Mr. President, give me some credit for my success

Jim Pontillo Owner, FMK Firearms
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Dear Mr. President,

I recently turned 50 years old, only 10 months after you. Since we’re so close in age and were both raised here in America, you’d think we’d share similar views. Some of your recent speeches have made me realize that we don’t.

It has always been my impression that regardless of where we start, all Americans have a chance to reach the stars. We have millionaires and billionaires in this country who started with nothing and became successful without even going to college. Many of our self-starting entrepreneurs built businesses that were so successful that they were able to hire thousands of people. In turn, they became millionaires, and many of these millionaires spun off and started successful businesses where they created even more millionaires. All of these millionaires employed hundreds of other people.

I thought it was their diligence, tenacity, imagination and willingness to take risks that made them successful. I now know they succeeded because the government built them a road.

Of course, without Thomas Edison, that road would have no light. Without Andrew Carnegie, that road would not be reinforced with steel. And without Cornelius Vanderbilt, there would be no railroad to get that steel to the road. I suppose Edison, Carnegie and Vanderbilt would not have been successful, however, without the intrepid Founding Fathers, who fought for their right to be free to work 100 hours a week. So it’s true that “nobody does it alone.”

How much of my success can I attribute to my hard work? Do I owe thanks to the welfare recipients you enrich at my expense? While they sit in government-subsidized housing, talking on their iPhones, viewing Netflix movies on their plasma TVs and eating dinners purchased with government food stamps, I sweat 80 to 100 hours a week trying to make my small business succeed.

Are these the people to whom you refer when you say that “nobody does it alone”? Or perhaps the retired unionized government workers, who collect more from their pensions than I receive in salary, are responsible for my modest success?

While you subsidize college education by increasing taxes on small businessmen like me, I struggle to build a business in America — and I don’t even have a college degree. I might add that while these brilliant young graduates you support often know a whole lot about “fairness” and “rights” and America’s “racist” past, many are so inept they can’t even competently run a mop; and you worry they’ll have to pay an extra grand on their tuition loans?

While my tax dollars enable you to play golf once a week and spend millions on fuel to fly around in Air Force One, I can brag of only one round of golf in the last 20 years and I pay for my own fuel. Here in the Golden State, gas costs $4.00 a gallon.

I’d like to share with you how I started my business so we can contact and praise all those road and bridge builders you mention.

I started with $2,000 I had earned working in a machine shop, which I gave to a leasing company to take over payments on Vertical CNC Machining Center. When I told a friend I worked with that I only had to make payments of $2,200 a month for five years to pay for this used machine, he looked at me with incredulity and said, “Jim, your house payment is only $1,500 a month!”

Since I didn’t get the memo that said business plans are supposed to be well thought out, I had to work 20 hours a day, seven days a week. I slept in the industrial building I was renting on a concrete floor and drove home 65 miles once a week for a shower. I did this diligently five months straight until I had earned enough money to move the little machine shop closer to my home.

For my effort, my little business grew and increased its revenue by 30 percent or more each year for the next five years. I hired a few people, and for that privilege got to pay a 7.65% payroll tax on every penny they earned.

After five years of solid growth, my business was decimated by Chinese competition. Overnight I lost half of my business revenue. Perhaps those road builders I am so indebted to ought to shift their focus to trade policy.

Fearing the loss of my whole business and struggling to get enough work to pay the bills, I ventured from tool building to plastic processing to try and save the little enterprise I had built. (I couldn’t use the well-maintained bridge down the road to make my rent or machinery payments.)

I got one existing customer to promise enough extra work to make ends meet, but I had to run my plant 24 hours a day, six days a week. Since I didn’t really know the plastic business and couldn’t afford any competent managers to help, I again found myself staying at work all day and all night. I slept in my office (by now I could afford a couch) just in case one of my operators needed assistance. This schedule lasted for a couple of years, but I am thankful city workers kept the asphalt in front of my building in decent shape.

My customer’s customers — large companies like Motorola, Ford and Dell Computer — pinched us for pennies, driving our profits below 10 percent and stretching out our payables by more than 120 days.

Disenchanted with the sort of service business where I was dependent on the loyalty of customers who were only loyal to us as long as we had the lowest prices, I used every extra minute and every extra dollar I had to develop my own product and build a business that might be secure into the future. Today, Mr. President, my company is one of only two in the state of California that manufactures pistols. For the privilege, I pay a 10% excise tax on every gun we make.

As this new enterprise has begun to succeed, I have expanded into another building and purchased more equipment. For the privilege, we pay 1-3% property tax, not only on real estate, but also on each piece of equipment we purchase.

In addition, California charges 7.75% on any purchases we make. We invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in capital equipment, so these charges are a significant expense.

If I manage to get through all of these tax landmines and still earn a profit, I will have to send 5-10% of my income to Sacramento and 20-30% to Washington.

It is not unusual for my electric bill to hit $7,000 in the summertime, thanks in part to your plan to “make energy prices skyrocket.” The electric bill sometimes eats up 10 percent of my total monthly revenue. Add in rent, equipment payments and payroll, and I’ll be lucky to make minimum wage during a slow month. As I am ostensibly an evil business owner, I suppose it may be your position that I don’t even deserve that much compensation. I wonder how much you think I deserve to earn by employing people and being burdened with all these responsibilities.

I hope to one year make $250,000, an amount that will barely qualify me to buy a mediocre house in California. Do you really think I deserve to be in the same tax bracket as some 20-year-old Hollywood star who earns 100 times that amount for three or four months’ work on one movie?

Perhaps the government ought to adopt a flat tax so that politicians cannot penalize and reward certain groups at their whim. That way, small business owners may get the confidence they need to make the effort and take the risks necessary to build successful companies and hire more people.

I hear there are a lot of people out of work.


James V. Pontillo

Jim Pontillo is a California native. He owns and manages a manufacturing plant in Southern California. He also produces the FMK Handgun, which is engraved with America’s Bill of Rights. FMK Firearms can be viewed at www.fmkfirearms.com.