The Power to turn the US Economy – Financial Policy Council

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People keep asking me what would I do if I had the power to turn the US Economy around given my 25 year experience on Wall Street

Well here’s my 2 cents…. Fasten your seat belts.

I believe the first thing to be done is to abolish the Federal Reserve. It is owned by and operated for the benefit of the biggest banks in the world. Its sole purpose has been to enrich the few at the expense of the many through its insidious use of inflation and debt issuance. It has been around for less than 100 years and has debased the USD by 96%. The U.S. Treasury has the authority to issue the currency of the country. It did so from 1789 until 1913.

The 2nd thing to do would be to reinstitute the Glass-Steagall Act because Wall Street cannot be trusted to manage their risk properly. This would separate true banking activities from the high risk gambling that brought the economic system to its knees. Privatizing the profits and socializing the losses is unacceptable.

The FASB would be directed to make all banks and financial corporations value their assets at their true market value. This would reveal the mega Wall Street banks and corporations like GE to be insolvent. An orderly bankruptcy of all insolvent financial firms involving the sell-off of their legitimate assets to well-run risk adverse banks that didn’t screw up would ensue. Bondholders and stockholders would realize their losses for awful investment decisions. The economic system would be purged of its bad debt.

The currency of the US would be backed by hard assets. A basket of gold, silver, platinum, uranium, and some other limited hard commodities would back the USD. If politicians attempted to spend too much, the price of this basket would reflect their inflationary schemes immediately.

The 16th Amendment would be repealed and the income tax would be scraped. It would be replaced with a national consumption tax. The more you consume, the more taxes you pay. Wages, savings and investment would be untaxed. The tax code is the source for much of politicians’ power. Its demise would further reduce Washington DC control over our lives.

A downsizing of the US Military from $1 trillion to $500 billion annually would be initiated through the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, Iraq, Germany, Japan and hundreds of other bases throughout the world. Policing the world is bankrupting the empire.

All corporate, farm, education, and social engineering subsidies would be eliminated. All Federal employees would have their pay slashed by 10% and the workforce would be reduced by 20% over 5 years. Federal health benefits and pension benefits would be set at average private industry levels.

The Social Security System would be completely overhauled. Anyone 50 or older would get exactly what they were promised. The age for collecting SS would be gradually raised to 72 over the next 15 years. Those between 25 and 50 would be given the option to opt out of SS. They would be given their contributions to invest as they see fit if they opt out. Anyone entering the workforce today would not pay in or receive any benefits. The wage limit for SS would be eliminated and the tax rate would be reduced from 6.2% to 3%.

The Medicare system is unsustainable. It would be converted from a government program to private market based program. The Federal mandates, rules and regulations would be eliminated. Senior citizens would be given healthcare vouchers which they would be free to use with any insurance company or doctor based on price and quality. Insurance companies would compete for business on a national basis. Doctors would compete for business. The GAO would have their budget doubled and they would audit Medicare fraud & Medicaid fraud and prosecute the criminals without impunity.

The healthcare bill would be repealed. Insurance companies would be allowed to compete with each other on a national basis. Tort reform would be implemented so that doctors could do their jobs without fear of being destroyed by slimy personal injury lawyers. Doctors would need to post their costs for various procedures. Price and quality would drive the healthcare market.

The entitlement state would be dismantled. The criteria for collecting welfare, SSDI, food stamps and unemployment benefits would be made much stricter. Unemployed people collecting government payments would be required to clean up parks, volunteer at community charity organizations, pick up trash along highways, fix and paint houses in their neighborhoods and generally keep busy in a productive manner for society.

A free market method for stabilizing the housing market would be for banks to voluntarily reduce the mortgage balances of underwater homeowners in exchange for a PAR (Property Appreciation Right). The homeowner would agree to pay off the PAR to the Treasury (and administered through the IRS) out of future price appreciation on the existing home or subsequent property. The homeowner would be excluded from taking on any home equity loans or executing any “cash out” refinancing until the PAR was satisfied. The maximum PAR obligation accepted by the Treasury would be based on the value of the home and the income of the homeowner.

I’m sure there are many more solutions which non-captured, intelligent, reasonable citizens could put forth to save this country. None of these ideas would be acceptable to the country’s owners. They would reduce their wealth and power. What these oligarchs do not realize is that we are in the midst of a Fourth Turning. Those who experienced the last one have died off. The existing social order will be swept away. It is likely to be violent and bloody. Good people and bad people will die. When the Crisis reaches its climax we will have the opportunity to implement good solutions. There is also the distinct possibility that our increasingly ignorant populace will turn to a messianic psychopath that promises them renewed glory. Decades of delusional decisions will lead to a future that will not be orderly or controllable.

The Banks must be restrained, and the financial system reformed, with balance restored to the economy, before there can be any sustained growth and recovery. If the suffering becomes great enough, change will inevitably come, but it may not be orderly or as controllable as the moneyed interests often like to think.

I just hope all those prescriptions will not go unheeded although they certainly go far, long-term, in fixing a system which is quite dysfunctional and broken.

Draining the swamp of our present economic morass will certainly require drastic action tantamount to a real revolution in both thought and practice.

The Old Order has gotten us into this mess, and cannot, or is unwilling, to get us out. It is past time for them to go.

Quick fixes to jump starting a moribund economy would include: blowing another bubble of some sort, and/or promoting a policy of economic growth driven by technological innovation (not likely due to policy constraints and dearth of investment in technology in this country); reduction in interest rates and/or taxes (interest rates cannot be further reduced because they are already close to 0%, and a tax reduction is not permissible in an environment of planned government expansion); stabilization of a tax code which promotes savings and investment (a real hot potato in a society guided by elites who are staunch supporters of egalitarianism for the masses); debasement of the dollar to stimulate export growth (with serious inflationary implications); and austerity (where the gains of the malefactors who profited in the economy’s demise will stay in guilty hands, and the ever-shrinking middle class which generally attempted to do the right thing will become progressively pauperized).

Nothing much in a positive, productive sense can be accomplished under our government, as presently constituted, as it has devolved into a Fascistic, crony-corporatist construct.

Government is where the real change must occur. Our venal Solons should be term-limited to a maximum of two terms per position and have to live most of their lives as common citizens in the legal environment they have helped create. Campaign contributions should be tightly restricted and controlled (no more obscene, billion dollar campaigns). Congressional retirement should be provided only via Social Security or other funds which are open to all persons who choose to join – no more special congressional sweetheart programs. And health insurance would be afforded either privately or within the same public health program available to everyone else – no Obamacare exemptions.

Until those who govern are forced to experience outcomes consistent with those experienced by the governed, I am afraid the Republic will drift ever further away from the establishment principles envisioned by those rebellious Founders, who were intoxicated upon the fumes of liberty, fraternity, and equality of opportunity.

Now you know

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About the Power Brokers Shaping Our Global Capital Markets

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I believe four major actors—petrodollar investors, Asian central banks, hedge funds, and private equity—are today’s the key power brokers playing an increasingly important role in the world’s financial markets.

Excluding cross-investments between them, oil investors, Asian central banks, hedge funds, and private-equity firms together held $20 trillion in assets at the end of 2012. Their assets have tripled since 2000, making them two-thirds the size of global pension funds.

Together these four players are reshaping global capital markets in a major way. They each represent large new pools of liquidity with longer-term investment horizons than traditional investors that allow them to pursue higher returns—and risks. They have markedly diversified the investor base and expanded private markets for capital. They are spurring financial innovation, enabling the more efficient spreading of risk, and spreading liquidity.

Although the boom years ended in late 2008 as the financial crisis escalated and the global economy slumped, we believe the power brokers fared relatively well though their paths have greatly diverged: petrodollar and Asian sovereign investors are more influential than ever, while the rapid growth of hedge funds and private-equity firms has halted abruptly.

Petrodollar investors—including central banks, sovereign-wealth funds, high-net-worth individuals, and other investors from the major oil-exporting countries—remain today the largest of the four classes of power brokers over the next five years under all of our scenarios. In the base case, we project that the foreign financial assets of these investors will rise to nearly $9 trillion by year end 2013. In the quick fix, with the price of oil staying at nearly $100 a barrel, their assets grow to more than $13 trillion, nearly half as large as the assets of the world’s pension funds for that same year.

The sovereign investors of Asia—its central banks and sovereign-wealth funds—see their foreign wealth grow to $7.5 trillion by year end 2013 in our base case. China, with its foreign financial assets growing to $4 trillion, accounts for more than half of this total, though its current-account surplus declines relative to GDP. In the quick fix, with world GDP and trade recovering more quickly, the foreign assets of Asian sovereign investors grow to $8.5 trillion.

Regarding the hedge fund industry, although it is starting to slowly recover from the bloodbath of 5 years ago, we expect assets to recover slowly to $1.5 trillion by year end 2013. That’s slightly better than the total at the end of 2008 but still well below the peak in 2007. A major constraint on the growth of hedge funds is the size of their investors’ portfolios: the collective wealth of pension funds, insurance companies, endowments, sovereign-wealth funds, high-net-worth individuals, and other such investors fell from $91 trillion in 2007 to an estimated $75 trillion by the end of 2008. In our conservative base-case scenario, battered but resilient, in which the economic recovery doesn’t begin until mid-2015 – bar any extraordinary event that could delay the process – , it takes four to five years for these investors’ assets to regain their 2007 levels. Unless the appetite for investments in hedge funds increases a good deal, this delay will substantially curtail their fund-raising.

As for private-equity buyout funds, their assets under management fall in our base case, to $1 trillion by year end 2013. For starters, the collective wealth of their investors (like those of hedge funds) has declined sharply. Second, this scenario assumes that megadeals—leveraged buyouts worth more than $3 billion a piece, which dominated private equity during the boom—won’t revive anytime soon, because investors have less appetite for them, and banks working through credit losses face funding constraints. Meanwhile, private-equity managers are looking beyond buyouts, to other types of investments, such as distressed debt, infrastructure, real estate, and venture capital. We therefore project that total private-equity assets under management will grow modestly in our base case, to $3.4 trillion by year end 2013.

No one knows how the still prevailing financial and economic turmoil will play out, but our analysis shows that in virtually any scenario, the power brokers will remain a significant force in global capital markets. Oil exporters and Asian and Middle East sovereign investors will continue to be major players, controlling vast pools of wealth. Hedge funds and private-equity buyout funds are down but not out.

The evidence to date gives some reason for optimism that the risks these players pose are manageable. Nevertheless, the concerns being raised by the rise of the new power brokers are real and justify careful monitoring.

We at the Financial Policy Council suggest that the four players would be wise to note public concerns and voluntarily take steps to minimize them.

Share your thoughts

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Are You Really The Entrepreneur You Claim To Be?

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It is real funny but it looks like everyone without a job today calls himself an entrepreneur, and–judging by the way the word is thrown around–you might think every one of those self employed people is.

The term is applied to politicians and college presidents, cabdrivers and bookies. People like Donald Trump and Richard Branson are held up as models of entrepreneurship. Meanwhile, newspapers routinely refer to lone wolfs trying to sell something at a profit as entrepreneurs.

Well let me tell you something folks. Entrepreneur is not a meaningless word, and we shouldn’t let it become one. It’s the only word we have to describe a person who performs a particular function that’s critical to our economic well-being. I’m talking about the conversion of ideas into viable businesses by means of ingenuity, hard work, resilience, imagination, luck, and all the other ingredients that go into a successful start-up. That process is not the only way to create wealth in a capitalist economy, and the people who do it aren’t members of some sort of business elite. But they do something that’s important and different from what other businesspeople do, and they deserve to have a name.

So what is the definition of an entrepreneur? I have a very simple one. In my book, entrepreneurs are people who, starting with nothing more than an idea for a new venture, have the ability to take it to the point at which the business can sustain itself on its own internally generated cash flow.

I’m not talking about people who happen to be in the right place at the right time. Luck is a factor in every start-up, but I don’t count people who start one company and then can’t do it again to save their souls. And I don’t include people who become what I call “lifestyle entrepreneurs” because they are not able to find a decent job to pay their bills. These are called entrepreneurs by accident.

I also rule out people who build on existing businesses.

Ray Kroc for example, who built McDonald’s from a successful hamburger stand into one of the greatest companies in the world, a great businessman and one of the best managers ever, is though in my definition no entrepreneur. He was without doubt a pioneer and a figure bigger than life, but the people who got the company up and running were the McDonald brothers.

By the same token, I would exclude people who inherit a business, no matter what they do with it afterward. Ned Johnson of Fidelity Investments, for example, has revolutionized the financial-services industry, but his father, who started the business, was the entrepreneur. Same goes for Donald Trump.

Nor do you qualify if you do nothing more than acquire existing businesses, like most of the people doing so-called industry roll-ups. They go around the country, buying up local businesses–say, ambulance services or delivery companies–which they then bundle together to create a new national entity. To be sure, they call themselves entrepreneurs. A couple of them have even been designated “Entrepreneurs of the Year,” which is a joke. By and large, they’re just smart accountants.

The point is that entrepreneurs, real entrepreneurs, are people who create companies from scratch. They start with nothing except what they themselves bring to the party–a concept, a few contacts, maybe some capital, plus all of those intangible qualities that are important to success in any new venture. And that’s about it. There are no salespeople, no offices, no telephones or computers, no accounting system, no operations, no customers or suppliers. The entrepreneurs’ job is to put everything together, wearing 10 different hats, juggling 20 different balls, relying on their own knowledge and instincts and creativity to get them to positive cash flow.

And the best entrepreneurs are masters of the process, which is not to say that they’re necessarily the greatest businesspeople in the world. Very few of them are industry pioneers. Many of them have a hard time managing the companies they create. They may even fail in a newbusiness venture now and then. But they know how to bounce back from failure, and they keep on trying until they succeed. What they’re good at is starting businesses. They can do it again and again.

So who are the real entrepreneurs? Ross Perot is certainly one of them. So is Steven Jobs. I would also include Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Federal Express founder Fred Smith too.

But most real entrepreneurs are people you’ve never heard of. There are thousands and thousands of them–men and women of every race and nationality, in every industry and every corner of the globe. They’re starting businesses every day, and the world is a better place because of it.

For their sake, let’s reserve the title of entrepreneur for a particular group of people–the ones who’ve earned it and provide them with access to the capital they need to build their dreams and reshape the world.

After all, and as the late Peter Drucker used to say: “Entrepreneurship rests on a theory of economy and society. The theory sees change as normal and indeed as healthy. And it sees the major task in society – and especially in the economy – as doing something different rather than doing better what is already being done. That is basically what Say, two hundred years ago, meant when he coined the term entrepreneur. It was intended as a manifesto and as a declaration of dissent: the entrepreneur upsets and disorganizes. As Joseph Schumpeter formulated it, his task is “creative destruction.”

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My Thoughts Regarding Wealth Redistribution

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Much of the rhetoric we’re hearing in the media today talks about the huge gap between rich and poor. Politicians on both sides discuss this issue, but neither seems to get to the root of the problem.

It’s true that the gap between the richest 10 percent of the country and the remaining 90 percent is growing, but from that point on, most politicians get it wrong.

The issue isn’t a matter of “wealth redistribution”, nor is it about protecting current tax rates. The real issue at hand is that most Americans just don’t understand the rules of personal finance. They believe what they hear from friends or people selling them products. It comes down to a lack of financial education.

Schools are turning out students who are not fully prepared for the real world. They might know the basics of history, science, math, and English, but there is no real teaching of money in school. I majored in economics and finance and I spent 25 years on Wall Street honing my skills, so I know firsthand how boring the topics can be. But I’m not talking about the heavy theory or detailed rules. I’m talking about simple personal finance — the money issues that will come up for people in the real world.

It is a sad fact today that when students they break out on their own, they are left unarmed when sellers of credit come calling. To be clear, it’s not that people are dumb — the sly and ingenious credit card companies make handling credit seem easy. But either way, the new consumers don’t see or know that taking on debt at a young age is killing their financial security. Saving at a young age is critical. Simple facts about personal finance are not taught and thus bright people are caught making financial mistakes.

Plans to redistribute wealth take money from those who know what they’re doing financially and give it to people who don’t know basic financial principles. The subprime mortgage crisis was a perfect example of that. Hardworking taxpayers were paying to bail out banks and individuals who made negligent transactions. People who were financially ignorant were allowed to take big loans from equally ignorant (or in some cases, criminal) mortgage brokers. Greed from Wall Street made it worse. Had more people known about simple financial principles, this would not have happened, nor would we be arguing about how to pay for it.

It’s not a matter of fiscal theory or taxation. It’s all about education. I’m not a fan of big government, but this is one place the government can step in and help. If there were mandatory programs for graduation that included personal finance, our economy could be on the right track in a generation or two.

While no politician is doing much to solve the real issue here, I think that we as entrepreneurs can begin to fix this problem. Have lunch with your staff and teach them about personal finance. If you’re not up to teaching the class, bring in an expert. Make sure the expert isn’t selling something or else you could be adding to the confusion. Refer them to the Financial Policy Council and start attending our events.

If we start by educating our staffs, we can work to build a financially intelligent country and get back on track at the same time. Plus, isn’t this a great benefit to give to the people who make your company work? If you invest in their financial knowledge, I’m sure it will help your bottom line.

I strongly believe any redistribution of wealth by the government, in either the executive, legislative, or judicial branches, has no place in a free, democratic society.

Some of our politicians reach for all the favorite conservative buzzwords. But they fail to cite any evidence to refute the simple, and I think quite obvious, assertion that the marketplace works most efficiently when entry of new businesses is a realistic possibility and predatory pricing is outlawed. That’s what the antitrust laws are supposed to accomplish. And business people who compete fairly and squarely need not worry about them for a moment.

You know you are capitalism’s ideal puppet when winning the lottery is your only chance to realizing financial freedom.
Want to change the outcome and start truly learning the process? The Financial Policy Council is the place to be. See for yourself.

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Winning Financial Support For Your Non Profit

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As Founder & President of the Financial Policy Council since 2011, I learned over the last few years more than a few effective ways to win financial support for non-profit organizations.

I thought of sharing some with you in here for the benefit of anyone looking to enter the great world of non profits.

Here’s the lay of the land…

  1. Don’t Chase the Money – You have to qualify, qualify, qualify. Make sure your mission and purpose fits closely with the funding entity’s mission and purpose. Don’t apply for a grant because your business sort of, kind of fits it. Don’t tailor what your business does to get the funding. In hindsight, I learned to apply only for grants that look like they’re specifically written for me, my business.
  2. Be Laser Like Focused – Identifying private foundations, and other organizations that give grants to individuals or small businesses requires considerable time, effort and research. For starters, look in your own backyard to find grant-makers that have previously funded projects or services for businesses like yours. Use a rifle approach never a gunshot approach.
  3. Determine Your Approach – Once you identify potential funders, determine how you intend to approach them. Make a personal contact and cultivate relationships by e-mail, telephone call, office visit and/or letter of inquiry. During this stage you want to determine 1) their interest in your project or company, and 2) what they would like to see first as the initial document of entry (i.e., letter of inquiry or concept paper). Many funding organizations now prefer that requests be submitted first in letter format before accepting a full proposal.
  4. Get To Know Your Funder – Don’t write the proposal first and then go looking for funders. Your grant proposal has to be prescriptive to what that funder is seeking. Get to know potential grant-makers better by obtaining copies of their annual reports. Scrutinize their website. What buzz words do they use. You can even incorporate that funder’s colors into the fonts and graphics that you use in your grant proposal.
  5. Do Whatever the “Request For Proposal” Says – Most importantly, request a copy of the grant guidelines. Follow the requirements of the funding notice or application to the letter. Your guide for what to include or not to include in your document is the request for proposal (RFP) or grant application. Give the funder exactly what they ask for, no more and no less. If it says give a brief statement, you write a paragraph. If it says give us two to four pages that is what you will provide—not one page or four and a half pages.
  6. State Measurable Not Fluffy Objectives – In general, your proposal will start with an introduction, which includes the amount requested, followed by a description and brief history of your company and its products, services or programs. Your proposal should describe anticipated and immediate short-term and long-term results, proposed implementation, staff or key personnel, budget, methodology, benchmarks, and timetable. A common mistake in writing a proposal is failing to distinguish between a goal and objective. To provide value added services to financially savvy professionals helping to create wealth is a goal not an objective. Your objective must be S.M.A.R.T, that is specific, measurable, obtainable, realistic, and time bound. A measurable objective will have a subject, an action, a location, a timeframe and a percentage.
  7. Spell Out How You Intend to Spend the Money – The person giving you the money has to make sure you know how to spend it – line item by line item. Some reviewers look at the budget first to gauge applicants. People often are disqualified for providing an improper budget. They usually get tripped up by either over estimating or underestimating their costs.
  8. Consult a Professional Grant Writer – Don’t be fooled by advertisements and promotions for granting writing. There are a lot of scammers, especially on the internet. The Better Business Bureau is a good resource for checking the references of a grant writer. Expect to pay from $1,000 to $3,000 for a grant proposal for private or foundation funding and $4,000 to $15,000 for a grant proposal for government funding, since such grant applications tend to be more intricate.  Even if you don’t hire someone to write it, you should consider hiring someone to review it.

Now you know …. Share your thoughts if you believe I missed anything of significance.

Good luck with your funding.

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