my organization, Women On The Move, is a 501c3 organization that focuses on issues concerning women.” She also included the website URL and the growing numbers of WOTM.

You can imagine Ms. Harris’ initial surprise, believer’s disappointment, and eventual outrage at being unceremoniously told in an email response by Ms. Clark that she would have to write a check for $10,000 for even a few minutes of Ms. Obama’s possible direct attention in a photo line at the reception. To sponsor the event, with no guarantee of actual interaction with Ms. Obama, she would have to write a check for $30,400.

Here is Leslie Harris’ exact email response to Ms. Clark on November 12:

"Hi Jessica,

If the only way to get to speak to the First Lady is to pay at least $5,000.00, I’ll take a pass on that. I will, however, let our members, as well as our listeners to our weekly internet radio show know that the only way to speak to our First Lady is to pay money, and lots of it. I hope Democratic elected officials who still have their positions don’t question why we, who once were 100% in the corner of Democratic candidates have now moved away. It’s unfortunate that the change we thought we could believe in, has turned into change that we don’t want any part of. You take care, let the President know that we will see him in 2012!! "

Is it good policy and advocacy for real change to have a reception welcoming Ms. Obama sponsored by The Women’s Leadership Forum that will not permit brief direct conversation about women’s issues with Ms. Obama absent a large contribution?

Is it reasonable to invite someone to a reception with an entrance contribution of $5,000 and then acknowledge there will be no access to the honored guest without an additional $5,000 contribution for a minute or two in a photo line?

Is this reflective of real hope and change in “Washington as usual”? Leslie Harris doesn’t believe so. She certainly understands the need for politicians to solicit campaign contributions, and her objection in this situation was not about soliciting donations at a private reception.

Her objection was a “pay for access” at a reception that blatantly reflected it only being about “what can we bring in” and not even slightly about “what real changes can we learn about and lead for women”. She felt genuine outrage at what she believed was a stunning display of “Washington as usual” behavior and attitude.

Ms. Harris believes the American people thought they would be getting leadership that wanted to rise above empty campaign promises being the norm. Is this why President Obama is losing the women’s vote?

Leslie Harris continues promoting positivity for women through Women On The Move – with or without The Women’s Leadership Forum or Ms. Obama’s interest in what she sees as walking the talk on facilitating real change in the lives of women from all aspects of real life and circumstance.

In full disclosure, I work with Leslie as a Co-Host of WOTM Presents The Round Table. I personally know the sincerity and commitment she has to her vision for all women.

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Real Estate Trend Expert Tom Ruff's December Housing Report

“You can’t have a better tomorrow if you are thinking about yesterday all the time.” - Charles F. Kettering, Inventor

This month we’ll take a quick look at 2011 while giving our data a full-body scan, and if our full-body scan reveals something of interest, we’ll give that data a thorough pat down. Why? The answer is simple: so our readers can feel safe with the information we provide.

This just in, B of A is back in business. The Bank of America foreclosure moratorium ended December 6th, more to follow.

Ding Dong the Witch is Dead

In November, Maricopa County saw 5,891 new notices of trustee’s sale filed. While this is still an extremely high number, it’s the lowest number we’ve seen since the 5,879 of April 2008, when the foreclosure party was just heating up.

The optimist in me wants November to be the beginning of the end, the time when new notices start their inevitable decline, just as April 2008 was the beginning of the beginning. New notices cannot stay at current levels forever; eventually we have to return to a normal market.

This week Housingwire reported, “The serious delinquency rate on single-family mortgages held by Fannie Mae was 4.56% in September, a 16 basis point drop from September 2009 and the first yearly decline since April 2007.”

Let’s face it—the reason for the decline: foreclosures. The new loans coming into the pool have made it through strict underwriting protocol while the bad loans just keep getting sent to the courthouse steps, and once they’re foreclosed, they’re no longer delinquent.

Good in, bad out; delinquency rates had to improve. Regardless of the reasons for the decline, declining notices and declining delinquencies are still encouraging at the least. It’s also encouraging that the yearly running totals of newly filed notices are down 16.60%, from 103,219 to 86,082. The ninety-day averages are also down 12.23% from those that we saw last year at this time, from 23,304 to 20,453.

These numbers may not make us smile, but they can make us at least relax our frowns. I’d love to jump on my chair and sing, “Ding dong! The witch is dead. Which old witch? The wicked witch is dead.” But just as a “witch” rests because of an exhausting Halloween or a tough Connecticut senatorial race, foreclosures are resting, at least in part, because of the annual holiday season respite.

Trustee’s deeds hit 33-month low

While the yearly and quarterly number of new notices filed offer guarded optimism, the 37% decrease of recorded trustee’s deeds from the previous month is meaningless. Yes, trustee’s deeds hit a 33-month low.

The reason? Bank of America was on foreclosure vacation. The 2,698 properties foreclosed on in November was the lowest total since March 2008’s 2,365. Bank of America’s moratorium began October 8th, and it ceased yesterday, December 6th.

Of all B of A sales scheduled for December, 8,080 were moved to January or later, which was the vast majority. Of the 591 still scheduled in December, 196 currently have opening bids. Expect December foreclosures to remain at lower levels, and expect this trend into early January, since it normally takes B of A two weeks after the auction to record each deed.

Now that their moratorium is over, they’ll have two months of foreclosures to catch up on, which almost guarantees near-record foreclosures in the coming months. These numbers will most likely be reflected in March’s recordings.

Foreclosure activity always declines over the holidays: a gesture of kindness which usually lasts until the second week of January, when most New Year’s resolutions have gone wayside and it’s back to business as usual.

REO numbers down, pending numbers up

One of the numbers frequently requested and tracked by government agencies is the combined total of REO properties and active notices. We ended November with 19,966 bank- or government-held homes and 39,964 homes with active notices. We began tracking these numbers 19 months ago, and in that time frame there has been visible movement in the two components.

In the last 19 months we’ve seen REO extremes with a low of 13,377 and a high of 20,821, and active notices have moved between 47,606 and 39,229. But when we combine the REO total and the active notice total on any single date, we never stray more than 5 percentage points from 60,000.

Today’s total is 59,930. The high of 62,123 occurred in February 2010 as we moved into the final months of the tax credit, and the low of 57,216 occurred in June 2010 just after the credit expired.

This month we saw REO inventory decline by 855 and pending active notices increase by 229, which is exactly what one would expect. Remember, Bank of America stopped foreclosing; they did not stop filing new notices.

The bad news

One of the toughest monthly opinions I had to write was in July of this year, just as it became apparent that our market was starting to back pedal. The “bad news ahead” warning we issued in July has now manifested itself in national reports, and the declining prices we predicted have occurred.

The doomsdayers will continue to predict their usual price plunge of a 15% to 20% drop, but the declines I see in the future will be modest: more of a slip than a plunge. In November we saw a median resale home price of $121,548, down from October’s $123,000, and I expect this number to soften only slightly over the next two to three months.

Peering into 2011

As always, to end on a positive note, let’s give the first look into 2011 to Frank Nothaft, the Chief Economist for Freddie Mac who sees a gradual recovery of the housing and mortgage markets in 2011.

According to Frank Nothaft, the five features that will likely characterize the housing and mortgage markets for next year are low mortgage rates, house-price recovery, homebuyer affordability, fewer mortgage originations, and lower delinquency rates. In Arizona, we can throw in great weather, can’t we?

Contact Tom Ruff at The Information Market.

Tom is a graduate of the University of Nebraska. He founded "The Information Store" in 1982 and quickly became known as “The Source” of publicly recorded real estate data in Maricopa County. In August 2005 he formed "The Information Market" specializing in foreclosure data and housing studies.

Mr. Ruff is an expert on publicly recorded data and is known for his monthly housing opinion which shares an inside and sometimes irreverent look at the Phoenix Housing Market. He is often quoted in local and national publications.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Will the GOP 2012 Presidential Primary Look Like the GOP 2008 Primary?

Who’s on the 2012 “Naughty or Nice List” So Far?

Photo Credit - Flickr Creative

With the mid-term elections over less than a month ago, speculation on the GOP 2012 presidential primary candidates has already begun. It reminds me of stores putting up holiday decorations the day after Halloween. What ever happened to Thanksgiving decorations? Those who sell political opinion, like those who sell potential Christmas and Hanukah gifts, want to sell early and often.

I wish politicians and the media would concentrate only on addressing why it’s acceptable for Congress to have had a year to pass a budget and decide on raising taxes in a recession, and they haven’t done either yet. I’d like a pine tree wooded ranch in Montana or Nevada with lots of horses for Christmas too. I’m guessing I’m not going to get either this year. Santa can be tone deaf that way.

So, as the “in the spirit” political reindeer that I am, I’m dreaming of 2012 candidates dancing above my head. Will the GOP 2012 presidential primary look just like the GOP 2008 presidential primary? Will there be a challenger to President Obama in the Democrat 2012 primary?

Just like major stores poll long before the holidays to know what toys to stock for holiday buying, the polls have already begun to determine which GOP presidential candidates the public wants to buy. These political polls like to compare the buy choice to the 2008 most popular buy – President Obama.

The most recent poll was conducted on November 22 by Quinnipiac University. The poll most notably summarizes, “President Barack Obama does not deserve a second term, American voters say 49 - 43 percent, and he is in a statistical dead heat with possible Republican challengers Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. President Obama leads Sarah Palin 48 - 40 percent.”

Apparently Independent voting Santa has President Obama on the naughty list this Christmas. But, the Democratic working elves don’t as reflected in the poll, “Democratic voters say 64 - 27 percent they do not want anyone to challenge President Obama for their party's nomination in 2012.”

Quinnipiac notes former GOP Governors Mitt Romney (MA), Mike Huckabee (AR), and current Governor Mitch Daniels (IN) are on the nice list. “In trial heats for 2012, former Massachusetts Gov. Romney receives 45 percent to 44 percent for Obama, while the president gets 46 percent to 44 percent for Mr. Huckabee. Matched against Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, a virtual unknown to most voters, the president leads 45 - 36 percent.”

Voters may put a lump of coal in Governor Sarah Palin’s primary stocking according to Quinnipiac. “Ms. Palin is viewed the most negatively by the American people of the possible Republican candidates in 2012. She is viewed unfavorable by 51 percent of voters and favorably by 36 percent. Among independents, the key swing voting bloc, she has a negative 54 - 33 percent favorability rating.”

I’m the political commentary reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh navigating through the political storms. I know, I’m not in any of the storybooks, for Santa likes to appear nonpolitical. He agreed to let me share my 2012 GOP potential primary thoughts under an assumed identity. Here are the quick “nice” and “naughty” that I see:

GOP 2012 CANDIDATE (Current Position) - NICE / NAUGHTY LIST:

*Mitt Romney (Former MA Gov)–WH needs business acumen, looks presidential, smart / Romneycare, 2008 primary loss, abortion flip flop
*Mike Huckabee (Former AR Gov) – fair tax, conservative, sensible, experienced, likeable / too religious as a Baptist minister, too willing to compromise with left
*Sarah Palin (Former AK Gov) – conservative, Tea Party darling, DC outsider / too conservative, polarizing, “say it often enough lies becomes fact” media campaign, left governor term early
*Mitch Daniels (Current IN Gov) - conservative, very tough on spending cuts, honest / not supportive of conservative position necessarily on social issues
*Bobby Jindal (Current LA Gov) – young, likeable, handled BP oil spill and hurricane Gustav well / soft spoken, too likeable can appear too compromising
*Tim Pawlenty (Leaving MN Gov) – young, likeable, smart / soft spoken, can seem wishy-washy at times
*Jeb Bush (Former FL Gov) – young, very smart, experienced / brother of President G.W. Bush
*John Kasich (Current OH Gov) – conservative, leadership, tough, smart / some see as Wall Street darling
*Chris Christie (Current NJ Gov) – tough, smart, honest, unafraid / unions will mount huge offensive
*John McCain (Current AZ Senator) – war hero / old, been there-done that and lost big, flip flop on illegal immigration for AZ 2010 senate primary
*Lindsey Graham (Current SC Senator) – young, Iraq-Afghanistan expert / seen as Republican in Name Only (RINO), DC insider
* Jim DeMint (Current SC Senator) – conservative, smart, leadership / too conservative, DC insider
*John Thune (Current SD Senator) – young, conservative, smart, honest / low name recognition
*John Boehner (Speaker Elect OH) – smart, politically experienced / plays golf a lot, can seem wishy-washy from too many years in DC at times, too emotional at times
*Mike Pence (Current IN Rep) – conservative, smart, leadership / strong anti-abortion funding position
*Ron Paul (Current TX Rep) – libertarian bend timing, honest / old, polarizing, too radical
*Newt Gingrich (Former Speaker GA) – very smart, tough, experienced / old, lots of baggage, mean spirited
*Rudy Giuliani (Former Mayer NYC) – tough, smart, leadership, honest / not conservative enough, 2008 primary loss
*General David Petraeus – smart, leadership, correct on Iraq / political inexperience, no economy experience
*Donald Trump (Current Business Tycoon) – smart, tough, leadership, business experience / political inexperience, could be seen as in the “evil rich that caused the economic mess” category

It will be interesting to see if like President Lyndon Johnson in 1968, President Obama has a primary challenger for 2012. Obama, like Johnson may end up being a never ending war president with a strong anti-war Democrat base. President Obama, like President Johnson did, may end up with a primary challenger that is stronger anti war like Johnson’s challenger MN Senator Eugene McCarthy. And then, once a challenger comes in to take the initial heat, President Obama may end up with a challenger that could take the primary from him – think Hillary – or like Johnson’s Robert Kennedy.

On my 2012 Christmas list is “I’d like to see President Obama run a strong reelection in 2012 against a strong challenge from Governor Chris Christie with the Vice President candidate being Florida Senator Marco Rubio or Florida Representative Retired Lt. Colonel Allen West. And if current Vice President Joe Biden decides to retire, I hope current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would be President Obama’s Vice President candidate.”

Could you imagine the 2012 presidential and vice presidential debates with that line-up? We would have a true “light the tree” excitement level all year. A reindeer can dream, right?

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Is the US So PC It Will Accept TSA Liberties Assault?

Both Photos - Credit Flickr CC
The US remains the country people want to immigrate to legally and illegally. America is still viewed as the land of opportunity even with current economic problems and global criticism. Americans still stand as embodiment of “the free and the brave”.

The Bill of Rights continues to represent American liberty. Patrick Henry’s “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech, considered a rally for the American Revolution against a tyrannical ruler, reflects American sacredness of liberty and freedom for its citizens.

Has America become so ruled by political correctness it will dishonor its heritage with mandated selective liberty? Will Americans continue to accept obvious political correctness hypocrisy?

The new Transportation Security Administration (TSA) airport security screening enhancement mandates passengers to accept being electronically photographed nude or intrusively physically screened (at a level of sexual assault in any other circumstance) or both.

San Diego resident John Tyner recorded his TSA pat-down objection this week. Mr. Tyner was not allowed to board the plane or leave the airport without additional questioning. TSA is officially investigating him. He faces a large fine and prosecution on a charge of leaving the airport’s security area without permission.

Unlike Mr. Tyner, it appears many Americans have taken a passive “well if it keeps us safe, then we have to do it” attitude. Security officials, and most informed citizens, understand these new intrusive measures can not guarantee non-metallic explosives detection. In reality, is TSA promoting a false sense of enhanced security?

Our founding father Ben Franklin said, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Public acceptance may be exaggerated however. A Reuter’s ongoing poll asking “Are you less likely to fly because of stepped-up security procedures such as full body scans and patdowns?” reflects a 96% YES response at 74,899 respondents.

Citizens are objecting. Lawsuits have been filed to stop the use of the body scanners. Civil liberties organizations including the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) have filed suits against TSA citing several concerns.

EPIC filed a lawsuit against TSA in the District of Columbia Court of Appeals asking the court to halt the US government's use of naked body scanners altogether in July.

EPIC has brought claims under the Administrative Procedure Act, the Privacy Act, the Video Voyeurism Prevention Act, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and the 4th Amendment.

EPIC filed additional lawsuits against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) last week.

Exemptions have been demanded. Airline pilots have been granted an exemption. A modified pat-down will be allowed for children 12 years and under who require extra screening.

The most controversial request came from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) to allow Muslim women be exempt on religious objection. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano responded she would consider it. She was politically correct enough not to see the irony everyone else saw.

TSA Chief Pistole indicated there would be no exemptions for religious practice to the Senate Homeland Security Committee. Less than a week later on November 21, he acquiesced conditions would be adaptable.

Do we have the political courage to stop piling on useless airport security, without genuine suspicion and due process, simply to feel good about our righteousness? Can we end the US’ appeasement of those sworn to kill our people and destroy our country from the inside out?

Should every American citizen be profiled a terrorist carrying a weapon or explosive until screened not to be? We must change course and policy based on political correctness now.

May we all agree security and realism are non-exclusive? We must be capable of acknowledging and saying out loud that security techniques used in Israel as an example have been effective. Israelis are trained properly to identify the known enemy and do not waste time or common sense to feel PC good.

Profiling for effective security is a forbidden concept in the US. Security modifications or exemptions due to oppressive measures weakens security structure. Our enemies are just as reactive to us as we are to them. We know they make adjustments to each new obstacle we insert into their method.

Pilots and children 12 and under are exempt. New terrorist plans will include pilots and children. It can and has become a never ending process. Better metal detection led to non-metal explosives ingenuity. And on it will go.

The US has undisputable intelligence analysis and summary representing distinctive features and characteristics of terrorism attacks and of the terrorist that commit them – a political correct way of describing a profile.

Intelligence gathered by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), DHS, DOJ, and military operations substantiate terrorism identification. The US knows terrorism is coming from radicalized Islam. The US knows terrorists are radicalized Muslim men and the countries most likely to train them

Americans are fair, but they understand what is needed. A 2010 Rasmussen poll reflects 59% believe “factors such as race, ethnicity and overall appearance should be used to determine which boarding passengers to search at airports”. 71% said “such profiling is necessary in today’s environment”.

The poll showed Americans do understand political correctness has had an impact on safety with 63% saying “political correctness prevented the military from responding to warning signs from a Muslim US Army officer, Major Nadal Malik Hasan that could have prevented the Fort Hood massacre from taking place”.

Refusing to use this information effectively, the US is showing itself to be so politically correct it is imposing a TSA assault on civil liberties. We must resist the ridiculousness of putting our manpower and money toward political correct security that only allows us feeling better, not being safer.

President Franklin Roosevelt’s “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” could be applied to political correctness in 2010.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Happy 235th Birthday Marines

I just love this video......."Gene Simmons Military Tribute". Did you know? - My dad was a Purple Heart awardee in the marines. Happy BDay marines - and I love you and miss you dad.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Major State Ballot Measures Mid-Term Outcome – Yes or No by 2010 Voters?

Photo Credit - Flickr Common
As detailed in last week’s Part 1 and Part 2 posts on major statewide hot topic legislation, the 2010 mid-term election voters also decided numerous statewide ballot measures in categories such as taxes and state budgets as well as healthcare mandates and legalizing marijuana.

There were fiscal legislation state ballot measures considered as well as social legislation state ballot measures with 37 states deciding 160 ballot questions in all on November 2. What did the voters say? Let’s examine the November 2 election outcome by category type noted in our pre-election articles.

Part 1 – Fiscal Legislation

Government Administration & Government Accountability:
YES - IL – Amendment 31, Allows governor recall.
NO - CO – Amendment 61, Forbids debt by loans.

State Budget & Taxes:
- FL – Federal Budget Question, Asks should Congress add an amendment to the US Constitution requiring a balanced federal budget.
NO - CA – Proposition 24, Eliminates three business tax breaks.
YES - CA – Proposition 26, Requires a 2/3 supermajority in state legislature to pass certain state and local fees.
NO - CO – Amendment R, Eliminates property taxes for business or individual using government owned property for a private benefit.
NO - CO – Amendment 60, Reduces property taxes.
YES - GA – Referendum A, Exempts business inventory from property tax.
YES - IN – Question 1, Adds property tax cap to IN Constitution.
NO - LA – Amendment 4, Allows property tax increases limitation.
NO - MA – Question 3, Rolls back 6.25% sales tax to 3%.
YES - MO – Amendment 3, Prohibits any new taxes on the sale or transfer of all real estate.
YES - MT – CI-105, Prohibits any new taxes on the sale or transfer of all real estate.
YES - WA – Initiative 1053, Requires a 2/3 supermajority of WA state legislature or statewide vote for tax increases.
NO - WA – Initiative 1098, Raises income taxes on high earners and reduces some business and occupation taxes and state property tax by 20%.
YES - WA – Initiative 1107, Repeals tax on candy, bottled water, soda pop.

Elections & Campaigns:
- NM – Amendment 2, Extends term limits to New Mexico county officials.
YES - NM – Amendment 3. YES – Adopts federal requirements to vote subject to state registration and resident requirements.
YES - OK – Question 746, Mandates voters must provide proof of photo identity to vote.
YES - OK – Question 747, Limits term of office of elected officials.
YES - UT – Amendment B, Amends and clarifies legislative residency requirements.
Related Notes:
- City of Portland, ME – Local Proposal, Allows non-US citizens to vote in local issues and school elections.
NO - City of San Francisco – Proposition D, Allows non-US citizens to vote in local school elections.

Part 2 – Social Legislation

Healthcare & Abortion:
- AZ – Proposition 106, Prohibits rules against health care participation.
NO - CO – Amendment 62, Defines “person” as beginning at biological development.
NO - CO – Amendment 63, Protects the individual right to make health care decision for one self.
YES - OK – Question 756, Allows residents to opt out of any federal healthcare mandates.

Affirmative Action, English & International Law:
- AZ – Proposition 107, Bans preferential acceptance in employment.
YES - OK – Question 751, Specifies English as the “common and unifying language of Oklahoma”.
YES - OK – Question 755, Forbids courts to consider law other than US federal or Oklahoma state.

Marijuana & Environment:
- AZ – Proposition 203, Legalizes marijuana for medicinal purposes.
NO - CA – Proposition 19, Legalizes marijuana for recreational use and taxes it.
NO - CA – Proposition 23, Suspends “Global Warming Act” until unemployment is below 5.5%.
NO - OR – Measure 74, Allows state to license marijuana farmers who can distribute crop to medical marijuana dispensaries.
NO - SD – Initiated Measure 13, Legalizes marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Labor/Secret Union Vote:
- AZ – Proposition 113, Gives the right of a secret ballot for union organizing elections.
YES - SC – Amendment 2, Allows voters to decide whether it is a fundamental right to have secret ballots in deciding if workers are represented by a specific labor organization.
YES - SD – Amendment K, Protects secret ballot in union elections.
YES - UT – Amendment A, Requires employee representation to be by secret ballot.
Related Notes:
AR, CO, FL, MO worked toward getting a secret ballot measure on the 2010 ballot but were not successful.
NV will have a ballot measure to protect the secret ballot in union representation on the 2012 ballot.

Miscellaneous – Just Because:
- KS – Question 1, Allows citizens to bear arms in state.
YES - KS – Question 2, Eliminates mental illness as a voting disqualification.

There were 184 statewide ballot measures voted on in 2010 in all including the ones voted on prior to November 2. According to ballotpedia, 64.7% at 119 was approved and 35.3% at 65 was defeated.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Americans Stepping Up – The Power of One in Helping Job Seekers

An Interview with Kathy Bernard, Creator of “Get a Job! Blog & Workshops"
Photo Credit - Flickr Creative Common

We all know the power of one. We are in awe of it when we think of Rosa Parks, Mother Teresa, and the anonymous man who stood his ground in front of tanks at Tiananmen Square.

Each of us has also seen the power of one in everyday life, whether we realized it or not, in the teacher who inspires a child to achieve his or her dream; in the teenager who stands up to bullies to protect a friend; and in the mom who tirelessly gives her all every day to her children. These are just some of the everyday people that step up and are the power of one hero making a caring difference in someone else’s life.

In today’s tough economic climate, there are millions of unemployed Americans. For the first time in their lives many of them can not find a job. Some are lost and need help in finding a path back to normal. They are not hoping for a hand-out. They are searching for a hand-up in the form of direction in finding a job.

As the politicians fight over how best to create jobs, individual Americans are stepping up to give immediate hope and effective help to those seeking jobs. It is their way of giving back. They simply want to make a difference that matters. Kathy Bernard is a corporate communications leader based in St. Louis, Missouri. She is also the creator of "Get a Job! Blog & Workshops". She is making a difference.

BKH: What was the motivation in wanting to give back?
KB: I have always enjoyed trying to do something to make the world a better place. Usually I try to do it through a paying job at a nonprofit, but since I am in a more corporate type of position now, I figured out a way I could help others in my free time at little or no cost to me or them. I started writing a blog, leading workshops, and offering one-on-one lunches.

I believe we all have a higher purpose on this earth than to just live and die. We should each look for our own personal way to help. We all have different gifts and interests.

BKH: What made you decide on helping others by doing the "Get a Job! Blog & Workshops" specifically?
KB: A little over a year ago I wanted to gain some experience in blogging and social media. I knew so many people that have lost their jobs, and I had always been tenaciously good at finding work. I was always giving friends advice about how to tweak their resume and cover letter, and I knew how to maneuver around the online job application. So I put all of that knowledge into the blog.

BKH: Explain how you starting doing the workshops and how they evolved from the blog.
KB: Local people who read my “Get a Job!” blog began asking for in-person help. To meet this need, I began offering “Career Launch Lunches”. Since many job seekers just don’t have the money to pay experts to help them, I saw this as an alternative to costly career coaching for them. We meet at a fast food place, and for the price of lunch, about $3.75 for my fast food meal + their meal; they can ask me for whatever guidance they need. If they need more in-depth help, like say to improve their LinkedIn presence, I can offer them additional personal assistance for $25 per session.

Also, within a month of starting my blog, a person who had seen one of my blog posts asked if I would put together workshops for his church. I enjoyed hosting two workshops with his church so much; I started promoting my availability to lead employment workshops on my blog. I usually charge a nominal fee for conducting a workshop or workshop series, but I work with host organizations on options if money is an issue.

After those first workshops, the church surveyed the participants; and one wrote that they had seriously considered suicide before my workshops. They wrote the workshops made them feel that things would turn out OK and that they had renewed strength to keep going. I felt like “Wow, what a blessing it is that I can help someone like that who really needs a little hope in their life.”

I love the interaction of the workshops. I enjoy seeing people's eyes light up when they realize that effective job seeking isn't as hard as they feared and that they are capable to seek and find a job.

BKH: What type of help do people seem to need most?
KB: Most people want help with their resume and building their networking. Sometimes they want to know how to approach certain companies or how to word being terminated from a job. Those who have not applied for a job in 20 years have often let their technical skills go, and they need help in creating a resume document and in applying online. It is a very scary world for people who avoid anything technical. They've got to push past their fears and learn online communication skills.

BKH: Who is the average person that comes to you for help?
KB: It’s equally male and female. Generally the most responsive to my offer of help tends to be the professionals and American baby boomers. But, I've helped all kinds of people from all over the U.S. and Canada. I’ve also helped people overseas through InMessages and e-mail. I meet a lot of people locally at my "Career Launch Lunches" and my local workshops. Typically, the people I work with have been out of work for several months and have grown weary trying to go it alone. They are frustrated by the lack of response to their job applications.

The people I help range from people who haven't applied for a job in 20 years, and they have no clue how to fill out an online application; to those who are extremely tech savvy, but they have difficulties dealing one-on-one with recruiters or other less technical people. The type of work they are looking for varies, but the largest group is communications and marketing professionals. I also hear from general business job seekers, recruiters, sales representatives, project/production managers, trainers, and IT professionals.

BKH: What have you gotten out of this work that validates it the most for you?
KB: I love to hear from someone who has been struggling with unemployment that just landed a job. I want to jump out of my seat and yell, "Yeah!", like I just got the job myself. I have been unemployed and know what it feels like. You worry you won't be able to provide for your family. You fear that you won't have proper benefits to care for a family member who may have a catastrophic illness or accident.

It is terrifying, sad, and demoralizing for most people to be unemployed. If you are used to working, unemployment suddenly thrust you into a situation where you aren't sure you can contribute to a company in a meaningful way any more. It’s a hard pill to swallow if you are told to go away, because you are no longer needed. So what I get the most out of doing my blog and workshops is helping one less person being stuck in feeling this way, and that is awesome for me!
BKH: Kathy can be contacted directly through her LinkedIn profile.

Check out the "Topical Archive" section of the "Get a Job! Blog & Workshops" website. It offers an in-depth resource list for job seekers from resume and job application advice to interviewing tips to networking help to social media use expertise.

Gloria Buckman has attended a couple of Kathy Bernard’s workshops and reads her blog. She sums up the power of one difference well in her thank you note to Kathy, “I want to remind you how much your help with unemployed people means to folks. It is scary, not just the lack of income, but tackling the whole job-hunting process seems daunting, and you make it human. The fact that you donate your time is amazing, and I pray God richly blesses you for that."

Kathy Bernard is one of the many quiet heroes that have always made America stronger in its most difficult times through the power of one reality. There are many in America right now quietly making a big difference. Perhaps you are one or could be.

For additional individual Americans stepping up to assist job seekers with free help see my AXcess News article “Job Hunting? – JobAngels Networking May be an Answer to Your Prayer”

Monday, November 1, 2010

Major State Ballot Measures Voters Will Decide on Nov 2 – Part 2, Social Legislation

Healthcare Mandates, Education, Personhood Definition, Legal Marijuana, and Union Secret Voting
Photo Credit - Flickr Creative

Social issues have taken a back seat to fiscal issues recently. According to, “The 2010 ballot includes fewer social issues (such as abortion, marriage, immigration, gambling) than has been the case in recent years, although one of the most widely-remarked measures on the ballot, California’s Proposition 19, is a classic in the genre.”

The discussion in 2010 has centered on the economy, jobs, and deficit spending. It’s rare to hear a discussion on future deficit without the new healthcare reform being a part of the mix, especially since the touted “saving” are now accepted by some Democrats as unrealistic. The most contentious part of the bill is the mandate that every citizen must purchase health insurance, and 21 states have filed lawsuits against the federal government related to the reform.

It’s not surprising 4 states have ballot measures relating to the new bill – AZ, CO, MO, and OK. Arizona’s Proposition 106 would prohibit rules against specific health care participation. Amendment 63 in CO is meant to protect the individual’s right to make health care decisions for one self. Proposition C already passed on August 3 in MO is to the point – it blocks a government mandate to buy health insurance. And, OK’s Question 756 is blunt proposing to allow residents to opt out of any federal healthcare mandates.

With the release of the education reform message documentary “Waiting for Superman”, education has jumped to the front of hot topics in the last month or so. There are 7 states with ballot measures relating to the “Education” category – AL, FL, HI, ID, OK, OR, and RI.

The usual top areas in the social categories are rather quiet in 2010 ballot measures. Arizona has an “Affirmative Action” measure with Proposition 107 which would ban preferential acceptance in employment. Oklahoma has an ”English” measure with Question 751 which specifies English is the “common and unifying language of Oklahoma”. Oklahoma is the only state with an election measure also considered an “Immigration” measure with Question 746 which proposes voters must provide proof of photo identity to vote.

Even though the definition of marriage was a hot debate in recent elections, there are no ballot measures this time in the “Marriage” category. The “Abortion” category is represented by 2 ballot measures. Measure 2 in AK already passed on August 24 mandates a doctor may not perform the abortion procedure on a minor without informing at least one parent. Measure further mandates that the legal penalties on the doctor for conducting minor abortions without parental consent will be enforced.

One of the ballot measures with the most impact potential is CO’s “Fetal Personhood” Amendment 62 which proposes defining the term “person” to every human being from the beginning of the biological development. The officially-approved ballot title says:

“An amendment to the Colorado Constitution applying the term 'person' as used in those provisions of the Colorado Constitution relating to inalienable rights, equality of justice and due process of law, to every human being from the beginning of the biological development of that human being.”

In line with a growing discussion trend, 4 states have ballot measures under the “Marijuana” type. Marijuana legalization for medicinal purpose is proposed in AZ, OR, and SD. California’s Proposition 19, the Regulate, Control, and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010, is the most sweeping and would take effect the day after the election. It would “legalize various marijuana-related activities, allow local governments to regulate these activities, permit local governments to impose and collect marijuana-related fees and taxes, and authorize various criminal and civil penalties.” In addition, 11 CA cities have local November 2 ballot measures allowing them to tax recreational marijuana should Prop 19 pass as a statewide ballot measure.

There are a few ballot measures that fall in the meaningful miscellaneous type category. They seem to be taking some aim at UN or foreign law consideration and at Card Check in the federal level discussions by the White House and Democrats. In OK under the “Judicial Reform” category, Question 755 proproses federal and state laws be used to decide cases by courts and forbids courts from considering international law. Four states have ballot measures under the “Labor” category that propose vote by secret ballot for union elections – AZ, CO, MO, and OK.

And just for fun, maybe this observation will make you smile like it did me. There are only 2 measures on the Kansas ballot – Question 1 would allow citizens to bear arms in the state, and Question 2 would eliminate mental illness as a voting disqualification. Ok, maybe it was just me.

Major State Ballot Measures Voters Will Decide on Nov 2 – Part 1, Fiscal Legislation

Government Accountability, State Budget, Taxes, and Elections & Campaigns

Photo Credit - Flickr Common

In addition to voting for candidates on November 2, the mid-term election voters will also be deciding numerous statewide ballot measures in the major hot topic areas such as taxes and state budgets as well as healthcare mandates and legalizing marijuana.

According to, 184 ballot questions have been certified for spots on the 38 statewide ballots in 2010, as of October 25, 2010. Specifically for the November 2, 2010 general election ballot, 160 ballot questions have been certified in 37 states.”

Ballotpedia further notes, “5 political topics dominate the 2010 ballot, and 3 of the 5 most popular topics each relate to fiscal policy. The ‘Big 5’ topics on the 2010 ballot are taxes, administration of government, elections and campaigns, bond issues, and state budgets. The number of 2010 ballot measures relating to fiscal topics is an increase of about 13% over the number of such measures on the 2008 ballot.”

“Government Administration” type ballot measures accounts for 25 down from 34 ballot measures in 2008. This represents the largest decrease of type with -9 from 2008 to 2010. States with this measure type include AZ, CO, GA, HI, ID, IL, LA, MI, MT, NE, OK, OR, SD, and UT.

Most notable is Illinois’ only statewide proposal “Illinois Governor Recall Amendment”, also called the “House Joint Constitutional Amendment 31”, which would allow voters to recall the Governor. Perhaps this comes out of Illinois’ experience this year that it might be easier to recall a Governor than to prosecute him/her.

“Government Accountability” has been a hot discussion topic this year, and there are 2 ballot measures of this type – 1 each in AK and NE. Taxpayer money and government fiscal responsibility were a part of the general accountability discussion of course. Statewide ballot measures reflect the growing watchdog voter attitudes. “Bond Issues” type make up 21 ballot measures in 9 states – AK, AR, ME, NE, NM, OH, OR, RI, and WA. Amendment 61 in CO perhaps displays lessons learned at the federal level on dificit spending – it forbids debt by loans in any form in CO.

There are 15 “State Budget” type ballot measures in 2010 compared with only 2 in this category in 2008. This represents the largest increase of type with +13 from 2008 to 2010. States with this measure type include AZ, CA, CO, FL, HI, OK, SD, VA, and WA. Also add 2 additional “State Spending” type measures – CA and OK. Florida has also included a “Federal Budget” question on their ballot asking if Congress should add an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that requires a balanced federal budget.

The ballot measure type “Taxes” shares the largest increase of type with “State Budget” with +13 from 26 in 2008 to 39 in 2010. Twenty-one states have tax measures on the ballot – AL, AZ, CA, CO, FL, GA, HI, IN, IO, LA, MA, ME, MO, MT, ND, NM, NV, OR, UT, VA, and WA. Louisiana has the most at 5 measures followed by CA and AL with 4. Colorado, MO, and WA all have 3.

Most significant in the “Taxes” category is CA’s Proposition 26 which mandates voters must give permission prior to any new taxes being imposed. Initiative 1053 on WA’s ballot requires a statewide vote or a 2/3 supermajority vote of the WA state legislature for tax increases.
Most interesting is WA Initiative 1107 which would repeal various 2010 state tax law amendments passed which included a sales tax on candy and bottled water and a temporary excise tax on soda pop. Perhaps they jumped on the nanny state bandwagon before they thought it through completely.

On June 8, ME passed veto referendum Question 1 the Main Tax Code People’s Veto resulting in overturning the tax reforms overall in its entirety approved by the ME legislature and signed by the Governor in 2009. The reform package vetoed included an increase in state meals and lodging taxes, broader state sales tax to include more items, and an income tax rate cut.
Oregon measures 66 and 67 already passed on a January 26, 2010 ballot. This raised the state’s high income individuals and corporate income taxes as a referendum on HB2649 and HB3405. Washington’s Initiative 1098 on the November 2 ballot is also about income taxes. If passed, it taxes gross income above $400,000 for couples and $200,000 for individuals.

In addition, WA’s Initiative 1098 would reduce certain business and occupation taxes and state property taxes by 20%. Proposition 24 in CA goes the opposite direction proposing to eliminate 3 business tax breaks. I know, but I have to ask - Will this attract more business to the deficit plagued state? Yet, CA shows a sign of reality in its Propostion 23 under “Environment” type which proposes to suspend AB 32, the “Global Warming Solutions Act” until unemployment falls below 5.5%.

Georgia on the other hand proposes with Referendum A to exempt business inventory from state property tax. Amendment R in CO proposes eliminating property taxes for business or individual that use government owned property for a private benefit.

Property taxes in general are a hot button item as reflected by several ballot measures for no property tax or additional homestead exemption for the military or the elderly in FL, LA, MO, and VA. Colorado’s Amendment 60 proposes a reduction in property taxes while LA’s Amendment 4 proposes property tax increases limitation; and IN’s Question 1 proposes adding a property tax cap IN Constitution Amendment.

Perhaps to head-off a possible federal VAT tax being imposed, MO and MT have ballot measures to prohibit any new taxes on the sale or transfer of all real estate.

State sales tax amount is being addressed in MA with ballot measure Question 3 to propose rolling back the 6.25% sales tax back to 3%. Going in the opposite direction, AZ’s Proposition 100 already passed on May 18. It increases state sales tax by 1% for 3 years.

“Elections & Campaigns” have held particular interest in 2010 with the completion of the 2010 U.S. Census that will determine states gaining or losing Congressional House seats and state voting redistricting. There are 15 ballot measures in this category up from 9 in 2008 on 10 state ballots – CA, FL, IL, KS, MO, NC, NM, OK, UT, and VT. Three states have measures regarding redistricting – CA, FL, and OK.

Illustrating voter sentiment in 2010 with career politicians, NM and OK have ballot measures that propose term limits. Innovative again with Proposition 14 that already passed on June 8, CA will have the top 2 primary election vote getters move to the general election whatever the party affiliation.

While voters in liberal cities San Francisco and Portland, ME will determine if non-U.S. citizens should be allowed to vote in local elections, 3 statewide ballot measures seem to be tightening up on eligible voter determination. Amendment 3 in NM proposes to adopt federal requirements to vote, subject to state registration and resident requirements. Oklahoma’s Question 746 proposes voters must provide proof of photo identity to vote. And, Amendment B in UT would amend and clarify legislative residency requirements. There are currently 22 states that have voter identification requirements.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Is Foreign Campaign Money a Concern, But Not Non-US Citizen Voters?

7 Cities Allow Non-Citizen Voters Now & 2 Have Ballot Measure This Nov 2 Mid-Term

Photo Credit - Flickr Common
If you stood on a busy street in downtown Chicago or New York City and asked passing U.S. citizens “Should those that are not U.S. citizens be able to vote?”; realistically a large majority would answer anywhere from “No way.” to “That’s illegal.” to “Not according to our consitiution.” to “Become a citizen first.” to “Voting is a right of citizens only.” to “Hell No.”

Most Americans see the right to vote in U.S. elections as a sacred right “as an American citizen” and one that should not be politicially handed to anyone that is not a citizen – legal or illegal non-citizen residents. Most Americans relate the right to vote to a freedom Americans have sacrificied for and died for throughout our national history. Most Americans feel it is a priviledge given by our constitution to be excersised only by those with the right to shape political policy – citizens of the United States.

Most Americans do not realize the U.S. Constitution does not prohibit non-citizen voting rights on a local level. All 50 states allow only citizens to vote in state or national elections legally. Legislation signed by President Clinton made it a crime for any non-citzen to vote in a federal election with the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996.

Federal elections have always restricted voting rights to citizens; however, many states and territories have allowed non-citizens to vote in their local elections as long as residential requirements were met since colonial times.

With heavy legal immigration in the early 20th century, states began eliminating legal non-citizen voting rights. There are several cities in the U.S. currently estimated to have a population comprised of up to 40% non-citizens – legal and illegal. Today, legal non-citizens may vote in six municipalities in Maryland in municipal elections and in the city of Chicago’s school elections.

Within the past few years, cities and other local jurisdictions in California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Maine, New York, and Texas have put forth local political discussion and proposals to allow legal non-citizens to vote in school or local elections with varying political outcome.

On the ballot this November 2, two cities have measures asking voters if voting rights should be extended to legal non-citizens. In San Francisco, Proposition D if passed would allow non-citizens to vote in school board elections if they are the parents, legal guardians, or caregivers of children in the school district. In Portland, Maine, the ballot measure if passed would allow city residents who are not U.S. citizens to vote in school board and budget matters, city council elections, and on other local issues.

Extending the right to vote to legal non-citizens in New York is being put forth via the “Resident Voting Rights Act” bill by the city council as opposed to being put on a ballot for voters to decide. The bill if passed would allow any legal resident to vote in municipal elections. The bill is expected to be put to a politician vote in the next few months.

According to an October 19, 2010 U.S. Census Bureau press release, “36.7 million of the nation’s population (12 percent) were foreign born, and another 33 million (11 percent) were native-born with at least one foreign-born parent in 2009, making one in five people either first or second generation U.S. residents.” The 2010 Census goal was to count all U.S. residents including citizens and legal non-citizens. It is widely accepted a significant effort was made to include illegal residents in the population counts also.

Maybe because these non-citzen voting rights extensions are most often spearheaded by Democrat politicians and liberal immigration or youth progressive organizations, many political cynics see them as the start of a political push to revise voting rights at all levels, including federal ultimately, to be extended to all U.S. residents possibly including illegal immigrants under federal comprehensive illegal immigration reform ultimately. The cynics see sanctuary cities leading the way to extend voting to non-citizens. They see Democrats as wanting to change the national voting demographics and dynamics in hopes of increasing what they see as voters for their party.

Non-political class opponents most often cite that legal non-citizen residents and legal immigrants should adopt the U.S. as their country by becoming legal U.S. citizens before being given the right to vote in any election. They believe legal immigrants will not have an incentive to become citizens if they are given the right to vote without becoming a citizen. They see loyalty to the U.S. as minimized if voters are not citizens first.

Political class and non-political class supporters most often cite legal non-citizen residents and legal immigrants are more invested in and loyal to the U.S., and in particular the schools and community, if they have the right to vote. They find the argument that Democrats are simply looking to increase their voting demographics and dynamics absurd. They note the voting right extensions being discussed are for local elections only taking into account the 1996 federal legislation that includes no state or federal voting rights law. They note there is a history of non-citzens voting in local elections.

In the discussion, some wonder whether or not people would come into the U.S. on a legal Visa expecting the right to vote. Some wonder whether voter right extension to those that are not U.S. citizens would increase voter and election fraud at all levels by making voting right identification harder to determine.

One thing that should be asked and answered by both sides realistically is “Would giving non-citizen voting rights dilute the meaning and therefore the value of U.S. citizenship and sovereignty?” If politicians are as concerned about foreign money campaign contributions stealing our democracy as expressed by the Obama administration against Republicans in this mid-term elections season, are they equally concerned about foreign votes and increased voter fraud as well? Only time will tell.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Companies Help Employees Cope with the Recession & Tough Economic Times

Photo Credit - Flickr Creative Common
Many are struggling in today’s economy. Even those with jobs are dealing with financial stress from cut hours, wage freezes, and perhaps an unemployed spouse. Employers see employees that are often stressed and preoccupied by financial troubles at home.

Some employees are just trying to make ends meet; trying to avoid foreclosure, trying to save for retirement, having financial marital discord, or are stressed by other family financial situations.

One unique way employers are helping is by providing a new employee benefit – recession themed personal financial management classes. Happier, less stressed people are happier, more productive employees.

Financial literacy leader LFE Institute, Inc. specializes in unbiased workplace financial education tailored to the employer and employees. They have offered employee training for over 20 years, and more than 500,000 employees have taken LFE Institute classes. In the last couple of years, LFE Institute has extended their footprint nationally and their focus to meet the specific needs in a tough economy.

Stress is reduced by learning basic skills on how to stretch paychecks, “find” an extra $4,000-$7,000 annually from current income, reduce debts, ease family conflicts over money, avoid financial traps, and master core investment principles. The results are sustainable by providing knowledge and skills that change defeating attitudes and behavior.

An Interview with Alice Whinnery, CEO of LFE Institute, Inc.:

BKH: How do employer clients typically hear about your services?
AW: Primarily through strategic partnerships with synergistic businesses such as benefit providers, CPA, outplacement firms, EAPs, 401(k) providers, and HR consultants. Their clients want to increase profits and minimize liabilities through unbiased workshops and money coaching.

BKH: What are the primary reasons companies are interested in providing personal financial class to their employees?
AW: Employers are not looking for general financial “information.” They want solutions that change behaviors and solve problems which are negatively impacting the bottom line, such as:

* Retention & Turnover
* Healthcare & Garnishment Costs
* Productivity & Engagement
* 401(k) Participation & “Top Heavy” Retirement Plans
* Liabilities – ERISA, Workplace Violence, Accidents, Product Liability

BKH: An employer can expect a 3 to 1 return on their investment (ROI). How is this measured?
AW: The research was done by the Founder and former President of PFEEF, Dr. Thomas Garman. The non-profit foundation, PFEEF (Personal Finance Employee Education Foundation) uses the 3:1 statistic. They have also created a ROI Calculator for employers to measure the price points important to them. PFEEF’s calculator can be found on the LFE Institute home page.

BKH: How does LFE Institute’s class focus differ from a company's internal Human Resources Department or benefits group?
AW: First, we teach numerous strategies, systems, and techniques that cover a broad range of critical financial issues employees struggle with today. Most benefit providers only focus on company-specific topics related to the retirement or benefit plans.

Second, the LFE Instructors go through an extensive selection and training process to learn how to deliver interactive, skill-based curriculum. Having taught over 500,000 employees, we’re experts in taking complex financial concepts and making them easy for employees to understand.

Lastly, my experience says, internal HR personnel should never teach financial strategies to employees due to company liability reasons.

BKH: How many types of classes do you offer?
AW: Each of our workshops solves specific problems but can be customized to incorporate client-specific content. Our most popular series are:

* Managing Your Money! – Teaches employees unique strategies to stretch their paychecks, reduce debts, ease family conflicts, and avoid financial traps – without budgeting.
* Investing for a Great Retirement – Teaches investment basics, gives employees the confidence to save, and minimizes ERISA liabilities for employers.
* Find More Money Series – Relieves specific financial stressors throughout the year. For example, employers are currently sponsoring “Find More Money for the Holidays.”
* Money Roadblocks! – Designed for teenagers 17 to 19 to help them avoid financial traps.

Every course also includes six months of “HotLine” to answer employees’ specific questions. This is an important part of skill-based training, since it continues the learning process long after the workshop is over.

BKH: How do you define "high quality financial education" in the real-world results for employers and for employees?
AW: As experts in corporate adult education curriculum design for over 24 years, we define it the way employers do. There are a lot of criteria, but their essential ones include:

* It solves problems. – Teaches specific strategies. They are not looking for general financial information.
* It is skill-based. – Teaches by “asking” not by “telling”. It is the only way to change employee behaviors and to ensure sustainable results.
* It addresses all types of adult learners. – Uses the latest accelerated learning methodologies. This ensures that visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic learners build the same level of skills by the end of the class.
* It is unbiased. – Teaches with no product sales bias or pitch. We do not sell any financial or insurance products, so there is no hidden agenda to our educational solutions.

BKH: Who are the employees that clients offer these classes generally?
AW: The LFE workshops are primarily offered to employees from minimum wage through middle management. However, we have also taught key executives in our workshops or through one-on-one coaching. As one client bank President stated, “We had to make the programs mandatory since unfortunately, our Senior VPs needed it as much as everyone else.”

BKH: What is the most asked employee question in a financial class?
AW: Many of the questions revolve around one of the unique systems we teach – a flexible alternative to budgeting. One employee question we hear in almost every class is, “This may just save my marriage. How can I help my spouse learn this System?”

BKH: What are the top 3 employee interest areas?
AW: With the recession, employees like:

* Reducing debts and learning easy ways to find more money to make ends meet
* Easing family conflicts over money
* Staying current on the latest financial trends. We get this a lot, which is why companies subscribe to our weekly educational series titled “Money Minute!”.

Clients from varied industries recommend the LFE Institute program:

“If this workshop keeps just one employee from walking down the street, it’s worth the price of the class.” Regional Bank Client

“Over seven years, our workforce was able to find an extra $7,900/year using the strategies they learned in Managing Your Money.” Manufacturing Client

“We spend $1 million on benefits, and our employees don’t think we do anything for them. We bring in LFE’s ‘Managing Your Money!’ workshop, and they think we’re wonderful.” Construction Client

“This course should be a requirement for anyone who earns a paycheck.” Bank Manager Client

“We increased our 401(k) participation by 27% in the 1st quarter after working with LFE.” Communications Client

Employers that have offered the LFE Institute’s employee classes believe the money is well spent by providing a timely personal benefit to their employees and in promoting loyalty and goodwill in their employer – employee relationship.

They also agree this added employee benefit lives up to the ROI with increased retention and decreased liabilities by having less recession stressed, more financially empowered employees. Review LFE Institute’s services at or call 877-LFE-5557.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Thank NJ Gov Chris Christie for Likely GOP Governors Majority in 2010 Elections?

Photo Credit - Flickr Creative Common
When voters go to the polls on November 2, to cast votes in the mid-term elections for House and Senate candidates, they will also be deciding the governorships in 37 states and 2 territories. Many political pundits are predicting the GOP will have a majority of the 50 gubernatorial seats when the 2010 election is over. Likely voter polling indicates the GOP could turn several current Democrat held governor seats to Republican. This is being driven by stand-still economic growth, high unemployment, and massive deficit spending being blamed on Democrat liberal ideology and progressive policy.

Up for decision in November are 18 gubernatorial seats currently held by Republicans, 1 currently held by a Republican turned Independent to run in the 2010 senate race in FL, and 20 currently held by Democrats. There are 6 incumbent Republicans running for reelection – AK, AZ, ID, NE, TX, and UT – and 8 incumbent Democrats running for reelection – AR, IL, IA, MA, MD, NH, OH, and U.S. Virgin Islands.

In 25 races there is no incumbent running due to retirement, term-limits met, and 1 incumbent Republican governor defeated in the Nevada primary. In these 25 races, 13 have leaving Republican governors – AL, CA, CT, FL, GA, Guam, HI, MN, NV, RI, SC, SD, and VT – and 12 have leaving Democrat governors – CO, KS, ME, MI, NM, NY, OK, OR, PA, TN, WI, and WY.

As of October 7, Rasmussen reflects an “Election 2010: Gubernatorial Scorecard” post-election results for the 50 state gubernatorial make-up nationally as 28 Republicans, 15 Democrats, and 7 toss-ups. The toss-ups states are FL, MN, NH, OR, RI, VT, and WI. Currently Rasmussen predicts, “ Hawaii is the only state with a Republican governor that is considered likely to elect a Democrat in November. But seven states now headed by Democrats – IA, KS, ME, OK, PA, TN, and WY – are seen as likely GOP pickups.”

Rasmussen foresees 17 states as solid Republican - – AL, AK, AR, IA, ID, KS, ME, MI, NE, NV, OK, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, and WY – and 5 states as lean Republican – GA, IL, NM, OH, and PA. For the Democrats, they foresee 2 states as solid Democrat - HI, NY – and 6 states as lean Democrat – AR, CA, CO, CT, MA, and MD.

As of October 7, Cook Political reflects an incredible 18 states as toss-ups with 9 currently having a Republic governor – CA, CT, FL, GA, MN, NV, RI, TX, and VT – and 9 currently having a Democrat governor – IL, MA, MD, ME, NH, NM, OH, OR, and WI.

Cook Political also reflects 7 states now headed by Democrats as possible GOP pickups – IA, KS, MI, OK, PA, TN, and WY. They foresee 7 states as solid Republican – AK, ID, KS, NE, TN, UT, and WY – and 8 states as lean/likely Republican – AL, AZ, IA, MI, OK, PA, SC, and SD. They foresee 2 states as solid Democrat – AR and NY – and 2 states as lean/likely Democrat – HI and CO.

As of October 7, Real Clear Politics predicts there are 7 toss-up states – FL, IL, MA, MN, OH, OR, and VT. They foresee 8 states as safe Republican – AK, AL, ID, KS, OK, TN, SD, and UT- and 11 states as lean/likely Republican – AZ, GA, IA, ME, MI, NM, PA, NV, SC, TX, and WI. They foresee no states as safe Democrat and foresee 9 states as lean/likely Democrat – AR, CA, HI, CO, CT, MD, NH, NY, and RI.

One of the leading political analysts nationally is Director, U.Va. Center for Politics, Larry Sabato. As of September 30, his Crystal Ball is saying there are 9 toss-up states – CA, GA, FL, MA, ME, MN, OH, RI, and VT. He foresees 3 states as safe Republican – AK, KS, and UT – and 16 states as lean/likely Republican – AL, AZ, ID, IA, IL, MI, NV, NM, OK, OR, PA, SC, SD, TN, TX, and WI. Larry foresees no state as safe Democrat and 7 states as lean/likely Democrat – AR, CO, CT, HI, MD, NH, and NY.

Before the 2010 mid-term election, our 50 states have 24 with Republican governors and 26 with Democrat governors. There are 13 states with no 2010 gubernatorial elections – DE, LA, IN, KY, MN, MO, NC, ND, NJ, VA, WA, and WV. Of the 37 states with a 2010 gubernatorial election, many in the political know believe the Republicans will pick up at least 7-8 governorships that are now Democrat and up to as many as 11-12. Many are predicting 31-35 states will have Republican governors in 2011.

Perhaps they are basing this on the two gubernatorial elections in 2009 that resulted in both turning from Democrats to Republicans - NJ Governor Chris Christie and VA Governor Bob McDonnell – in what were considered majority Democratic states.

Governor Christie has proven out to be a highly visible positive example of a politician for fiscally concerned voters nationwide. He has taken a tough stand on cutting spending and not raising taxes as the way to solve NJ’s budget deficits. Republican and Independent voters have taken pleasure in Governor Christie hitting back hard at what many feel is a liberally biased, double-standard backing mainstream media without pussyfooting around them.

He is loved by taxpayers for standing up to the powerful teacher union in NJ with reality and tough love. He is not allowing what many see as continued public employees’ entitled demands at taxpayer’s expense that have never really been affordable. Governor Christie is an example for voters in all political parties of someone who came into office to get a job done as promised in his campaign.

Governor Christie has shown a much needed view from reality, whether politically correct or not, that taxpayers from a cross section of America respect and admire. Voters have watched him instill faith in the political process by being a “mean what I say and say what I mean” politician actually living up to his campaign promises.

He serves as a breath of fresh air to many turned off by the void of true leadership strength in governing. He is a light at the end of the tunnel for those that want a smaller, more affordable, and more accountable government at all levels.

Governor Christie is a big draw on the campaign stump for fellow GOP gubernatorial candidates. For many Republicans and Independents, Governor Christie is in fact emerging as a favorite 2012 presidential GOP candidate. Many want him to bring his same political will and brashness to Washington. He has consistently indicated he has no plans to run.

Many wish Governor Christie was the governor of their state. More and more voters want spending cuts instead of tax hikes as fiscal policy to reduce their state budget deficit. They want a governor with the will to make that a reality. They can’t have Governor Christie, but they can vote for the Republican in their gubernatorial election in hopes they will uphold the Christie fiscal accountability example. Many are predicting voters will. Most believe a Democrat governor will continue tax and spend policies.