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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review March 13, 2007 / 23 Adar, 5767

Even when companies mess up, consumers still rule

By Steven Greenhut


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Peruse any newspaper on any given day, and one will find an endless stream of stories about this nation's ill-functioning and oftentimes corrupt governments. Yet no matter how demonstrably bad the government may be, legislators, and even many regular folks, focus much outrage at the private sector - the only part of society that works relatively efficiently and humanely.

Lately, some corporations - JetBlue, Ford Motor Co., Bank of America and others - have come under scrutiny. Sometimes they deserve it. There's no excuse for, say, an Apple official backdating stock options to give himself an instant windfall. There's no place for fraud and abuse, such as what happened with Enron. But it's bad business to be a bad business. At the end of the day, a wasteful government agency goes back to the trough and gets more taxpayer cash. For companies, if they can't lure enough customers through better prices, products or service, then the bankruptcy attorneys will soon come around.

We see this in our own lives, in the simplest examples. Government agencies are open the hours that suit the agencies. You've got to get your tags from the DMV, so there's no reason for it to be open evenings or Sundays. Don't like your public school? You are free to move somewhere else! I get e-mails daily from people who give their incredibly woeful tales of abuse by various agencies. You can complain to the offending agency (believe me, nothing will happen) or sue, in an egregious case. But there aren't many options other than to take whatever the officials dish out.

Talk some time to someone who has lived through a communist regime, and you'll understand why such people have developed fatalistic attitudes on life. Nothing to do but queue up, put up with the official's surly or unpredictable attitude, and keep your mouth shut lest you get some powerful person really riled. The bigger we make our government, the more our society will function that way.

A lot of companies have been in the news lately, and much of that news has been bad. For example, JetBlue has taken a beating for having stranded so many of its passengers at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York. Hundreds of passengers were stuck in aircraft on the ground for a nightmarish 10 hours because of the airline's failure to cancel flights during a blizzard. It foolishly chose to stick to its existing schedule, and when the weather didn't clear up, passengers were stuck with the misery.

Immediately after the failure, however, the airline offered a Customers' Bill of Rights that promises to limit the number of hours a passenger can be stuck on a runway and to reimburse stranded customers for their time.

When was the last time the government offered to reimburse you for being stuck on one of its highways or in one of its offices? As the Los Angeles Times reported, "JetBlue Airways Corp., seeking to repair frayed relationships with its customers, said it would offer refunds and flight vouchers to many of its passengers."

Now that the housing market has taken a downturn, for another example, lenders are in the dock for offering many "questionable" loans. As prices fall, people who bought homes with no money down are more likely to walk away from their homes. But the market will self-correct. Standards will tighten up. The same governments that routinely squander money on bad small-business loans and various grants to the undeserving want to further regulate mortgage companies that committed the crime of risking their own money to expand the customer base. No doubt, some of these loans will go belly up, and stockholders will be stuck with the tab. Big deal, those same stockholders reaped the profits, and they will take the fall. That's the way markets work.

As someone who became a homebuyer with little money down, I would hate to see government close off financial choices. Government always seeks to stop, regulate, control, tax and put the kibosh on new ideas and entrepreneurship. Businesses always seek to find new opportunities to make a buck by filling a need, which helps us all earn money, have jobs and buy nice things. They do so by serving customers. Government lives off the leftovers. It scares us into giving it more of our hard-earned resources, and if we refuse, we end up in a government-owned facility, a prison.

I can't understand why so many people are so angry with Bank of America for offering credit cards to people without Social Security numbers. Many conservatives have called for more federal meddling to stop the program, because, obviously, many of the customers for this $500 credit-limit card will be illegal immigrants. The reaction is silly. Let the government control the border, and let the bank look for new customers. That's the natural order of things. Those conservatives who want BofA to enforce U.S. immigration laws are no different from the Clinton-era liberals who wanted banks to report private banking transactions to the feds, as part of the Orwellian "Know Your Customer" legislation. BofA is providing a service and is not hurting a soul in doing so.

Some "bad" news business stories are good-news stories in disguise. As Bloomberg reported, "Ford Motor Co. is in a `meltdown' and may ask the United Auto Workers union to accept reduced pay and benefits." Daimler is thinking about dropping its struggling Chrysler Corp. subsidiary. General Motors continues to close plants. "Rather than build cars to suit customer tastes, U.S. automakers churn out what makes sense for their plants, and then use incentives and rebates to lure buyers," the Wall Street Journal reported this month. "The thirst for revenue to pay for mounting (worker and retiree) health care and pension costs has further encouraged companies to keep plants running regardless of demand."

Fortunately, the article reports that big dealer groups, led by Michael J. Jackson of AutoNation, are pushing the dealers to respond to consumer demands rather than union and management demands. What a novel concept:

Listen to consumers first! Thankfully, there's plenty of overseas competition to convince U.S. automakers to listen to customers. Note: Toyota is setting profit records this year, as Ford endures record losses.

As we see with the Big Three, private companies can be just as thick-headed as public agencies. But the pain of competition will force companies and their unions to accept reality, or they will go under something that never happens in government.

It's a matter of incentives. In the private sector, the most important player always is the consumer. In the government sector or the "force-based community," as I jokingly put it the most important player is the official, who has the power to make you obey him. Don't be misled by the rhetoric of "evil profiteers" vs. "public-spirited" officials. It's the profiteers who must cajole and the officials who are allowed to bully.

Sure, companies seek to maximize their profit. But in the private sector (and I'm not referring to the situation where companies unethically use government to advance their competitive advantage), the only long-term way to increase profit is to appeal to the demanding and fickle consumer, who can always take his business elsewhere. This is such a simple and obvious lesson, it makes me scratch my head at how few policymakers seem to understand it.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Steven Greenhut is senior editorial writer and columnist for the Orange County Register. Comment by clicking here.

© 2007, The Orange County Register, Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services

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