Time Is Money…

2016-12-11_08-43-41.png“Time is money” is a well known phrase in the world today. If we expend time on behalf of our employer we expect to be paid for it.  That seems to be a very American thing, my time is worth money is perhaps a bedrock of our capitalist society.

Another tradition is overtime pay.  That says that I will give you a certain number of hours a week of my time but if you intrude into my private life portion you must pay more for it.

One of the things the Obama administration did is to make sure that employers are paying people for the number of hours they work. In the past it was common to give an employee a fancy title and then call him/her manager and exempt from overtime pay. Fancy job titles seem to be so prevalent now days its hard to really tell what someone does via their job titles. But I am getting off point here. Getting back to the original thought. President Obama put out an executive order that said that anyone making less than $47,476 per year was entitled to overtime pay.

So what was the reaction by many employers who demand many extra hours from their workers. I think it is kind of like what my small town government did to our highway superintendent position (remember my job title words above) :

The council increased the vacant highway superintendent position salary from $42,573 to $47,481, just five dollars above the new threshold that will no longer materialize today.

As the quote above from my small town newspaper mentioned. The executive order was halted by a Texas judge ( yeah Texas has a reputation for that) so I guess they went back to the old pay scale.  Now that the self-proclaimed billionaire will occupy the Oval Office soon I’m sure this order  and many other like it will be quickly vacated.  I imagine that the next four years will be all about getting the 1% an even bigger piece of the already majority portion the the wealth pie.  But since no one, and I mean no one, really knows what is going to happen I hope I am pleasantly surprised by a different result.

About Brexit and the British.. And How We are NOT Like Them

2016-07-19_15-09-10.png241 years ago we were part of the Great British Empire. We were loyal, although complaining, citizens. Then we chose to go our own way and eventually after a four year rebellion got our way. We still have common bonds with GB but we are also markedly different. One of the major differences is that we are a nation of immigrants and Great Britain is a nation embedded in aristocracy.

We until recently have a classless nation. We don’t hold people in higher esteem just because of what name they have. America became known as the land of opportunity. A place where anyone with the right opportunities and drive could make their fortunes.  I say until recently because since the 1980s, I always like to put the blame on the Reagan administration, we simply did not allow massive fortunes to flow from one generation to another.  For the super-rich inheritance taxes were often 90% or more.

In the last one hundred years, but especially the last thirty, wealth began to flow  with very little taxes from one generation to another. That results in people like Paris Hilton getting massive fortunes from their great grand parents. That fact separates us into the “haves” and the “have nots”. Paris has never known what it is like not to get her every whim and wish fulfilled with no effort on her part.  Unlike Britain we don’t put perpetual titles on our gifted.

Getting to the point of this post, many people fear that since GB chose to exit the European union that it might be a signal that we will also do something radical such as electing and egomaniac narcissist anti-immigrant person as our president. Given that we are a nation of immigrant and the most part unprivileged  that is not likely.  Of course this election will test that theory to the max. It all depends on turnout. Presidential election turnouts have typically been in the mid-50% range. That is, only about half of us bother to show up at the polls.  We are perhaps the worst in established democracies in that regard.

It will soon come to a point that the majority of us in the U.S. will no longer be WASPs. Over 40% of us claim heritage of a different nature.  Whereas Britain is still very much entwined with a whites only society. It has been pretty well established that immigration was one of the primary reasons for the Brexit vote.  The well established citizens could see the “British way of life” changing too quickly for them and because they are still a significant majority they were able to say “no more immigrants”.

The ethnic diversity of the U.S. is unique in all of the world. It has allowed us to empathize with oppressed countries around the globe and as the plaque on the Statue of Liberty says  we don’t put a monetary or class requirement on those who want to come to join us.

What Wealth Does To Your Soul – Part 2

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With this post I will conclude my discussion about what might make the wealthy among us seem so callous to others needs. The source for these posts came as a surprise to me. Here is some more quotes from that article.

A UCLA neuroscientist named Keely Muscatell has published an interesting paper showing that wealth quiets the nerves in the brain associated with empathy: If you show rich people and poor people pictures of kids with cancer, the poor people’s brains exhibit a great deal more activity than the rich people’s. (An inability to empathize with others has just got to be a disadvantage for any rich person seeking political office, at least outside of New York City.) “As you move up the class ladder,” says Keltner, “you are more likely to violate the rules of the road, to lie, to cheat, to take candy from kids, to shoplift, and to be tightfisted in giving to others. Straightforward economic analyses have trouble making sense of this pattern of results.”… THERE IS AN OBVIOUS chicken-and-egg question to ask here. But it is beginning to seem that the problem isn’t that the kind of people who wind up on the pleasant side of inequality suffer from some moral disability that gives them a market edge. The problem is caused by the inequality itself: It triggers a chemical reaction in the privileged few. It tilts their brains. It causes them to be less likely to care about anyone but themselves or to experience the moral sentiments needed to be a decent citizen…. There is a growing awareness that the yawning gap between rich and poor is no longer a matter of simple justice but also the enemy of economic success and human happiness. It’s not just bad for the poor. It’s also bad for the rich. It’s funny, when you think about it, how many rich people don’t know this. But they are not idiots; they can learn. SOURCE:What wealth does to your soul – The Week.

I’m still not convinced that the lack of empathy is a result of a chemical change in the brain but it is interesting to think about that possibility. What happens if the rich person looses all his wealth? Will empathy come back? I kind of believe that it is more of a learned thing or maybe one of a rationalization based on greed. Yeah this is kind of chicken/egg thing. Which came first the riches or the lack of empathy?

My empathy is such an important part of my life I can’t imagine someone who doesn’t embrace it in themselves. It just seems too cold and callous to think only of yourself. To me that wouldn’t be a life worth living.

The gap between the rich and the poor grows daily now and since the rich have consumed almost all of the political and economic power it will only get worse unless something radical changes it. Wall Street is driven almost totally to providing profits to their share owners. There is little regard for workers in today’s world. As the highlighted area says I don’t think the rich are idiots but I can’t fathom why they don’t understand that when you put a stranglehold on consumers by not letting them share in the prosperity you endear you are drying up the well that give you your wealth.

Common Sense…..

2014-07-25_08-48-31Call them the invisible rich. How do they do it? Sure, money like that sometimes comes from an inheritance or another fortuitous break, but more likely it’s the result of diligence, smart choices and, well, deferred gratification. SOURCE: Wealth-building secrets of the millionaire next door – Yahoo Finance.

Wealth-building secrets of the millionaire next door

It seems like there are thousands of articles and books lately to tell you how to become rich. But do any of them actually have anything unique to say? I am not going to go into the details about the above article other than to give you the topic titles.

* They Don’t Spend Beyond Their Means

* They Educate Themselves

* They Pick the Right Field

* They Save (and Invest) Early

* They Don’t Swing for the Fences

* They Keep Themselves Covered

* They’re Wise About Windfalls

* They Hang Onto Their Cars (and Houses)

* They Avoid Debt

To this old Midwestern boy all these things just seem like common sense. Sure some like picking the right field are more luck than anything, but most are achievable by most of us if we just stick to it.  I really don’t know what keeping myself covered has to do with anything but I figure I must have done a good job at it since I am pretty well covered today. 🙂

Never had a windfall except for the new fishing reel I got as a young boy from my grandfathers estate. Now I am not a millionaire but I think I do have enough to keep me going for the final years of my life. But to me the point of life is not financial wealth building (easy for someone to say who has enough) but more along the lines of morality building and trying to treat the other guy with respect whether he deserves it or not.

But given the statistics lately it seems that most just can’t seem to live by the standards above. Maybe they should be teaching more about that in our school systems? I don’t know about wealth-building but I think I have done a pretty fair job of paying forward for all the good fortune I have had in my life. I might have had it tough in some regards, losing my mother in early life and losing hearing at mid-life was no joyride, but I had it a lot easier than many folks I came across in life….

 

Swiss, U.S. reach deal on outing tax evaders

Pile of MoneyThe U.S. government and Switzerland have reached an agreement that could expose Americans who have used Swiss banks to avoid paying taxes….

The crackdown began in 2009 after a whistleblower notified U.S. authorities that UBS, the largest Swiss bank, was enabling Americans to evade taxes.

UBS settled the case later that year. It turned over account records on 4,500 U.S. customers and paid a $780 million fine

SOURCE:  Swiss, U.S. reach deal on outing tax evaders – CBS News.

I have absolutely no sympathy for those caught trying to hide their wealth in swiss banks in order to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.  It is about time that the Swiss were held accountable for their part in this activity. I certainly celebrate those who through their own initiatives have become wealthy in the country. For the most part they deserve to have the fruits of their labor. But as the bible says for whom much is given much is expected.

Prior to the establishment of personal income taxes in 1913 (yes, just a hundred years ago) almost all the money needed to run our government in doing the people’s business came from inheritance taxes and import taxes. I wonder what this country would look like today if that means of funding had continued? I kind of think we would probably be  better off than what we are now.  Instead of taxing those who have little or no discretionary income why not depend on wealth returning to where it came from after someone dies?

Getting back to the point of the post, it seems that the more money someone has just increases their fixation on getting more and more and paying out less and less. They let money become the idol of their lives. In that regard  the sickness is much worse than the cure. It does my heart good to see that those who try to hide their wealth in order to avoid taxes are getting caught more frequently today thanks to the revised Swiss practices. But I’m sure there are many more than the 4,500 who were turned over. Probably orders of magnitude more…..

Taking It From Somebody….

 

The difference between our rich and poor grows greater every year. Our distribution of wealth is getting more uneven all the time. . . . A man can make a million over night and he is on every page in the morning. But it never tells you who give up the million he got. You can’t get money without taking it from somebody. – 1 June 1930  Will Rogers

WealthAs Will points out here the difference between the rich and the poor has always been greater than many of us would like to see but I really don’t think in Will’s day it was even remotely as wide a gap as it is today.   The latest statistics show that there is about $58 trillion of wealth in the U.S.  But as the chart to the right shows 80% of the population  controls only 7% of the wealth. That is about $10,000 per person for 80% of us. The top 1% average $7,000,000/person.

But as Will further points out that there is just so much wealth that can be owned. There has been a twenty fold increase in billionaire in the last twenty years.  In order for the money to come to them it had to come from someone else. Of course we all know where it came from. It came for the wages and benefits of the 80% that have actually decreased over that same period of time.

I’m not a financial wizard but it really doesn’t seem like rocket science to me to understand that if we want to grow our GDP we must have citizens who have the money to buy additional goods and services. The 1% can only buy so many jets and yachts. 🙂   In fact most of their increased wealth is likely just sitting in off-shore accounts accumulating interest.  When the elite among us insist on stagnating wages there are no additional resources to grow our economy. It is a Catch-22 and that I can understand so why can’t the big shot economists in the gOp figure it out?

The Shrinking Middle Class….

I am adding a new category starting with this post. It is entitled “The Shrinking Middle Class”.

Here is one of the reasons why I am doing that. It is well into the Fall season here in the Midwest and soon all the outside work will be over. That means about five months of pretty much staying in the “cabin”. To ward off cabin fever I usually try to take on a special project for each in-door season. The project this year will be to learn as much as I can about the history of the middle class and the possible causes of its recent decline. ” Read more

All Rich Guys Think They are Infallible….

via Jack Welch: I was right about jobs report – Oct. 9, 2012.

Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, had previously contributed content to Fortune, but following critical coverage of his comments on the jobs report and tenure at GE, Welch said in an e-mail Tuesday that he was terminating his contract with Fortune.

In his WSJ op-ed, Welch suggests that the reaction to his criticism of “the ruling authorities” was something he would expect in Soviet Russia or Communist China. “Nope,” he wrote, “that would be the United States right now, when a person (like me, for instance) suggests that a certain government datum (like the September unemployment rate of 7.8%) doesn’t make sense.”

I am using the source above to give you an example of the fact that all rich guys think they are infallible. It seems that once a person has managed to collect a few million bucks they come to the conclusion that they know everything. While Jack Welch definitely had some successes at running General Electric in the 1980s he really didn’t do anything more than listen to what his people told him and then choose a profitable path.

I am going to give you a technical term for the reason people who have success in one area then think they know everything in all areas. It is call having a “big-head” 🙂  Of course Jack Welch is not the only person to show symptoms of having a big-head. There are many others. The most obvious one right now is Mitt Romney. He thinks he know everything since he was successful at buying companies and stripping them down and selling their parts for a profit. He thinks that since he made a few bucks doing that he is somehow infallible.

Another symptom of having a big-head is that you think that everyone will believe whatever comes out of your mouth.  Mr. Welch says he doesn’t need any proof that somehow the unemployment numbers were fixed; he just knows its true and we are supposed to believe him. Mr. Romney is also much like that even when he says exactly opposite things. He thinks everyone believes whatever he says.  The trouble with this is that there are some people who actually do believe everything he says.  How else can you explain why so many say they will vote for him even after flip-flop after flip-flop 😉

Whenever I think I might be getting a big head I go to visit my hero Will Rogers to see what he says about the subject I think I know all about. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that I made a bunch of money like the yahoos I am talking about here. It is just that sometimes I come to the grandiose conclusion that I got it right about this or that and others just can’t for some reason understand. Whenever my head starts swelling I read Will’s words:

Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects – Will Rogers

There is nothing so stupid as an educated man, if you get him off the thing he was educated in. – Will Rogers

Thanks Will for keeping me level-headed. Now if only Mr. Romney, Mr. Welch and so many others would just heed your words of wisdom and realize they too are not perfect.

How About Some Changes….

I guess I am still fixated on the post from yesterday about how so many very sparsely populated States in the U.S. now have so much power. It seems that our country is quite out of balance right now as a result of past decisions.  Maybe it is time to revisit some of that stuff.  Being that I am the fool who rushes in where angels fear to tread I will take a stab at this. If you want to call this the Walters’ Doctrine go ahead. I will take the blame for all of it. Here is my list of things that need to change:

  • Corporations are not people — I know the Supreme Court recently decided otherwise but it just doesn’t make any more sense than deciding that trees are now people.
  • My Vote should count for who becomes President — Since I am a progressive living in a solidly red state my vote seldom counts when it comes to electing our president.  The President should be elected by the people not by geographical areas.  I know the electoral college was necessary in the horse and buggy days but in the age of the Internet it is totally senseless.
  • Everyone should be allowed to vote — My mother, God rest her soul, was not able to vote in 2008. The reason for that is that she no longer had a driver’s license and the State of Indiana as a result pulled her name from the polling list. Since most of the people who don’t have driver’s licenses are elderly or low on the economic scale it excludes them to the advantage of the Republican candidates. Yes, my mother could have stood in an hour-long line to get her “license” and poor people who can’t afford a car could take a day off without pay to do the same but there needs to be a better way to do this.
  • We should not be able to get into another war until we have paid for the last one  —  I have to admit that I am “borrowing” this one from my hero Will Rogers. If Mr. Bush had paid for his two wars we would not be in nearly as much trouble as we are now. Since most issues that get attention now days are “pocketbook” issues let’s make war one of them.
  • Eliminate the Filibuster — allowing less than half the people to stop basically all legislation is just not right.  If, like in the past, it were used on a very rare basis that would be one thing. But to allow it to be used more in three years than in the last one hundred means that it is being severely abused.  That needs to end.
  • Stop all the foolishness about “death taxes” — One of the bedrocks of our country has been to prevent a U.S. aristocracy. We did that by imposing a significant inheritance tax on those who are absurdly wealthy.  Up until recently the inheritance tax has been a major source of income for the country. As a matter of fact before income taxes it , along with import/export taxes, was the main source of income.  People like Mr. Romney don’t need to give each of his five kids a $50 million tax free head start. $25 million should ruin them just as easily. If nothing else restrict the inheritance taxes collected to pay off the deficit. We would probably be amazed at how quickly our debt would disappear.

I’m way over my self-imposed five hundred word limit for posts so I will just stop here. Besides with all this brainy stuff spewing off the top of my head I need to stop and let it cool off……

Mighty Rich But….

We can get mighty rich, but if we haven’t got any friends, we will find we are poorer than anybody. – June 1, 1930  Will Rogers

I am totally embarrassed that it has been so long since I used any of my hero Will Roger’s quotes on this blog. He is my inspiration for sitting down and doing this on a daily basis. When I lose track of Will my writing tends to drift over more to the dark side of life. Our lives are just too short to live over there for long. So here I am back to talking about a quote from Will.

Old time movies are filled with this sort of thing about rich people being lonely. But is this really true today? It seems like there are a lot of very very rich people around today that I image don’t have a lot friends but they seem to be ok with  that. The bible tells us that the love of money is the root of all evil. It seems the richer you become the more you cling to your riches instead of people.

The rich guys will spend millions of dollars to get in the politicians in office who will give them a few more tax breaks. They just want to keep as much of their money as possible. I have been accused of painting with too broad a brush with these types of posts so I will say here that, yes there are many examples that go against this hypothesis. Two of the most glaring examples are at the top of the heap, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. Both of these guys are giving the bulk of their riches to philanthropic foundations. But it seems that there are also many others who just won’t let go of their riches.

I personally don’t know any of these rich guys as they run in a different circle than I do but I do see them often enough on TV shows where they are paying big bucks for antique cars. After becoming bored with home remodeling stuff and then the food channels I am in to the automobile stuff and I see the rich guys putting down a million bucks for a rebuilt car from the 1960s and 70s. All these guys seem to be happy enough with collecting whatever is their favorite thing.  Are they really poorer than me because I have more friends?

I want to warn some of your younger folks here that as you grow older your friends tend to just fall away naturally.  When we leave the work place our friends even with the best of intentions almost always disappear and it seems as we get further and further into our retirement years they either die off or end up moving south 🙂  It is work to keep a cherished few around. I imagine that the rich folks have it worse than we do but I just don’t know. Maybe with the big bucks their friends stick around hoping to be put in their wills.  Maybe I should win a big lottery pot and find out. But that would be kind of hard considering I never buy lottery tickets.

But one cliché I do know is true and that is that a dog is man’s best friend and a few million bucks will buy a lot of dogs 🙂