Friday, October 31, 2008

Why yesterday I voted for Barack Obama

Yesterday, Patti and I voted. We went to our local early voting office and couldn’t find a parking spot, stood in lines and had to wait to get to the voting booth. There was something that was palpable in the air. You could feel the importance and criticality of what each person knew they were doing. There was also a sense of nervousness. People were being extra careful with their ballots and wanted to be assured that their vote would be counted.

I voted for Barack Obama for President and I wanted to share with you why.

First, let me come clean that I have never voted for a President who was not a Republican. I was a staunch Republican growing up and subscribed to the principles of the party of fiscal control, low taxes and small government. I always struggled with what to do with social issues that would lean me more liberal, but I allowed the commitment to a balanced budget and financial controls to work all that out, and in most cases, for many years, it all did work out. I was proud to be a Republican.

When George W. Bush first ran for President, I subscribed to “compassionate conservatism”. I felt that it defined where I stood and I liked even more the idea that we could be conservative in nature but open to the needs of all and show compassion to those less fortunate. Even after all those Ayn Rand books, I still feel for those who have been marginalized and I want to be sure that they get their chance even if it means a little more giving from the rest of us. So, I supported George W. Bush. The first term was, like most, hard to define the results but after September 11th and the state of the world, I thought a change of leadership for the country would be worse than what we knew. So, I voted for him in a second term as well.

It was obvious to me shortly into his second term, that President Bush was not governing to the principles of the Republican Party that I had grown up with and that he and a small band of people were proving the power of the Executive Branch and going in their own direction and there was no agenda other than their own. To this day, it is hard for me to understand what it was that they were setting out to prove, but it doesn’t take a Phd in Political Science to know that things have not gone well.

So, about two years ago, I decided that I would break with the Republican Party and look for new direction in our government leadership. This was very hard for me as I was in a place where neither party represented to me 100% of what I believe in from values, principles, policies, programs, etc. All I knew was that we needed a new direction and I was open to listening and learning.

Because of my work and other activities I got a chance to meet Hillary Clinton on two occasions and be with her in small settings. I found her in those settings to be very Presidential but what was lacking from her was a sense of vision and inspiration that I felt that myself and the rest of the country needs. I may have prematurely turned my back on all of the Republican candidates, but I couldn’t see sending another Republican back to the White House.

And then Barack Obama came onto the Presidential scene. I had been in a live setting with him only once before, when I was in Washington, DC and was able to say hello to him as he passed me. I remember being struck even in that passing moment, with a sense of charisma and that unique “drawn to someone” personality quality that few people have. Patti and I later paid up for one of his big fund raisers as I wanted to hear him up close and personal (as personal as one could get in those settings). We ended up having the opportunity to shake hands and trade a few words about a friend we have in common. And then he spoke for 40 minutes, with no tele-prompters and no note cards. Those 40 minutes were awe inspiring. Patti and I both had chills as we felt like we had been in the presence of someone who could truly lead and bring about change and yes, bring hope back to America.

Since then, I have been challenged many times by my closest of friends, family, those I attend church with, and others in our social circle. Each have their own challenges to me, whether it be tax policies, supreme courts appointee consequences, Senator Obama’s background, his ability to lead, on and on.

I don’t dismiss the advice and counsel of friends lightly. We are to keep close confidants and counselors around us who share our same values and principles, so to be breaking with these people I trust and love, was of a great burden and weight.

But here is where I netted out.

I am just not a single issue voter. I don’t believe that the world can be boiled down to one single political issue. Maybe some day that might be true if I felt like one of the Bill of Rights was being directly challenged, but I don’t see anything in this election that puts those at threat in the next four years.

There are lots of issues in front of us that have to be dealt with; the economy, the war(s), international relations, energy independence, etc.

But, I am most worried how all of these things cut across the middle class of our country and what I perceive as a growing class-divide. I have been fortunate that it has been a long time since I had to worry about my future financially, but I remember what that was like growing up where new cars, second homes, or first class airfare, were not something that was even known about. Saving and being cautious about spending was what I learned, because it was a necessity. College was provided through loans, parental support, and working multiple jobs all the way through school. Today, we have too many hard-working people in America who live from paycheck to days before the next paycheck planning on everything going right because they cannot afford for anything to go wrong. We have working Americans who hold down multiple part-time jobs without health care coverage for themselves and their families, hoping and praying that everyone can stay healthy. And, we have productive American workers who without any fault of their own, are laid-off and put on the streets because the worker in India or China is cheaper. While this last point is a reality of capitalism that a company is going to find the greatest leverage and cost advantages it can, there is a missing compassion and understanding of the consequences on our American worker. It is the middle-class that suffers.

Our schools are a mess and no wonder that those who can afford to send their children to private schools do so. I was the product of public schooling but that was in the days when the best teachers could make a living teaching in public schools. The middle class having to send their children to sub-par schools today is only exacerbating the problem. We need real change in our education system for the middle-class.

There is a fair amount of things that Senator Obama has done or hasn’t done that I don’t like. He really upset me when he went back on his word on public campaign financing. I wondered after that if he could be trusted. I didn’t like the way his campaign slipped down the slope to negative ads and campaigning. He was supposed to be above that type of old-school politicking. His initial naïveté on international affairs concerned me. And, I am not wild about Joe Biden. I wasn’t crazy about Hillary as vice-president, but in hindsight, I think she would have been a good choice and maybe we wouldn’t have had to spend $1B dollars on this campaign and that money could have gone to better uses.

At the end of the day though, I decided to stick with Senator Obama as my choice as our next President.

I also understand that with my vote for Senator Obama that I will see my taxes increase and I will have less money to spend, invest and save and potentially less money to give away to charities. But, for me it is worth it. It is worth it so that the largest part of our population, the working middle class of America can have hope and a chance to progress.

Yes, our country needs hope. We need to put away our single issues and open our minds to what is best overall for our country in this complex time. We need to bring a renewed sense of inspiration to our next generation and instill back a belief that government is of and for the people.

So, whatever you decide to do with your vote, what is most important is that you do vote and exercise your constitutional right and privilege. And after the votes are counted, that we not stay one-sided and divided but unite behind our new President whether it be Senator Obama, Senator McCain or Ralph Nader (well not if it is Ralph Nader :)). It is time for us to put, as John McCain says, our country first, and unite in support of our leadership, so we can we tackle the problems and the future in front of us.

Thanks for reading my rant.


PS: I have attached the New York Times endorsement of Senator Obama if you are interested. They are much more articulate than me.

NY Times Editorial
Barack Obama for President
Published: October 23, 2008
The United States is battered and drifting after eight years of President Bush’s failed leadership. He is saddling his successor with two wars, a scarred global image and a government systematically stripped of its ability to protect and help its citizens — whether they are fleeing a hurricane’s floodwaters, searching for affordable health care or struggling to hold on to their homes, jobs, savings and pensions in the midst of a financial crisis that was foretold and preventable.
As tough as the times are, the selection of a new president is easy. After nearly two years of a grueling and ugly campaign, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois has proved that he is the right choice to be the 44th president of the United States.
Mr. Obama has met challenge after challenge, growing as a leader and putting real flesh on his early promises of hope and change. He has shown a cool head and sound judgment. We believe he has the will and the ability to forge the broad political consensus that is essential to finding solutions to this nation’s problems.
In the same time, Senator John McCain of Arizona has retreated farther and farther to the fringe of American politics, running a campaign on partisan division, class warfare and even hints of racism. His policies and worldview are mired in the past. His choice of a running mate so evidently unfit for the office was a final act of opportunism and bad judgment that eclipsed the accomplishments of 26 years in Congress.
Given the particularly ugly nature of Mr. McCain’s campaign, the urge to choose on the basis of raw emotion is strong. But there is a greater value in looking closely at the facts of life in America today and at the prescriptions the candidates offer. The differences are profound.
Mr. McCain offers more of the Republican every-man-for-himself ideology, now lying in shards on Wall Street and in Americans’ bank accounts. Mr. Obama has another vision of government’s role and responsibilities.
In his convention speech in Denver, Mr. Obama said, “Government cannot solve all our problems, but what it should do is that which we cannot do for ourselves: protect us from harm and provide every child a decent education; keep our water clean and our toys safe; invest in new schools and new roads and new science and technology.”
Since the financial crisis, he has correctly identified the abject failure of government regulation that has brought the markets to the brink of collapse.
The Economy
The American financial system is the victim of decades of Republican deregulatory and anti-tax policies. Those ideas have been proved wrong at an unfathomable price, but Mr. McCain — a self-proclaimed “foot soldier in the Reagan revolution” — is still a believer.
Mr. Obama sees that far-reaching reforms will be needed to protect Americans and American business.
Mr. McCain talks about reform a lot, but his vision is pinched. His answer to any economic question is to eliminate pork-barrel spending — about $18 billion in a $3 trillion budget — cut taxes and wait for unfettered markets to solve the problem.
Mr. Obama is clear that the nation’s tax structure must be changed to make it fairer. That means the well-off Americans who have benefited disproportionately from Mr. Bush’s tax cuts will have to pay some more. Working Americans, who have seen their standard of living fall and their children’s options narrow, will benefit. Mr. Obama wants to raise the minimum wage and tie it to inflation, restore a climate in which workers are able to organize unions if they wish and expand educational opportunities.
Mr. McCain, who once opposed President Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy as fiscally irresponsible, now wants to make them permanent. And while he talks about keeping taxes low for everyone, his proposed cuts would overwhelmingly benefit the top 1 percent of Americans while digging the country into a deeper fiscal hole.
National Security
The American military — its people and equipment — is dangerously overstretched. Mr. Bush has neglected the necessary war in Afghanistan, which now threatens to spiral into defeat. The unnecessary and staggeringly costly war in Iraq must be ended as quickly and responsibly as possible.
While Iraq’s leaders insist on a swift drawdown of American troops and a deadline for the end of the occupation, Mr. McCain is still talking about some ill-defined “victory.” As a result, he has offered no real plan for extracting American troops and limiting any further damage to Iraq and its neighbors.
Mr. Obama was an early and thoughtful opponent of the war in Iraq, and he has presented a military and diplomatic plan for withdrawing American forces. Mr. Obama also has correctly warned that until the Pentagon starts pulling troops out of Iraq, there will not be enough troops to defeat the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
Mr. McCain, like Mr. Bush, has only belatedly focused on Afghanistan’s dangerous unraveling and the threat that neighboring Pakistan may quickly follow.
Mr. Obama would have a learning curve on foreign affairs, but he has already showed sounder judgment than his opponent on these critical issues. His choice of Senator Joseph Biden — who has deep foreign-policy expertise — as his running mate is another sign of that sound judgment. Mr. McCain’s long interest in foreign policy and the many dangers this country now faces make his choice of Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska more irresponsible.
Both presidential candidates talk about strengthening alliances in Europe and Asia, including NATO, and strongly support Israel. Both candidates talk about repairing America’s image in the world. But it seems clear to us that Mr. Obama is far more likely to do that — and not just because the first black president would present a new American face to the world.
Mr. Obama wants to reform the United Nations, while Mr. McCain wants to create a new entity, the League of Democracies — a move that would incite even fiercer anti-American furies around the world.
Unfortunately, Mr. McCain, like Mr. Bush, sees the world as divided into friends (like Georgia) and adversaries (like Russia). He proposed kicking Russia out of the Group of 8 industrialized nations even before the invasion of Georgia. We have no sympathy for Moscow’s bullying, but we also have no desire to replay the cold war. The United States must find a way to constrain the Russians’ worst impulses, while preserving the ability to work with them on arms control and other vital initiatives.
Both candidates talk tough on terrorism, and neither has ruled out military action to end Iran’s nuclear weapons program. But Mr. Obama has called for a serious effort to try to wean Tehran from its nuclear ambitions with more credible diplomatic overtures and tougher sanctions. Mr. McCain’s willingness to joke about bombing Iran was frightening.
The Constitution and the Rule of Law
Under Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the justice system and the separation of powers have come under relentless attack. Mr. Bush chose to exploit the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, the moment in which he looked like the president of a unified nation, to try to place himself above the law.
Mr. Bush has arrogated the power to imprison men without charges and browbeat Congress into granting an unfettered authority to spy on Americans. He has created untold numbers of “black” programs, including secret prisons and outsourced torture. The president has issued hundreds, if not thousands, of secret orders. We fear it will take years of forensic research to discover how many basic rights have been violated.
Both candidates have renounced torture and are committed to closing the prison camp in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
But Mr. Obama has gone beyond that, promising to identify and correct Mr. Bush’s attacks on the democratic system. Mr. McCain has been silent on the subject.
Mr. McCain improved protections for detainees. But then he helped the White House push through the appalling Military Commissions Act of 2006, which denied detainees the right to a hearing in a real court and put Washington in conflict with the Geneva Conventions, greatly increasing the risk to American troops.
The next president will have the chance to appoint one or more justices to a Supreme Court that is on the brink of being dominated by a radical right wing. Mr. Obama may appoint less liberal judges than some of his followers might like, but Mr. McCain is certain to pick rigid ideologues. He has said he would never appoint a judge who believes in women’s reproductive rights.
The Candidates
It will be an enormous challenge just to get the nation back to where it was before Mr. Bush, to begin to mend its image in the world and to restore its self-confidence and its self-respect. Doing all of that, and leading America forward, will require strength of will, character and intellect, sober judgment and a cool, steady hand.
Mr. Obama has those qualities in abundance. Watching him being tested in the campaign has long since erased the reservations that led us to endorse Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Democratic primaries. He has drawn in legions of new voters with powerful messages of hope and possibility and calls for shared sacrifice and social responsibility.
Mr. McCain, whom we chose as the best Republican nominee in the primaries, has spent the last coins of his reputation for principle and sound judgment to placate the limitless demands and narrow vision of the far-right wing. His righteous fury at being driven out of the 2000 primaries on a racist tide aimed at his adopted daughter has been replaced by a zealous embrace of those same win-at-all-costs tactics and tacticians.
He surrendered his standing as an independent thinker in his rush to embrace Mr. Bush’s misbegotten tax policies and to abandon his leadership position on climate change and immigration reform.
Mr. McCain could have seized the high ground on energy and the environment. Earlier in his career, he offered the first plausible bill to control America’s emissions of greenhouse gases. Now his positions are a caricature of that record: think Ms. Palin leading chants of “drill, baby, drill.”
Mr. Obama has endorsed some offshore drilling, but as part of a comprehensive strategy including big investments in new, clean technologies.
Mr. Obama has withstood some of the toughest campaign attacks ever mounted against a candidate. He’s been called un-American and accused of hiding a secret Islamic faith. The Republicans have linked him to domestic terrorists and questioned his wife’s love of her country. Ms. Palin has also questioned millions of Americans’ patriotism, calling Republican-leaning states “pro-America.”
This politics of fear, division and character assassination helped Mr. Bush drive Mr. McCain from the 2000 Republican primaries and defeat Senator John Kerry in 2004. It has been the dominant theme of his failed presidency.
The nation’s problems are simply too grave to be reduced to slashing “robo-calls” and negative ads. This country needs sensible leadership, compassionate leadership, honest leadership and strong leadership. Barack Obama has shown that he has all of those qualities.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Kindling a new fire

I don't watch Oprah. That is, I don't watch Oprah other than when Patti says I have to and I get forced through TIVO to do so. Last Friday, Oprah revealed her "new technology find". She went on a rave about the Amazon Kindle and had Jeff Bezos on the show. Jeff didn't have to talk at all as Oprah laid out every feature and she was so positive about the device that Jeff couldn't get a work in edge-wise. He did offer $50 off of a purchase if you go to by Friday 10/31. That's a pretty good deal. I had already decided that the Kindle was my Christmas gift request for this year so this just reinforced what I already knew. It just makes sense to me; convenience, cheaper books, greening by not buying paper, no more room in the house for books, data and history files, cool factor, etc. But, that is not what amazed me. What amazed me was that even before the show was over, Patti said, "that is what I want for my birthday". See, Patti is not one who adopts new technology easily. She still uses a 2-year paper Hallmark calendar for her scheduling, a Casio address device for her contacts, a cell phone without a camera, she just moved from AOL email to Outlook finally, and she fought me and told me she would never use TIVO when we bought the TIVO Series One way back when (of course like everyone she quickly adopted and adapted to time-shifting). To have Patti, in an instant, say, "I want one" demonstrates either the power of Oprah or the power of a simple but dead-easy to use piece of technology. I think it was both, but like the i-pod, Amazon may have nailed it. The market may not be quite ready for mass market penetration for e-books, but by V.2 of the Kindle (word has it that V2 is coming already), Amazon may have won the electronic book reader war. And, it doesn't hurt that Oprah is there too. The fire has been stoked with a Kindle. Let's see how big and fast this fire can burn.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A response from Jim H

I received this note from Jim H and thought it worth sharing:

I took special note of our thoughts on the economy, especially the "Disposable Nation" and the "Greater than 11,000 and less than $3" articles. I've always considered myself somewhat of a closet economist, I took several economics classes while in MBA school, so I try and pay attention to these things. There are a few paradoxes in the current economy, you touch on a few. One is the recession/not-recession topic. All the economic indicators we've used for 100 years say not-recession, yet the vast majority of Americans (including me) say yes-recession. I think that as a nation we have become much more economically aware in the last 30 or so years and we see it coming. I think this explains the paradox, we are not technically in a recession today but we expect that we will be. Thus the opinion of the American public is - obviously - a forward indicator. It is a self-fulfilling indicator as well. As an economist then, I would say that "all things remaining the same" then we will soon be in a recession of the classical sense. Unless something changes, and that something may be energy costs. People said we were in a recession when they saw $4 gas going to $5. Now we are at $3 gas going to ... who knows? I've believed that what set us off economically was the double whammy of the housing collapse and energy costs. I think our economy is very resilient for many reasons, and no single thing can really set it back. It took the two punches to knock it back. If we are at bottom on the housing crisis (questionable) and if energy has stabilized, maybe people will sense a turn and we will change the mass-psychological-forward-indicator.

This may not be enough to overcome the don't-spend mentality that has gripped us all. The paradox here is that what is good for us financially as individuals is bad for us collectively as an economy. Spending drives the economy, and durable goods replacement is a big part of it. We've stopped outfitting our homes, and stopped buying cars. That's the bulk of it. We can't buy enough clothes, lattes, or iPhones to make up for that. I worry that this trend - both economically and socially driven - could ultimately be a devastating structural change to our economy and standard of living. We as Americans spend a lot, most folks in other western nations have decried this over the last few decades, we've been somewhat demonized for our consumption. But that's an old story, I've heard it since I was a kid, and by and large the American standard of living continues to outstrip the rest of the world. I see a totally different psyche in the UK where my wife's family is from. We go visit them often, I've spent probably two months there in the last three or four years. Her relatives are considered UK middle class, but here they would be struggling-lower-middle class. They don't buy things on a whim. A couple of years ago while on a visit my wife bought her grandmother a new TV. She was surprised at the reaction from the family - it was a huge deal. They just don't consume like we do because they have a perception - mostly correctly - that their financial and economic status is locked and won't change over the coming year or the coming decade or their working lives. The upward social mobility isn't part of their core cultural belief. On the other hand, we as Americans are confident that we will do better next year and next decade, and that gives us a comfort level in spending. The spending drives the economy which drives the upward mobility. In essence, I believe that our core beliefs as Americans drive the upward spiral. Most European countries are stuck in a slow downward spiral. I would hate to see a confluence of events here in the US that could disrupt our upward spiral.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Decent and True

I write another blog called, "Purposed Working", ( and it is a business day blog that uses the Bible as a reference guide to find purpose in our work. A couple of weeks ago I made an entry there that can be also referenced here, regardless of your faith or belief. There is a verse in the book of Romans (Romans 13:13) that says, "We should be decent and true in everything, so that everyone can approve of our behavior". I like this verse a lot because it not only tells you what you should do but also the outcome if you demonstrate these behaviors. Like I said, regardless of your beliefs it is hard to argue that being decent and truthful in all you do is not the right way to live. But, that seems really hard for our political leaders. The same political leaders that we look up to and should aspire. I have rambled on and on about their lack of decency and civility with each other, but I have to say that the most troubling is their flat-out lack of truthfulness and such, their lack of integrity. How easy they make it for someone to walk up to them and say, "sir, I can't vote for you since you don't tell the truth and lack integrity". I can only imagine the smooth responses back but at the end of the conversation the person who questions the integrity of someone who lied, wins the argument. Both candidates have recent examples. Senator Obama went back on his signed statement about what he would do about public campaign financing. He decided he wouldn't take it after he said he would and he failed to negotiate the clauses that he said he would before he decided to not accept and keep his campaign funding juggernaut going. He lied. And as someone said the other day to me, "but he he is better off because he did", tells the whole story of why he shouldn't have. Someone I respect and admire thinks it was okay for him to go back on his word. They think the lie justified the result. Why does it mean anything to me? Well, because when I was making my decision on how much to give to the campaign and was trying to raise money through others, I was told that we needed to dig deep now and fill the coffers because after the primary the Senator would be limited to public financing. so, I was lied to as well when he changed his mind. Senator McCain is not innocent either. I was appalled that he could sit on the David Letterman show and be caught red-handed in a lie about why he cancelled on Letterman at the last minute and he laughed it off saying, "I screwed up". Not what he should have said, and what our Mother's would have required; "I am sorry that I didn't tell you the truth. That is not right and I ask you to please accept my apology". To throw out a cliche of "I screwed up" and try and laugh it off, is just silly. Some would say, it happens all the time in TV, but I see it differently. I see not following up on a commitment, leaving another person holding the bag, and that person (in this case David Letterman and CBS) trying to explain to advertisers and viewers what happened and then passing on the lie that they were told. This is not America. We don't lie. We are supposed to tell the truth and Presidents who lie leave office or are ashamed of their behavior, and remembered with an asterisk into history. Look guys, all you have to do is be decent and truthful and you will win everyones' approval. You may not win the election because of this, but your loss won't be because you lose a vote over whether someone can trust you and/or trust that you will be a decent human being to others. Can't we just do better?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

We, The Savers

ING's CEO of Savings put this declaration out on Tuesday September 30th, in the New York Times and other newspapers. Patti and I were both impressed enough with the content that it has been hanging around the house. After rereading it this week, I thought it worth sharing for those who haven't see it.

Take a look at the Declaration of Financial Independence, it could be meaningful for you.

Friday, October 17, 2008

R = Recession = Reality

There is too much uncertainty right now as we grapple with what is reality and what is not in the financial markets. What would be wrong with right now, Secretary Paulson and Fed Chief Bernanke just coming out and facing reality and addressing that we are in a recession and then start giving us the antidotes for moving through and out of a recession. Seems like each time someone pushes them this way they come back with macro statistics that prove that we are not in a recession, thus not wanting to face the reality that it is not the macro that matters, it is the micro. One of my running buddies nailed this on one of our long Saturday runs last month. He was talking about the micro implications of the economic breakdown long before the politicians dubbed the micro as "Main Street". At the micro level, I believe we are in a recession. How do I know, well when eBay is slowing down and struggling with revenue, then that is all the indication that I need that the working-class American has begun to pinch the penny and stop spending. And when that dries up, then we know what happens to our GDP. Reality shouldn't be this hard to address. Anyone who can't address reality, whether it be a parent, a CEO, a worker, or our government, has a significant problem. Maybe on November 5th we will hear the R-word spoken about more clearly and plainly. Once we are honest with where we are then we can begin to take the steps to move to a better place...until then expect more irrational behavior and uncertainty in the markets. A good dose of reality may be just what the doctor needs to keep ordering.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Greater than 11,000 and less than $3

Could it be that November 4th is only three weeks away? I have been in the Midwest (Ohio and Indiana) since last Thursday night. I now understand what it means to be in a battle ground state. In Columbus, Ohio the city looks like the political sign capital of the country. It is pretty clear who your neighbors are voting for because they have a sign in their front yard letting you and everyone else know about it. I should have taken pictures. There is no greening of political campaigns for is all about cardboard, red and blue ink and wire posts in Ohio. Indiana is not much different. And in both places the television advertising is dominated by political ads. Every commercial break has one, if not more inserted. What happens to the ad market after November 4th? But most interesting in the Midwest this week has been the (precipitous?) drop in gas prices. Regular unleaded has dropped .25 cents since last Thursday night when we landed here (I am glad I didn't take the refueling option from Hertz). All of sudden, the gas prices look reasonable again and you can almost palpably feel that at the pump. And then the Dow makes a rally yesterday of nearly 1000 points and you begin to wonder if the Washington powers are not moving us to a muffled or muzzled economy issue by November 3rd. It's hard to believe that could happen, but if we are sitting at our dinner tables on November 3rd with regular unleaded below $3 and the Dow at 11K or knocking on the door of it, then let's all just consider how things can be changed for the powers and/or the powers to be....

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Screeching Halt

I wondered when it would happen. I listened carefully and watched with a close eye. I monitored my own feelings and actions to see when it would happen to me. I think it happened last Friday. Last Friday after the Bailout Bill was signed and the market said, "thanks, but not good enough". And then it was reinforced yesterday when the picture was taken of the Big Board with the Dow being down 800 points. I heard it then. It was a slow building sound but as the pressure increased on the brakes the tires started to seize and as they did the friction on the road reached the breaking point and the screeching sound started. The screeching sound is the stop of spending. Since last Friday it is all anyone has talked about. It's in every conversation about how they have "quit spending", have put themselves "on a moratorium", "locked up the credit cards", etc. And the interesting thing is that once it would have been awkward or maybe even a little shameful to say, "I really can't afford that right now", now it is almost with a bit of pride that I heard a woman in a conversation say yesterday, "it's just not right to be spending now like I usually do". I shouldn't be surprised because I feel it too. I am waiting for the set of envelopes that come in at the end of each quarter. None of them will be opened with any expectation other than they carry numbers in the red which is bad news. I am stitching closed my pants pockets as I write this. A friend of Patti's who worked for over 30 years and retired from the same company, got the call from her financial planner yesterday telling her that she may want to start looking for a part-time job and if the market slide continues, to plan on going back to work full-time. In the meantime, she was told, stop all but necessary spending. And the screeching continues. What will this do to the economy that just 90 days ago was wanting to feel the effects of a spending stimulus? It seems that whatever turn or action that is taken has a bad side-effect. In the meantime, it appears the prudent thing to do is to keep the pressure on the spending brakes and put up with the screeching noise. One of these days we will be able to afford anti-skid spending brakes but for now, let 'em screech.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Politics of Personal Destruction

Yesterday morning on this "This Week with George Stephanapolous", the Governor of Pennsylvania said we have now entered into "politics of personal destruction". I am sure he was not the first one to coin this phrase, but it stuck with me, as I spent the rest of the day, more concerned than ever that the example we are setting as leaders to our children and future leaders continues to erode and worsen. At the risk of being sexist, I think this is even heightened with Governor Palin than the others. During this election cycle we have seen two extremely smart and capable women leaders emerge. They have broken a ceiling. I am proud that this has happened. It reflects well on our country. What is not good is the example we see our future women leaders seeing and thinking what they should emulate. Governor Palin has an even larger responsibility as she casts herself as the person who is most like the typical American. She is, more than any of the other candidates, carrying an even larger responsibility to be a role and character model for other young women and men to follow. But why does she, and all the others, feel that they can only win if they are mean and degrading of others? Can we not find one politician, man or woman, who will rise above the fray and bring a spirit of decency to what they do? It is not right to try and degrade and demean other human beings. Can we not see this and call each other out when it occurs? I realize what the holy grail is to a politician; it is to be approved by as many people as possible. There is a Bible verse in the book of Romans that tells them what to do to gain that approval. Romans Chapter 13, verse 13: "We should be decent and true in everything we do, so that everyone can approve of our behavior". It's that simple. So, please, Senator Obama, Senator McCain, Senator Biden, Governor Palin, please be decent for the next month so we can not only be proud of our leaders but feel confidence without reservation that you are the leaders our children and next generation of leaders can emulate! If you are really in touch with the American psyche, you will know we need this even more than we need you to win.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Disposable Nation

Twice this last week I have heard younger people say something very interesting. Each mentioned, in different contexts, the idea that buying something new was a bad thing. One said this in the course of talking about managing of their finances and how they are cutting back. The other person said it in the context of the "greening" of the world. He went as far as to say that in the neighborhood he lives in that it's just not "cool" to buy or drive a new car anymore. I have sat with this for a few days and wondered what it means to our economy if we were to broadly adopt this philosophy. We the country where durable goods (like cars) get traded in for new ones well before they expire. It is, to use Senator Obama's words, "well above my pay grade" to understand this, but in my naivete, I would say that if we were to move away from our current disposable attitude (about just about everything) it might be good for mother earth, but our economy would certainly stall. This whole thing has me thinking and even starting my own little revolution. I found myself wanting to walk out of Peets yesterday with my large cup and put it in my car to bring back in the next time. I looked in my closet and said, I can wear those clothes another year, even though the style has changed slightly. I talked to my buddy and said, "why buy a new car, get a used one, you will save a few bucks and won't chew up some more of that carbon footprint stuff". Hmmm, those kids might be onto something, again. I don't know what it means in the long run, but I can tell you that it's not that hard to start thinking this way and I can certainly see why many will. I hope the economists have this in one of their models.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

What about Elm Street?

All we hear about now is Wall Street and Main Street and the impact of the economy and the bailout on these two now all important streets of America. I don't know about you, but in the small and big towns that I know, not that many people live on a Main Street. Main Street is usually downtown and has more businesses on it than homes. I'm not being precise, but you get the gist. What I want to talk about is Elm Street and the nightmare that is about to hit there. That's where people live. The ordinary American that both candidates are trying to reach. The nightmare coming to Elm Street will be when the credit markets contract to the level when someone won't be able to obtain a new credit card, their current credit card limit gets cut in half (imagine trying to buy a $3000 couch when your credit card limit is at $2500 or $2000), your interest rate on credit card debt doubles or beyond. There is a scary wind that is beginning to blow down Elm Street. I can hear the creaking of the wooden siding and the slamming back and forth of the shutters. If the Congress doesn't Bailout, Rescue, or whatever you want to call it, in this next vote (thank you Senators for being more level-headed tonight), then those who live on Elm Street, who work on Main Street and invest through Wall Street, should set their vote in place now for the next congressional election with the spirit of cleaning house and out with the old and in with the new. We can't have any more of this lack of putting the country ahead of their own political agendas. We didn't send you there for that. We sent you there to lead and represent those who fear and want to avoid the nightmare that is being conjured. Please remember that it is Elm Street that votes for you to go back to Washington or to stay home next time!

Purposed Working Blog Launched:

Hi there. Just wanted to pass along that along with continued Bolts of Thinking posts, I have launched a new daily blog called: Purposed worKING.

You can check it out at:

I hope it is something you enjoy and if you do, please let others know as well.


More Bolts of Thinking to come, so don't go away.