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Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays or Whatever?

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Christmas Tree in E Reception Area White House

Christmas

I find it sad and alarming that the traditions, values, and beliefs that have existed since the founding of our country are slowly being discarded, including Christmas.

Those who fight Christmas claim they are doing so for those minorities that have different beliefs and may be offended by the Christian holiday of Christmas. Yet in the United States about 77% of Americans profess to be Christian.

Statistics also show that 90% of Americans celebrate Christmas, even if they don’t believe in Christ. Christmas symbols, holiday parties, colors being removed from public schools and places for the 10% of people that don’t celebrate Christmas.

What about the 90% who do?

Why should the minority’s rights be more important than the majority’s?

Opps… well forget that question we are seeing it now everyday with Health Care Reform? And Cap and Trade and Global Warming?

Political Correctness

Personally, I am sick of all the political correctness in our country.  Heck, in N.J. one parent, Patti Puma, whose four children attend schools in the district, asked Deputy Superintendent Dr. Thomas Neveldine about a new restriction.

According to Christian legal group Liberty Counsel, Neveldine reportedly said that Santa Claus, who is a decidedly secular symbol, is not allowed on campus because he originated from the story about St. Nicholas.

I read of one school district that didn’t even allow red and green paper plates at their “winter celebration.”

I Like This Man

I like how Ben Stein wrote and thinks about Christmas:

Next confession: I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees Christmas trees. I don’t feel threatened. I don’t feel discriminated against. That’s what they are: Christmas trees. It doesn’t bother me a bit when people say, “Merry Christmas” to me. I don’t think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn’t bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu. If people want a creche, it’s just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

I don’t like getting pushed around for being a Jew and I don’t think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can’t find it in the Constitution and I don’t like it being shoved down my throat.

Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship Nick and Jessica and we aren’t allowed to worship God as we understand Him?

I guess that’s a sign that I’m getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are wondering where Nick and Jessica came from and where the America we knew went to. (December 18th, 2005)  (The rest of the message that was said to be written by Ben Stein has been removed.)

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to all my dear friends at AgentGenius.

Photo Credit, East Reception Room in the White House.

Written by Missy Caulk, Associate Broker at Keller Williams Ann Arbor. Missy is the author of Ann Arbor Real Estate Talk and Blog Ann Arbor, and is also the Director for the Ann Arbor Area Board of Realtors and Member of MLS and Grievance Committee's.

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40 Comments

40 Comments

  1. Benn Rosales

    December 20, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    Wow, this all began for me the year that Target Stores cast out the Salvation Army and forbid staff from uttering the words Merry Christmas, I believe the same year Wal-Mart stores tried the same policy only to back peddle nearly tripping over the demographic they’re built on.

    Needless to say, we do not spend our money in stores that have policies barring the words Merry Christmas, nor do we shop at the ones that insist on on skipping the holiday all together to instead celebrate winter. If we don’t hear those bells ringing in front of the stores we simply don’t shop there, period. Nor would we shop at one who refused to acknowledge Hanukkah, or denied Dr King and Rosa Parks and an entire race of people their day of celebration of freedom, yet attempted to profit from it.

    To you Missy, and to everyone else that wishes to accept it, Merry Christmas.

  2. Missy Caulk

    December 20, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    Wow…Benn you and Lani are more radical than me.

    Did you know Salvation Army now has a slide through for your credit card on some of their kettles? Saw it at the mall yesterday.

    Get well, praying for you….

  3. Arn Cenedella

    December 20, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    Missy
    I agree with your post.
    Christmas is more of a secular holiday than a religious one.
    In my humble opinion, a Christmas tree or a banner at a store for example saying “Merry Christmas” in NO WAY infringes on the rights of non-Christian folks.
    Each of us should be able to enjoy the holidays and practice their religion in any way one sees fit as long as others are free to do the same. Live and let live.
    People who protest against Christmas displays are actually the ones who look to limit my right of free speech and free expression.
    This is not the only example of PC being run to a ridiculous extreme.
    Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to ALL!

  4. Ken Montville

    December 20, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    I’m not quite as strident as Benn as far as avoiding stores without the Salvation Army in front. If, for no other reason, than I feel guilty if I don’t give them something every time (same deal with Girl Scout cookies).

    I’m with you, though, Missy. I am getting a little weary of “Holiday Trees”, ‘Holiday cookies”, “Holiday presents”, “Holiday Open Houses” (of the personal variety) and on and on. It seems a distant memory that part of the reasoning behind political correctness was to increase sensitivity to other cultural traditions. The other part, though, is to try and eliminate outright discrimination based on nothing more than ethnicity – but I digress.

    It’s time to put the Christmas back in Christmas, to paraphrase an oft used cliche. The economic engine that is driving retail sales and the December “recovery” has nothing to do with the “other” holidays in December. It’s Christmas.

    Besides, I like Christmas cookies.

  5. Missy Caulk

    December 20, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    Ken we’ve digressed so much the word holiday is not even acceptable in some places it is winter. My assistant has too young children and she was helping out in their school on Friday so I asked her yesterday how the party went. We were talking about all the ornaments on my tree and how many were made by my kids in elementary school and how fun it is to see them every year.

    She told me they don’t make ornaments anymore, just mittens and snow men. Oh gee….

  6. Missy Caulk

    December 20, 2009 at 12:59 pm

    Arn, I agree and court after court has affirmed that but it still continues to be done.
    Merry Christmas to you too.

  7. Lynda Eisenmann

    December 20, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    Missy,
    You know I couldn’t agree with you more on this one. It’s still a Christmas tree to me and it always will be. As for the taget ban on Salvation Army, that’s a new one on me, I haven’t noticed it. I did however see a red kettle outside the local Walmart yesterday. As a former (volunteer) bell ringer myself, I continue to give and support those who volunteer.

    A VERY big Merry Christmans to you and yours!
    Lynda~

  8. Jim Whitlock

    December 20, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    Amen, amen, and AMEN! Merry Christmas!!!

  9. Matthew Rathbun

    December 20, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    Merry Christmas!

    …this is just one more example of the tail wagging the dog. The majority no longer rules, it’s the vocal minority. This applies to many, many levels.

    It amazes me how easily the ACLU can rule the country.

  10. Thomas Johnson

    December 20, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    Merry Christmas! I hope the national celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ is a joyous one for all.

  11. Matthew Rathbun

    December 20, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    This is an interesting point of view from a faith-based blog: stuffchristianslike.net/2009/12/saying-merry-christmas

  12. Elaine Reese

    December 20, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    I’m right there with you Missy. When I got into this business, I was told I had to be PC, and I went along with that for awhile, but I felt guilty. I finally decided that if we are all to be tolerant and accepting of others, then that tolerance and acceptance applies to ME as well. I’m not offended at displays of other religions, and I believe I should receive the same consideration from the people who have those other beliefs. Why does tolerance only go one direction? I should be free to have my beliefs, just as others are free to have theirs. That’s what being an American is about (or at least it used to be).

    I liked Ken’s comment about the retail sales watch, and I agree with Matt’s comment about the ACLU.

    Merry Christmas!

  13. Real Estate Ninja

    December 20, 2009 at 7:10 pm

    Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays or Whatever? https://bit.ly/4ziYLb
    #RealEstate

  14. Mike Bowler Sr

    December 20, 2009 at 9:57 pm

    RT @agentgenius: #agnow Merry Christmas! I hope the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ is a joyous one for all. https://bit.ly/6gbF24

  15. Chris Faircloth

    December 20, 2009 at 10:14 pm

    RT @agentgenius: #agnow Merry Christmas! I hope the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ is a joyous one for all. https://bit.ly/6gbF24

  16. realdiggity

    December 20, 2009 at 10:43 pm

    Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays or Whatever?: comments https://bit.ly/7VSmN2

  17. Ron Ares

    December 20, 2009 at 10:56 pm

    Since when did having a joyous and reflective faith become so radically fringe? Merry Christmas all!

  18. Natasha Hall

    December 21, 2009 at 12:28 am

    Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays or Whatever? – Christmas I find it sad and alarming that the traditions, values, an… https://ow.ly/16bI9V

  19. Holiday Gifts

    December 21, 2009 at 12:32 am

    Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays or Whatever? https://bit.ly/5iM2lL

  20. Jon McAchran

    December 21, 2009 at 1:38 am

    Great @agentgenius post by @missycaulk on Merry Christmas and political correctness: https://bit.ly/8gOoHW and I agree, completely!

  21. Greg Cooper

    December 21, 2009 at 9:50 am

    A great topic Missy. Been watching the comments with curiosity given the climate in the world today…which is as long as it’s Christian, it’s fair game for the haters. I’m convinced that there are too many who despise the fact that this is ‘one nation under god’ and will do most anything to push that premise aside. I remember walking into my son’s elementary school several years ago and thinking during the ‘holiday celebration’….where in the heck is the Christmas Tree? I’m appreciative that those who feel as you and I do have spoken up. Nice to know those ‘radically fringe’ people as Ron has pointed out are alive and well!

  22. BawldGuy

    December 21, 2009 at 10:08 am

    A very good friend of mine is a Jew. We go through this greeting ritual every Christmas season. I say, “Merry Christmas!!” She replies, “I’m Jewish and don’t believe in Christ.” Whereupon, I give her a big hug while sayin’, “Then don’t have a Merry Christmas, OK?” We both laugh as if it hasn’t been goin’ on for almost a decade now.

    Both of us also think PC is the cowardly bully’s method of getting their way. We don’t put up with it.

    Merry Christmas everyone!

  23. Missy Caulk

    December 21, 2009 at 10:19 am

    Thanks to everyone for stopping by, yes I am somewhat surprised too by the comments. A good surprise. Spent the day celebrating my daughters birthday and watching Christmas movies.

    I too was told by a fellow Realtor not to be too political, religious on my posts. I thought about it for about 5 minutes and decided, this is me, it is who I am and how I believe.

    Naturally I don’t put a client in my car and start talking politics or religion, heck we learned that at the dinner table as a child.

    But, as Thomas Jefferson said,
    “When the government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.”

    Have a great week everyone and Merry Christmas to all !!!

  24. Benn Rosales

    December 21, 2009 at 10:57 am

    So we’re radicals, huh? :p We’re no more radical than what the season is about. Whether it’s the salvation army or boy scouts of america, the ringing of the bell, and the wish of Merry Christmas is a call to remember the season’s meaning. From the homeless man ringing the bell as you “enter the chaos”, the subtle reminder is that we’re called to care for the meek and humble as Christ did. We often feel guilty about the simple change we can donate, but where we really miss opportunity is to allow ourselves to be moved in the spirit of Christ during and beyond the season.

    These traditions are a nuisance to those who do not wish to be reminded to love, and to those who believe love is a crime or politically incorrect, but not to us. Family values, traditions, and the family are under assault at every level, and maybe they are a pain in the ass, but without them, life would be a pain in the ass- ring the bell, wish me a merry Christmas, remind me to love, remind me of patience, and make me look into the face of the humble as he or she opens the door, make me feel guilty and sad, force me to action, for I am a Christian who learns to love more and more each day.

  25. Mike Bowler Sr

    December 21, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays or Whatever? https://regator.com/?u=3qoapy (who wants to be politically correct? I say Merry Christmas also)

  26. Bruce Lemieux

    December 21, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    This time every year many bemoan that Christmas is under attack from commercialism, the politically correct, and a slew of other adversaries. When I was a kid, I remember the backlash against “X-mas” – “Put Christ back in Christmas!”. The worry that Christmas will slowly and surely dissolve is as much a ritual as giving presents. I don’t think it’s any worse now than it was 40 years ago.

    Everyone feels like they are under attack these days – conservatives and liberals, Christians and atheists, gay and straight, red and blue, etc, etc, etc. I find that it all tiresome and unnecessary. I’m going to relax, enjoy Christmas and hope my friends and neighbors enjoy their own holiday season — Christmas or otherwise.

    My wish for 2010: More people will be guided by their own moral compass and will let others around them do the same. Live and let live.

  27. Steve Beam

    December 21, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    OH YES! Amen and all that goes with it. Great post! PC is out! I’ve gone out of my way this year to make sure I say Merry Christmas loudly to anyone who says Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas is back!

  28. Missy Caulk

    December 21, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    Bruce, it has gotten worse…much worse. Back when I was in school and for most of my children they were allowed Christmas trees and it was called Christmas Break. There was Christmas musicals for the band, orchestra and choirs. Now it is winter break, and hardly anything about Christmas.
    Public displays of managers are not allowed on some government property and lawsuits make their ways through the courts daily.

  29. Amanda Wernick

    December 21, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    WOW, WOW AND DOUBLE OREO FUDGE DIPPED COOKIE WOW!

    My kids are grown and living on their own…I do however remember the look on their faces when they came home with handmade Christmas ornaments…heck, even when we lived in Cairo, the preschool would create handmade Christmas ornaments!

    I understand the need to mindful of everyone else’s cultures, customs etc…HOWEVER…when I lived overseas, I respected THEIR culture and THEIR beliefs…I never created a fuss or became offended at the call to prayer 5 times a day or the spitting, or even Ramadhan…

    I am not a church going woman, but I do love the Christmas Spirit….you know the one…the one where people are a little more generous with their time and money…when people actually donate to their fellow man out a deep and genuine concern for human kind…I miss those days…Hmm…maybe a letter to Santa will fix it? 😉

  30. Matt Stigliano

    December 21, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    Missy – It’s funny, because all my life I’ve celebrated Christmas and used the phrase “Merry Christmas” (or “Happy Christmas” as they say in England) and at the same time I’ve seen the changes in schools, cities, and stores. My thinking has always been that wishing someone a Merry Christmas should be no more offensive than me telling my wife (English for those that don’t know) “Happy 4th of July!” We all have our own traditions and celebrations. We all have our reasons for them too. There are many people who aren’t Christians who celebrate Christmas none the less. I don’t see it as any religion telling the others to rot in hell, but rather a wish of good will and happy times during what is for many religions and even non-religious people a holiday.

    If I know a friend is Jewish, I will wish them a Happy Hanukkah and typically they will wish me a Merry Christmas. I don’t take too much offense to the stores who go all PC on everything either though, I just wander through and do what I need to do. For me Christmas is about being at home and with family and friends, so I don’t care much for what stores are doing to work within certain parameters or guidelines.

    It doesn’t have to be a “I want you to have a Merry Christmas and worship Christ because you’re religion is wrong,” it just needs to be a friendly gesture of a time of the year when all of us should probably be thinking about getting along some more and spending more time with our families and friends – in whatever capacity we see fit (religious or not).

  31. Matt Stigliano

    December 21, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    P.S. Good to see you Benn. I hope you feel better and are back on your feet in no time at all! Wishing you and Lani the best!

    And Merry Christmas to you Missy!

    As a matter of fact, Merry Christmas to all of you!

  32. Amanda Wernick

    December 21, 2009 at 7:40 pm

    Wow! A Great conversation going on at Agent Genius! Stop by and share your thoughts! Thx @MissyCaulk https://bit.ly/4mIoVh

  33. 7GRE

    December 21, 2009 at 7:40 pm

    Wow! A Great conversation going on at Agent Genius! Stop by and share your thoughts! Thx @MissyCaulk https://bit.ly/4mIoVh

  34. Gwen Banta

    December 21, 2009 at 7:42 pm

    So well expressed as always, Missy. My friend’s son brought home a small Christmas tree he made in school. He explained that it had to be referred to as a “winter tree.” The irony is that my friend is Jewish, and she was offended that he was not allowed to refer to it for what it really is. She is afraid that one day he’ll bring home a menorah and have to refer to it as a candelabra. When did it become politically correct to be disingenuous? Let’s return to the Age of Reason.

  35. Brandie Young

    December 21, 2009 at 9:05 pm

    You go, Missy!

    Our p.c. pendulum has swung too far. What’s next? We change President’s Day to Elected Official day, so as not to insult the VP or Speaker of the House? It’s an ongoing discussion around the table among my friends/family.

  36. Matt Stigliano

    December 22, 2009 at 5:21 am

    Missy – I thought you’d find this interesting. I was reading a copy of Time magazine and they have the section where they give some random statistics across the bottom of the page. According to the issue I had in hand – 22% prefer “Happy Holidays” to “Merry Christmas.”

  37. Saurabh Das

    December 23, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    I have no problem with Christmas. I say Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays interchangeably. I love this time of year – I think people have always looked forward to this time of year.

    As an atheist, I personally celebrate Christmas – well at the least the cultural part of it, if not the religious. But even the traditions of Christmas are not unique to Christians – much of it is Pagan in origin. I’ll leave it up you all to look that up. I’ve found that many people are surprised when they realize the origins of Christmas traditions.

    Anyway, my reason for bringing all of this up is to point out that cultures and traditions change. When many Pagans became Christians in the early days of the Church – they brought their culture and traditions with them. So if we’re going to talk about political correctness – let’s discuss the whole story, shall we? No?

    Merry Christmas to all!

    Saurabh

  38. MIssy Caulk

    December 23, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    Saurabh, yes when Julius Ceasar wanted everyone to be Christian they blended many pagan holidays with Christian ones. That’s why having the state proclaim a religion is not right and is written in our Bill of Rights. Also why the state is to allow the free exercise of religion.

    Matt so does that mean 78% like saying Merry Christmas better? LOL

    Many of my Jewish friends celebrate Christmas too, or both. In fact to most people it is acceptable and even if they don’t celebrate the birth of Jesus, still enjoy and are not offended by the cultural celebration.

  39. The Harriman Team

    December 23, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    Missy, we posted something on the same subject on our blog a few days ago and we’re so glad to see others who feel the same way as we do! One school here in Connecticut has banned Christmas celebrations in school in favor of a Winter Celebration. Between the separation of church and state issues and the growing, blatant commercialism of Christmas, there’s almost nothing recognizable left of a holiday we used to look forward to every year just to be able to have your family together in one place and learn the true “reason for the season”. What will Christmas look like in 20-30 years? And how will we describe to our grandkids and (hopefully) great grankids what Christmas was like “back in the day”, when they’ll have no frame of reference? Makes you sad, but not sad enough to forget to wish you and all of the Agent genius family a MERRY CHRISTMAS & HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

    ps: Benn, glad to see you up and around, hope you’re feeling better!

  40. Mack Perry

    December 25, 2009 at 10:27 am

    I’m a Merry Christmas kind of a guy. Politically correct or not I don’t care.

    MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!!!

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Politics

California’s gig labor bill hurts the people it’s trying to protect

(POLITICS) The law has loopholes for industries with good lobbyists, but it’s costing independent contractors, freelancers, and creatives their jobs.

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Uber subverts ab5 bill

So, there’s a new bill in California, Assembly Bill 5, that’s doing immense harm to freelancers across the state and throughout the country. The bill was intended to prevent tech companies from taking advantage of their employees by branding them as freelancers. But the thing took too wild a swing, and a lot of people have gotten hit by it.

We’re going to talk about how and why, but let’s get one thing straight, right off the bat:

We absolutely need something to help workers in this country. When we talk about why AB5 doesn’t work, I want to be very clear that I’m not turning my nose up at the idea of something like it. Rather, it’s this specific law that’s hurting a lot of people.

Let’s take a quick review at the environment that gave rise to Assembly Bill 5:

We live in an incredibly rough economy for most people. The stock market is doing phenomenally! But the stock market isn’t the same thing as the economy. The economy is made of people who are barely getting by, propping up a class of billionaires who are hording an amount of wealth that is increasing at a mind-boggling pace, instead of “trickling down”.

Productivity and wages used to rise together, but they got divorced in the 70s, and productivity’s been doing a lot for herself while wages have just sort of lazed around on the sofa, getting drunk. Productivity has grown 6 times more than pay since 1979. In the last ten years, the costs of education, housing, and medical care have ballooned, while the minimum wage has held steady at $7.25/hour. Not only is this financial climate hard for the average American, it’s going to be hard for a LOT of people, when the purchasing power of the middle class dwindles away to nothing and the bottom drops out of the whole contraption.

And there’s plenty of room for it to keep dropping! Because it turns out that a LOT of tech’s “innovation” just means “circumventing labor laws in ways that nobody’s made illegal yet”. Sometimes the tech world finds cools ways to get money and opportunities to people. Think of crowdfunding, or subscription services like Patreon that let middle-class artists do their thing sustainably.

But often, you instead wind up with companies like Uber, Lyft, and Favor. Rideshare apps view their drivers several different ways. They tell the government that they’re independent contractors. Drivers often claim that they’re running a small business, with the rideshare app’s help. Internally, (and to the SEC) they think of their drivers as the customers. The people who call for rides aren’t the customers—they’re the product that the app delivers to their customer, the driver.

What all of this means is that rideshare companies don’t have to pay minimum wage. They don’t have to offer benefits, like time off or healthcare. If the people who work for you are your customers, instead of your employees, you don’t have to take care of them the same way. (Funny how that works out, right?)
And in some ways, I can see the temptation to do things this way. Insurance is expensive, and it’s kind of wild that we make employers pay for it. Somehow saddling small businesses with that expense is considered the “conservative” option; I’ll never understand how that’s supposed to be good for the market. We’re the wealthiest nation in the world, and yet we’re just about the only country that puts the burden of healthcare on business owners instead of the government.

But here’s the thing: That’s how health care works in this country! It’s what we have. We have a public option, technically. But it’s been systematically gutted to the point of uselessness, intentionally, by people who resent it being passed in the first place. So until we get some kind of national healthcare system, it’s on business owners to make sure that their employees don’t die because they can’t afford medical care. That’s the law, and that’s the ethical thing to do in our current situation.

And tech companies tend not to like that. So we get situations like Uber, where people who are clearly employees are being framed as literally anything else. Because the companies hiring them would rather burn millions trying to render their employees obsolete than spend that money keeping them alive. (Fun side note: Remember when one of those self-driving cars killed a woman because Uber forgot to tell their AI that humans can exist outside of crosswalks?)

And just like I understand why companies would try to dodge those costs (even if it’s clearly wrong), I also understand what AB5 was trying to do. They’re trying to close that loophole. They’re trying to stop companies from BSing about who is an employee and who isn’t. That makes sense.

So the bill defines freelancers with help from a court case, Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court (2018). The main features are

1. Is the worker free from the control and direction of the hiring entity. Is the person who hired them telling them where, how, or when to do the work?
2. Is the work being performed outside of the normal course of business for the hiring entity?
3. Is this work that the worker normally does, independently of this one business relationship? Do they genuinely have their own business in this field? Or is this “freelancing” something they’re just doing for one company?

You can immediately see some huge questions raised here. Among them:

– How strict do you define “telling someone how to do their work?” Because I’ve never had a creative assignment that didn’t come with some sort of deadline, right?
– How do you define “the normal course of business?” The normal course of business for a magazine involves hiring dozens of writers to write hundreds of pieces. Does that stable of writers suddenly get smaller if you can’t afford to give them all benefits?

And we’re already seeing fallout from this. Large multimedia platforms, from Vox to CollegeHumor, are laying off huge swaths of their staffs. Under the new law, writers aren’t allowed to submit more than 35 pieces in a year and still be considered freelancers. That means that these outlets were going to have to either cast a much wider net for their bullpens, or cut their staff and focus on a core group of (presumably grotesquely-overworked) people. Unsurprisingly, they chose the latter pretty universally.

And it’s not just writers. Musicians are getting hit, too. A petition to secure an exemption is nearing 50,000 signatures on change.org. Any creative endeavor other than “a day job with a desk at Disney” is going to involve a network of people floating in and out as projects start and end. There’s a lot of room for exploitation, and there’s a lot of room for quashing that exploitation. But right now, this bill is mostly just putting people out of work.

And just like California’s (much-needed, fantastic) privacy protection laws are having an impact across the country, (because you never know if the data you’re collecting is on a Californian!) so too is their (terrible) freelancing law rippling out. Because work doesn’t happen in offices anymore. It happens everywhere. I recently released a song with musicians from six countries performing on it. That wasn’t even something I was trying to do. That’s just where my friends were!

Now, my piece was just me getting together with some friends to have fun. But professional recordings happen that way, too, all the time. And right now, if the person on either the hiring or performing side of that equation is in California, that relationship is in jeopardy.

And of course, the really fun thing is, that a lot of the industries that were intended as targets of the bill are sidestepping it with court challenges. And many industries lobbied for exemptions, meaning that real estate agents, CPAs, lawyers, surgeons, referral agencies, and lots of others were exempt from the get-go.

So what we’re left with is a law that’s meant to protect people. But many of the people it should’ve protected aren’t covered by it. And many legitimate freelancers are getting screwed out of business relationships that they used to rely on. The big publications that they used as cash cows to pay their bills are either capping them at 35 articles, or letting them go altogether. It’s not hard to see that this is wildly misguided, and that it’s causing more harm than help. We’ve got to pump the brakes on AB5 and try to figure something else out.

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Politics

How USMCA is different than NAFTA and if/when it will finally be passed

(POLITICS) The USMCA should be set to replace NAFTA early in the year, which will help small business and real estate alike with easier trade.

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USMCA signing

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which has been a priority for President Trump, is one step closer to replacing NAFTA. Amid the impeachment hearings, the House of Representatives passed the USMCA by a vote of 385-41. The Senate must still approve the agreement, but according to CNBC, once the Senate gets back in session in January 2020, the agreement will pass.

The USMCA is a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). It was informally agreed upon by President Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in 2018. However, each country’s legislature must approve the agreement before it is ratified. Mexico’s legislature has ratified the agreement, but Canada has not. It is anticipated that the agreement will be re-introduced to the Canadian Parliament this session.

What’s the difference between USMCA and NAFTA?

NAFTA was created to reduce restrictions on trade between Mexico, Canada and the United States. It was to increase market access and investments between the North American countries. President Trump has referred to NAFTA as “the worst trade deal ever made.” The USMCA builds on NAFTA, but does alter some of the provisions. It’s unknown when the agreement will go into effect. Canada has not ratified the agreement.

How will the USMCA affect small businesses?

The official text of the USMCA hasn’t been released, but we do know a few of the provisions. The biggest impact for businesses may be in the automobile industry. Under USMCA, 75% of auto components must be manufactured in Mexico, U.S. or Canada to be eligible for zero tariffs. Under NAFTA, the figure was 62.5%. In addition, by 2023, 40% of workers who assemble cars or trucks must make at least $16/hour.

The USMCA reduces the timeline for brand-name biologic prescription drugs to be produced as generics. Some popular biologics include Humira, Lantus and Botox. Another key component of the agreement is opening the Canada dairy market. US farmers can now export up to 3.6% of Canada’s dairy market. The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) supports the USMCA because it will make it easier for real estate investors to travel between the countries.

Although the USMCA is not in effect yet, it does seem likely that it will be ratified this year to provide more opportunities between Canada, Mexico and the United States.

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Politics

FFEE Act wants to save you from having to pay to freeze your credit

(POLITICS NEWS) The FFEE Act wants to help give consumers more rights more control over how credit agencies use their data.

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Taking action

Following the compromise of consumer data from credit reporting bureau Equifax, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) have introduced the Freedom From Equifax Exploitation (FFEE) Act.

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This act aims to give consumers more rights more control over how credit agencies use their data.

The bill

The bill is available here, but here is a few of the bill’s highlights:

  • Create a uniform, federal process for obtaining and lifting a credit freeze.
  • Preventing credit reporting agencies from profiting off the use of consumer information for the duration of a credit freeze;
  • Strengthening the fraud alert protection from 90 days to a one year, with a year renewable.
  • In ID theft cases, a 7 year fraud alert is created.
  • Require any credit reporting agency who charged a fee to freeze credit in response to the data breach to refund those fees,
  • Allow for an additional free credit report (consumers already get one under the Fair Credit Reporting Act through annualcreditreport.com)

Freezing credit

The most important feature here is the removal of any fee to freeze your credit. Currently, agencies like Equifax charge nominal fees to freeze credit (anywhere from 3-10) dollars. If this bill passes – not only will that service be free, but it will restrict the way credit agencies use that information while the freeze is active.

The idea behind making this free also keeps credit companies, whom many believe are responsible for the security of credit information, from profiting off information breaches. Given that many financial advisors have advised those impacted to freeze their credit, this would be a benefit to consumers.

It is important to note here that Equifax has suspended the fees to freeze credit for the next month.

A credit freeze restricts access to your credit report. Simply put, it requires the credit agency to contact you first to ensure it was you who applied for credit, thus making it harder for you to apply for credit. You would need to unfreeze your account to apply for new credit. You must also freeze credit with each bureau, which can lead to some expenses as you must pay anytime to lift a freeze.

Remember: a credit freeze doesn’t impact current accounts or your credit score. If you apply for credit often, or open new accounts often, then a credit freeze may not be for you.

Lots of names

The bill has several original co-sponsors, including Senators Sanders, Franken, and Blumenthal. Companies like the National Consumer Law Center, Americans for Financial Reform, CREDO, and the Consumer Federation of America all have also endorsed the bill.

#CreditFreeze

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