I’ve held off for a long time writing about Florida Amendment Two, in part because the issue seems so polarized for reasons that can be counterproductive to reasonable, rational debate.
I do have a position on it, however, and I feel like the time has come to make it known. Before I do so, here are a couple of fundamentals just for the sake of covering the facts and making them abundantly clear.
Facts on Amendment Two
First, here’s the text of Florida Amendment 2:
“In as much as marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife, no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.”
Secondly, let’s make it clear. The amendment is deceptively simple. It defines the word “marriage” by the historic, traditional definition of the term as it relates to monogamous heterosexual legal union.
Now for some thoughts:
It is ludicrous for Amendment Two — or any amendment of its kind — to ever be required.
But this is precisely why I believe it is important that Florida passes Amendment 2.
Setting aside all the rhetoric representing “left” or “right,” it is critical that this amendment be passed because it puts a stop to the disgusting trend of undermining the law simply by redefining terms.
In case you’re new to this particular strategy, it happens when lawmakers or courts (judges) — or anyone else, for that matter — decide to push a particular agenda in a less-than-forthright manner. They decide to substitute a “new” or “modern” definition for a term whose meaning has been long established so that they can cause existing laws or established legal framework to come to mean something quite different than intended.
For the record, I am in favor of creating an environment that addresses the legal needs of today.Â It is dangerous, however, to do so by this method. Essentially any law or legal traditon, including any right — whether property right, moral right, or civil right — is subject to being eroded or stolen when we resort to “redefining terms.”
So, for those who believe in the fundamental rule of law, this amendment is important.Â Send a message loud and clear to the judges and others attempting to influence legislation that we, as Americans, will not tolerate underhanded methods that bypass the legal means to bring changes to our laws.
Amendment Two, if passed, will send this message.
The Bottom Line on Amendment 2
I urge you to vote for Florida Amendment 2.Â Let’s bring the complex legal issues that are raised by the debate around Amendment Two before the legislative bodies that have jurisdiction and handle them as intended by the Florida Constitution — not by circumventing them through semantics.
With so much talk of recession… and some actual slowdowns — some of them serious, especially within certain industries — businesses have a tendency to cut back in areas that can make matters worse.
Marketing is at the top of the list.
If you know me, then you know that I’m not in favor of untracked, unmeasurable and expensive advertising anyway.Â So, don’t get too upset if you think I’m thinking mainly of advertising… I’m not.Â What I’m referring to are the systems in your business that produce new prospects and/or customers on a regular basis.
You do have some of those, don’t you?
If not, then the time has come for you to put some in place.Â And fast!Â If you do, then it’s important that you proceed with caution if you’re eyeing them in your budget.
2 Big Announcements
First… we are happy to unveil a shiny new blog site that just launched. It is focused on small business marketing and already has a few posts on it (some of which were gleaned from other publications for which we’ve written).Â This reflects the renewed focus in our business: Epiphany Marketing.
Secondly… there are a couple of big things coming in the next few weeks.Â So, this is an announcement about our coming announcements!Â But there will be some significant new opportunities for you as a business person to learn how to use applied strategy along with some free and low-cost technology to make sure that your future customers find you instead of someone else.Â It’s going to be big!
Here’s a hint: there will be something happening in Sarasota.
If you’re one of our many readers from across the US and around the world… not to worry, we’ve got something coming for you, too.Â Keep your eyes glued to this spot… and the new marketing blog, too!
I’ve gotten a lot of questions from friends and business associates about the Ad Surf Daily Cash Generator program. Now that the US Attorney’s office has seized assets and filed suit, with Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum right behind, it seems likely that the program will not continue.
A Few Facts
Initially, I was approached by people who wanted me to look at the program to see if it seemed legit. My friends know that I do not join multi-level marketing programs, nor anything that seems like it might be a network marketing venture. Nonetheless, I took a peek at this program to find out if there was anything suspect about it on behalf of those friends.
The first clue that there might be something “up” was that people were wondering if it might be a scam.Â Why? Well… the good old adage, “If it sounds too good to be true…” comes to mind.
Here’s the premise: you sign up for the program (even with a free account, if you prefer) under a sponsor. You then begin to “auto surf” ads every day. There are rewards for doing this, including the right to place a website of your own into the ad rotating system so that other people will be forced to view your site.
At this point, it sounds a little bit like a modified version of Pay-Per-Click advertising (PPC).Â With PPC, which most people are familiar with because of the right-hand side of your Google search results, advertisers bid to have their ad show up on certain sites and then only pay when someone “clicks” on their ad.
Ad Surf Daily seems to provide a cost-effective way to do this… at first glance.
But what you quickly learn is that the vast majority of people who join (and later “purchase ad packages”) don’t actually have anything to advertise. So… the question becomes, “Why are they signing up?”
It turns out that if you “purchase ad packages,” (which the US Attorney’s Office has now labeled “investing”) you have the opportunity to “earn rebates” by faithfully viewing advertisements every day.Â I won’t get into the mathematics of it, but let’s just say that this appears to be highly profitable because you can earn more in rebates than you “purchased.”
There are numerous incentives and rewards built into the program that are designed to get you to purchase more ad packages. Also, as a member of the program, you are incentivized to leave your earnings in the program because the higher your “cash balance,” the more rebates you’ll be able to earn.Â You can even increase your rate of earnings by paying for a monthly membership at several different levels.Â There are even big rallies where you can obtain much larger bonuses by “purchasing” ad packages on the spot…
And… of course, there are commissions.Â This is where some of the biggest incentives are.Â This is the part where you convince your friends and family (or even random acquaintances, like some of the people who have spammed my inbox about this) to sign up under you.
I Smell A Rat…
If you’re around the participants for very long, you hear amazing stories of large cash payouts. You hear about credit card debt being wiped out, even millionaires being created.Â All of this occurs in short periods of time.Â You hear about the explosive growth.Â You hear about the founder, Andy Bowdoin, and his impressive award that was given to him by the President of the United States.Â You hear about his many successful businesses over the years.Â You also watch videos online which focus repeatedly on “we’re good guys” without providing any substantive information about why you should expect this program to continue.
But I have a fundamental question:
If the bulk of the customers have no need for the item they are purchasing, where is the value that this company is actually bringing to the marketplace?
In other words, they claim their goal is to be the biggest seller of online advertising in the world. They even claim to be threatening Google’s position as market leader.Â But one thing I’ve noticed… the people/companies buying ads from Google (and other PPC establishments) have one thing in common: they all have something to advertise.
One friend of mine has a local contracting business.Â My question for him was, “What are you advertising in the ASD system that people might be interested in purchasing?”Â The answer: his local contracting business.Â My next thought is, “What the heck does someone in Bolivia do when they see an ad for a contracting business in Florida?”
As a marketer, my next thought after that is… that’s a little bit like buying a billboard on a California freeway for your McDonald’s in Memphis.
Poor use of advertising dollars.
Not so poor, perhaps, for those who have a digital product with universal appeal, or perhaps those selling something that can be purchased and then shipped anywhere in the world.Â Again, however, the key would be that it has universal appeal.
Like… toothbrushes.Â We all need those, right?
Is It Sustainable?
Back to my fundamental question.Â How long can this program carry on — even if they’re careful not to promise to pay out too much money in “rebates” — when their basic product is not needed by the people who are purchasing it today?
Can it be that the only reason they are buying advertising is so that they can earn a rebate?
The answer is: absolutely, 100%, unequivocally, “yes!”
And that, my friends, creates a problem: as soon as the market figures out that:
a. there are better ways to buy advertising, and
b. this is only sustainable as long as there are more people willing to buy something they don’t need,
the whole thing comes tumbling down…
…not unlike a Ponzi scheme.
Precisely, by the way, what the US Attorney in Washington D.C., otherwise known as the Attorney General, concluded.
Is anyone guilty of a crime here? Well… that remains to be seen.Â In the meantime, no one is surfing the “ads.” No one is “purchasing ads,” and nobody is spending the $53M in cash that was seized while the investigation and the lawsuits proceed.
Bad news for those who used their life savings to buy something they didn’t need.
Ever the optimists, Real Estate brokers always manage to locate a silver lining… no matter how far and how hard they have to look.Â And, with a number of friends and business associates connected to the real estate business, I certainly am personally hopeful that their optimism has its roots firmly cemented in reality.
But alas, this is not always the case.
Take, for example, the blog published by Michael Saunders & Company.Â Here’s a great example of a company reaching as deeply as it can for data — any data — to support the notion that somehow the market is on its way back to normal.Â Is their data pulled from the number of transactions in the MLS, you ask?Â Perhaps it’s based upon some newfound trend in the tax rolls?
In fact, it’s taken from their Google Analytics account.Â Yes, that’s right folks.Â Now we’re basing the real estate outlook for Sarasota on the performance of Michael Saunders’ website according to the ever-so-reliable folks at Google.
Now… don’t get me wrong.Â I’m a big fan of Google.Â Chances are you’re here thanks to one of the many Google searches that we rank well on.Â But… as we know, their analytics package — feature-rich though it may be — is fraught with inaccuracies.Â And… even if it were 100% accurate, the Michael Saunders blog post smacks of a self-congratulatory webmaster more than it does market realities in the real estate business.Â After all, our traffic is way the heck up, too!Â Doesn’t say anything about the consulting business, though…
But… I digress.Â (By the way, business is better than ever!Â Not a touch of whining here!)
What Michael and gang aren’t really interested in pointing out is the simple fact that, by every measure, the housing crisis is only deepening.Â Even if transactions are up, prices are down.Â And this is based on real data from none other than Standard & Poor. Granted, the data are not local to Florida.Â But then, we the unwashed don’t have ready access to the data for our market.Â This is part of the classic information asymmetry associated with buying and selling real estate.Â Your broker knows more than you do.Â Perhaps someone with readily-analyzed data would be willing to step forward and comment.
In the meantime, I’m going back to my web analytics to look for more optimism…
China. India. The increasing decline of the dollar. A globally integrated economy like never before in the history of the earth.
These are some of the signs of the kind of large-scale sweeping change that is not only coming… but is here today.
Evidence of this includes the recent trillion-dollar single-day losses on global equity markets due to the fraudulent trading activity of one 31-year-old French futures trader. Thankfully, it was Martin Luther King Day here in the U.S., and our equity markets were closed. The Federal Reserve jumped in with the largest emergency rate cut in 26 years, and followed it up with another large cut at its regular meeting the following week.
What does all of this mean to business leaders — particularly small-business entrepreneurs? How do we navigate the unfamiliar waters we now find ourselves in?
All of these topics and more are the subject of an event taking place at the end of this month called, “Winning in the New Economy.” The list of speakers reads like a virtual roster of Epiphany Consulting business partners and clients. Included in the lineup are Eric Beck, founder of the Total Integration Program, my good friend Jeff Timpanaro of Oberata Consulting in Houston, Blain Wease of Provincial Development in Nashville, TN, and Juan and Sharon Restrepo of REIPtheRewards.com and Home Rescue Solutions here in Florida.
The event is being held at the exclusive Pelican Preserve in Fort Myers, Florida and will be a mixture of keynote-style sessions and workshop-style sessions. You should expect to finish the day with a working strategy in hand, well-equipped to chart out a course for the future even through the murky waters of change.
All the details, including online registration, are available at the event website.
By the way, if you’re interested in hearing more about it, Eric Beck was my special guest co-host today on the Friday Wrapup Podcast. We talked quite a bit about the transitions we’re all facing and the identity crisis it seems to have created on multiple levels. Hear the “Identity Crisis” episode here.
Well… the post title might be a little on the ambitious side. I certainly can’t claim to cover every aspect of this proposed amendment in this setting. However, there are a couple of key points worth considering.
Lots of Hype
First of all, there has been a lot of fluff on both sides of this issue. Here are some bottom line facts for you:
Amendment One is a tax cut.
The taxable basis for your home’s value — if you already have (or qualify for and ultimately receive) the homestead exemption — will be reduced by $50,000 rather than by the current amount of $25,000 if the amendment passes. This means that no matter what the millage rate in your area, your property taxes will be based upon a lower number than today.
Amendment 1 is opposed by Florida’s unions: the teachers, the firemen, and the AFL-CIO. These are the people whose jobs are dependent upon your taxes. They have been threatened with job cuts and salary reductions if it passes, so it’s no wonder that they’re campaigning against it. See my previous post on Amendment 1 to learn what the Sarasota School Board did to threaten its workers.
Amendment 1 is a tax cut.
Some people argue that Amendment One represents insufficient tax reform, and therefore it shouldn’t be passed. This is a little like going to the emergency room with a broken bone showing through your skin and having a doctor tell you, “We can stop the bleeding, but your bone will still be broken.” Naturally, you stop the bleeding first (in case you’re medically challenged, it is possible to bleed to death). Then, when the bleeding has stopped, you figure out how best to help the bone heal.
Did I mention that it’s a tax cut?
Florida’s housing market has been having a hard time lately… or hadn’t you noticed? One massive deterrent to purchasing a second (or different) home as a Floridian is the “hit” you’ll take on property taxes due to the change in the assessed value of the property you purchase. Amendment One allows you to take your “Save Our Homes” property tax limitations with you to your next house. This makes the property tax situation a little less painful. It can make a substantial difference on a given transaction. More people buying houses means a better housing market. A better housing market means all those Realtors (R), mortgage brokers, title agents, property insurance salespeople, builders, remodelers, home improvement stores, et cetera all do better. They, in turn, spend money with your small business, big business, tourist attraction, theme park, and — yes — they pay more in taxes.
Amendment 1 could actually result in more revenue to local governments and even the State government, but it will happen naturally because people choose to spend money rather than having it squeezed out of them through exorbitant property taxes.
But… all of that being said, Amendment One is still a tax cut.
The Bottom Line on Amendment One
I’m not a big fan of President Bush’s performance in office — not at all. That being said, I’m going to steal from a page in his final (can anyone say, “Thank God!”?) State of the Union Address. If you want to pay more in taxes and those schools, fire departments and local governments to have more money, they accept checks and money orders. (Some of them probably take Visa, too.) Go ahead. Send it to them.
But do it because you want to do it. Don’t do it because a revenuer assessed it from you.
Oh… One More Really Important Detail
The January 29th Presidential Primary is your only chance to vote on Amendment One. Get out there and vote, will you?
Wow. I am truly in shock. Some friends just let us know about the passing of someone very special.
My wife, Jill, and I first met Sue Riek in February of this year at an internet marketing conference in San Antonio. Sue had an eBay business and was there sharpening her skills and expanding her knowledge base. She and my wife and I all joined the Wealth Alliance Group and have spent the last few months working together under the tutelage of Debra Thompson. During that time, we got to know her — not as well as we would’ve like, but quite well, given the fact that our only interactions were via e-mail and by participating on conference calls.
I had the privilege of seeing Sue again in July at another meeting in Atlanta. It became so clear to me what a treasure she was — loving and sweet, sincerely generous. She had her digital camera with her and we had a new friend snap some photos of the Wealth Alliance Group members that were present. Sue was gracious enough to allow me to snag the photos from her camera’s memory card. I posted them here shortly after they were taken.
As an example of her generosity, check out Sue’s blog. Here, she posted a story about the blessing she received when Dave Lakhani did something honorable… and she just happened to be the recipient of his good deed. It couldn’t have happened to a better person.
We’re going to miss you, Sue. Until we see you again…