More Opinion by The Springboard

THE UPRISING OF THE AMERICAN PARTY "Clearly the voters are engaged right now, at least for sure on the republican side, and what they have concluded is that the republican party has not done their job. Thus, Donald Trump gets their vote."

Friday, February 29, 2008

HAIRY PLATTER

As if the world isn't already wild and crazy enough, a cook at a West Bend, WI Texas Roadhouse restaurant decided it would be an appropriate and logical response to allegedly stuff a customer's steak with hair after the manager of the restaurant decided to offer the customer another steak to replace one that had been overcooked. Worse, though it's not been made clear yet, it was reportedly pubic hair that he stuffed it with.

It begs one to ask the question, 'just exactly what is wrong with the world today?' What's more, the 24 year old cook, Ryan Kropp, even told a co-worker what he was going to do before he did it, telling the co-worker "these are my pubes." He made an opening in the steak and stuffed it, then turned it on its opposite side so as to hide the cut he'd made.

The customer ultimately went to the police with his find, and whether or not the co-worker informed anyone of the incident before or after the police became involved is unclear. What is clear is that the customer indeed had his steak served to him, and that the restaurant manager was totally unaware of the hair-raising experience (pardon the pun) the customer was undoubtedly headed for.

An incident like this suggests to me that something has gone terribly wrong. It suggests to me that there is a growing segment of people in our society who have somehow become disconnected and confused about what's right and what's not. There were two people involved here and neither apparently felt this was not an okay thing to do. In this case the cook felt perfectly justified in committing the act because, according to him, he was angry and thought that the customer was just "trying to get free stuff." The co-worker must have agreed with Kropp's reasoning as he obviously didn't find this to be disturbing enough to let someone know that a customer was about to be served food that had been recklessly tampered with.

Kropp now faces a maximum term of 3 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine if he is ultimately convicted of felony placing of foreign objects in edibles. The judge ought to impose a reality slap upside the head as well for just being plain stupid.

The bar has been risen beyond the point of reason, and perhaps even to the point of no return. Consider another recent case where a 33 year old woman drank sodium hydroxide, a bleach-like substance used to strip aluminum from copper, for $20, given to her by a 20 year old man whom she told police had pestered her for days to drink it, and further claimed she thought it just smelled gross but wouldn't harm her. She nearly died.

Both cases seem eerily like something straight out of the pages of Jackass.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

NICE PITCH, SCHLESINGER

As if we don't already pay enough for a simple day with the family at Miller Park, now that day will cost you more. At the start of this year's season, according to a story published in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel today, prices for many food and beverage items will increase. Rick Schlesinger, the Brewers' executive vice president for business operations cited fuel and transportation costs as one of the primary factors in the decision to raise prices on any baseball fans' must-haves like beer and brats. According to Schlesinger this is simply a "reality...that prices have gone up on the wholesale level."

Excuse me? Wholesale prices have gone up? Transportation and fuel costs? These are indeed factors in today's economy, but not so in the case of already seriously overpriced items.

According to the article a beer will cost a staggering $6.50. A brat will set you back another $4.25. Even a simple hot dog is $3. Putting that into perspective, you can buy a 6-pack of some Miller products in your local grocery store for less than the cost of one beer at the ballpark. A package of Johnsonville Brats will retail on average for about $10 for a 3 lb. party pack. A package of even high-end hots dogs can be had in the store for less than $2.

The point here is simply that when you think of the prices of these items in the store in terms of retail value, plus factor in the fact that these are individually marked and packaged for individual sale, the cost of producing these items is more than the cost of producing the bulk packaged items sold by wholesalers to places like Miller Park and eventually to you, ole faithful baseball fan.

I have no idea what the profit margin is on food and beverage items at the ballpark. The paper didn't report it, and I'd rather not speculate.

Mr. Schlesinger, if you want to raise prices, that's fine. Milk us for all you can. After all, we all know it's still a matter of charging a price that the market is willing to bear. That's simply good business. If people willingly rush in droves to the concessions to dole out their hard-earned cash for an ice cold beer and a ballpark brat, fine. Nobody can argue with that. But let's be reasonable here. Let's call it for what it is. It's not transportation and fuel costs. And it can't be wholesale costs. It has to be simply a desire by ballpark bigwigs to get a higher return on their investment and to sell Milwaukee baseball fans a line to justify it.

All I can say to that is nice pitch, Mr. Schlesinger. Sadly, I think there'll be a lot of fans out there who'll think you're rationale for raising prices is a home run.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

FORD FIRST TO INSOURCE

It is very refreshing to hear the news that the big three US automakers General Motors Corporation (GM:NYSE), Ford Motor Company (F:NYSE), and the now privately held Chrysler LLC will be making a move to insource some of the parts it uses in the manufacturing of their automobiles. This is due, in part, thanks to contract negotiations between the big three and the UAW last year which allowed the companies, among other things, to reduce starting wages to $14 an hour, and therefore make it more competitively advantageous to manufacture parts inside the US rather than what has been the prior trend to outsource to cheaper labor cost countries like China and Mexico. Thankfully the unions finally understood that their stubborness and brashness at the negotiating tables was doing more damage than helping their cause, and that they were making it increasingly more difficult for US automakers to operate competitively and profitably in a global market. I strongly believe that if we can create more jobs in this country and through government, consumer, and corporate actions work to sustain those newly created jobs, then higher wages and economic growth are natural progressions.

The falling dollar has had some role in this as well, and while the falling dollar means that Americans will have to shell out slightly more cash for the same goods they could buy with a dollar even just a year ago, it also means it will cost more for foreign companies to export their goods into the United States and cost less to make goods here. In my opinion this bodes well for the American economy which is not so much based on the value of our dollar, but rather on consumer spending. If Americans are working and making money then they will spend it, and the economy will prosper.

Ford Motor Company will be the first to insource starting in the spring of 2008 making instrument panels for the Taurus and the new Lincoln MKS sedans. This is a start. Although, in order to have a lasting impact and maintain this positive developing trend we need to build on the habit I talked about in an earlier post. Whenever possible, we have to buy American.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

WHO'S STIMULUS IS IT ANYWAY?

Despite my better judgement that the economy is not in such bad shape as we lead ourselves to believe, I'm pleased to hear that most of Bush's original economic stimulus package will soon make its way into the hands of most taxpaying Americans. I'm certainly not going to turn down any dollar amount that the government offers me. After all, the money is essentially ours, and although this plan tacks on yet more debt to the US Government, I've never been one to believe that running deficits on a nation's balance sheets is an inherently bad thing.

Considering that this package will dump a whopping $168 billion into the US economy over the next 6-8 months, surely it will provide a much needed dampener to the current path toward recession. It may even serve to head it off completely. But exactly who will benefit the most from this package is an underlying question. Presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee had it right when he raised concerns that we may be doing more to help the Chinese economy with this stimulus package than our own. It is clear to me that Americans need to make a larger effort toward supporting American companies, and more specifically, American made goods. It would seem to me that we've become far too tolerant of our current trade situation, and I think in the long term the greatest threat to the American economy is the eroding middle class and the loss of important industrial jobs. "Buy American" ought to be the mantra of every single citizen of this country. We need to send a clear message to the US Government and to American companies that we don't want to send our jobs away, and that cheaper is not better if it means we'll all be standing in the bread line.

We need to get rid of Most Favored Nation (MFN) status and impose higher tariffs on goods entering the US. We need less regulation and lower corporate taxes which would make it more cost effective for companies to operate and reduce the incentive for American companies to outsource manufacturing. Moreover, we need to scrap NAFTA and CAFTA which continue to sell-out American jobs.

If we truly want to survive as a nation and thrive as a great economy, Americans need to adjust their priorities. "Made in America" is a label we should encourage retailers to stock their shelves with. When you spend your rebate check, the thought should occur that buying American with as many of those dollars as you can, and making a habit out of it, will have a more profound positive impact on the economy than anything else we could possibly do.