Recently in Self employment Category

January 10, 2011

Dogs, Divorces, and the San Diego Lawyer.

More on Doggie Divorces from the Huffington Post.

I'd previously posted about pets and divorce. Since then, we've adopted Emma, also known as The Office Mascot. Now I see the issue. No one is prying her away from me, except from my cold, dead hands :) She is wonderful.

Amazing how many of my friends and colleagues either take a pet [dog, cat, or bird] to their offices or want to but can't. Being self-employed and owning my office condo, I have control over my office policies, and we are "dog friendly." When in residence, there is a water dish by the front door.

The criminal defense lawyer across the courtyard doesn't like Emma being here, but she is a lot more desireable than his average client. :) And she leaves smaller messes. When we were out of town on vacation before Christmas, someone or something left "a present" on the back steps - probably one of them, since Emma was in Doggie Day Care, where she plays on her days off [i.e., when I'm in court and the staff doesn't need the distraction].

Her "new puppy" picture is in a prior post, showing her gazing at some big dogs for the first time. I've tried to take her photo since, but she is so blazingly fast she turns out to be a blur even with my Nikon D3 camera and a fast lens. :)

I had to go to New York City in September to meet with clients, and walking around was amazed at how doggie that city is - dogs go everywhere, including Bloomingdales. Noto Bene: Bloomies won't let you take pictures of dogs in the store, go figure. But, they are everywhere; and their parents are always happy to stop, let you pet the dog, and tell you the pet's story. Whereas in Southern California you might see a sign in a store window that it is "dog friendly," in NYC that seems to be assumed, although there is occasionally a sign that says "No Pets Allowed."

August 7, 2009

Self-Employment, Health Insurance, and the Gov't....

As noted below on this blog, I provide health insurance for my staff because i care about their health, about them as people, and their productivity. I am concerned about the growing cost of health care, in part for that reason. I am also concerned because my health care and that of my spouse keep going up.

Last year, we changed our office policy to Costco, because it cut our rates substantially, even though the insurance comes from the same company I had before - apparently there is enough profit in health insurance that Costco can make something, yet the health insurance carrier [the same one we'd been using] makes a profit, and can still cut my costs. Anyway, last year, by changing policies, slightly increasing the co-pay by another $5, and our cost went up slightly - otherwise, it was scheduled to go up about 15% .

One year later, on our policy anniversary date, our rates will go up about 25% from that. Of all the wackadoodles who complain that a government policy or health coverage will raise their taxes or the deficit, I wonder how many have considered the rapid increase in insurance costs - from the looks of many of the loudest protesters, they are covered by Medicare, a government program they'd fight to the death to keep.

At 15% per year, health care costs will double every 5 years. At 25% [this year's increase], it will double every 3 years. The average is somewhere in between, we hope. The cost of health care and insurance is rising at least 5 times as fast as wages and earnings.

Total health insurance funded by my family will cost about about $26,000 this year, covering 6 people, aged 12 to 66, one of whom is covered by Medicare, so prior years' taxes cover part of the cost. Part of that is paid by my wife's employer, but it ultimately comes out of the money available to pay her a higher salary, just as more the cost of insurance for my employees limits what I can afford to pay them.

Health cost is in crisis because of these rapid increases that seem to be accelerating. Between 1/7th and 1/6th of the nation's economy goes to health care - and we don't have the best health care in the world despite the unsupported assertions of the opponents of reform. It is time to wake up people, and fix a broken system.

Tax breaks, or buying insurance from "out of state" companies that aren't regulated, isn't the answer. We need to get out from under the hundreds of billions of dollars spent by the health care industry [drug makers, health insurance, etc.] on things that aren't necessary [advertising, manipulating doctors, profits, huge bonuses, etc.], and vote for substantial changes. When we here that Medicare is rife with fraud, what we don't consider is that the fraud is perpetrated by capitalists [doctors, pharmacists, insurance companies] who are bilking the government system - it isn't the system that is corrupt, its the private sector.

Proposed reform isn't socialism, it's self-preservation. Our auto industry can't compete with the Japanese, in large part because it provides health insurance. Our small businesses are being eaten alive by health insurance costs. Nothing is working but the system of lobbyists bribing our elected representatives. We are being scared by fears of a socialist government, but if you ask people they think that means Communism, as in the USSR - they don't realize that the postal service, police, schools, Medicare, and national parks are all government owned businesses. We, as a society, are so far from socialism that the risk that our government will own most aspects of our economy is merely a myth, designed to scare us into submission.

The "socialism" we are lead to fear is a communist system, where everyone [in theory] earns the same no matter how hard they work, how much they save, how they sacrifice, and how much they create. A tax rate of 50% doesn't stifle competition, hard work, or imagination. In the 1950's, the top Federal tax bracket was 90%. We lowered it to 70%, yet that plus state and local taxes, didn't keep us from making us the most inventive country in the world, or the most economically successful.

Yes, we have taxes that are unfair - all taxes are unfair. The goal is to find a mix between paying for government and not eliminating our desires to improve our economic positions and be more successful than those around us, or our parents. The cost of health care really can't enter into the discussion - it is a problem that needs to be solved and none of the solutions offered by the right are designed to solve that problem. Using tax policy [deductions, credits, etc.] makes taxation more complex and doesn't directly attack the problem - it just ties into the idea that any tax is bad if it hits people with the money to pay it.

Yes, I don't like high taxes, but I also don't like health care costs out of control - does it matter where my money goes? Not really. If the government can get the rapidly rising costs under control, I'm for it - maybe that requires government health care, or maybe it only requires government competition. One way or the other, the problem needs to be fixed.

I am celebrating my 45 year as a registered Republican, but the party is trying my patience. I survived the Bush years, although in some financial disarray to my retirement accounts, but I expect Republicans to be reasonable - I'm about to publically recognize their drive for power makes reasonable thought impossible.

Capitalistic theory operates on the assumption that society advances economically when we are allowed to be rewarded for hard work and inventiveness. The Chinese seem to understand that lesson. What Teddy Roosevelt understood more than 100 years ago, however, is that unregulated capitalism leads to boom and bust cycles, aggressive monopolies, and periodic economic and social disruption. He tried to fight this battle with William Howard Taft, but lost to party politics and big money when he tried to start a 3rd party to do so.

Throughout the 19th Century [the 1800's for some of you], and into the first 30 years of the 20th, we largely had unregulated capitalism, banking, and investing. Every 10 to 15 years there were huge recessions or depressions. The Great Depression started regulation started by Teddy Roosevelt, and the lessons learned sustained those regulations for the next 70 years. The next 75 years, we have had recessions, but nothing like what lack of regulation had produced before. The current recession was headed to Depression until the government realized we need to solve the banking crisis and prime the pump - even George Bush recognized this need, and started the process.

Somewhere, there has to be a mix: Government intervention and control to permit capitalism to flourish without the havoc it is prone to create when it isn't controlled.

The Bush Administration taught us several good lessons: Don't appoint your friends to make decisions just because they are your friends, don't appoint people to positions governing who believe there should be no government, and open government so what it does is transparent - oh, and don't let the regulated draft the regulations.

Now if that sounds like the ravings of a liberal, I'm sorry, but I don't think I've changed that much since I supported Barry Goldwater 45 years ago - the arguments of the conservatives then aren't recognizable to conservatives today. That wing of society has gone over the edge.

Gone are the Republicans like Dwight D. Eisenhower, Teddy Roosevelt, Nelson Rockefeller, Jacob Javits, Everett Dirksen, and others, who didn't want government controlling our daily lives, but understood it served a purpose - in part to protect us from foreign enemies, and in part to provide services it could provide more effectively, more fairly, or more economically, than private industry driven by the profit motive or the need to create economic empires, irrespective of the impact on society.

General Motors has long known it couldn't continue to pay for health care for its employees and retirees, still build cars here and still complete against cars made in strange foreign cultures, like Canada. Part of the imbalance causing our present health crisis is that General Motors shouldn't be in the health care industry, competing against companies like Toyota that aren't. As an employer, I shouldn't be in that industry either.

If Republicans care about their country, as we claim, we need to participate in a process to effectively bring health care costs under control. At present, it looks like we are just trying to repeat our rhetoric [government bad, tax cuts good, pure capitalism perfect], and seeking to regain power. How much more effective could our elected representatives appear if they seemed to be part of the solution, rather than the problem? Trying to take advantage of those simpletons who think Obama isn't an American, or that Congress will pass legislation to kill old people, is a way of gaining power, but not of fixing the problems of society.

What the Conservatives are forcing on us is a 51% majority in Congress cramming a health system down our throats that we will be stuck with forever - wake up, quit trying to scare us all, and solve the problem. It's time for both sides to get together to solve the problem, and quit telling us we are going to be killing grandma. Otherwise, you won't like the solution.

March 23, 2009

Escondido Divorce Lawyer Back in Operation after Near Disaster....

Today, my office was back up and running [mostly] after a three day ordeal of painting, cleaning, and re-carpeting.  Now, if only my computer could access the Internet, all would be right with the world.

After 17 years in the same location, we finally gave in to the need to replace the worn carpet, torn seams, and stains on the walls from roof leaks.  When I say "ordeal", I'm not exaggerating.  This required a small army crawling all over the office moving furniture, files, and technology.  Since we were already making a mess, we used the opportunity to clean out as much as possible.  The students we'd hired to help move boxes and furniture had a lot of dead time, so we brought out the Pledge, End Dust, and vacuum cleaners, and attacked most everything.

Having built large bookcases with a lot of empty space [enough to last the rest of my life], we had long since run out of room, so another 19 storage boxes were sent off to the shredder.

Continue reading "Escondido Divorce Lawyer Back in Operation after Near Disaster...." »

February 16, 2009

Rainy Day in Rancho Santa Fe, CA....

Well, my staff all showed up today for work in Escondido, my primary office.  Not sure why, but I worked all day so they would think I was pulling my share of the load.  Typically, since the schools and courts are closed, so is the office.  We compromised: They didn't answer the phone.

Somewhere around 11:00, someone suggested we go for a ride to see my new desk at my other office, so I took the staff for lunch to the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe, an old fixture a block from that office.  It rained like crazy for Southern California, off and on, but only looks like about 1/2 inch. 

Not a bad day to be the boss.  No telephones, no new mail, a good meal, happy staff, and everyone was sleepy the rest of the afternoon - at least I was.  All back to normal tomorrow, except for more showers.

February 14, 2009

Divorces and St. Valentine's Day...

This year was a reprieve:  No court hearings on Valentine's Day.  That's usually a good day to avoid court, because someone is always emotional.

No matter how sensitive we are, invariably a hearing will be set on the birthdate of one of the parties', one of their children or someone's parent, or on their wedding anniversary or parent's anniversary, or some other "significant" date one of the parties finds significant.  

We get complaints such as: "I know my wife's attorney set the hearing this date because that's the date my mother died."  Or, "Why didn't you ask before setting the hearing on this day.  It's been one year since my dog ran away [or my Ferrari got stolen, or I lost my watch, or MASH went off the air].  

Ain't easy accommodating the general public.
February 12, 2009

Drat, Only a Partial Holiday....

Mail person showed up.  I guess it's a real work day.  That means my staff expects me to work all day.  

Fortunately, I have a fun meeting to go to tonight - we're drafting the skits for the annual Family Law Bar Dinner.  The rejects [the jokes that are so true they're mean] are worth going for.

I hear the banks are open also.  Looks like only the courts care about our 16th president.

It sure doesn't feel like a holiday.  I wonder if I can get away without showing up on Monday?
February 12, 2009

Lincoln, Holiday, and Self Employment

Today is a holiday in some places and to some people.  Can someone tell me if my bank is open, or if I'll get mail?  I wonder how much inefficiency results from such uncertainty.

I know it's a court holiday, because all the courtroom calendars showed red for today.  A public servant I've known since law school is available for lunch in my neighborhood for a change, instead of near the courthouse.  In some ways, today is special but not because anyone is celebrating Lincoln's birth.

My staff will be in the office today.  We have a rule that if the courts and schools are both closed, we close.    Some schools are closed, some are open.  I guess the staff figured out how the rule applies, or maybe they're coming in because they couldn't figure it out.

We don't count today for most deadlines, because it's not a court day, and anything due today is extended until tomorrow, unless it is a deadline counting back from some date in the future.  Got that?  I have a guy who bugs me whose staff can't seem to count right, but it's not that hard - it's a little joy we joke about to make these days fun.

I really liked it before we started worrying about building in 3-day holidays for employees.  Every February 12th was Lincoln's Birthday, and the 22nd was Washington's.  None of this President's Day crap, where no one pays attention to presidents, except a few politicians giving speeches, and always the same date every year.  None of this moving dates to make long weekends, and if Lincoln's birthday fell on a weekend, we might extend it to Monday.  

I don't mind when everything is closed on a mid-week day: A nice breather, breaking the week into two short pieces. [Not really everything, just the holiday things like schools, banks, and government buildings.]  I can justify running personal errands mid-day, rather than real work.

I used to like it when most of our deadlines were measured in calendar days.  Now, most that we deal with are measured by court days:  16, 9, 5, and 2 days court days before a hearing.  What a pain when you can't do it without a complicated computer program or a calendar.

Guess I'll get coffee, and go see what's open.