Visiting The Sins of The Fathers

Everyone was waiting for the big news this week out of the EU on how they were going to bail out their troubled economies–way too many: Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Ireland…and more.

Their debt is through the roof–Greece is at 164% of it GDP and Italy is saddled with 1.9 trillion euros with more than 200 billion of it coming due next year.

Unemployment is soaring…with Greek unemployment of 16.7%, topped by Spain’s at 21.5%.

Economies are grinding to a halt: “Euro-zone economic data point to gloomy year-end…0.2% latest quarterly growth” (Wall Street Journal, 29-30 October 2011)

So news this week of a yet bigger (much bigger 4x or 5x) bailout fund of $1.4 trillion to backstop the losses,while sending the stock market soaring, left the pundits a little more than skeptical.

Why? Because where did the losses go…did they just disappear or is this a thoroughly massive shell game where the losses are spinning faster and faster under the shells of economic protectionism until they disappear altogether under the slight of hand of ministry of finance magicians?

I thought to myself this week–am I missing something? I wrote a friend–this guy is a genius–top of the class type, CPA, MBA and asked what he thought of the bailout? He too was baffled and said somebody just took a “50% haircut” referring to massive number of Greek bondholders who just took a huge loss–how is that a good thing?

And I thought what about the rest of the losses yet to be realized in the $1.4 trillion European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF)…by naming it “stability,” does it actually make people feel more secure, better?

Then came the reports later this week–“Doubts rise about EU deal”–that the financial rescue plan is short on details, and as we all know “the devil is in the details.”

Moreover, it’s just a plan–that’s the easy part–words are cheap! The real test lies in whether the financial rescuers can actually execute this time or will we be back at the drawing board in 6 months time again?

Then I thought of the saying from the Torah (Bible)–Exodus 34:7 that G-d “visits the sins of the fathers on the children.” Not in a malevolent way, but in an almost natural way–our actions have consequences.

While not limited to any individual, country, or continent, when we live beyond our means–when greed and gluttony surpass our ability to control our appetites for more, then a bubble builds and down the road, it eventually bursts–whether real estate, the dot com boom, stocks, commodities, or even tulips in the 17th century!

As we all know deep down, no shell game can go on forever–the hands tire, the players become more astute, and most importantly, the excesses of the past must be paid up–so that the next generation can eventually go on to a more stable and brighter future.

Both sides of the spectrum, the Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street protesters know the same economic reckoning is coming–and even though not everyone can articulate the rising doubt and fear, we go toward resolution, hand-in-hand together.

(Source Picture: here and here)

Peepoo, It’s All In The Bag

Peepoo–a silly name for a very serious product.

It is a self-sanitizing, disposable, single-use bag, made by Peepoople, which serves as a portable toilet to collect human waste and prevent the transmission of disease.

Without proper sanitation, human waste harbors contaminants, such as viruses, bacteria, worms, and parasites that infect fresh and ground water.2.6 billion people (40% of the world) have no access to basic sanitation (i.e. toilets) and one child dies worldwide every 15 seconds because of this.

The Peepoo bags contain a simple, but important layer of urea, a non-hazardous chemical that makes human waste pathogens inactive in just 2-4 weeks.

The biodegradable bags are buried and decompose in about 1 year making needed fertilizer for people in poverty around the world.Despite a current 15% poverty in United States, we live in such an economically privileged and technologically advanced country here that it is hard to imagine not having the basics for human dignity and health like a toilet and running water.

I stand in awe of the people that are working globally to help to those in need through the development of innovative, functional, low-cost, and environmentally sustainable products such as this.

There is so much to do to help people at both the high-end and low-end of cost and technology that it can be confusing how to invest our finite resources. For example, at the high-end, this week NASA unveiled plans for the most-powerful rocket planned projected to cost tens of billions of dollars to carry people to planets deep in space and potentially make discoveries that can alter the course of humanity in the future. Yet, at the low-end, we have billions of people with fundamental human needs that remain unmet here on Earth, who are suffering and dying now.

I remember a discussion with colleagues that ourchallenge is not simply to carve up the pie between competing alternatives (because there are so many critical needs out there), but rather to grow the pie so that we can give more and do more for everyone.

This mimics our economic situation today, if we just try to carve up our national budget between mandatory and discretionary budget items, we are left with a situation where there is seemingly not nearly enough to go around. Hence the imperative to grow the economy–through education, innovation, small business start-ups, international trade agreements, and more. We’ve got to grow the pie and quickly, because there are people that need jobs today, while there are long-term needs such as social security and medicare solvency, medical breakthroughs, and all sorts of innovation that await us in the future.

We can’t forget the people that need Peepoo bags today and we can’t stop investing in NASA and like for the future–growth in our only answer–and that comes through education, research and development, and the promotion of innovation and entrepreneurship.