I like this feature on John Scharffenberger in this week’s U.S. News and World Report. It captures in anecdotal form almost all of the ingredients in entrepreneurial success. There is disregard for “conventional wisdom” and there is hard work and dedication. The author doesn’t articulate it this way, but there is also an ethical concern for quality product and the good of the customer. Entrepreneurial success isn’t as simple as all that, however. There is also “luck and timing,” and, without explicitly drawing attention to the fact, there is also the assistance of existing financial resources to draw on. The story is at once edifying and realistic, an excellent piece of business journalism by Kim Clark.
New President of Mexico Calderon spent yesterday at the US Mexican border greeting Mexicans returning home for Christmas. His message was two-fold. First, a pledge to create jobs in Mexico:
“The generation of well-paid jobs is the only long-lasting solution to the migration problem,” Calderón said before greeting immigrants in cars packed with Christmas gifts.
Calderón, who took office Dec. 1, pledged to fight corruption to make Mexico more attractive to foreign investors.
“We need to ensure that more investment crosses the border into Mexico rather than Mexican labor heading to the United States,” the new president said.
This has been my message about the immigration issue, too. I said it at an Acton conference for Mexican bishops, and I’ve said it in print many times.
The other interesting fact in this article is the scale of the Christmas migration: an estimated 1.2 million people will return to Mexico for Christmas from the US this year. I have been aware of this phenomenon since we lived in Santa Rosa CA, north of San Francisco. Santa Rosa has a substantial agricultural community, part of the Wine Country. My daughter’s elementary school was probably 75% Mexican. The place cleared out at Christmas time. The school simply accepted as a fact of life that most of the kids would be gone for a month around Christmas time. Bear in mind, that many of them were making a 12 hour drive to their homelands in Mexico.
This is part of the phenomenon I addressed in my National Catholic Register article, Give Us Your Heart. Many, many Mexicans keep their bodies in America but their hearts in Mexico. It would be better for all of us for them to be able to be integrated: let one place or the other be truly home.
By the way, Calderon’s second message was: Merry Christmas! (They’re allowed to say that in Mexico!)
I was glad to see a group of American Muslims register their objection to the Iranian government’s Holocaust Denial conference. A group of Muslims went to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC. The Muslims were members of All Dulles Area Muslim Society. Holocaust survivors also attended the ceremony.
The idea for the ceremony originated with (Imam Mohamed) Magid, whose Sterling (VA) mosque has been active in interfaith efforts. After hearing radio reports about the Iranian meeting, “I said to myself, ‘We have to, as Muslim leaders . . . show solidarity with our fellow Jewish Americans,’ ” Magid recalled after the speeches.
He contacted Akbar Ahmed, an American University professor active in inter-religious dialogue, who asked the museum to hold the ceremony.
“It’s important that the world knows there are Muslims who don’t believe in this (Holocaust denial),” Ahmed said after the ceremony. Also in the delegation were representatives of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Muslim Public Affairs Council….
The Holocaust victims expressed gratitude for the gesture by the Muslims.
“We could live together in peace if only more of these things were happening,” said Halina Peabody, 74, a native of Poland who lives in Bethesda, Md.
Cross posted at my blog.
Rev. Robert Sirico examines the nature of giving, which keeps us all so busy during this Christmas season. “Without exchange, without private property and a moral sense of its foundation, giving would be limited, impossible or morally dubious,” he writes.
Just say “No!” to corporate welfare. That’s a pretty good motto, I think.
And it seems that one form of corporate welfare, the vast system of farm subsidies, is getting some increased critical mainstream coverage. In today’s WaPo appears a story with this headline: “Federal Subsidies Turn Farms Into Big Business.”
I’ve seen quite a few stories in this vein over the past few months, exploding the mythical image of the down home family farmer. Here are some unintended consequences of the subsidies: “The very policies touted by Congress as a way to save small family farms are instead helping to accelerate their demise, economists, analysts and farmers say. That’s because owners of large farms receive the largest share of government subsidies.”
And here’s what farmer John Phipps has to say about the subsidies: “It’s embarrassing,” Phipps said. “My government is basically saying I am incompetent and need help.”
Phipps got $120,000 in subsidies despite the fact that he “harvested nearly 170,000 bushels of corn and soybeans last year on two square miles of fertile soil. He grossed nearly $500,000, putting his farm in the nation’s top 3 percent.”
These subsidies are big money, as “last year the government paid out about $15 billion in income support or price guarantees.”
Why does somebody like Phipps take the money even though it’s not a necessity? Because not taking it would put him at a great competitive disadvantage: “I’m not proud of it,” he said. “I would like to have the moral courage and financial clout not to take them. But if I don’t, I won’t be able to compete when it comes time to bid for land.”
Our own Kevin Schmiesing has some good things to say about agriculture and subsidies. Kevin says that in policy debates, “Our focus should be not so much on the preservation of the farm as on the preservation of the dignity and self-respect of the farmer. That federal subsidies will further that goal is a questionable proposition indeed.”
Filing your taxes just got a little more complicated. The IRS recently announced new guidelines for charitable deductions to be introduced for the 2007 tax year. Beginning next tax season, “taxpayers must provide bank records or other information when claiming deductions for charitable donations of money.”
These records can include credit card statements and canceled checks. And in addition, taxpayers “may also submit a written communication from the charity with the organization’s name, the date of the transaction and the amount of the contribution.” A number of charities that I contribute to already provide me with year-end statements, so just be ready to pass that paperwork along with your return.