Mandatory Vaccines (or Not)

The current question that crosses my desk almost daily is “Can I require my employees to be vaccinated?”

The short answer is, “yes.”

The long answer is “it depends.”

The impact of COVID on our lives and future is still evolving.  How our nation, large businesses, small businesses, nonprofits, and individuals respond to the ever-changing environment will continue to change over time.

Here is my 4-point checklist of considerations when making rules, policies, or requirements for employees or the public:

(1) Be flexible – The answer is rarely black-and-white and you will always find an exception to your rule.  Don’t make policies or rules that paint yourself into a box.

(2) Don’t be afraid to change your mind as information changes.  We know a lot more today than we did a year ago.  Imagine how much more we will know next year?  New information can support changes, and you should be prepared to change to benefit your employees, your customers, and yourself.

(3) Consider the unintended consequences of your choices.  You may lose employees (or customers) because of your decisions.  You have to assume that your world, your employee base, and your ability to run your business will not return to pre-2020 levels.  Can you afford those potential losses?  Which is worse – the consequences of the change, or the failure to change?

(4)  Consider the reaction (and feelings) of the people who are affected by your decision.  While you may need to make an unpopular decision or enforce an unpopular policy, it is important to manage the human response to those decisions.  Use a carrot whenever possible, and try to limit the use of a stick.

For two excellent articles regarding vaccine mandates and employees, check out Blue Avocado:

We Can Require Employees to Receive the COVID 19 Vaccine – But Should We?

How do I Navigate Requests for Religious Exemptions from a Requirement to Receive the COVID 19 Vaccine?


65th Anniversary of the US Interstate Highway System

The Simple Genious of the Interstate Highway System (Video).  Started by Dwight D. Eisenhower after WWII, it was an economic necessity and is considered to be one of the most influential infrastructures in the country (in US history). The project was achieved at a cost of $8.5M/mile (2016 dollars) to construct, which increased to $34M/mile in the 1980s (2016 dollars). Starting in 1956, it took nearly 40 years to complete the entire system.  This reduced the 62-day journey from coast to coast to 42 hours.

The logistics of a nationwide transportation system is an engineering and economic marvel.  On the other hand, there were some significant non-monetary and hidden costs.  Check out this video for more details. (20-minute video, but worth the time – grab a coffee and enjoy).

Food Monopolies

I usually take The Guardian with a grain of salt – some of the articles can be alarmist and dramatic – but this article is interesting and worth the look.

Farmers know that a few food conglomerates control the grocery supply; this article goes into detail about which companies own how much of each segment of the food industry in the United States.

Check out the full article for a deep dive into who controls the food you eat.

Our Unequal Earth: Revealed: the true extent of America’s food monopolies, and who pays the price

[I did not know that Keurig/Dr. Pepper was on the list – check out the Beverages Section of the report]

Benjamin Sack

Extraordinary pen artist.  He creates detailed drawings that are fascinating to see.  Enjoy this short video about his latest project.

Also, check out his webpage for more captivating images.   Artist Benjamin Sack

Taxes and Spin

A lot of people are nervous about what might come out of Washington prompted by the current administration.  A lot of my clients have been asking about whether their taxes are going to go up.

Unfortunately, my crystal ball is in the shop, so my predictions are a little murky.

ProPublica has made use of this general public uncertainty to try to shine a light on the wealth (and tax position) of the super-uber-wealthy.  I’m not going to post a link – if you want to read the article, you can Google it (ProPublica Secret IRS File).  I don’t have an interest in driving more traffic to the site – it was picked up by all kinds of media, so if you pay attention to national news, you have likely already heard about this.

We get it – there are some super-weathly people that (seemingly) don’t pay their fair share of taxes.  But check out this analysis of the ProPublica article by Reason (and I will share the link to this article – which has links to most of its source material):

ProPublica’s Bombshell that Wasn’t, by Andrew Moylan and Andrew Wilford

Please read the full article, but here are the two most important points:

Despite ProPublica’s best efforts to make the information enclosed within seem damning, the data tell us little we didn’t already know. For the 2018 tax year, the last year for which we have data, the top 1 percent paid over 40 percent of federal income taxes, despite earning just under 21 percent of total adjusted gross income (AGI). The bottom 50 percent of taxpayers earned 11.6 percent of total AGI, but paid less than 3 percent of income taxes. The same story holds when looking at all revenue sources too, so it’s not just the income tax that is progressive.

ProPublica, however, tries to make the case that the wealthy are getting away with murder through the tax code, so they “do a calculation that has never been done before,” comparing growth in wealth over the course of a year to taxable income. They use this to calculate an individual’s “true tax rate,” which is sort of like handing out wins in a baseball game in the middle of the early innings and calling it the “true outcome” of the contest.

I’m not advocating one way or another for a change in how we administer income taxes – there probably needs to be some change and some increase in taxes to recover all that money the government has been spending on COVID relief.  There is probably some low-hanging fruit in the upper tiers of income tax payers.

For purposes of this post, I am advocating for some perspective, and sharing a reminder that perspective is important.  Please re-read the section that is emphasized above.   Unfortunately, Reason does not cite it’s source, but you can take a look at the IRS statistics published every year to confirm the information – you’ll just need to do a little math on your own:

IRS Statistics Website

Here’s a more direct link to the downloadable spreadsheets:  IRS Income Spreadsheets

Bottom line – watch for the agenda in a story – particularly one that seems like it really resonates.  This is an example of a click-bait story that received a lot of traction, but didn’t really demonstrate much (and used some very questionable tactics)

PS – Personal income tax returns are not public information, and the IRS is supposed to keep your income tax return confidential.  How did ProPublica get the information?  Does this mean your personal tax information is also in ProPublica’s hands?