Can Republicans Prosper With A TRUMP Party?


Trump: Reflection On The Future – An Early View of the Trump Presidency (2018)

Donald J. Trump has created a new conservative movement. But what will he do with his followers? He doesn’t seem to want anyone else to be the head of the Republican party. But that’s not quite the same as wanting to lead the Republicans. Republicans already have leaders like Mitch McConnell, the former majority and now Minority Leader of the Senate. There’s a Minority Leader of the House, Kevin McCarthy. Let’s not forget Ronna Romney McDaniel, Chair of the Republican National Committee (RNC). Every one of these competing leaders has some experience and a history of managing people with other opinions. Or even sharing power in order to move an agenda forward.

Trump, on the other hand, does not like to share power. Or create a specific party platform that his followers can… well…. follow. Trump likes to pivot an swivel, depending on what he considers important today. That might work for individual power, but can it work for a political party with hundreds of candidates? That begs a simple question, “What is a political party?” Is it a group of people that organizes to win elections, has members who seek political positions, and a way to move forward an agenda…. then it also has to provide support for the members of the party. Such as…

POLICY: What are the policies of a Trump-led Republican party? That’s a very difficult question to answer. Trump talked a lot about saving the Coal Industry, but no new policies were pursued and jobs in the industry shrank. Trump was vocally opposed to China’s dictatorship and cyber spying but has been far more accepting of the same issues from Russia. Trump’s policies are very transactional, each issue is addressed separately, without much interest inconsistency. That can be OK for an individual, but it doesn’t work as a party. When Trump pivots on policy, he rarely gives notice to fellow Republicans, the military, or allies. Every Trump pivot is followed by supporters getting run over by a bus. The Trump Party would not be a political debating group. Instead, they would just repeat (and support) Trump’s policies of the moment.

MENTORING: Every political party invests in its young members. Connections, mentoring, and support from today’s party leaders are needed to build today’s political hopefuls into tomorrow’s senior politicians and party leaders. Trump has not shown any interest in mentoring, although he does strongly believe in disciplining disobeying Republicans. Bill Barr, Jeff Sessions, Rudolph Giuliani, Mike Pence, Mitch McConnell, and a ton of others have each been incredibly loyal to Trump. But, when they can no longer contribute to the Trump brand or show signs of independent opinions, they are swiftly punished. Generally, that’s not the way that mentoring works.

SUPPORT: A party provides political candidates with fundraising, a recognizable brand, and a support network. If the opposing party is better at supporting candidates, those candidates tend to win. Trump has shown that he is exceptionally good at raising money, commanding a support network, and creating a brand. In fact, he was a master of these abilities long before he became President. Yet, here too we have the same problem. Trump can perform all of these functions, but he has chosen to perform them exclusively for Donald Trump. During the “Save the Steal” campaign, Trump supposedly raised hundreds of millions of dollars. But who has benefitted from this fundraising? His lawyers claim they haven’t been paid. Trump may be financially supporting other Republican candidates, but any such expenditures have been hush-hush. And then there are the legal costs for the nearly 400 Trump supporters (so far) who were arrested after the riot in Washington. He said he loved the rioters… but does he love them enough to pay their legal bills?

DISCIPLINE: When it comes to getting the troops to line up and follow orders, Trump has been better than almost anyone before him. Other politicians have used either a carrot or a stick to enforce discipline. Trump is all stick and not much carrot. Trump hates compromise. Giving colleagues… something… to make them follow is orders probably feels like a bribe. Or a shakedown. Not that Trump is opposed to bribery, he just wants to control the offer. If you fail to follow his orders, he will go to war with you. In private life, he was renowned for endless lawsuits. In his political life, he’s fixated on crushing opposing politicians… or whistleblowers. He will get you fired or demoted, publicly humiliate you, and support promoting opposing candidates. The question is, “If you have any followers of your own, are you ready to pledge your loyalty to an organization where everyone eventually gets purged?”

THE NEW TRUMP PARTY: Where does that leave us? Trump has been a very successful brand builder, he has been incredibly effective in connecting with his base, and has been far more astute in using social media than any other politician. There is no question that Trump can build a social media juggernaut. Maybe a social media empire! But Trump only promotes Trump. Loyalty to Trump usually doesn’t give you the rewards and protection that other parties offer. Being close to Trump just makes you a better target for being thrown under the bus.

A Trump party must be able to attract and support more than Trump and a few of his closest friends. For the moment, let’s forget about Trump party voters and just focus on candidates. At the Federal level alone there are 535 senators and congressmen. And thousands of appointees. There are nearly 19,000 state politicians… Governors, state legislatures, and more. And over 50,000 local elected politicians. Except for a few governors or mayors, Trump probably doesn’t care, or care enough, to put in the significant time it takes to support these “minor” politicians.

Would a Trump party be good for Donald Trump? Yes, I think it would. Would it be good for the Republicans? Maybe not so much! Wat do you think? Could the

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After Trump: The Republican RED Shift


Trump has left Washington, but everyone is still abuzz about the future for the Republican party. What happens after Donald Trump. Does Donald Trump admit that this is there is an “after”? Or will the Republicans be stuck in limbo until Trump says otherwise? Trump’s core followers are not typical Republicans. Old school Republicans are signaling that they don’t want to be in the same party as the new kids on the block. Whatever the population of the party, who’s in charge? Trump and McConnell are about to go to war over who is in control. Will they split into a Republican AND a Trumpublican party? The next few years may be quite a mess for conservative America! Let’s dive right in and see what the future holds!

Something… something big… is going on in the Republican party. It may shift to the right, it may splinter into two or more groups, or they may simply be so overwhelmed by internal power struggles that when the mid-term elections arrive the Republicans will have no strategy… and get trounced! After that? Well, there could be an entirely new landscape, with a completely dominant Democratic party, and a Republican party that can only win regional races.

If you’re a Republican, don’t lose heart. At least not yet! America seems to want a two-party split. No single part can hold… at least not for long… the diversity and occasional insanity of our voting public. That’s why we split into at least two big parties. But big changes have happened before. Terminology changes over time. Today we talk about Liberals and Conservatives. In the past we had Progressives, Radicals, and other groups. But back in 1854, when the Republican party was created, the world was quite a bit different.

Republicans were born as a “carve-out” of the Whig party. Their first goal? Lead the anti-slavery movement! Back then, Democrats were the party of slavery, they were largely anti-trade, and most of their beliefs would horrify modern Democrats. Pro-slavery Democrats threatened to leave the Union if a Republican won the 1860 Presidential election. In case you missed it, Abraham Lincoln won, the Democratic South seceded, and the Civil War was ignited.

After the Civil War, American politics were cemented into the “Big Two”. Yes, there are always independents, smaller parties, and even regional groups. But for more than a century and a half, Republicans and Democrats ruled America. By today’s standards, perhaps the single most baffling element of the Republican party was that African Americas, largely due to Abraham Lincoln, were solidly Republican voters. Pretty hard to believe today, but other changes were to come.

Like the Progressive party. In 1912, after losing the Presidential election Teddy Roosevelt gathered together Republican followers, left the party and formed the new Progressive (or Bull Moose) party. It’s hard to not see the parallels with Trump. Teddy was a physically large, loud, larger than life, media genius, with a rabid following. We remember Teddy for saying like, “Speak softly and carry a big stick”, and his aggressive military policies. But Theodore Roosevelt and the Progressives pushed through a lot more policies that are often forgotten.

Roosevelt was fanatical about preserving the environment. He loved to hunt, and so he wanted to preserve pristine forests. Roosevelt had the government set aside huge tracts of land for our national park system. He fought for the rights of labor unions and supported a woman’s right to vote. If it wasn’t for the Republican party, the 19th Amendment would never have been passed, and a woman’s right to vote might have been put off for years, if not decades. Roosevelt and the Progressives made the first serious proposal for a modern welfare state. It would take another 50 years for Democrats to be associated with such “socialist” policies.

Not long after Roosevelt, the Progressives dissolved, and most returned to the Republican party. Which may also be a lesson for the Republicans. When a party is formed around a personality rather than a set of policies, that party may not be able to survive the founder. Donald Trump is already 74 years old. Then again, Donald’s father lived to be 93. Hmmm… any Vegas gamblers out there to rate this bet?

The next big change was started by the Democrats. In 1960, John Kennedy ran for President and won. For the first time since the 14th Amendment, the Democrats became THE party for African American voters. The Democrats made a 180-degree turn, and became the party for civil rights, the party of labor unions, and other policies that were despised by old-time Southern Democrats. The Dixie Democrats began a migration to the Republican party that would be become a flood under… Ronald Regan.

Ronald Reagan’s 1980 election victory pretty much wrote the modern Red/Blue political map. The last of the old southern conservatives began the migration from the Democrats to the Republicans. Southern states flipped from blue to red, and have stayed that way. Consider Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader. From Kentucky. Kentucky was once a solidly Democratic state. Now their representative was the minority leader of the house for 8 years, and then another 5 years as the majority leader. Mitch McConnell is the very image of the early 21st century Republican. But as we enter the 3rd decade of the 21st century, are republicans looking for anew style? A new Leader? Will Donald Trump re-invigorate their party, or destroy it?

The real question is, what does the Republican party want to be? For the last 40 years, Republicans stood for big business, big military, small government budgets, deregulation, globalization, outsourcing, fewer unions, and an America that leads the world. But Trump wants big tariffs, limits on trade, less outsourcing, more union protection, limited international engagement, greater military involvement by other nations… rather Un-Republican policies.

This is what makes this strange alliance so… ironic. Many Trumpublicans follow Trump and the Republican party in the hope of solving their grievances. Yet these “grievances” are the core policies of earlier Reagan era Republicans (deregulation, globalization, outsourcing, etc.). Can pre and post Trump Republicans be in the same party? And will that party have a coherent enough message to attract donors and voters?

It looks like we are about to find out. Since the election, Trump has been turning on former allies, who he feels have slighted him. If the last 4 years have taught us nothing else, we have learned that Trump is VERY good at vengeance. His latest attacks are on Mitch McConnell. In non-Trumpian times, McConnell would be the head of the Republican party. It was inevitable, slighted or not, that McConnell would be a roadblock to Trump’s control of the Republican party.

What do you think? Will the Republicans snap back to their old policies and a more center-of-the-road platform? Or will Trump’s followers take control? I wonder if Vegas is laying odds on this one! Lets keep an eye on Washington (and Mar a Lago), there will surely be much more to come!

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Wonder Woman Vs. The Really, Really, Bad Financial Model!


It was a lot simpler back then!

How did we go from ten cent kids comics to movie budgets that could feed a small nation? The answer is, “A little at a time.” Financial analysts and fanboys alike are aghast at the latest Wonder Woman movie. “Why didn’t it make more money?” “Why isn’t the story better?” “Will Wonder Woman crash the superhero movie industry?”

To understand what is happening, we need to go back to the beginning. When comics were made for kids, where heroes fought villains, and a titanic battle between good and evil was resolved in 10 pages. These were disposable stories, printed on disposable low-quality paper, which is about what you should expect for a dime?

Time passed, comics evolved, and the first real superhero comics arrived just before WW II. The industry moved forward, but slowly. Many artists left their drafting table and fought in the war. Often talented but poor, their “art” reflected their ghetto upbringing, their war experiences, and experience fighting as soldiers and seeing the atrocities of war. Super heroes faded away in the 1950s but came roaring back in the “Silver Age”, in the 1960s. Stories got a bit more gritty, a bit more realistic, and began to appeal to adults.

Of course, comics didn’t make this transition all on their own. During WW II, an obscure book was written by an obscure Cambridge linguistics professor by the name of J.R.R. Tolkien. His “Lord of the Rings” was expected to sell a few thousand copies to academics, but eventfully sold over 150 million copies.

Later, John Campbell, professor of literature, wrote several academic books about Heroes. These works became standard reading for comic writers (and later, movie producers). The new generation of comic book writers were turning simple comic stories into galactic space operas. Sales rose, and comics began to influence “legitimate” art and culture. Then, in 1977, “Star Wars” arrived. And everything changed. Although we didn’t know it at the time.

George Lukas writer and director of Star Wars, read Lord of the Rings and books by Joseph Campbell, and he directed a documentary about comics. Originally, Lukas wanted to make a Flash Gordon movie, but couldn’t get the rights, so he created his own universe. Flash Gordon was a “serial”, or a short weekly feature wedged between a feature film and a cartoon (before television, most movie houses showed a lot more than just a main feature). Flash Gordon was itself a live-action version of a comic book hero. Over time, “serialized” entertainment had migrated from newspapers to comics, to film, then television, and eventually streaming services.

Star Wars was a massive hit. Not just as a film. Toys, cartoons, comics, video games, and… SEQUELS. Before Star Wars, sequels were a joke. Now and then they might be passable, but they were rarely good, and never great. A sequel was a fast money maker, created without the original stars, writers, or directors. But the massive success of Star Wars was followed by a more expensive and more successful sequel.

Today, big movies are always followed up with big sequels. Not just one sequel. A series of massive hits. They want a franchise. Three or more massive movies, plus toys, plus books, comics, a streaming hit, and more. They want a billion-dollar empire. Occasionally, they get it. The Star Wars “franchise” has 8 sequels, 2 stand-alone movies, over 100 comic book titles, over 300 books, AND cartoons, computer games, board games, etc.

Most movies don’t become a runaway success, a success rarely spawns an equally successful sequel, and sequels live to become an enduring franchise. This brings us back to Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman was one of the first female superheroes. Created in 1941, just after Superman, Batman, and Captain America. But Wonder Woman never sold as well as her male counterparts. Nor surprising. Comic readers were predominantly written for and bought by boys. Those boys grew into fanboys and created the “no-girls allowed” rules of today’s comic world. The first Wonder Woman movie was a stunning success, especially to rabid fanboys. Worse yet, it was directed by Patty Jenkins, who made the defiant and unpopular choice of being a woman.

Ten years ago I actively followed superhero movies. You get an “origin story” and then you might get an original story. Batman, Superman, and Spiderman have now each been rebooted several times. I watched the Batman story in the 1980s. YAY! A real movie with a real budget. Then there was sort of a rebook in the late 1990s (worst batman sequels EVER!). Then in 2005 a reboot. Hey, the studios care about the franchise again! Then they did another reboot in 2016, not even bothering to write a new story. The plot is just taken from a comic from the 1980s. I thought the comics… excuse me… Graphic Novels version was better. I lost interest in big comic book movies.

Wonder Woman? I never saw the movie, but the bits and pieces I saw were good. Gal Gadot? An excellent choice for the role! It was a surprise blockbuster. Then they wanted to do it again. Not surprisingly, the director wanted more of a say in the script and movie production. Hard to say, but I think she felt a certain weight of history about putting her own ideas into the movie, like keeping the familiar 1980s hooker boots and swimsuit costume out of the movie. If you think the costume choice is a trivial issue, google the movie for fanboy commentary about Gal Gadot being… AH… inadequate for the movie. What do the fanboys want? Bigger breasts.

This is the model driving the most expensive movies ever made. Be miraculously successful, with the touchiest audience to ever tweet a negative comment. Do it again and again. Sell a raft of other products. And never make a mistake. Sure, a few hero’s beat this crazy model, but not many. Will Wonder Woman beat the model, or will newer characters like Captain Marvel or Black Widow prevail? Or will Hollywood’s over-dependence on Super Hero stories kill the genre?

What do you think? Will Wonder Woman become a franchise? Can Hollywood keep the Super Hero model alive, or will they all go the way of the Cowboy movie? Let us know what you think!

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Branding Chaos! The “Trump Revolution” 4 years later…


Enthusiastic supporter of the NEW Trump Brand!

Branding is about buy-in, not the retelling of reality. Branding sells ideas products by selling ideas. Is an Apple computer really worth two or three times more than a PC? If not, why would customers pay two or three times as much? Because of BRANDING! That’s why! When you sell the right image, feelings matter more than facts.

The best example of selling a right-wing image has got to be… Donald Trump. His genius in marketing cannot be underestimated. Early on, back in the 1980s and 1990s, he learned how to add a bit of marble here and a touch of gold there (even when the gold was just bronze) to overcharge for “premium” apartments.

While Trump has always had competitors, his eye for marketing goes far beyond that of his competitors. They too claim that bronze is gold, but it takes a Trump to consistently sell nothing… at a premium price. Twenty years ago, when the Trump Towers opened, he secretly added 10 stories to the floor count, making it seem that floors were higher, and thus worth more.

Of course, that was a younger and less experienced Donald Trump. If he could do it all over again today, I’m confident that the future Ex-President Donald Trump could successfully sell apartments on those non-existent floors. If you think that’s impossible, you just haven’t been exposed to the unique wisdom of Donald Trump. The power of the Donald Trump brand… Trumpism, if you will… shows the power of Branding when you are really, really committed to the Brand!

A natural development in Trumpism was his brilliant “growth through bankruptcy” model. Having gone bankrupt 4 (possibly 6) times, Donald Trump was able to incompetency in business as plucky determinism. His book, “The Art of the Deal” became an early attempt at rebranding perpetual business failure as Entrepreneurial genius. Yes, Donald Trump became America’s greatest Entrepreneur by going bankrupt more often than anyone else.

Trump became the come-back kid who would eventually become President! This is not to say that other bankrupt entrepreneurs never tried their hand at politics. But those individuals usually sold themselves on how they treated their employees and business partners. How they sold their houses and emptied their bank accounts to help the people who helped them build their fortune. People who take responsibility, feel for others and are willing to bear their share of the blame when things go wrong. In other words, “losers”. Identifying and labeling losers is a core part of Trumpist thinking.

Trump, always a winner, was able to offload his financial losses to hundreds of companies and thousands of workers. In a less lawyered up culture, Trump might have been held responsible for the cost of a failed business. What kind of a billionaires doesn’t love making rank and file workers pay their debts. Well, with a little help and a touch of arm twisting by a large legal team! Genius, pure genius… am I right?

Thus Trump built another critical pillar of Trumpism, personal harm reduction. Or, as the mainstream media calls it, “throwing everyone under the bus”. Call it what you will… IT WORKS! I think we can all safely bet that in the final days of the Trump Administration… and beyond… we’re going to see a lot of harm reduction. A LOT.

Another important pillar of Trumpism is “alternative facts”. Trump consultant Kellyanne Conway invented this term early on in the Trump administration. Alternative facts, fake news, and other rallying cries are commonplace in Trumpism. The complex and nuanced language of Trumpism is often difficult to grasp. If “alternative facts” are too difficult to understand, consider other terms… like equivocate, prevaricate, falsify, dissemble, or (in a pinch) good old fashion lies. A simple lie can get you out of some pretty tight spots!

Consider the Birther movement. Birtherism is the belief that Barak Obama was not the legitimate President of the United States, because he was not born in America. Ask any American who was an adult back then, “Who invented Birtherism?”, and the answer was … Donald Trump! President Obama putting his birth certificate on-line before the election did little to stop the growth of the Birthers. That’s one powerful Brand!

But that’s all in the past! What can we expect for the Trump Brand in 2021? Why don’t we put it all together?

The riots are over, the election is settled, and Trump will soon be an ordinary citizen. JUST KIDDING! Trump, and Trumpism, isn’t going anywhere. Maybe Trump will carry or the brand, or maybe Ivanka or Trump Jr will carry on the brand name until 2024. A little sedition and a coup d’état in our capital d’état? NO! A show of patriotism. An incredibly, unrelentingly, massive show of patriotism?

Not buying it? No problem, those MAGA cap-wearing rioters? Trump never met them. In fact… they look like Democratic infiltrators! Of course Trump will testify against them. Over the next 4 years, Trump and his family will work relentlessly to find the Democrats who are responsible for Stealing the election and starting the riot. And imprisoning whoever stole his Twitter account.

Back in 2016, Trump said, “There’s going to be so much winning that you’ll say, ‘Please, please, there’s too much winning, we can’t take it anymore!’ ” Well, I have heard a lot of people say “Please, please stop!”, and “I can’t take it anymore!” So Trump was right again. And isn’t Trump being right more important than anything else for America?

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Is COVID-19 or a Bad COVID-19 Vaccine More Terrifying?


Americans are used to confusing messages and questionable theories – even from our leaders. Are the oceans truly dying? How big a danger is global warming? Is nuclear energy a threat to humanity? COVID-19 has pushed us beyond confusion. We must make life and death decisions every day while trying to plow our way through constantly changing and thoroughly confusing information from the very highest levels of government. As a result, Americans are losing faith in medical science. And in vaccines in particular.

While President Donald Trump and his administration have mismanaged many issues, it is perhaps their mishandling of COVID-19 that has gained the greatest international condemnation. It is not uncommon for science to be rejected for political reasons. If a factory will generate jobs but dumps deadly chemicals, there are thousands of examples where the local government tries to downplay or even outright reject evidence that would close the factory. But it wasn’t Trump that started the rejection of science.

As science has risen, so too has science rejection. But the general direction has been that we have a way of living, and then science tells us that we need to change. Early medical research started with hygiene. Keep people away from sewage and garbage and we are healthier. Scientific research found that sewage water and drinking water need to be separated, or contaminated water spreads cholera, diphtheria, and other diseases. When we focused on the nature of the disease itself, we developed disinfectants, antibiotics, and vaccines.

But it has been rare indeed that the direction of science has been reversed, and was headed backward. Consider the past month of the Pandemic. Medical experts would tell us one thing and then politicians would say the opposite. The President would have daily Pandemic briefings, and the medical experts were kept quiet while only politicians were allowed to talk. A podium full of silenced medical experts during a Pandemic does little to encourage trust in medical science.

Anti-vaxxers have been around since the earliest vaccines in the 19th century. But the rise of the modern anti-vaxxer movement started recently, in the late 1990s. It started with a questionable report about a measles vaccine. The real issue isn’t if the vaccine was good or bad. The question was why a fairly obscure report without a lot of medical authority, was quickly accepted by so many families. All sorts of issues with mainstream medicine had undermined decades of goodwill. The rapid pivot to anti-vax status showed that belief in the “goodness” of the medical system had been leaking away for years.

At the same time, mainstream medicine began marketing a new generation of painkillers. Promoted by manufacturers as a safe and non-addictive alternative to older opiates… Oxycontin, Tramadol, and similar painkillers caused severe addiction and unprecedented overdose fatalities. The secret was out, and America was discovering just how deadly modern “medicine” had become. At the same time families were learning that our foods and household products were filled with preservatives, artificial colors and flavorings, and other chemicals that are linked to cancer, autism, and other disorders.

Once again, it almost doesn’t matter if the accusations are true. What matters is that the speed at which the American public accepts alternative theories about product safety is accelerating. Soon, we are told, a new vaccine will arrive that can protect us against COVID-19. The first one may come from Russia or China. But going from the world’s record of 4 years to deliver a safe vaccine, to less than one year… will raise more questions than any other vaccine in history. Yet, some political figures are staking their careers… and perhaps the American economy… on the public turning out in massive numbers to take the vaccine.

But what if they don’t. Polls and surveys tell us that less than 50% of Americans would take the vaccine. If the vaccine is made outside of the US, especially if it comes from Russian or Chinese, even lower vaccination rates are likely. Is there an alternative?

The world of cannabis medicine has been focused on developing less toxic but effective medicines that use natural elements like cannabis and terpenes. This natural approach provides some of the same health benefits as good nutrition, exercise, and exposure to nature.

Big Pharmaceutical companies need to develop patents as much as medicines often leading to the use of obscure chemical compounds that can be both effective and toxic. The rush for a COVID-19 treatment has over 100 companies competing to deliver the first vaccine, and dominate this trillion-dollar market. Concerns about the effectiveness and the ethics of using a rushed vaccine are being voiced by just about very newspaper and media outlet around the world. Plus comments from Medical Colleges, scientific journals… even the Vatican is taking a stand.

There are good arguments both for and against, but if vaccinations become MANDATORY, then it could be a battlefield between needs and beliefs. Every family with a special medical condition or an ethical or religious issue could be on either side of the fence, but lines will be drawn. Both between families and even within families.

Ever since the Swine Flu in 1976, some have questioned if vaccine side-effects are a bigger issue than the disease the vaccination prevents. In 1976 hundreds of Americans came down with a rare and highly disabling neurological disease. In the 1990s, the measles vaccine was questioned, with some believing it causes autism. Today, it may not really matter if the COVID vaccine is good or bad… if no one takes the vaccine.

Vaccinations are already down across America. The Houston Chronicle reported that childhood vaccinations in Texas are down by 44%. The Lansing State Journal found that vaccinations in Michigan were down 64%. Is the Anti-Vaxxer movement has been growing. The American consumer is now much more suspicious of taking medicines without knowing exactly what’s in that medicine. The American consumer has rejected additives in food, home products and anything else that comes in contact with their family mmebers.

What America is accepting, and is spending ever larger sums of money on, is natural medicines. It goes by many names… nutraceuticals, cannabinoid medicine, super foods, alternative medicine, aroma therapy, mega vitamins… and it embraces a variety of disciplines and products, but this is where America goes when it cannot use or cannot trust mainstream medicine.

For decades America has been slowly headed towards “do it yourself medicine”. By one study, 77% of all Americans take nutritional supplements. Consumers will continue in the same direction they are already headed, and continue to put their money into natural alternatives. The battle over vaccines will undoubtedly grow the DIY medicine market, and may even lead to a few revolutionary new products based on all natural ingredients.

What about you, dear reader? Are you planning to take the first vaccine? Will you wait a while? Or do you plan to skip the vaccine? Perhaps you even have an alternative medical plan! Let us know!

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How COVID-19 Killed Nursing Homes!


hospital-coronavirusAmerica is in the middle of an affordable housing crisis. According to FreddieMac, the US has a shortage of 2.5 to 3.3 million homes. Why don’t we build more homes? Because these homes are needed by families with the lowest income. Where it makes economic sense for a developer to build a new home, it makes sense to build the most expensive home the market will bear. That’s why big American cities have an affordable housing crisis.

Consider San Francisco. The cost of rent has skyrocketed, leaving thousands homeless. SF… a modern American city… have families living in tents and the streets of the city. Teachers… full-time, unionized, city workers… cannot afford housing. A study by Trulia found that less than 1% of teachers in San Francisco can afford housing in the city. And SF teachers are some of the highest-paid teachers in America!

Housing is undeniably a crisis in 2020 America. But it’s not the only crisis. Healthcare… cost, quality, and distribution… is a cluster of crises. If you were to draw a graph, with a line for healthcare and a line for housing, where they meet is America’s biggest cluster… ahhh …. crisis. This is where American’s live in nursing homes and care centers.

Ever since the demise of Willowbrook and the film “One Flew over the Cookoo’s Nest” America has been deeply suspicious of government-run institutional care (more often institutional warehousing). Once Americans understood the degree of mismanagement and indifference in these institutions, we began shutting them down.

While we were effective at tearing old, primitive institutions, we have as yet to fund the type of community-based, humane care services that “de-institutionalists” recommend.  If you can afford it, there are some very nice care facilities, but few can afford them. If your care will be paid for my Medicare alone, the quality is not as good (and some times quite bad). Even so, the wait for ANY  bed may take a decade or more.

And that was before COVID-19. It’s easy to understand how the government can neglect low-income housing. But it’s not entirely their fault. The world has changed and governments are notoriously slow at recognizing change. America is aging. More citizens are over 65 years of age than at any point in our history. And, if you live long enough, you’ve going to develop disabilities.

Miraculous improvements in health care are responsible for our healthier, longer lives. Today’s older Americans routinely break athletic records made by 20-year-olds a few decades earlier. But if you have always been sickly, disabled, or were born with the wrong genes, your health issues could dramatically increase as you age.

Our longer lifespans mean an extra decade of dealing with the limits of old age, more physical limitations as we regularly live into our 90s and beyond, and mental disabilities like Altzheimers. If you began life with a disability like Autism or Down’s syndrome, lie expectancy has doubled or even tripled since the 20th century. But… this was all before COVID-19.

In some facilities the coronavirus was like a living beast, killing 30%, 40%, or even 50% of residents, according to Christopher Laxton (executive director of the Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine). Why the sky-high rates? It will take time to say definitively why residents died and why there was so much variation, but here are the “usual suspects”…

Occupancy: Nursing homes are expensive, yet 1.5 million Americans live in nursing homes. In order to manage costs, two or more residents may cohabitate a single bedroom. It doesn’t take a lot to understand how shared rooms spread infection. When you have 20 or 30 infected patients, what do you do with them? Leave them in the shared room? There are no empty rooms to separate them? You could ask another nursing home to take your infected presidents, but in the middle of a Pandemic do you think that will work? Families are going to want answers to these questions… and where homes have few answers, families will probably move their loved ones to another provider.

Bathrooms: A single or double occupancy may have a shared bathroom. Other residents may share a bathroom with an entire floor, or building. Seniors with dementia or physical disabilities need assistance in the bathroom, exposing nurses and janitorial staff to infectious matter, risking the transmission of a virus through the entire facility. As more residents sicken and die, the staff becomes overwhelmed and they too become infected, leaving too few workers to follow proper cleaning procedures.

Air: We are waiting for research on how readily COVID-19 spreads through the air. Even if COVIDS-19 does not easily airborne, the next pandemic spread this way. Modern heating and cooling system have inexpensive options to filter and sterilize the air. However, many nursing homes are older, and few have focused on modern air purification technology.

Laundry: Every millennial uses their grandparents’ behavior as a baseline for what is bad and outdated. But for argument’s sake, let’s assume our grandmothers ran the laundry in a care facility. Grandma would take your sheets and linens (all-white, always white) and clean them in a toxic combination of boiling hot water, chlorine bleach, and environmentally irresponsible detergents. Next, she would fry everything in a superheated dryer or put them on a clothesline for the sun to irradiate them in UV light. Good for the environment? Hell no! But it kills germs dead! Gentler cleaners, water-saving washers, and energy-saving washers and dryers may save the environment, but they don’t kill COVID-19. Instead, a central laundry can spread infections materials throughout a nursing home.

Visitors: The pandemic and social distancing put an end to family visiting time. But before the lockdown, visitors may introduced COVID-19 into the care facility. Handheld electronic thermal detectors are cheap (under $100) and easy to use. Airports have used advanced thermal scanners that cover a whole room at once. The latest devices have built-in Artificial Intelligence to eliminate false positives (you were standing outside in the sun, or just finished exercising) and focus on individuals most likely to be infected. This technology is almost never used in nursing homes.

Now what? Almost likely, we will see years and years of lawsuits. The very best nursing homes, with the very lowest infection rates, will have few or no lawsuits, and be in even higher demand. Sub-average nursing homes will be at risk of being closed. Just keep in mind that “sub-average” means 50% of all nursing homes.

1.5 million Americans live in nursing homes. Hundreds of thousands of these beds could be shut-down due to lawsuits and new regulations. Will a new generation of expensive, more secure nursing homes be built? Possibly. Will these new homes be affordable for someone with just Medicare? Almost surely… they will not!

There is no question that some homes will shut down for their recent poor performance and new affordable nursing home beds will be almost impossible to find. As the lockdown eases, families are going to want answers about the thousands (possibly tens of thousands) who died in nursing homes.

What about you? Do you have a loved one in a care facility? How well did they work during the Pandemic? Do you want to stay with your provider? Talk to us! Tell us your story!

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What We REALLY Think About Pandemics!


Keel CalmPandemics are nothing new. Back in the day of the Romans, a plague was sweeping the world… or at least what they considered the world! Anthony and Cleopatra (yup, that Cleopatra) were about to sweep away the opposing Roman navy, BUT… the Egyptians caught the plague and most of the oarsmen called out sick. Results? Cleopatra’s navy ended up on the bottom of the sea. Don’t mourn for Cleo, if her navy had won the world would be very different, and the news crawl on the evening news would be in hieroglyphics! Pandemics can change everything!

A century ago the Spanish Flu swept the world and took millions of lives. Global endemics don’t just happen to humans, they can target livestock or crops. Have you ever heard of the Panama disease? It was harmless to humans but deadly to bananas. In the 1950’s it wiped out the world’s banana crop. It made the banana EXTINCT!

You may be asking yourself, “Then what is that curiously shaped yellow-skinned fruit I had this morning with my breakfast?”It is a banana, of course. But… and here’s the important part… it is a DIFFERENT banana than the one people ate before the 1950s. It took a decade, but a new type of Panama resistant banana was planted around the world. Not everyone liked the new banana… the taste was a little different, it bruised more easily, had to be harvested and packed differently. But eventually, we embraced the new… slightly crappier… banana.

But just like the flu and the coronavirus, new versions of the Panama disease can evolve. The clock is ticking. A new epidemic is expected that will kill the banana yet again. But the banana’s need to get in line behind the very symbol of Florida’s agriculture, the Orange.

The average American is blissfully unaware of the fierce battle that has raged across Florida for the last decade. The Greening virus doesn’t kill oranges. Instead, it stops oranges from maturing and turning sweet. Once infected, fruits from infected orange trees become sour and have no commercial value. A recent study showed that every single commercial orange grove in Florida is infected. Not every tree is infected, but the number of infected trees in each orchard increases every year.

The only “treatment” is to burn infected trees. As this blight grows, farms become less and less profitable. For farmers, infected orange trees are like infected Zombies slowly marching across their fields, turning healthy productive trees into undead trees that will continue to turn more trees until it is uprooted and destroyed. Millions of orange trees are now burned every year, which is incredibly expensive. In a few more years it will cost too much to fight the plague of zombie oranges, oranges will march into the sunset arm in arm (or whatever) with the banana.

But enough about our vegetable brethren. What about us? Human beings, people, civilization! Well, we’re kind of screwed. But don’t despair! We’ve been easing our way into this disaster for decades! My inbox is filled with emails where someone observes, “Hey, did you ever read that book where this infection covers the world, and then everyone dies?” Uhhhh… yes. I have. I read the book, saw the movie, and binge-watched the series.

Here’s some news for the HUGE number of occasional sci-fi readers. This isn’t anything new. It’s a genre of sci-fi. Writers have been writing about natural and artificial plagues for decades! There’s a whole other genre where real plagues are written about, or serve as the foundation of a fictional story. Quite a few books have been written about the devastating Spanish Flu (Note: this came from the US, and was spread around the world as American soldiers fought in WWI).

Why are we fascinated about plagues? I think the Spanish Flu explains it best. This plague and others, whether endemic or pandemic, made a big impact. People were powerless against plagues. In cities where many families were packed into one building, one child would live and one would die. It looked very much like the visible hand of God picking and choosing who lived and died. At the time of the Spanish Flu, medical science was just starting to understand how viruses work. Science might save humanity. Science might put an end to plagues. As babies lived rather than died, mothers might not wail out in the night when their child succumbed to the disease that wretched their small bodies.

Any anti–vaxers in the audience? Been having fun during the lockdown? Have you been listening carefully about the mere possibility that a vaccine might be developed before you lose someone dear to you? Strange, isn’t it, how your opinions about the value of the medical/vaccine industry have evolved over the last month? Suddenly interested in learning how “herd immunity” might save you and your family if the virus comes back?

Until a couple of months ago, the anti-vaccine movement was on the rise. Diseases that had been wiped out, like Measles, have come back and local epidemics have broken out. After the horrors of plagues in the early 20th century, how could we turn our backs on the cure? In part because by the 1990s few American’s and Europeans had ever seen a plague. Add to that a growing suspicion of the medical industry and science in general. After all, by then everyone knew about (or thought they knew about) bioweapons, and genetic engineering, and Frankenfood. It was fertile ground for paranoid theories.

It is in this fertile ground that new ideas for books developed. Ideas about what could go wrong, what WAS going wrong around the world, crept into our literature. This has been going on for a long time. We have all been shaped by these ideas, but we barely noticed it. Think about it. In the 1960s we began to worry about government-developed “bio-weapons”. By the 1970s and 1980s, AIDs… and later Ebola… became front-page news. Stories shifted from government labs to the horrors of nature. Consider…

War of the Worlds (1898): We paid so much attention to Martians, that we forget about the “red weed”, plants that the Martians used to terraform the earth. But in the end, the Martians were killed off by whatever seasonal crap they caught. OK, it was a Martian Plague, but a plague nonetheless.

I Am Legend (1954): This story of the pandemic goes one step further. After everyone in the world is killed by a virus, they later rise from the dead! Instead of the usual zombie hoard, these undead are vampires. So, after the lockdown, we’re supposed to wait for the undead uprising? Prepare for the locked-and-loaded showdown once the lockdown expires. Hey! Think about all of the armed 2nd amendment protesters! They want to end the lockdown. They’re already armed! They’d make the perfect zombie bait! HEY… don’t look at me that way. You were thinking it too!

Andromeda Strain (1969): Here the disease comes from outer space on a crashed satellite. The world’s best scientists are gathered in an underground bunker to solve the problem. Yada yada. The twist is that the military was looking for a bioweapon! How about that as a crazy idea! Governments creating world ending viruses. Luckily, we don’t live in a sci-fi world where the leaders are all power-mad idiots who would kill off half of the world’s population so that the line for their morning coffee is a little shorter. I mean leaders of the world that don’t understand basic science, the military creating secret weapons, maneuvering for which nation is the most powerful in the world. I mean… uhhh… unlikely… enlightened democracy? CRAP. We’re screwed.

The Stand (1978): Virus, wipes out the world. Yawn! It was well written, but even by the 1970s the whole pandemic theme was a bit tired. Oh. I almost forgot. There is also a battle between God and the Devil. It sold well!

The Hot Zone (1995): While this was an incredibly popular book and the term “Hot Zone” even entered the English language, I think it’s just an OK Novel. Sure a killer virus could evolve in the middle of the jungle. And Yeah, it could quickly spread into undeveloped villages near the jungle “wilderness”. I’ll even let the massive death count stand and the idea that every nation on earth needed to get together to stop it from spreading. But it does stretch credibility. And… what?… it’s not a novel? This really happened? On planet earth? CRAP. We’re screwed.

The Zombie Survival Guide (2003): As zombie books and movies became ever more popular, by 2000 every teenage boy knew that pandemics are always followed by a zombie apocalypse! That’ s why building a zombie bug-out kit is a “thing” for teens. If you’re a teenager, you’ve been preparing for this all of your life. The good news is that there is no sign yet of the zombies. The bad news is that the Baby Boomers already burned down your world… plagues, global warming, the coming recession, etc. You’re the last one to show up for dinner, just in time to see your parents head off to their retirement villa home while the waiter is approaching to hand you the bill! (With or without zombies, you are sooooooooo screwed!)

World War Z (2006): Max Brooks, the writer of the Zombie Survival Guide, later wrote this popular book (and still later, movie). He wasn’t the first to conceive of the pandemic starting in a region of China, but he did make the idea popular. So. Pandemics, deaths, destroyed economies, Zombies, government labs, and a virus from China! Yep! I think this is where we get off!

Hmmm… what? Sorry… I didn’t see you there. I was busy building my Zombie Bug-Out kit. What do we really think about pandemics? Well, there is fear. But there is also hope. And opportunity. Should we fear the inevitable Zombies? No. I don’t think so. American’s need to work together. Even the palest and slowest Americans. Besides, if a Zombie can be Vice-President of the US, all of us have a role to play in build the Post-Pandemic world!

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Super Capacitors, Batteries & The Electric Vehicle Revolution!


Car Batteries

During a technological revolution, change happens quickly. Today, we’re flooded by tech revolutions. Ther are so many it’s difficult to sort them all out. Our power grid is slowly going sustainable, everyone is adding power storage, and vehicles are transitioning from gasoline to electric. Batteries have become a key technology behind all of these revolutions. Every day you hear about some new kind of battery. There are endless stories about new and improved battery storage, lithium, and “rare earth” materials. Now we can add a new category of tech… supercapacitors.

We’re all familiar with capacitors. At a wedding, graduation, or wherever a professional photographer takes your picture with a flash, that whine coming from the camera between photos is the sound of a capacitor charging. The flash needs a big, quick burst of power. Batteries can hold more power, longer… but batteries can’t send out power as quickly as a capacitor. Batteries charge the capacitor and the capacitor blast out the power needed by the flash.

Capacitors can do some amazing things, things that batters are bad at. Capacitors charge VERY quickly. Small capacitors can handle vast amounts of power. And… this is BIG… they can charge and discharge over and over again. Lithium batteries can be recharged a few thousand times. Capacitors can be recharged a million times or more.

Batteries are one of the most expensive parts of an electric car. Batteries determine the distance you can drive. Every charge cycle deteriorates your battery just a little bit. As your car ages, it loses range. Electric cars are new and few, so we don’t have enough data, but a frequently driven car will certainly see a significant loss of range in 10 years. Batteries will be the first major component to require replacement, and it will cost thousands of dollars.

New Supercapacitors will not replace batteries, but they can supplement battery technology. How? Well, many electric cars have regenerative braking. Essentially, when you drive you use power from the battery to drive the electric motor. Regenerative brakes make power when they slow down your car. The more you use your brakes, the more electricity you generate. That electricity recharges your batteries.

Regenerative braking can be very effective, capturing as much as 60% of the power it takes to slow or stop your car. If your drive to work is highway only, with roads as flat as a pancake, you don’t do a lot of braking. But your daily drive has a lot of uphill and downhill driving, or mostly city driving (stopping and starting, traffic jams),  … then every tap of your brakes adds milage. For most drivers, regenerative brakes add a LOT of mileage.

Getting more range and “free” fuel IS great for consumers! But not so great for batteries. Remember, current batteries can only be recharged so many times before they deteriorate. But what if you put a supercapacitor between the brakes and the batteries? The supercapacitor soaks up all of the “micro-charges” from your brakes, and holds them for a few seconds or a few minutes, reducing the charge cycles for your batteries. Add some smart software to manage how often charges are sent back and forth, and your battery will work a lot longer!

This model might look very familiar. And it is! Supercapacitors provide a buffer for batteries. Electronics, especially computers, have used high-speed memory to buffer slower memory for years. Hard drives have a lot of capacity and are cheap, but are slower compared to (more expensive) solid-state drives (SSD). Virtually all hard drives use some form of solid-state memory as a buffer. There is a high probability that some bit of information that you just asked for, might be asked for again. Fetching data from solid-state memory is far faster than fetching it from a spinning disk.

In hard drives, “efficiency” is all about speed. In an electric car “efficiency” is about how much power they can store and how often they can be recharged. Batteries continue to become cheaper, with more recharge cycles. A car designed with a combination of batteries and supercapacitors might create a combination that provides superior performance, or it may use a different combination to provide more standard capabilities, but at a lower cost.

There is more to a computer (or a car) than just the buffers. But the use of buffers throughout computers (hard drives, CPUs, graphic cards, between sub-systems) are one of the reasons why computers got so cheap and so good so fast.

Will the cost and efficiency of electric cars improve as quickly as computers? Probably not. But we can expect that in the next 5 years… or less… electric cars will cost less to buy than Internal Combustion, and cost much less to operate. And superconductors will be a big part of the improvements we need to transition between gasoline to electric vehicles!

 

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Impact Investing: How To De-Risk Deals With A New Financial Model, BRRM!


Investing

Nonprofits are in trouble, big trouble! We depend on nonprofits (charities) for a lot of the world’s Social Good… schools, hospitals, nursing homes, senior centers, legal aid, and more. But recent changes may soon spell the doom of nonprofits as we know them! What’s happening? Can charities fix their problems? Will it all be OK in the end? Let dive right in and see!

Back in the 1950’s tax laws were reformed, making charitable donations tax-deductible. But in 2016, the Standard Income Tax Deduction was doubled, and suddenly fewer Americans could donate enough to charities to itemize their deductions. Without the benefit of a tax deduction, would American’s still donate as much money to charities?

Pundits said that donations would start to dry up, and they were right. Despite stock markets rising to new highs and arguably the best economy in US history, charitable donations fell by 2%. Add to that the decline in government funding for programs for the poor, elderly, and sick. That larger tax deduction has had ripple effects, and now there is talk of a new round of cuts to social good programs, to pay for the bigger deduction.

Grants from private foundations are also shrinking. Partially because of falling donations. Partially because foundations have begun to turn to Impact Investment as a way of funding charities. That shifts foundations from giving out grants to making loans. Loans that must be repaid.

Struggling nonprofits will need to struggle even more as they learn how to work with unfamiliar new forms of funding. With 1.5 million US nonprofits, generating 2 trillion dollars in revenue and expenses, we should all be very concerned about how well nonprofits are doing.

Nonprofits have always been the stepchildren of the business world. Banks are cautious about working with nonprofits. Nonprofits can receive donations from complete strangers. That does not sit well with bankers. After 9/11 new Federal rules to reduce money laundering began to conflict with nonprofit functions, like receiving donations or sending money to poor (and politically unstable) nations. From a banking point of view, donations look too much like illegal money transfers.  For bankers, nonprofits raise suspicion and create risk.

Then there’s Wall Street. Stock markets have been the juggernaut of the corporate world! Impact Investors can’t find enough social good deals. Charities and Impact Investors should be a perfect marriage. Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and countless other for-profits became successful because they had access to capital, and they could sell equity.  But our nonprofits? It is illegal for nonprofits to sell equity.

In a world where Impact Investors are actively seeking out social good investments, if nonprofits want to survive they need to structure good ideas as good investments, and de-risk their projects. The Balanced Risk Revenue Model, or BRRM, can address these issues by making social good investments easier for Impact Investors to execute.

Before diving into the model, a bit of truth in advertising. For the last year, I have been working with a group called Nicky’s Gardens of Hope. They are working to open a residence for 150 adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). I’ve worked closely with Nicky’s mother, Adriana Piltz, and seen up-close the hurdles facing any organization that wants to create a comprehensive, quality service for IDD adults.

So Adriana and I worked on a solution, BRRM, to make it easier for Impact Investors to fund social good projects. Nonprofits must address their image of risk. Risk, any risk, can be offset. Balanced. In the 1970s Wall Street learned the math behind risk, and used tools like the Black-Scholes model to balance that Risk. Once risk could be controlled, the Dow was able to grow from 1,000 points in the 1970s to nearly 30,000 today.

We don’t need to be rocket scientists to address the risks faced by nonprofits. We just need to understand a few basic elements, be aware of some new innovations, and then fit these pieces together into a functional model. Let’s begin with…

Capital: All businesses need money to operate. How you access money, and how you pay taxes is dependent on the type of corporate entity your business uses. When Adriana was in the early stages of creating Nicky’s I asked a mutual associate, who had an excellent financial and accounting background, what he thought. Since the project required land for the residency, he assured me that our corporation MUST be a REIT (a for-profit, Real Estate Investment Trust).

B Corporations: I asked him if Nicky’s could receive donations and all government grants. He said we would lose both, but a REIT was still the way to go. So I did a bit of research and discovered the Benefit Corporation or B-Corp. This is very similar to a “normal” forprofit corporation, except that the “B” (in this case Nicky’s Gardens of Hope), receives disbursements of profit before the shareholders.

Nearly, but not quite: B-corps have access to capital markets, just like any other corporation. But there would be fewer barriers to bank loans. Transferring profits from the for-profit to the charity would make up for the decline in government funding. But we would still give up the benefits of a nonprofit. Unless… we added a few more steps.

Together @Last: By merging a B-Corp, with a nonprofit, we can gain the benefits of both types of entities. The B-Corp would own and run all assets, and the charity would provide the services (the residency).  It requires a bit of proprietary wizardry to merge the functions of the two entities, but it creates a flexible structure that can be used by a wide range of charities, foundations, and non-profits.

Revenue: Investments and loans need to be repaid, with interest. Most nonprofits, have opportunities to build on their core businesses and develop new lines of revenue.  But they usually lack the business expertise (and funding) to launch new businesses. But BRRM uses a proprietary Business Incubator to launch new businesses. By working with Investors, funding AND industry expertise can be leveraged to ensure the success of these businesses. And what does the nonprofit provide?

Social Good:  Investment funds and the Millenials that fund these funds, want more than just profit from their investments. The “Double Bottom Line”, is just one way of expressing that investors are looking for a profit (often a very modest profit) plus Social Good. CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) and ESG (Environment, Social, and Governance) are part of the growing vocabulary of social good terminology. Charities need capital markets, bankers, & investors to finance social good, but capital markets, bankers, & investors need charities to develop the projects that do social good.

The bottom line to BRRM is pretty simple. At one end of the business world, nonprofits are under increasing financial pressure, and projects that could do a lot of good are going unfunded. On the other end of the world are Impact Investors that control trillions of dollars in funds, but cannot find enough deals that make financial sense.  BRRM can’t fix the world. That’s a job for charities and foundations. But if the problem is getting a project funded, BRRM could be your way to bridge the gap.

Are you an Impact Investor with more money that deals? Want to know more about BRRM? Look me up and we can talk!

 

Chris Niccolls

http://www.linkedin.com/in/chrisniccolls

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The End Of NonProfits, The Rise Of NeoProfits!


Donations2

When we think of doing good, we think of NonProfits. Charities, Churches, Foundations, and do-good organizations. Society didn’t always depend on “501 (c) 3” type charities. Charities trace their origins to the beginning of history when the great and powerful were expected to do “good”… giving food and gifts to the poor. But does the ancient concept of charity still work in modern days? Let’s dive in and see!

There is always a need for charity. When everyone was a  farmer, there was a surplus of food in good years and in bad years families go hungry. In very bad years, families starve. Famines killed people and destroyed irreplaceable skills. Continuing famines weakened society and opened the door to rebellion and revolt.

Feeding the poor was an important function for the Church and the King. As soon as medicine became effective enough to be a profession that was separate from religion, government hospitals became a new element of charity. 2,000 years ago the first public hospital was built in India, soon followed by Greece, Rome, and China. The Roman Legions added the idea of clinics and field hospitals (Valetudinaria). By the time of the Crusades in 1100 AD, Templars and other wealthy organizations funded hospitals.

In the 18th century, Royalty and Religion were challenged by the Enlightenment. Fraternal orders, labor unions, and political parties could now provide charity and social services. The industrial revolution and the rise of banking created vast fortunes, and a new class… millionaires. The late 19th century 1% spread the concept of… philanthropy. They either directly funded good causes or donated to Foundations, organizations that specialize in raising money and then granting it to the best causes.

The final element of modern charity came in the 1950’s… the 501 (c) 3 corporation. If you met the IRS criteria, donors receive tax benefits in exchange for donations and charities are exempted from certain taxes. This process was designed to create a “virtuous circle”, that incentivizes donations and reduces the cost to operate a charity. Charities were now ready to fix the ills of the world.

Yet, that’s not what happened. While charities do spend hundreds of billions of dollars, the problems of the world have grown. Hundreds of years ago we worried about crop failure. Today, we fear that the entire world’s ecosystem is failing, or that the sea will drown whole nations. No single nation, to say nothing of a single charity, can solve the problem we face today…

Food Security: Lack of food is still a very real issue. But in America, Europe, and the developed world food insecurity is a dwindling issue. Natural disasters can create temporary food shortages, but the ever-present threat of famine is gone. Well, if you live in the developed world. Famine remains a real threat for the rest of the world. We are approaching our global food production limits. The Earth’s population will grow from today’s 7.6 billion to 11 billion (in 2100). Also, the world is increasingly choosing foods (especially meat) that consume more land, water, and resources.

Health: Modern medicine is literally miraculous. Diseases that have plagued mankind throughout history have been wiped out. The human genome has been mapped. Lifetimes are 50% longer than our great-grandparents. Doctors and paramedics routinely bring the dead back to life. Physically and mentally disabled individuals can live full and meaningful lives… if their families can afford the healthcare bills.

Demographics: Japan, with the oldest population in a developed nation, began to see small towns disappear in the late 1960’s. Too few children, too few young workers, and a goring senior population have played out the same way in Europe and now the US. The remaining rural population moves into big cities, and the small town fades away. 40 nations now have zero or negative population growth. Dozens of other nations will join that list in a few decades. If immigration to the United States slows, we too will have negative population growth. In the coming decades, the poorest half of the world may starve while the developed half dies a slower death from lack of workers. Can nonprofits keep our global world together?

Employment: Jobs are being replaced by computers and robots. Charities have always helped the unemployed, working with whole regions where employment has been permanently disrupted… the rust belt, coal towns, Appalachia, Detroit, tobacco road. If technology changes the very nature of employment, can nonprofits deal with these new unemployment issues?

Economic Inequality: Americans once believed that economic growth alone would close the gap between rich and poor. But inequality is more than just poverty. Many benefits come from wealth… better health, more education, gender equality, and reduced violence. The inequality gap began to close in the 20th century, but in the 21st it is once again growing. Wealth has become more concentrated. The richest 1%owns half of the world’s wealth. Does anyone have a plan for global equality?

The Destroyed Environment: The journey to the 21st century provided us with miraculous medicines, new materials, and phenomenal qualities of food. But our society is only beginning to admit to the cost of that journey. Pollution, global warming, species extinction, economic inequality, and on and on. A few decades ago humanity feared that the world would end in a nuclear winter. Political and military tensions de-escalated, and humanity survived. But global warming may be just as destructive. How do we fix a broken world?

Problems are bigger and more complex than in the past. Today’s young philanthropists aren’t impressed with the results of a century of nonprofit work. Millennials want to do good, but are more likely to write an app than write a check to solve systemic problems. Likewise, they are rejecting investments that fund the corporations that are the source of today’s problems (pollution, depleted resources, gender inequality, etc.).

Modern charities and modern capitalism grew up together. They began at the same time, developed together, and were both created by the same groups and people. Evolving throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, both tackled global issues and added the new features and processes they needed for their expanding roles. In the 21st century, Capitalism has embraced Impact Investment. Nonprofits are ready for their next makeover.

Impact Investors are, first and foremost, investors. The difference is that the “return” on their investment is more than just financial. The “something extra” is often called “the double bottom line”. The United Nations calls it “ESG”, or Environment, Social, and Governance. Simply put, don’t degrade the environment. Contribute to your community (create jobs, buy goods locally, reward workers for improving the community, promote gender equality). And have an open, transparent, and fair workplace (no discrimination, fair promotions, whistleblowers feel safe, management followup effectively on complaints).

The old model was that big corporations would make money during the day, and then philanthropically fix the world’s ills at night. Big corporations need to make money AND do good. All the time!

The nonprofit version of Impact Investing is Mission Related Investing (MRI). 20th-century charitable grants were to be spent. 21st-century charitable investments are to be repaid. As more foundations and funds evolve from grants to investments, nonprofits will need to evolve their operations to be functional, profitable corporations. Impact and Mission investors will seek a more modest profit than other investors, but they will still seek a profit.

All of the top foundations are moving assets into Impact Investment. Ford, Rockefeller, and Gates foundations have pages on their websites that explain their new Investment Strategies. This is a necessary stage in the evolution of Foundations, but the combined financial pressure of impact investing and ever-shrinking government funding will likely be too much of a transition for many nonprofits.

Is that it? Is it the end of the nonprofit? Not yet. Impact Investing and MRI are just two of many elements that are shaping the future of the nonprofit. That future is the Neo-Profit, a new hybrid that blends the best features of the for-profit and the nonprofit. Neo-Profits could solve many of the problems of funding and management that plagued the 20th Century nonprofit. Impact Investors provide the capital, the relatively new “Benefit” corporation provides a better foundation for the Neo-Profit.

But we’re still missing one element that ties everything together. How will Neo-Profits pay back investors? For that, we must turn to the newest and most advanced concept in Neo-Profit… the Balanced Risk Revenue Model, or BRRM. And that discussion… is another story, for our next blog!

 

 

 

 

 

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