Scattershooting in August

I just got back from vacation — a true no-business, no cell phone, no TV, and no radio trip.  That’s what happens when you travel to a national park in Wyoming — actually two.  Grand Teton and Yellowstone.  Although it was only for five days — I could have used another five — it’s amazing what a few days can do to clear your head.  Now, it’s time to get back to the “real” world. 

It seems that everyone is gearing up for November.  The Republicans are sharpening their knives over the NY Mosque issue.  The Dems are touting how Health Care is going to benefit everyone.  And the economy is still moving sideways.

On the health care front — here’s a “duh” moment for you reported in a recent Bloomburg Business Week online article, “Workers will pay more for their health care next year as U.S. companies prepare for provisions of the overhaul signed into law by President Barack Obama.”   This factoid was based on a survey of 72 companies employing more than 3.5 million.  46% plan to raise the maximum level of out-of-pocket costs (deductibles) to their employees.  The overall increase these companies expect?  Approximately 9 percent.  Needless to say proponents of the “Affordable Health Care” Act were not too thrilled, “Employers may be using the health-care law as cover for changes they already planned to make to their benefits,” said Igor Volsky, a health-care researcher at the Washington-based Center for American Progress, which supported the overhaul. “Costs are always increasing but they’re going to blame what they’re going to blame,” Volsky said yesterday before the survey’s results were released.  Too bad Mr. Volsky doesn’t run a small business.  He would then truly realize the challenges of providing health care insurance for individuals.

On Wednesday, I attended a Greater Dallas Postal Customer Council meeting featuring Susan Plonkey, USPS’ VP Sales.  She did a commendable job of explaining the challenges of the USPS and what they are trying to accomplish with proposed rate increases.  The convoluted regulations and legislation which USPS operates under leads one to believe that what is being attempted is beyond the ability of the USPS to control.  And that creates some very real challenges for the print and mail industry.  What I truly found of interest was Ms. Plonkey outlining a beta project the USPS is undertaking in Austin, Texas.

Per Plonkey, the USPS is making a concerted effort to educate small and mid-size businesses on the value of direct mail.  Yet, when that business owner says, “sign me up,” to the USPS representative, there is no solution.  Thus the USPS is planning to create a online “clearinghouse” in which the end user/small business person can access to find a direct mail provider.  The clearinghouse will be managed by a third party which will “vet” the firms and then creates a bidding process for the work. 

Hmmmm.  Sounds like we’ve been here before.  This was news to me; so, I’m doing a bit of research with our Austin printer/mailers and try to see what they think of this process.

On another note, it seems that the folks in Kansas (Department of Education) are bent on killing off the journalism/print/creative programs in high schools.  The decision is based on data provided by the government indicating that jobs for sterotypers, typesetters and commercial artists no longer exists or are in decline.  Well, that’s a surprise.  Yes, there may no longer be a career path (used to call it vocational education) for multilith operators, but there are still opportunities for young people who have a solid foundation in using premedia software and a solid understanding of print.  By the way, this issue is not just a Kansas problem.  Although it all has do with funding issues, it’s always interesting to see how the educational community loves to constantly find “new” ways to be creative.

Tell next time . . .

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