The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance

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Shrimp 'n Grits

An open Letter to all employees

This letter is being provided to all employees in response to the recent scuttlebutt being whispered about the future of this company, and possible layoffs or salary cuts. Itís no secret that Charleston, our state, and the nation are free-falling into one of the worst economic recessions in over seventy years. Locally, the current business environment is as bad as most can remember. Weíve seen several competitors downsize and a few shutdown in reaction to current business challenges. Weíre suffering too, but, long term, the local and national economy isnít the greatest threat to your job security. To the contrary, itís the fundamental changes in our national political structure that pose the greatest threat to all of our futures. Let me offer each of you a few facts from my perspective, which might help to clarify my position and the future of this company.

My father started this company almost sixty years ago after giving four years enlisted service in defense of this nation. He and my mother worked nights and weekends for three years while he earned a business degree at the Citadel on the GI Bill. He borrowed a few thousand dollars from as many relatives and friends as he could, founded this company and worked over thirty-five years to make a good life for his family and his many employees, including several of you still here today. A small cadre of you may still remember his constant preaching that the secret to a successful business was no secret at all; he used to say simply practice what you learn in Sunday School - loyalty, honesty, hard work, discipline, sacrifice, and the Golden Rule.

Most of you arrive at the office at 8am, and then leave at 5pm. My father taught me that when I became owner of this company, there would never be an "off" button. When each of you leave the office, youíre done for the day; you also have weekends and vacations all to yourself. Unfortunately, I donít have that freedom. There is seldom an hour in the evening or on the weekend that I donít worry about business or discuss some facet of it with my wife. Every out-of-town trip or vacation includes a mobile phone, Blackberry, and laptop to constantly communicate with each of you. Each bank loan, our line-of credit, and every purchase agreement require my personal financial guarantee; if this company fails, I personally loose everything too. I even worry about how each of you are going to provide for your own families even if you sometimes donít Ė itís my job 24/7.

Thereís no doubt that business ownership has many benefits and rewards, but the increasing sacrifices, political uncertainty, and path Iím now climbing is getting too steep. The cost of running this business, and employing you, is starting to eclipse the threshold of an ever decreasing marginal financial benefit Ė hereís why: Iím being taxed to death by local, state, and national governments that donít think I pay enough taxes. I pay corporate and personal state and federal income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, matching payroll taxes, workers compensation taxes, unemployment taxes, and business license taxes to at least a dozen local governments. Each quarter, this business writes ďstimulusĒ checks to the State and US Treasury for thousands of dollars, often with funds borrowed from our line-of-credit. In return, my personal "stimulus" check this past year was Zero - Nada Ė Zilch!

The basic question is really simple: Who is stimulating the economy? This company that creates a dozen good paying jobs and pays thousands in business taxes and fees each year, or the single parent sitting at home pregnant with her fourth child in subsidized low-income housing, and riding subsidized public transportation to a free, albeit subsidized, clinic while waiting for her next welfare check? Apparently, our national congress and soon-to-be new president collectively believe the latter is the greater economic ďstimulusĒ of this country. She, and hundreds of thousands like her, can vote, but this company canít.

To stimulate the economy, our elected leaders need to stimulate what runs the economy. If Washington politicians suddenly decreed that this company didn't have to pay taxes for a year, I would hire more employees, and together, we would generate substantial economic growth. My expanded workforce would enjoy increased wealth from that tax cut in the form of larger salaries and better benefits.

Free-market capitalism is the life-blood of this nation and always has been. To restart it, you must stimulate it, not kill it. Suddenly, the progressive post-Christian era liberals in Washington and City Hall believe the poor and unaccountable of this country are the essential drivers of the national economic engine. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is the type of change Riley, Clyburn, Obama and the rest of the secular progressives of the ultra left can keep all to themselves.

So where am I going with all this? It's quite simple. If any new taxes are levied on me, or this company, my reaction will be swift and simple - I will close this company in a heartbeat and retire. I'm done! I'm done with a country that penalizes the productive and gives to the unproductive! My motivation to work and to provide jobs to each of you will be destroyed, and with it, my faith in our governmentís ability to govern itself.

If you lose your job, it won't be by my actions or because of a cyclical fall in the economy; it will be at the hands of the political perfect storm of socialistic change that is sweeping through this country, steamrolling the constitution, and changing itís fundamental economic engine forever. If that continues to happen, I will be retired, with no more corporate taxes to pay, and you will be unemployed.

Your boss

Lee Walton

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