Monday, January 6

Monday Morning • 3:14am

D'jever own a business? Or howzabout becoming a CEO? No, don't mean Apple, or Monsanto. Think "Massey's Plumbing", "Acme Rolled Steel", "Ramco Construction", or "Wendy's Yummy Burgers".  You've got employees. Almost everything you own's tied up in the place. A few times before the economy finally turned around you've foregone your salary but recently sales have spiked. Payroll happens twice a month. It's two days from now. Your sellers have done a decent job and receivables are there. But there's a reason they're called "receivables" and you need payroll cash now! Customers are riding your credit.

The new year's just begun... New laws have clicked into place. The minimum wage's going to leap up almost forty percent. Some nice but unskilled and marginally educated kids you hired last year have just about learned their jobs... but 'just about' means their hard-learned productivity's almost finally covering the old minimum. But that's way short of this new mandated increase. And customers aren't paying you in 30 days, more like 40. So you've got their IOUs, but IOUs won't pay employees... in two days....

Tossing, turning, you wonder.... "Don't politicians realize that a minimum wage is a tax on labor? On the least productive labor? You might make payroll if you forgo your own... maybe. And you'll call your customers to try to wheedle their payments. Sometimes that works, but they'll worry about your business, which won't help sales.

"Don't politicians realize that when you tax something it's more expensive? And that.... that means you can't afford as much of the taxed product or service? Don't they realize that they've made the least talented workers so much more expensive to train? And to carry them while they're being trained? So what? Firings? Will that scare your better workers away? How'll you keep them? By adding 40% to their wages without any corresponding increase in their productivity? OMG!?"

The bed's lumpy: Sheets getting sweat-damp... Two days. "Maybe if you held onto the payroll taxes for a little while?" you wonder. "You could pay them just as soon as... as...But if you're caught???  Your government 'partner' will consider that stealing. Burley men with guns will get dispatched. Labor's a big hunk of your costs. What happens if you jack up prices enough to cover all of this? How much business will you lose? More than the costs?

"Why don't media people reveal that government's taxing the most fragile workers - making them more expensive? Third graders know that when the price of something rises, quantity demanded drops! Maybe it's difficult to make reporters understand something when their own pay-checks depend upon not understanding it?

In just a couple of months those great kids you hired last year will be finally competent and carrying their load. But that was the old load, before the new minimum wage tax on their labor. Even if you can keep the doors open, and raise your prices... Will those kids be that more productive? Is it time to replace them with machines? Where'll you get that money?

"Machines won't take vacations, or family leave," you mutter from the darkness of your bedroom.  "Machines won't take sick days or need terrifyingly expensive health care, OASHA,  FDIC, OSHA, insurance, and retirement benefits.  Even before the new minimum,  a $30,000 a year worker costs you $40,000 with all of these costs - but then their own withheld taxes only let them take about $22,000 home. $40,000 so they can hold onto what? $425 a week? And the replacement machine installed costs $38,000 total - and it'll last what? Five years?

"There's a simple alternative." you realize. "If society wants to encourage work especially among low productivity citizens, deploy a negative income tax. Employers then are subsidized to hire and train new workers and those costs are absorbed by everyone. No subsidy is needed for workers whose household incomes are above poverty levels so a negative income tax targets the least prepared, least productive entrants. More importantly, unlike a mandated minimum wage, its impact does not fall disproportionately upon startup or small businesses, nor does it subsidize higher income households. The problem is that the subsidies would have to come from tax collections which politicians don't want to pay, especially when they can force employers to do it.

"Oh... it's 4 am now... And even with the economy running at peak... Why can't you sleep?"

GEEK STUFF: My Canon 7D found that eye up above on a wall in Belfast. I pulled out that detail and enhanced it a lot in PSCC-2019 until it matched the narrative minimum wage headlines triggered. How many nights did my eyes pop open at 3:14 on dark mornings a couple of days before payroll? Business comes with risk, and profits are the reward for taking it. But the time between investment and profit is not only measured in years, but in payless paydays and sleepless nights for owners. Which is why they're called owners:  they own middle of night fear.

Saturday, January 4

Andreas - 8/2/17, 2:08PM - Vienna

The Photographer/Writer/Philosopher/Publisher Brook Jensen once said, "It is not the photograph that is important, but what it says." In a book I once read Diane Michaels quoted, "We are our feelings."

And what a good photograph says is our feelings. Here's my friend Andreas Manessinger grabbed as we talked on a Viennese square and food court near to (I believe) the city's hauntingly majestic opera house. it was a HOT and sunny Wednesday August afternoon. Yep, the appropriate verb is "grabbed".

We're virtual friends who from time to time actually meet on the phone, Facetime, and twice now in actuality... real space. In a way we're old friends who met in "The Independent Eye" community's website... How long back was that? Dunno... could be (gasp) sixteen years... More? So far, both of our (actual as opposed to virtual) meets have been either in his space (Austria) or his 'neighborhood' (Europe). Once we wandered the streets of Florence, and then again when he guided me through an entire day in Vienna. You can find Andreas' photo site there on the right column. He has the talent to find meaning in things and spaces that continually provoke my imagination. They are visually stunning images yet more importantly, they are each about something. 

His photographs are about something... something that is not photography. 

Which is what continually feeds my appetite for photo-based-art. The photo artist passes along something much more than stunning visuals... They transcend craft to communicate feelings and thoughts - sometimes both. I often write, "Art without wonder is merely craft."

That's the foundation of my belief in this medium. It is independent of musical or sound tracks. Its texts are, unlike cinema, a high wire act. The artist is all alone without the support even of motion. Painters have done this forever. Fine art photographers are their heirs and in a lot of ways their successors. Probably Caravaggio in the late 1500s became the first liberal, crusading photo journalist. And painters owned that profession until in the 1880s Thomas Wedgewood figured out the chemistry and Fox Talbot a couple of decades later tweaked it to make photographed images durable. Developments which led photographers to kidnap photojournalism.

Fine artists were slow to give up their claims until the only markets left to them were in the increasingly abstract transmission of formed feelings. A market that's slowly shifting to photo based artists.

Ansel Adams often said, "There's nothing worse than a sharp photograph of a fuzzy concept." Andreas talent allows him to make laser fine images that cause me to imagine the ideas he presents in extraordinary detail. He sees artistically and has such control over high craft that he communicates right to my feelings. His work triggers that wonder I mentioned above in forms, shapes, palette and points of view that are as uniquely his as, well as were Caravaggio's.

Which brings me to the portrait up there. Portraiture's got to more than describe a moment. It should frame the artist's narrative so the viewer senses a storyline. Look at Andreas... is that not the image of a deeply thoughtful man caught in a serious moment? It's so generous of him to allow me to post this picture. Of course I cannot tell you what to see in this captured moment... But I hope it makes you wonder about its subject's back story.

There's little more an artist can do because... "It is not the photograph that is important, but what it says."

"We are our feelings...."

GEEK STUFF: My usual combo of Canon 7D and its EF-S 17-85mm lens. The light was harsh - crazy contrasty - so I had to wrestle it into shape with PSCC 2019. Oh, and the background was disturbingly busy and in that light - well the depth of field went on forever. So I had to use a technique I'm experimenting with to kick away all of the people, buildings, and vehicles dancing about behind Andreas. Frequently I don't do that in street portraits... making the sense of place part of the story arc. This time they contributed nothing to the moment and the actions of an intelligent man making a serious point. I want to communicate Andreas's perception and charm. Which meant cropping and ordering away the environmental competition.

It's a simple grab shot, right?