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Direct wrath at Wall Street and not Main Street

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POSTED June 18, 2010 2:37 a.m.
Roy Gardner lived across the alley from my family when I was growing up in Roseville.

Roy owned Carnival Market. It was the latest and greatest supermarket in what was then a true railroad town with 16,800 residents back in 1962.

He’d get up at 4 o’clock to take in produce deliveries and open the store. He’d come home in the early afternoon for a couple of hours and then head back to work to close up the store and finish what needed to be done by 8 p.m.

He did that six days a week. His schedule was different on Wednesday. He took off the entire afternoon and played golf.

When we moved to Lincoln, Johnny Carnecessa lived down the street from us. He owned what was then Lincoln’s biggest supermarket - East Avenue Market - along with Lou Franchimone. Johnny had it a little easier since he had a partner. He worked six days a week, 14 hours a day except once in awhile when he took off on an afternoon mid-week  when he also happened to play golf.

Johnny and Roy also had several other things in common. Most people think they were getting filthy rich as many operated under the bizarre assumption that every dollar they took in was pure profit.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. At the time the margin was about one cent on every dollar after expenses were factored into the equation. That could be whittled down pretty quickly by shoplifting.

They bought new cars every four or so years and went once a year on vacations. People thought they were rich. But then again, they were working 84 to 100 hours each and every week.

They also gave to the community until it hurt.

There is a huge difference between Main Street and Wall Street when it comes to business.

No disrespect to Wal-Mart but they make a big deal out of giving an average of $30,000 per store each year back into the communities where they are located. That really isn’t impressive at all considering their daily sales volume although they spend tons of money in ad blitzes to tell you how generous it is of them. What is impressive are stores like Manteca Bedquarters, New York Diamonds, and numerous others that give a much higher percentage of their gross than Wal-Mart ever thought of giving back to the communities they are located in.

Also there is a big difference in how they go about making profits or a living.

Main Street - including most medium-sized corporations - is where most of the jobs are in this country. They don’t move tens of millions of dollars at the push of the button nor do they go for cheap profit by overpaying for acquisitions and whacking off employees all in the name of showing some jumps in profits so they can pocket mega bonuses at the expense of shareholders, employees and the very future of the company itself.

The mega-corporations are a lot different than smaller corporations as well as Main Street businesses.

The California Chamber of Commerce, for example, routinely backs policies that benefit perhaps the 20 to 50 largest companies in the state. It explains their position on Proposition 16. Public sector power companies routinely have rates significantly below PG&E and other private sector power providers. If you are paying $12,000 a month on power to run a bowling alley or a car dealership, a 15 percent savings on your power bill may be the difference between making a profit in lean times and keeping a loyal employee who may be key to you in the long run to keep your business going.

Among the state chamber board members are PG&E President Christopher P. Johns and Southern California Edison Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Alan J. Fohrer. Perhaps that helps you understand why the state chamber supported Proposition 16 while many businesses opposed it.

What is good for mega businesses isn’t always good for small and medium business.

That is why in the growing backlash over the impression that Wall Street types are greedy and without shame for destroying the financial future of many small people so they can improve their bottom-line through reckless financial actions, it is important to separate mega corporations from much of the rest of the business world.

There are those that toil with the rest of us trying to make America work the good old fashioned way through hard work, investing in the future, and cautious and deliberate borrowing and business practices.

They do not deserve our collective wrath as they are the ones - and not government and not mega businesses - that provide the vast majority of jobs in this country.
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