Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Government by Poll

So, let’s say you’re teaching a class of first graders and you’re approaching lunch time. You aren’t sure what to give the kids to eat, and you need to make a decision.

You could make them lunch—at least that way you’d know they were getting something healthy. Ah, but they HATE spinach.

Ok, you’ll spend some time and think up a really creative meal that will not only be healthy but they’ll LOVE it! Hmmm, well yeah, but that would be a LOT of work.

Wait! I know! Let’s just poll the kids and see what THEY want! What a great idea! Then they’ll be fed, and it will be whatever the group decided, so they’ll be happy…perfect!!!! We’ll POLL them!

Huh? Not a good idea? Why not? Because the kids will all want cookies and ice cream? Well, sure. They’re kids. But hey, you got ‘em fed and they’re happy, right.

Nope. Not right. This isn’t what you were hired for. You were hired to lead, educate, and leave the kids better than you found them; not govern the classroom by poll. Even if it doesn’t make the kids happy. A GREAT leader would probably find a way to do that more palatably, but that isn’t always possible. Sometimes tough love is the best love.

Boy, good thing you aren’t running to be ELECTED to the role of teacher, huh? After all, what KID would vote for a teacher that is going to feed them healthy food and expect a disciplined classroom? What kid is going to WANT to have homework every night and be forced to work hard to improve both their grades and their intellect?

Welcome to U.S. politics…2008. Where the first graders are electing their teacher.

Government by poll.

More tax cuts! Government health care AND insurance AND banking! No Army, no Air Force, no Marines! We don’t wanna have to do NOTHIN!!!! Wheeeeeeeee!!!!

Tougher education standards? Not for us buster…we just want education to be free. No standards or anything. Just everyone feelin’ great about their meaningless PhD that didn’t cost a nickel of money or an ounce of work.

Sure the economy needs to be bailed out, and yeah, we know there’s a deficit…but so what. I want mine! Gimme gimme gimme! There aren’t rules here…heck, WE make the rules! No rules, just more money! And candy and cake and principal-free mortgages with low interest rates too. Nothin’ costs anything…everything’s FREEEEEE!

And then you wake up someday and you’re 19 and you haven’t learned a thing.

And you don’t know how to read or write or even hold an interesting conversation, let alone an interesting thought.

And you can’t compete for jobs.

Or worse yet, your country is on the verge of collapse, and you STILL don’t get that you need to do your homework.

What’s for lunch?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Of Sleepless Nights, Canadian Medicine, and Horses

This whole financial crisis thing really hadn’t phased me up to this point.

I mean, obviously in my professional role, it concerned me that our business has completely sucked for going on two years. But business is cyclical, and that kind of thing is to be expected. I’m working for a very conservative organization that has always been exceptionally well run financially, so we’re in a good position to weather this storm. Good people, smart management ( J ), and a solid market and plan.

And like a lot of other people, I’d seen my 401(k) drop by more than 28% from October 1st to October 10th. A pisser for sure, but I’ve never been the kind of guy that was going to retire at 55 or 60 anyway. I like to work and be engaged. Plus as you’ve probably read elsewhere by now, if you don’t do anything stupid it’s really just a cost averaging investment strategy at this point: don’t pull your money, and your regular contribution is just buying x times more the number of shares. So when the market comes back, you’ll make it up, as they say, by volume.

As for the regular market, I had pretty much gone cash, so there wasn’t a great deal to be lost for me there.

Not a big deal. Surf the wave and look for the next good opportunity. Happens all the time in our country; at least four or five times since I’ve been out of college.

Ah, but Tuesday, they really rattled me. Tuesday, they kept me awake all night.

And I didn’t even really comprehend it at first.

I read all the headlines and thought, “Hmmm, that’s a little unusual…” But then it started to sink in. And at 2:39 a.m. on Wednesday morning I rolled over in my bed, stared and the clock, and thought, “Oh my God…we’ve nationalized the banks…”

I’m still not sure the rest of us have caught on yet.

We’ve nationalized banking in the U.S.

NATIONALIZED BANKING! IN THE U.S.! DO YOU GET IT????!!!!

Now on the simplest level, think of it this way: how many people in the United States do you know that would love to be on Canada’s medical plan? You know, nationalized medicine. That gets big raspberries every time I hear it come up. Heck, I personally know a guy in Canada who had been told he needed heart bypass surgery, but he refused to have it done because of the level of care in his own country. One day he started having chest pains and suspected a heart attack. So he and the wife packed a quick bag, ran to the airport and flew to Myrtle Beach for a “vacation”…where he went to the hospital, they checked him in via the emergency room, and he had his bypass surgery—paid for by his coverage since he was on vacation. Some endorsement for a nationalized industry huh?

Or think of it this way: we’re in the middle of an election where all we hear about is how inept our government is. They can’t be responsible with their own budget. The ANNUAL deficit will approach half a trillion dollars this year and is projected to be close to a trillion in 2009. That’s annual deficit, not total. This is the same federal government that took over the infamous Nevada Chicken Ranch in the late 80’s and early 90’s due to a tax lien, and ran it out of business. A brothel. These guys couldn’t make money on hookers and booze. In Nevada. Where it’s legal.

These are the people who are running our banks now.

But even with all of that, that wasn’t what bothered me the most. It was two other points.

First: maybe I’m na├»ve, but it’s hard to believe that the government can just swoop in and take over businesses. I mean, I know it’s legal, and that in dire times they can do this. But from what I’ve read, several of the banks did not want the cash infusion. The government just felt like they needed it. That’s scary to me. Soviet Union, Red China, big brother kind of scary. “I know better than you little buddy, now give me your business. We’re smarter than you, bigger than you, and we can do this, so let me have your bank.”

Oh, I know it was just a partial investment, but trust me—the government is calling the shots now.

Second, and maybe even bigger than that: We now have a democrat congress, a democrat senate, and probably in two weeks will be electing a democrat president. I can very clearly see a scenario where Nancy Pelosi is now holding major sway over our banking industry. Yikes.

Does this bother anyone else? That our government—in their INFINITE wisdom—how holds this kind of control over our financial system and processes? Does it frighten you that THIS would ever be considered a viable option to letting the market sort itself out?

The same democrats who are blaming the republicans for the deficit suggested yesterday that another $400 billion of “recovery aid” may be in order. They’ve taken over the banks, and the first thing they want to do is DOUBLE THE DEFICIT????

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t think the GOP is any better. I mean, in this environment, they’ve selected John McCain to be their Presidential candidate. Great guy. An American hero in every sense of the word. But does anyone remember the “Keating Five?” If you don’t, look it up. McCain and John Glen were basically cleared but still found guilty of poor judgment—in a scenario that played a major role in the savings and loan crisis.

Speaking of the savings and loan crisis—were those the good old days or what? When you could bail out a financial institution for a measly $3 billion? Ah, I remember when…

But I digress.

C’mon America. Get your collective heads out of your you-know-what! We’ve spent ourselves into this crisis, and now the GOVERNMENT is in charge! Wake up!!!!

I’ve always had great confidence in our country and our system of government, but this one cuts deep. My government, THIS government, the government that possesses a list a mile long of poor judgment and mismanagement and over-spending and lousy decisions by committee is now running the banking industry in the last great bastion of capitalism in the world.

Does anyone have a copy of Revelation handy? What color horse is that standing over there? I know the red horse is war and the black horse is famine, but I always get the white horse and the pale horse mixed up…a little help? “Program, get ya programs! You can’t tell Death from Conquest without ya program!”

Dude. Do you think I can fake a heart attack and go to another country to bank?