Publisher's Note: Jim Bispo's weekly column appears in the Beaufort Observer.
We hear a lot of conversation these days about how America is losing (has already lost??) it's edge. We are no longer "exceptional". We even have a "ruler" who preaches those things and apologizes to foreign kings, satraps and the like for what he seems to view as our country's past transgressions. All the while, we seem to be trying to hand over a lot of our rights to the UN to manage and control. (Offshore drilling and gun control to name two.)
I, for one, cannot abide by any of that. We pretty much have always been the world leader in innovation and performance. We remain so. Not so much the government maybe; but the people who are the backbone of America.
The big difference between then and now is the thrust of our endeavors in times gone by was focused on getting rich, often at any cost. It seems to have morphed into getting rich, almost at any cost. Whaaat?? So what's changed?? Short answer: Not much. It used to be the capitalistic entrepreneurs (producers) working to get rich. Now it seems to be the Looters (Mouchers??). The goal remains the same. The "cast" has changed and the means have changed. Producers used to work to get rich with our own resources. Now looters do it with other folks' resources.
In the olden days, we went out into the "real" world, put up our money, and worked like everything to achieve some success. Every once in a while it worked.. Take, for example a person like Bill Gates. When he and Paul Allen started Microsoft there were plenty of "all nighters" developing DOS and making it work. Somehow or other, they succeeded. They developed a credible operating system. Next came Windows which was billed as an innovative and integrated system encompassing word processing, spreadsheets and more. (I will not mention from whence their inspiration for Windows may have come. I will not talk about the GUIs that I believe were originally the creation of Apple. I will not talk about Symphony which I believe was an integrated word processing, spread sheet, and chart editing program from Lotus that as I recall preceded Windows.) Truth be known, their marketing turned out to be better than their software in a lot of ways, but they did get rich. More power to 'em.
There were plenty of others, in addition to Bill Gates, who through their own efforts got wealthy. They did so in the competitive capitalistic market extant in the USA. It continues: think Mark Zukerberg and his recent Facebook IPO; think Steve Jobs and Apple.
At the same time, there seems to be an entirely new breed of "entrepreneurs" emerging. We hear all manner of good things from these folks about what they stand for and what they are going to do to improve life for all of us. They are going to set up food pantries to help feed the poor; they are going to take care of our kids after school to keep them out of trouble; they are going to improve our appreciation of fine art; they are going to give us the best possible health care at little or no cost to us; they are going to help us to get abortions; they are going to provide counseling against abortions; they are going to improve our economy by bringing in new businesses (so we can all get a really well paying job); they are going to do all manner of other good things for us. One thing that makes all those things attractive is that we will apparently no longer have to look out for ourselves. Welcome to the Nanny State. Welcome to the "looters" idea of the good life..
They tell us they are not-for-profit when they incorporate and they petition the IRS for tax exempt status as 501(c)(3) organization (which refers to the IRS section under which the tax exempt status is granted). Establishing themselves as non-profits, goes a long way toward creating the impression that they are on the up and up. No need to worry about those greedy "for profit" entrepreneurs. These folks are dedicated to doing all the good things they talk about. They are to be trusted... Hmmm...
It is here that the two groups of entrepreneurs begin to differ. The greedy "for profit" businessman has his own (or borrowed) money at risk. The greedy "not for profit" businessman has other folks money at risk. If the first businessman doesn't succeed, he loses his money and goes out of business. If the second "businessman" doesn't succeed, he is forced to go back to the well for more money and generally stays in business. He tends to be more like government where the price of failure is more of an inconvenience, than anything else. Their most important determinant of success seems to be their ability to obtain funding through contributions from folks who support their program, from "governments" (federal, state and local) through the appropriation process, and to obtain "grants" (from both governmental and private organizations). As a matter of interest, I have seen catalogs as thick as an Los Angeles phone book, identifying grants that are available from various organizations, providing the schedule for awarding the grants, and describing the submission requirements.
The price of failure of the for-profit company is generally the "death" of the company. What is interesting about this difference is that the faux entrepreneur (the one with other folks' resources at risk) generally gets paid as much as and frequently more right from the beginning than the successful entrepreneur with his own resources at risk.
The real question is; "How did these faux entrepreneurs get folks to believe that they provide better results at a lower cost than for-profit organizations who must compete every day to remain viable??". We saw that phenomena at work when we opted to sell our hospital for pennies on the dollar to a not-for-profit organization. Clearly the "not-for-profit" offer was superior to the "for-profit" offer for no other reason than it came from a not-for-profit organization (never mind the economics).
How long do you suppose we will allow ourselves to be taken advantage of by those organizations before we figure out that for the most part they are looking out for themselves, not us. I am not suggesting that all not-for-profit organizations are created by and for folks determined to take advantage of the naive taxpayers, but I would suggest that there are a lot of them out there who do. The point is that we need to be a whole lot more careful about which of them we do business with (i.e. hand our money over to) than we have been in the past. A thorough vetting would seem to be in order before handing over any of our hard earned money to someone simply because they claim to be a tax exempt not for profit organization and they come to us with their hand out.
As soon as there are no longer any real entrepreneurs left (and you can bet that the Anointed One's administration is moving us in that direction with all their crony capitalism and income redistribution) our exceptionalism will be gone. We need to guard against that..