Monthly Archives: April 2011

QP: A slightly belated Hello

Just a quick note of welcome if you are here for the first time or were a reader of Ruffling Feathers.  I put a couple months of work into Ruffling Feathers, but the readership was insanely small and I found myself pigeonholed in what I could talk about.  The goal here is to expand the thought base with a few different writers and tackle issues beyond national politics (as you can see, we have some sports stories up already).  I am excited by what I think this can become, hopefully you will visit regulary.

-Sam the Eagle

QP: Out of the Norm

I haven’t been linking to websites on this blog – but that will probably change.  I ran across this site thanks to the “Students for Daniels” twitterfeed (@students4mitch – check them out).  This site – http://econstories.tv/ – is pretty cool, putting Economics into a fun and easily understood format.  I know some of you may disagree with their conclusions, but check them out regardless.

-Sam the Eagle

The Medicine for America’s Gas Problem?

I recently railed on Wall Street for causing our current gas crisis.  That was somewhat (you can determine how much) incorrect and I apologize.  They are A cause, but not THE cause.  THE cause to our gas problems can be found by everyone going to the bathroom and looking in the mirror (or, if you don’t want to get up, just look at your smarty phone while it is turned off).  We, as consumers, are the real reason that gas prices are what they are.  We are willing to pay them.  We gripe and grumble, but in the end, we pay.  For instance, I just went and bought a new mower – I chose a gas model over an electric (although it will be supplemented by a reel mower).  We have not forced the hand of auto manufacturers in regards to alternative fuel cars.  Yes, we have the Prius, Volt, Leaf and various Hybrids from Ford, but we also still have pickups that are top sellers and get 14 MPG in the city.  We also have not made any serious effort to push our elected officials into expanding oil exploration or making a serious efforts at “green energy” initiatives.

I had been looking at buying a truck or upgrading my SUV for some time, getting serious about it in the last 6 months.  When I started looking, MPGs were not of a large concern for me.  I could afford what I was putting into my tank then and I  cared more about the enhanced utility than the pump pain.  Looking back now, I am glad that circumstances prevented me from buying a pickup.  I would hate to be locked into a $300-$400 a month payment AND paying $4+ per gallon while only getting 14 MPG.  I decided instead to just hold on to my SUV and wait for those long promised fuel-efficient pickups to finally arrive.  However, my initial thinking was probably like that of most Americans (as I am sure sales figures will show us).  We had gotten used to the high gas prices, $3+ gas was the reality and we lived with it.  I have to wonder if that same cycle will occur again.  When will we finally say enough is enough and really demand change?

If we REALLY want change, it has to be a two front effort.  We need to increase our output, even though (for reasons that I do not understand) we don’t actually consume our own oil.  The more oil produced in the Western Hemisphere, the less reliant we on the Middle East and the impact the political stability over there has on our prices.  We need to seriously encourage alternative energy (i.e. energy from non-fossil fuel sources).  As a country, we aren’t serious at all.  I know this because people are complaining about noise and visibility issues from windmills (not to mention how it affects their precious views).  We have subdivision covenants banning solar panels and geothermal heating/cooling is a novelty.  We are horrified by the idea of burning our refuse and vehemently shun the idea of nuclear power.  If our nation was honestly committed to lessening its dependence on fossil fuels then few, if any, of the previously mentioned items would be an issue.  If we were serious about reducing our oil consumption specifically then we would have forced auto manufacturers to create pickups, SUVs, and semis that were actually efficient.  We would be exploring endlessly and drilling constantly for natural gas to heat our homes.  We would work on developing bio fuels that contribute positively to the equation (our current ethanol production methods/sources do not).

While I lay a high amount of blame regarding the high gas prices at the feet of speculators, the truth is that if we worked on those areas listed above, the speculators wouldn’t have a leg to stand on.  It really is simple math that I have ignored while looking for an easy scapegoat.  The reality is, the only people we have to blame for high gas prices is our society as a collective.  We rely so heavily on oil that anyone put in a similar position to the current speculators would do the same (although maybe not to the extreme) – our reliance on oil has hardly lessened and the supply is a continual question mark leading to an ever-increasing price.  So, while I would urge for responsible speculation by those on Wall Street, we should look more to our leaders in Washington and our researchers in academia and industry for the prescriptions to our gas ailments.  Until the prescriptions are available, I would suggest that we start working on our own “reduced gas diets” if the price of gas REALLY bothers us and isn’t just fodder for the virtual water coolers of the internet.

-Sam the Eagle

The Medicine for America’s Gas Problem?

I recently railed on Wall Street for causing our current gas crisis.  That was somewhat (you can determine how much) incorrect and I apologize.  They are A cause, but not THE cause.  THE cause to our gas problems can be found by everyone going to the bathroom and looking in the mirror (or, if you don’t want to get up, just look at your smarty phone while it is turned off).  We, as consumers, are the real reason that gas prices are what they are.  We are willing to pay them.  We gripe and grumble, but in the end, we pay.  For instance, I just went and bought a new mower – I chose a gas model over an electric (although it will be supplemented by a reel mower).  We have not forced the hand of auto manufacturers in regards to alternative fuel cars.  Yes, we have the Prius, Volt, Leaf and various Hybrids from Ford, but we also still have pickups that are top sellers and get 14 MPG in the city.  We also have not made any serious effort to push our elected officials into expanding oil exploration or making a serious efforts at “green energy” initiatives.

I had been looking at buying a truck or upgrading my SUV for some time, getting serious about it in the last 6 months.  When I started looking, MPGs were not of a large concern for me.  I could afford what I was putting into my tank then and I  cared more about the enhanced utility than the pump pain.  Looking back now, I am glad that circumstances prevented me from buying a pickup.  I would hate to be locked into a $300-$400 a month payment AND paying $4+ per gallon while only getting 14 MPG.  I decided instead to just hold on to my SUV and wait for those long promised fuel-efficient pickups to finally arrive.  However, my initial thinking was probably like that of most Americans (as I am sure sales figures will show us).  We had gotten used to the high gas prices, $3+ gas was the reality and we lived with it.  I have to wonder if that same cycle will occur again.  When will we finally say enough is enough and really demand change?

If we REALLY want change, it has to be a two front effort.  We need to increase our output, even though (for reasons that I do not understand) we don’t actually consume our own oil.  The more oil produced in the Western Hemisphere, the less reliant we on the Middle East and the impact the political stability over there has on our prices.  We need to seriously encourage alternative energy (i.e. energy from non-fossil fuel sources).  As a country, we aren’t serious at all.  I know this because people are complaining about noise and visibility issues from windmills (not to mention how it affects their precious views).  We have subdivision covenants banning solar panels and geothermal heating/cooling is a novelty.  We are horrified by the idea of burning our refuse and vehemently shun the idea of nuclear power.  If our nation was honestly committed to lessening its dependence on fossil fuels then few, if any, of the previously mentioned items would be an issue.  If we were serious about reducing our oil consumption specifically then we would have forced auto manufacturers to create pickups, SUVs, and semis that were actually efficient.  We would be exploring endlessly and drilling constantly for natural gas to heat our homes.  We would work on developing bio fuels that contribute positively to the equation (our current ethanol production methods/sources do not).

While I lay a high amount of blame regarding the high gas prices at the feet of speculators, the truth is that if we worked on those areas listed above, the speculators wouldn’t have a leg to stand on.  It really is simple math that I have ignored while looking for an easy scapegoat.  The reality is, the only people we have to blame for high gas prices is our society as a collective.  We rely so heavily on oil that anyone put in a similar position to the current speculators would do the same (although maybe not to the extreme) – our reliance on oil has hardly lessened and the supply is a continual question mark leading to an ever-increasing price.  So, while I would urge for responsible speculation by those on Wall Street, we should look more to our leaders in Washington and our researchers in academia and industry for the prescriptions to our gas ailments.  Until the prescriptions are available, I would suggest that we start working on our own “reduced gas diets” if the price of gas REALLY bothers us and isn’t just fodder for the virtual water coolers of the internet.

-Sam the Eagle

RINOs (or the demonization of compromise)

I recently read an article detailing New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s lack of conservative credentials.  In it, the term “RINO” was thrown around quite often (RINO stands for Republican In Name Only). I won’t bore you with the list of things picked at, needless to say Mr. Christie probably wouldn’t win a GOP Primary in Texas…but find me a successful GOP politico from the NE that would.  The article, and comments within, really resonated with me though.  It seems that in the past few years those within your party (be it Rs or Ds) who compromise are unfairly cast as “not conservative enough” or “not liberal enough” (although I would argue that if you define yourself as liberal then you are certainly liberal enough, probably too liberal really).  In the article I was reading Gov. Christie was actually called out for saying that “we need good ideas from both sides”.  People were actually upset that he said Democrats had good ideas (the author went on to list some bad decision Democrats had made…a list that I am sure could be filled with equally bad GOP ideas).

RINO:

Given that the Republican platform changes continually, I am sure every Republican could be accused of being a RINO at some point.  However, those who are considered RINOs are still Republican.  They still vote for the Speaker along GOP lines and still support the Republican platform more than a Democrat would.  In 2010, we saw two cases of US Senate candidates winning their primaries because they ran against so-called RINOs  Both were easily beaten by the time the General Election results were confirmed.  So, instead of having two seats in the Senate filled by people with “R” next to their name and a vote that could be counted on more often than not, we instead have a U.S. Senate that is controlled by Democrats, thus throwing up a road block to the GOP controlled House.  If those two states had supported the less conservative, but still Republican, candidates, we would have passed bills that would have lowered our spending even further, avoided the Government Shutdown controversy, and helped pushed forward policies that would get America back on track.  Instead, we have the Republican voters of two states to blame for our lack of forward progress because they wanted someone more “conservative” not someone who could actually get the job done (we could also look at the NRSC and see that they did a poor job of recruiting candidates in some states).

Compromise:

How far have we come that political compromise is demonized on the internet?  We should be encouraging our elected officials to work together for the betterment of America.  While the House of Representatives is comprised of men and women elected by 435 different areas, they all come to Washington to make the United States a better place.  San Fransisco is never going to elect a conservative and the rural South is never going to elect a liberal.  Given that, we need people who can work together.  C-Span would be very entertaining if we had over 400 people yelling at each other but it wouldn’t be very good for us as citizens.  Compromise is what drives us all.  Nobody is always right.  Each side has good ideas that could benefit from the input of the other.  That is the point of Congress – people working together from across our great land to enrich all of us, to make our futures, and our children’s futures even brighter.

We get fed up with the inefficiency in our government and choose to blame a party (in 2010, we blamed the Ds, in 2006, we blamed the Rs) when we really should be looking at ourselves.  Our government is a reflection of us.  They only get into power because WE put them there.  They only pass laws because WE allow them to.  So, if we are continuously complain about the lack of progress being made towards anything in Washington, we have only ourselves to blame because we vote for the wrong people.

When we look at who to support in our future races, I hope we can learn lessons from our recent elections.  We shouldn’t be looking at the candidate that is best for each of us, we should be looking at the candidates that is best for the US.  When you talk to your candidates for city, state and federal offices, it is important they represent your area, but it is even more important that they have the greater good in mind.  They need to be able to compromise because EVERYONE has good ideas and we can benefit from the best ideas coming forward and being made better with input from both sides.  I am not saying not to elect someone who is Conservative (or Liberal).  I am saying that you need to vote for the person who really understands the job and knows how to get it done so we can really start to move our cities, states and nation forward again.

-Sam the Eagle

Social Security’s Insecurity

It seems that in all of the latest budget talk nobody knows what to do with Social Security.  I find it hard to believe that people were willing to tackle Medicare and Medicaid’s problems before that of Social Security.  I never really believed it was the 3rd rail of politics.  I thought that mantel laid firmly on the head of our health entitlement programs, but lo and behold, we are addressing those before we even take a stab at the much easier solution of Social Security.  I think I know why.

When you deal with health entitlements, you are really just dealing with one questions – how best do we control the costs of this program to tax paying citizens when compared to the benefits it provides.  With Social Security, there is an identity crisis.  What do we, as Americans want from Social Security going forward.  Currently it is meant to serve as both retirement safety net and the 3rd leg of the retirement stool (pensions and personal savings being the other two).  The problem is, Social Security cannot continue to function at this level.  Without major changes (higher contributions/taxes) it cannot be counted on as a safety net AND 3rd leg of retirement savings.  Unfortunately for all of us, many plans that exist to revamp Social Security are poorly marketed and immediately vilified by groups that cater to the senior citizen population of our country.

A great resource to look at the actuarial soundness of Social Security (i.e free from political and media bias) can be found at the homepage of the American Academy of Actuaries’  Social Insurance Committee(http://actuary.org/socsec/index.asp).  They address a multitude of issues and were one of the first non-political entities to endorse raising the retirement age as a temporary solution to the long-term afflictions of our Social Security program.

As I stated above, Social Security has an identity crisis.  It doesn’t know what it wants to be (i.e. the politicians in Washington don’t know what it should be because they are too afraid to tackle it and risk alienating the senior voting block which will be fed mountains of misinformation like was done in 2005).  So, what should it be – should it be a safety net?  Should Social Security exist only for those who have not benefited from working at institutions that have defined benefit or defined contribution plans?  Should it only be available to those who were unable to save for retirement due to low-income, poor health (and high medical bills), or various other reasons?  Or should Social Security be a government endorsed savings tool for all?  Should it be something that, when partnered with your employer’s DC/DB plan and/or your own personal savings ensures that while in retirement you are able to live a lifestyle to which you were accustomed to while employed?  Those are questions that we as Americans need to decide…and we need to decide quickly.

If we choose to put off a decision about Social Security, it will soon go bankrupt and require an even larger investment from the government and its citizenry.  The more money we have to divert towards this program means less money to fund education, fund research, and supply our military.  I think everyone has their own ideas and they probably aren’t any worse than many being floated around in Washington, so call your Senator and Representative and let them know your feeling on Social Security and what it its true identity really should be.

As you guessed, I too, have a plan.  Social Security can’t be both things as I have pointed out.  However, I do think both things can be provided by the Government (on some level) – lets call these programs “Past” and “Future”.

  • PAST – The last thing I want is for our parents and grandparents to be destitute after having put so much of their money towards helping us become (moderately) successful.  So I think we should refine Social Security back into what it originally was intended to be – the ultimate safety net.  It shouldn’t be something that allows one to forgo savings if they have the means.  It also shouldn’t be something that lets someone cash out their 401k, buy a condo on the beach, and then live off of the tax payers for the next 20 years.  What it should be is something that ensures that our elderly do not live in poverty – truly embracing both the “Security” of our “Social”.  This (hey, I had to say it sometime).
  • FUTURE – The government also needs to look into a what amounts to a forced savings tool that will allow the “Past” program to eventually dwindle, although it will always need to exist.  Whether through enrolling everyone in the Federal Government’s Thrift Savings Plan (essentially a 401k for dummies – that is very successful) or through a mechanism that allows each state’s taxpayers to participate at a decreased level in their public pension funds (some of which would need severe overhaul – I am looking at you California and New Jersey).  Both options would alleviate one of the great issues with the 2005 proposal – the fear that the US Government would end up controlling the stock market and would be the largest shareholder in any stock of value.  Also, by having such large cohorts it would further reduce the risk to each individual taxpayer.  Think back to 2 years ago – I am willing to bet most pension funds and mutual funds did better than your own personal investment portfolio.  Obviously a lot of questions would need to be answered if we took either direction, but with the employer sponsored DB/DC plans becoming a thing of the past for many of us, the government could step in and fill that void.  It could even serve as a viable alternative for small business who don’t have the wherewithal to set up their own employee savings mechanisms.  If set up correctly, this could be something that not only serves as a tool for savings, but actually encourages growth in our economy by spurring investment across a broad sector of industries.

While I am sure my plans have flaws, at least they are starting points.  If any actuaries end up reading this, I really would love to see what you guys could design.

-Sam the Eagle

Social Security’s Insecurity

It seems that in all of the latest budget talk nobody knows what to do with Social Security.  I find it hard to believe that people were willing to tackle Medicare and Medicaid’s problems before that of Social Security.  I never really believed it was the 3rd rail of politics.  I thought that mantel laid firmly on the head of our health entitlement programs, but lo and behold, we are addressing those before we even take a stab at the much easier solution of Social Security.  I think I know why.

When you deal with health entitlements, you are really just dealing with one questions – how best do we control the costs of this program to tax paying citizens when compared to the benefits it provides.  With Social Security, there is an identity crisis.  What do we, as Americans want from Social Security going forward.  Currently it is meant to serve as both retirement safety net and the 3rd leg of the retirement stool (pensions and personal savings being the other two).  The problem is, Social Security cannot continue to function at this level.  Without major changes (higher contributions/taxes) it cannot be counted on as a safety net AND 3rd leg of retirement savings.  Unfortunately for all of us, many plans that exist to revamp Social Security are poorly marketed and immediately vilified by groups that cater to the senior citizen population of our country.

A great resource to look at the actuarial soundness of Social Security (i.e free from political and media bias) can be found at the homepage of the American Academy of Actuaries’  Social Insurance Committee(http://actuary.org/socsec/index.asp).  They address a multitude of issues and were one of the first non-political entities to endorse raising the retirement age as a temporary solution to the long-term afflictions of our Social Security program.

As I stated above, Social Security has an identity crisis.  It doesn’t know what it wants to be (i.e. the politicians in Washington don’t know what it should be because they are too afraid to tackle it and risk alienating the senior voting block which will be fed mountains of misinformation like was done in 2005).  So, what should it be – should it be a safety net?  Should Social Security exist only for those who have not benefited from working at institutions that have defined benefit or defined contribution plans?  Should it only be available to those who were unable to save for retirement due to low-income, poor health (and high medical bills), or various other reasons?  Or should Social Security be a government endorsed savings tool for all?  Should it be something that, when partnered with your employer’s DC/DB plan and/or your own personal savings ensures that while in retirement you are able to live a lifestyle to which you were accustomed to while employed?  Those are questions that we as Americans need to decide…and we need to decide quickly.

If we choose to put off a decision about Social Security, it will soon go bankrupt and require an even larger investment from the government and its citizenry.  The more money we have to divert towards this program means less money to fund education, fund research, and supply our military.  I think everyone has their own ideas and they probably aren’t any worse than many being floated around in Washington, so call your Senator and Representative and let them know your feeling on Social Security and what it its true identity really should be.

As you guessed, I too, have a plan.  Social Security can’t be both things as I have pointed out.  However, I do think both things can be provided by the Government (on some level) – lets call these programs “Past” and “Future”.

  • PAST – The last thing I want is for our parents and grandparents to be destitute after having put so much of their money towards helping us become (moderately) successful.  So I think we should refine Social Security back into what it originally was intended to be – the ultimate safety net.  It shouldn’t be something that allows one to forgo savings if they have the means.  It also shouldn’t be something that lets someone cash out their 401k, buy a condo on the beach, and then live off of the tax payers for the next 20 years.  What it should be is something that ensures that our elderly do not live in poverty – truly embracing both the “Security” of our “Social”.  This (hey, I had to say it sometime).
  • FUTURE – The government also needs to look into a what amounts to a forced savings tool that will allow the “Past” program to eventually dwindle, although it will always need to exist.  Whether through enrolling everyone in the Federal Government’s Thrift Savings Plan (essentially a 401k for dummies – that is very successful) or through a mechanism that allows each state’s taxpayers to participate at a decreased level in their public pension funds (some of which would need severe overhaul – I am looking at you California and New Jersey).  Both options would alleviate one of the great issues with the 2005 proposal – the fear that the US Government would end up controlling the stock market and would be the largest shareholder in any stock of value.  Also, by having such large cohorts it would further reduce the risk to each individual taxpayer.  Think back to 2 years ago – I am willing to bet most pension funds and mutual funds did better than your own personal investment portfolio.  Obviously a lot of questions would need to be answered if we took either direction, but with the employer sponsored DB/DC plans becoming a thing of the past for many of us, the government could step in and fill that void.  It could even serve as a viable alternative for small business who don’t have the wherewithal to set up their own employee savings mechanisms.  If set up correctly, this could be something that not only serves as a tool for savings, but actually encourages growth in our economy by spurring investment across a broad sector of industries.

While I am sure my plans have flaws, at least they are starting points.  If any actuaries end up reading this, I really would love to see what you guys could design.

-Sam the Eagle

Social Security’s Insecurity

It seems that in all of the latest budget talk nobody knows what to do with Social Security.  I find it hard to believe that people were willing to tackle Medicare and Medicaid’s problems before that of Social Security.  I never really believed it was the 3rd rail of politics.  I thought that mantel laid firmly on the head of our health entitlement programs, but lo and behold, we are addressing those before we even take a stab at the much easier solution of Social Security.  I think I know why.

When you deal with health entitlements, you are really just dealing with one questions – how best do we control the costs of this program to tax paying citizens when compared to the benefits it provides.  With Social Security, there is an identity crisis.  What do we, as Americans want from Social Security going forward.  Currently it is meant to serve as both retirement safety net and the 3rd leg of the retirement stool (pensions and personal savings being the other two).  The problem is, Social Security cannot continue to function at this level.  Without major changes (higher contributions/taxes) it cannot be counted on as a safety net AND 3rd leg of retirement savings.  Unfortunately for all of us, many plans that exist to revamp Social Security are poorly marketed and immediately vilified by groups that cater to the senior citizen population of our country.

A great resource to look at the actuarial soundness of Social Security (i.e free from political and media bias) can be found at the homepage of the American Academy of Actuaries’  Social Insurance Committee(http://actuary.org/socsec/index.asp).  They address a multitude of issues and were one of the first non-political entities to endorse raising the retirement age as a temporary solution to the long-term afflictions of our Social Security program.

As I stated above, Social Security has an identity crisis.  It doesn’t know what it wants to be (i.e. the politicians in Washington don’t know what it should be because they are too afraid to tackle it and risk alienating the senior voting block which will be fed mountains of misinformation like was done in 2005).  So, what should it be – should it be a safety net?  Should Social Security exist only for those who have not benefited from working at institutions that have defined benefit or defined contribution plans?  Should it only be available to those who were unable to save for retirement due to low-income, poor health (and high medical bills), or various other reasons?  Or should Social Security be a government endorsed savings tool for all?  Should it be something that, when partnered with your employer’s DC/DB plan and/or your own personal savings ensures that while in retirement you are able to live a lifestyle to which you were accustomed to while employed?  Those are questions that we as Americans need to decide…and we need to decide quickly.

If we choose to put off a decision about Social Security, it will soon go bankrupt and require an even larger investment from the government and its citizenry.  The more money we have to divert towards this program means less money to fund education, fund research, and supply our military.  I think everyone has their own ideas and they probably aren’t any worse than many being floated around in Washington, so call your Senator and Representative and let them know your feeling on Social Security and what it its true identity really should be.

As you guessed, I too, have a plan.  Social Security can’t be both things as I have pointed out.  However, I do think both things can be provided by the Government (on some level) – lets call these programs “Past” and “Future”.

  • PAST – The last thing I want is for our parents and grandparents to be destitute after having put so much of their money towards helping us become (moderately) successful.  So I think we should refine Social Security back into what it originally was intended to be – the ultimate safety net.  It shouldn’t be something that allows one to forgo savings if they have the means.  It also shouldn’t be something that lets someone cash out their 401k, buy a condo on the beach, and then live off of the tax payers for the next 20 years.  What it should be is something that ensures that our elderly do not live in poverty – truly embracing both the “Security” of our “Social”.  This (hey, I had to say it sometime).
  • FUTURE – The government also needs to look into a what amounts to a forced savings tool that will allow the “Past” program to eventually dwindle, although it will always need to exist.  Whether through enrolling everyone in the Federal Government’s Thrift Savings Plan (essentially a 401k for dummies – that is very successful) or through a mechanism that allows each state’s taxpayers to participate at a decreased level in their public pension funds (some of which would need severe overhaul – I am looking at you California and New Jersey).  Both options would alleviate one of the great issues with the 2005 proposal – the fear that the US Government would end up controlling the stock market and would be the largest shareholder in any stock of value.  Also, by having such large cohorts it would further reduce the risk to each individual taxpayer.  Think back to 2 years ago – I am willing to bet most pension funds and mutual funds did better than your own personal investment portfolio.  Obviously a lot of questions would need to be answered if we took either direction, but with the employer sponsored DB/DC plans becoming a thing of the past for many of us, the government could step in and fill that void.  It could even serve as a viable alternative for small business who don’t have the wherewithal to set up their own employee savings mechanisms.  If set up correctly, this could be something that not only serves as a tool for savings, but actually encourages growth in our economy by spurring investment across a broad sector of industries.

While I am sure my plans have flaws, at least they are starting points.  If any actuaries end up reading this, I really would love to see what you guys could design.

-Sam the Eagle

The obvious solution to our economic woes

Ed: Make sure to read the comments
You can’t open up a newspaper or watch TV without hearing about the economic doldrums we are currently experiencing in this country. Everyone has a solution, each one more complex than the rest. Less taxes, more government jobs, government investment in the private sector, the list goes on and on and on. It seems everyone is ignoring the obvious while at the same time complaining about it.

The price of gasoline right now is simply outrageous. Just like the economy, you can’t go anywhere without hearing the complaints. And just like the economy, the solutions vary greatly. The politicization of the gas price crisis (if we can’t call it a crisis now, when can we) has become exceedingly comical. The endless calls to drill more wells or increase fuel efficiency will have almost zero impact on today’s gas prices.

The two issues could not be more related. the high cost of gas not only eats into our paychecks at the gas pump (close to $4 a gallon or higher in some places) but also at the grocery store, at our home centers like Lowes or Home Depot, and big box stores like Target and Wal-Mart. While most of us only look at the price of unleaded fuel, diesel gasoline has seen a similar meteoric rise. When diesel prices increase, that cost is passed along to the consumer. So, not only is more of our money going to fill up our cars, we are paying more to fill up our bellies.

What we need in this country is for Washington to stop playing politics on this and work towards a solution that will have a real lasting impact. We need for Democrats to abandon their policies that encourage the high cost of gasoline so the public will embrace their “green” agenda. We need for Republicans to admit that some things DO need government regulation and that Wall Street is not the solution to all of our problems (and sometimes is the cause of them). To get America back on track we need for the Government to step in and return regulation to the price of oil instead of letting it be traded like a commodity (and while we are at it, lets put regulation on wheat trading so that it isn’t sitting in storage silos but is instead feeding the world’s hungry).

For a country that relies on the Middle East for only 20% of its oil, we love to place the blame there. Wall Street is driving our oil prices higher and higher to the detriment of many for the profit of a few. We need those who serve us in Washington to finally stand up to the bankers and traders on this matter. This isn’t like trading shares of Apple and Google, this is the entire lifeblood of our country, it should be more important that a profit margin. If we could reign in the cost f gasoline, then more Americans would have more of their hard-earned money to save for retirement or to spend on goods that would help further stimulate our economy (our own personal discretionary spending you could say). While we keep hearing about tax cuts, tax reforms, and government programs to help the poor, nothing could have the wide-spread impact like that of significantly reducing our gasoline or diesel prices.

-Sam the Eagle

Not writing about what I want to write about

So, while I was in church today it came to me – we really like to judge (even though we aren’t supposed to).  I am not going to devolve into social issues here, but our government also loves to judge.  In short, it would be interesting to see what happened to our government if we took judgement away.  What if we just legislated on things that had a definite – things that can be backed up by numbers?  Numbers can be debated by all, regardless of religion, sex, sexual persuasion, and the vast majority of the time, have a solution.

Just a random thought on a Sunday…

-Sam the Eagle