Spending It All Down

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So Parkinson’s Law states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.


The more time you have on your hands, the longer it takes you to do something. 


I find this to be so true…like on a day off, I don’t find myself typically getting any more done than on a regular work day. 


But what is true for time, also seems to apply to money. 


The more money you make, the more you need


And while you may get more or better quality for your extra bucks, you still don’t have a lot in net savings. 


Thus in line with Conspicuous Consumption, we spend more on luxury goods when we have more money and we spend more of our leisure time on doing the same basic set of activities when we have more time to spend.


Either way, more time and money often means more wasting of each, with people finding it extraordinarily difficult to save when they have (too) much of either. 


Perhaps, that why the big time hip hop artist, Kanye West recently tweeted about being $53 million in debt.


Or why Benjamin Franklin said, “If you want something done, ask a busy person.”


Your personal decision is what you end up spending your extra time and money on. 


The only real difference with time and money is that money you can put in the bank, but time passes whether you are busy or not.


Perhaps the best investment for both is to spend on education, experiences, on loved ones, and on helping others. 

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Parg)

Even The Water

Dirty Water

So I was in a meeting yesterday. 


And someone had a bottle of what looked like very dirty water. 


I said to the guy sad-jokingly, “Where’s that from–Flint, Michigan?”


He sadly smiles back and says, “No, I just filled the bottle with iced tea!”


But everyone around the table sighed at the tragic state of affairs with the filthy, contaminated water in Flint. 


The high levels of lead in the water has allegedly resulted in “skin lessons, hair loss, high levels of lead in the blood, vision loss, memory loss, depression and anxiety.”


It’s unbelievable that in an American city with a population around 100,000 that they cannot safely shower or drink their water. 


To make things even worse, now banks are hunkering down and don’t want to give mortgages to people in Flint until they can prove that their water is safe


What’s amazing is that this miserable situation in our cities is not the exception, but the rule. 


As of 2003 already, The American Society for Civil Engineering gives us a hideous grade of D on our infrastructure that is aged and in disrepair.


This includes our:

– Energy

– Transportation

– Ports

– Aviation

– Levees

– Dams

– Schools

– Roads

– Inland Waterways

– Wastewater

– Hazardous Waste

– Parks and Recreation

– Rail

– Bridges

– Solid Waste

– Drinking Water


They estimate we need at least $3.6 trillion of investment for infrastructure renewal just by 2020. 


Interestingly enough, the useless decade-long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan costs us over $4 trillion and the lives of almost 14,000 American military and contractor personnel.


What would you rather have a destabilized Middle East now swarming with ISIS, the Taliban, and a resurgent $100 billion richer and nuclear- and terror-determined Iran or a proper country here for us to live in with an actual strategy-driven national security and good schools and clean drinking water? 


(Source Photo: here with attribution to B1ue5sky)

Burning The Evidence

Transparency

This is a brillant funny advertisement that was displayed on the Metro in Washington, D.C.


“If I burn the evidence, those donuts never happened.”


This as astute marketing for a fitness facility.  


Burn baby, burn (calories that is)!


But in Washington, D.C. (and at times for fiduicary duty bound Wall Street), where transparency is supposed to rule the day–but often doesn’t as we know–this resonates in a whole other way for a class of political and wealthy elites as well as for a host of criminals. 


Bad things (fraud, waste, abuse, and stupid mistakes)–uh, they never happened if there is no evidence to prove it.  


Like the tree that falls in the woods that no one hears…it’s as if it never fell. 


Also, is there a habit of perhaps punishing the innocent in order to protect those that are really guilty? — That never happens too, right? 


But G-d knows what really happened, and often somehow, someway the truth does get exposed (whether by savy investigative journalists, Congressional or court inquiry, brave innocents that come forward, or some bad people getting caught up in their own jumble of lies and deceit).  


As Judge Judy says, “If it doesn’t make sense, it’s usually not true.” 


Or more in line with the ad, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Mars On A Dime

Extra Mile
According to the Wall Street Journal that compares with $671M that it cost NASA (which arrived just 3 days earlier than India’s) and the European Space Agency’s mission that cost $386M in 2003,



But aside from the Indian’s being able to achieve a Mars mission at a tenth the cost of what we did, BBC reported that they also did it $26M cheaper than even the cost of the science fiction movie Gravity with Sandra Bullock about the International Space Station. 



While we clearly go the extra mile and are able to do great things–why does it always cost us so much to get there?



Perhaps, you can say that we are somehow more diligent or careful in our work (i.e. putting a premium on safety) or that it’s just the higher cost of labor in this country or that we are early innovators and incur the costs of research and development that others than leverage. 



However, even though we are considered a very wealthy nation, it is fair to ask whether we are managing our wealth with discretion and an eye to the future or do we just take it for granted and are wasteful with it?



With a $3.9 trillion federal government budget (note, this is a full 21% of the entire U.S. economy/GDP), we are talking about some serious money, and we should be getting the most for it.



Unfortunately, the gravy train extends from certain “Beltway Bandit” contractors–e.g. remember the $640 toilet seats, $7,600 coffee makers, and $436 hammers uncovered by the Project on Government Oversight–and apparently all the way to mission Mars. 😉



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Money, It’s Something

Poverty

Just an observation today about there being so much poverty in the Nation’s capital and around the country.

Homeless, hungry, and sick people on the streets in one of the richest countries in the world.

Yet, we have trillions going overseas to fight wars with seemingly little to no tangible benefits.

And so much ostensible waste with pork barrel politics, inefficiencies, and failed projects.

A relative joked with me the other day saying, “It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor as long as you have money!”

Here we borrow money ($17.6 trillion ) and print money and the Federal Reserve buys debt ($4.1 trillion ) to keep interest rates low and the economy churning.

People from real estate mogul, Donald Trump to Economist, Robert Wiedemer, who predicted the last recession, are warning of dire economic consequences because of these short-sighted policies.

So do we have real money to continue to burn or is it smoke and mirrors and as Wiedemer says, “the medicine will become the poison”–what do you think?

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

We’re Not Deadbeats

We're Not Deadbeats

Good book review in the Wall Street Journal on America’s Fiscal Constitution by Bill White.

The main idea is that we have gone from a nation where fiscal discipline and paying off ones debts was a valued tradition to one now where excess rules and profligate borrowing runs through our veins.

Both personal and national debt were viewed as a means of last resort and not something to be proud of, but rather as something done out of necessity to get through tough times.

On a personal level, we only borrowed what we needed and we payed it back on time or even early. Poverty was just one step away or even akin to servitude.

Similarly, on a national level, public debt was viewed as a safety net to preserve the union (i.e. war), territorial integrity (e.g. Louisiana Purchase), or in a severe recession (i.e. to maintain the government’s ability to spend in the short term).

The best option was seen as “pay as you go,” with the alternative, under limited circumstances, to “pay as soon as you can.”

However, the value placed on self and national discipline and sufficiency was replaced with elements of entitlement, greed, and waste.

The problem is once you have inequity in the system, then people feel the unfairness of it all, and give up caring about the system itself and just want to get what they see as their fair share.

Some politicians cater to these feelings of relative deprivation and are no longer viewed positively for fiscal constraint and ensuring our economic security, but rather “politicians gain favor by spending money without having to raise unpopular taxes.”

In essence, the government can give people more now, and they don’t have to pay for it until future generations–hence the ability to buy citizen’s political consent and even win elections by increasing the treasure chest even temporarily.

No, this is not China raising the fortunes of the middle class to keep the Communist Party in power, but rather this is us in the U.S. of A racking up tens of trillions of dollars in debt to keep people happy now (forget the future generations, let them fend for themselves).

Shake hands, kiss babies, and hand out dollar bills–give me, give me give me!

What has happened to us fighting hard and driving into the future on our own feet–together in strength and not as a debtor nation getting handouts from anyone that will lend us.

Soon, the Fed will be raising interest rates, and with a greater and greater national deficit to pay on, interest payments have the real potential to spiral out of control and leave our economy in shambles.

Like a credit card with interest payments that eclipse the principle borrowed, soon you are in over your head and there is nowhere to go but Chapter 11.

We’re not an inherently debtor nation, and we sure don’t want to be a deadbeat nation–isn’t it better to have what we really have financially and be who we really are and value?

Let’s leave our children and grandchildren economic and national security and not a towering pile of shameless debt, from mom and dad with love.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

What A Waste Of Coin

What A Waste Of Coin

Coming to work this week, I saw a penny on the ground…then another…and another.

I saw people passing the money, and instead of picking it up, they kicked in off the curb.

That’s even worse than throwing them into the fountain where at least you might get some good luck from it.

Thus, the state of our minting of coinage–it’s essentially worthless.

After getting a pretty basic Venti Java Chip at Starbucks for a whopping $5.45, I quickly calculated, I would need 545 pennies,109 nickles, 54.5 dimes, or 21.8 quarters o pay for this–how ridiculous!

And uh, how many of these would you need to pay someone one hour at the new proposed minimum wage of $10.10 if you did it in coins?

Otherwise, I could just give them a credit or debit card–yes, sort of a no brainer, right?

Why do we keep making coinage that no one wants or needs in the digital age?

We have direct deposit for payroll, automatic deductions for many expenses, online banking, ecommerce , credit and debit cards, paypal, and even bitcoin…let’s just be honest and admit it, traditional money is basically obsolete.

At Starbucks, I see many people now just use their Smartphone App to pay and get rewards–another advance.

Someday soon, we will have embedded chips that simply add and deduct payments as we go along and live life–it’s really not all that complicated.

The funny thing also is that it costs more to make many coins then their intrinsic worth–and hence the drive towards making coins with cheaper materials.

According to Business Insider, in 2012, a penny cost 2.4 cents to make and a nickle 11.2 cents–quite a losing proposition.

While there truly are some valuable coins out there and I appreciate that there are many coin lovers and collectors–numismatists–perhaps there are alternate hobbies to consider.

A colleague once told me that “If you watch your pennies, the dollars will follow”–and that may be some good investement advice, but in a 24/7 society and after decades of inflation, there isn’t enough time or room to collect all the pennies we would need to make much of a difference.

ABC News reports that while our northern brother, Canada, got rid of the penny in 2012, we still make something like 5 billion of these useless things a year.

Full disclosure: my first job in Washington, D.C. was for the U.S. Mint, and while there were good things about it, I could never feel good about the mission–it just had no purpose. 😉

All Opinions my own.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Maura Teague)