Maybe it's having a ten-year-old or maybe something really has happened to change things but has anyone else noticed that there are more words on television now than in the past that you would not want the children in your home to hear?
It seems like I cannnot flip through the channels any more without at least once or twice hearing words that make me wince. Sometimes more.
And it bothers me.
But this passage has some good perspectives in giving.
It is a privilege to be able to share.
Give first to God.
Give also in your faith, speech, knowledge (learning), and love -- not just in your financial giving.
Look at Jesus' example. He was rich and became poor for us.
Give according to what you have.
Someday you may have less and be dependent upon others.
This is the wealth re-distribution plan that God put in place for us. It can still work today.
With a focus on a young wife who, on a long plane trip meets a man named "Jay" who knows way too much about her and helps her come to grasp with her husband's recent conversion to Christianity (is the symbolism obvious enough?), this book makes one main point and that is God's desire for a personal relationship with each of us. Furthering on that, the emphasis is that we, and God, are not "complete" until that relationship is there.
It reminded me a bit of The Shack but in a much simpler format.
I am not sure how well this book would relate to someone who is not yet on any sort of faith journey but it should be enjoyed by someone who is trying to figure out what Christianity is all about, or someone who considers themselves to be Christian but is still searching for something more.
This book resonated me because I am just coming out of a season of my life where stress, anxiety and fatigue kept me from working on the relationship that God wants with me. I clearly see now what was happening and I was indeed missing and feeling incomplete without that relationship.
I was in a meeting recently when our senior pastor demonstrated this by passing around balls of Play-Dough which he had us make things from. The items we made were, admittedly, from Play-Dough but, still, they looked like something. The Play-Dough stayed fresh and new and pliable. And then he had us add in a handful of dirty. The Play-Dough became something you didn't want to touch. It was no longer formable. This was a great demonstration of what happens when we throw stuff into our lives that God doesn't want there. The good news of course is that, whereas the Play-Dough was ruined, God forgives ... He grants us grace and mercy ... He removes the dirt and even uses the dirt as a foundation for building something stronger.
I won't go into details but I was recently part of a small panel answering questions form an audience when the question of "What do you do when you fail?" was posed. Wow. I am sure glad that there were others there to answer the question -- and they did a great job with it -- because I was at a loss for words. I realized that I really don't think much about "failure". Instead I think of life as a journey. There are things that sometimes don't turn out as well as we would like but ultimately they serve to lead us to the next part of our journey.
The other question came out of Mark Batterson's Wild Goose Chase and it is something like "What do you really want to accomplish in your life?" This question really hit me because it made me realize that in recent years my main focus has been to live for eventual retirement with Lisa. That is sort of shallow and sad to be living today for an eventual slowdown. The book challenges its readers to make a list of those things they are living for ... those things they want to accomplish or see happen in their life. Have you ever done that? I need to work on mine.
Full of examples from his own life as well as from others, Wild Goose Chase breaks down some of the key things that, according to the author, often prevent us from living our lives fully for God. It looks at more than just being bold and courageous (covered well in his first book) to look at the twists and turns that following God will bring to our lives. Batterson examines how God prepares us along the way for those twists and turns but we must still be willing to follow them.
He closes the book with a list of very concise but yet powerful directives that are covered previously in the book.
This is a great book if you're willing to explore your God call. Additionally, it helps a person examine what they're really living for. Sometimes I feel like I am living only with the desire to reach eventual retirement and then enjoy life. This book points out just how short-sighted and shallow that thinking is.
I am, obviously, thankful that Lisa is cancer-free now. I am thankful for a son who is rapidly growing into a (usually) polite, thoughtful and talented young man. I am thankful for a dog that, despite her growing deaf and blind, is loyal, true, and very sweet. I am thankful for a business full of people determined to set our own destiny and not be locked into a path by the economy. I am thankful for family and friends who are supportive and were prayer warriors for us this summer when I was often too tired, anxious and even bewildered to pray myself. And I am hugely thankful for God who is continually teaching me and, when I pay attention, is leading me toward the plans He has for me.
We had a pretty simple Thanksgiving Day yesterday. My parents headed out of town in the morning for a long weekend trip, their first since dad's stroke six years ago. But this is their 50th wedding anniversary this weekend. Lisa's dad and step-mom are in Florida. We talked about trying to find some friends who were also without family this Thanksgiving and get together with them but instead we just celebrated with the three of us.
We kept things pretty simple but yet still had a wonderful meal yesterday. The Honeysuckle White Smoked Turkey Breast (rubbed with olive oil and seasonings) has been delicious. And it was rounded out with stuffing, corn, mashed potatoes and gravy, crescent rolls, canned cranberries, and Pumpkin Cream Pie (recipe from allrecipes.com).
We rounded out the evening with Kung Fu Panda (only one dollar for five nights at Family Video!) and microwave popcorn.
In all, a good day. I hope that your family has a great Thanksgiving as well.
If we could do that, might we in the end find that a switch has been flipped, a lever has been pulled, a knob has been turned in ourselves that forever changes us to a life that is focused more on others than on ourselves?
Think about the people we know … and the impact we can have on their lives. Maybe it’s a neighbor that you’ve just never connected with but in the midst of doing so, you discover that your stories intersect in ways you never imagined possible. Maybe it’s a co-worker who you know is going through some tough times and just needs someone to hang with and go to a movie or something.
Maybe it’s a relative with whom you have fallen out of touch. Maybe it’s more serious than just falling out of touch. Maybe you’ve both held the other responsible for so long that now you haven’t a clue what’s at the root of it all. Maybe your contact with them at this holiday season can set off a whole time of healing in which you both finally begin to understand and deal with the past instead of ignore it. Maybe dealing with it leads you to a place in life far richer than ignoring it.
Maybe it’s a child you know who just needs that extra support and encouragement …maybe their parents are too caught up in life right now to let the child know they’re loved.
Maybe it’s the person behind you in line at WalMart who you can tell is just overwhelmed. Maybe it’s nothing more than adding a $5 or $10 gift card to your bill that you turn around and give to them. Maybe that brings them the encouragement they need right then … maybe it throws their lever and gets them to start looking at what they can do for others.
Maybe it’s the homeless person you meet on the street and, as you look into their eyes and press whatever you can into their palm, you tell them to hang on. If you’re a person of faith you share a bit of that. But they part from you knowing that they matter as a person. Maybe, just maybe it will be the first time in their life they have ever been told that … by anyone.
What I am throwing out here is the concept of living our lives for others rather than for ourselves. There is something I’ve often noticed in people at the end of their lives. If they have always lived with a focus on their selves, they end up tired, disappointed and bitter … as well as old. This is, I believe, because there was no way they could ever fulfill all of those things that they were seeking when they lived for themselves.
But, when someone who spent their life living for others reaches the end of their time here on earth, they have a peace, a spirit and even an energy about themselves … they can look back and instead of looking at the now meaningless things they did for themselves, they can look at the lives they touched … the lives they changed … the hope and encouragement they brought to others … the lives they transformed. And, in that, there is something far more satisfying, rewarding and energizing than just living for ourselves.
So, I encourage all of us to look at this holiday season as a catalyst for being more purposeful in living our lives for others. We are all blessed in immeasurable ways and, at the end of the day, I think we will all agree that the spirit of living our lives to invest in and even transform the lives of others leaves us at a far richer spot than if we just focus on our own little worlds. If you’re a person of Christian faith, this all takes on a much bigger meaning as we consider Jesus’ first commandment to love one another as well as the Great Commission He left us with. But no matter where you are on a faith journey, I think we can all agree that the concept of purposefully leaving the world around us better off due to the fact that we walked it is a rewarding and satisfying thing.
Following up on my previous post … What if, at the end of President Obama’s first term, we look back and see that the policies and positions taken by his administration look a lot more like McCain’s running platform than his own? What if some of the few areas where Obama’s own ideologies are actually furthered are some of the moral issues that many folks who voted for him struggled with in the first place? I am not saying this will happen but … what if? Is it feasible?
Obama is building a staff full of smart and usually experienced people. His staff does not necessarily live out his stated desire to be moderate on abortion or to eliminate lobbyists from Washington but it is, overall, a decent group from my perspective.
I have already stated before that Obama looks to me like a leader who follows advice of those he trusts. Call it weak leadership or wise leadership, I do not see him as someone who will often buck the opinions of those he has chosen. Therefore, if his advisors’ policies look more like McCain’s platform than Obama’s running platform, we may really be asking ourselves in four years who our president really was.
Follow along this scenario with me … four possible outcomes:
1) McCain policies and ultimate failure of those policies.
2) Obama policies and ultimate failure of those policies.
3) McCain policies and success.
4) Obama policies and success.
Think about it … if any of the first three scenarios plays out, the Obama camp has a perfect response which is some variation of “Well, it’s because of the messes the previous administration left us with.” It is only with the fourth possibility that Obama truly delivers what he promised. So, with any of these four, if he plays it right, he will be in good position for re-election in 2012.
I wish the Obama administration the best. No one wants our country out of its many messes more than I do. Maybe it’s still some taste of sour grapes in my mouth … or maybe its stupid optimism … but I hold out hope that an Obama administration may look more like a McCain administration than most folks could ever imagine. Obama has the opportunity to use smart thinking now to make it through his first four years. The GOP better start strategizing immediately on how it will avoid typical tax and spend liberal practices in a second Obama term though.
Once he gets to really looking at Iraq, I believe that Obama will come to a similar realization -- his pull-out plans will need to be delayed and scaled back.
And what about renewable and clean energy (which I do support)? Probably ditto on it as well. Even T. Boone Pickens, with his great plan and deep pockets, has pulled back on his wind farm plans, stating that oil prices must go back up before his plan is economically viable.
I do not post any of this as a jab at our president-elect. But it is a bit of vindication for those of us who saw his plans as short-sighted and even bordering on disastrous. I just wonder how his supporters will feel. Will they understand the delays on some of his key platforms or will they try to hold him accountable for his ill-fated promises?
It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
Overall, I am starting to like the guy a bit, despite his rock star status and the ridiculous platform that got him elected. Could it be that this will be a president who those who liked him end up being disappointed and those who didn't care for him actually end up supporting his actions in office? He's a smart, thoughtful, and hard-working guy (and I greatly respect all of those things) despite the fact that it took a pretty traditional liberal agenda to get him elected. Once in office, though, let's hope that reality continues to set in and his actions are more responsible than the original plans and ideas that got him there.
Gas prices are basically about $2 per gallon cheaper than they were most of this summer.
What if, between now and the end of the year, we all took half of our gas savings and gave it to worthy charitable causes? Basically, what if, for every one gallon of gas we buy at the "new" prices, we give back $1 to a worthy cause?
Could we make a significant change in our community?
Think about it this way ... my rough guess is that, in my hometown, there are 10,000 vehicles. Over the next six weeks, those vehicles will drive approximately 12 million miles (based upon 200 miles a week). If we figure those vehicles average 20 miles per gallon, that is 600,000 gallons of gas. That would be $600,000 going into the coffers of local charities -- and almost all of those charities are hurting big-time for funds right now.
Think about it. We really could make a difference.
He is also starting to indicate that he may not repeal the Bush tax cuts but instead let them live out their couple more years. As I have said before, there is a good chance that, at least in terms of the economy, Obama will come around to realize that his original plan is not right for the state of things as we now know them. he may look a whole lot more like a Republican than a liberal in this regard.
I am still not convinced that putting too many eggs of a stimulus package in the infrastructure rebuilding basket is right. I think that approach is narrow, will take too long to see results, and will end up with lots of pork. But it is better than nothing.
I like the idea of incentives for clean and renewable energy but those should be happening regardless and should not be tied up as part of the economic stimulus package. It will take more than just short term encouragement of clean and renewable energy to really bring about the change that our country needs, especially if gas prices stay down.
And I still would like to see large incentives for consumers to buy fuel efficient US-assembled vehicles. The auto industry woes are starting to affect makers other than the Big Three. Forget about the US producers for a second -- we could end up losing our country's auto industry entirely out of this. Let's stimulate the auto industry now ... bring optimisim to consumers ... and shore up credit from the banks ... with large cash back incentives to buy fuel efficient US-assembled vehicles. They can be done as long term low interest loans to the manufacturers.
Painful though it is, I firmly believe that higher taxes for upper income individuals and businesses means less support going to places like Haiti.
Really? Really? Wow.
And for the record, I am all for Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. She can fall prey on occasion to "Alexander Haig Syndrome" but overall I think she has the experience, knowledge, and tough-minded attitude necessary to do a great job.
I also think that the comments going around about Bill's international dealers being a conflict of interest for her are pretty sexist.
Regardless of what our guts may be telling us ... regardless of what the pundits may be saying ... regardless of what financial consultants may say ... go out and BUY and GIVE TO CHARITY. That is the only way to get the economy back on its feet. Anything else is just artificial stimulation.
Re-distribution of wealth? It happens through free enterprise. It may not feel right during these tough times but the only way to get out of this is to consume. Obama wants more of your money so he can hire more government employees -- government was one of the few industries that added employees in October. Can you believe that? Just what we need, eh? They think they can re-distribute your wealth better than you can! Baloney! You will re-distribute your wealth to people who are working to improve things, and you can also give to charities that you know spend your money effectively. I'm not sure what the government's intention is with your wealth but they are missing a key point -- it's yours to decide how it grows the economy, not theirs!
I heard some silly pundit today saying that the way businesses handle inventory today, no one will really be hurt by a slowing economy. How stupid! What hole does he have his head stuck into? It's already happening for Pete's Sake! (Yes, it was a liberal pundit but notice I made that an after thought.) I'm sorry but that's just ridiculous. Yes, maybe businesses keep tighter reins over inventory than they used to but that still doesn't mean that people don't lose their jobs when sales slump. How ludicrous. I could not believe what I was hearing come out of this guy's mouth!
Okay, I'm getting up on my soapbox too much. I will come down now. And go buy something.
P.S. As real life proof of this, a good friend of mine lost his job on Friday. He was one year away from retirement, a fine man, and one of the most knowledgeable people in the industry. But, along with some others at his company, he got the axe because his company knows they have to cut costs given the recession and the stupid policies of the liberals that are increasing their control of our country. It's a darn shame. One year away from retirement and suddenly they decide he's no good at what he's done for the past 35 years. This is what we're going to be seeing more and more of though, folks.
Unfortunately, it will take much more than just the loss of the Klan to end racial or other hatred and bigotry in our country. We have a long way to go.
I personally feel that a greater realization and understanding that we are all children of God, particularly based upon the actions and teachings of Jesus, is the key. And unfortunately even that can become perverted by seriously misguided individuals and organizations. Like I said, we have a long ways to go.
I don't know why for certain but I know that many of us, myself included, will read this with a certain degree of skepticism.
That is a staggering loss, on top of the job loss. And job loss means non-profits and many others lose out as well because folks without jobs cannot give and spend money.
Precisely why I believe that some sort of bailout is necessary.
But keep this in mind ... it's not just automotive related companies that are hurting. Virtually all businesses are hurting right now. During recessionary times, businesses become very fragile. Add a banking crisis on top of that, and the fact that banks are requiring more of companies in terms of financial performance, and you have an uncomfortable and exquisitely delicate situation.
This is why it is crucial that our government, at all levels, look to see what can be done to bolster and support and encourage businesses. Businesses are what drive the jobs which become the backbone of our economy. The government doesn't drive jobs. Entitlement programs don't drive jobs.
Let's do whatever we must now in order to support businesses before more bailouts are necessary.
In my own backyard, the state of Ohio is a mess right now, thanks to a governor who has been impotent at creating jobs and bringing business to Ohio. Instead, he has created a situation that is one of the five worst states in the country for encouraging businesses to thrive and create jobs. All this despite having one of the best work forces in the country.
It's a shame. If you don't support and encourage businesses, you won't have businesses. And if you don't have businesses, you don't have jobs.
1) Sarah Palin. This may change your view of her a bit. It did mine.
2) Worldwide recession fears. I don't have a clue how to stave this one off other than get some incentives in place to show that Americans are going to keep buying things. If that needs to be upper-end, non-credit-laden Americans, so be it ... we need to keep people buying.
3) ACORN. You have to read this one for yourself. Say what you want, I think ACORN is a poorly run organization of folks just trying to drive a very liberal and even racist agenda.
4) Lobbyists. As someone who has recently worked extensively with a Capitol Hill lobbyist, I agree that reform is necessary. But I do not know that opening up our congresspeople to more lobbyists is the correct reform. What if just plain old people like you, me, and Sarah Palin could really be heard? That would be the answer. You betcha.
Does it not make far more sense to correct their current and future legacy problems and then do things which encourage people to buy cars now, preferably fuel efficient ones? Is that not really what they need -- customers, rather than just cash to blow through?
Someone please help me! Anyone? Anyone?
After my family moved about an hour away to a city of about 18,000 when I was 11 years old, I didn't have a lot of reason to go to Bluffton any more. But I still had fond memories of it as a friendly little town with a very homey feel to it.
That probably explains why, when it came time for me to move away to college, I chose Bluffton College ... and I loved it. Seems like I spent as much time "in town" meeting and visiting and working with folks as I did on campus. I still stop by there on occasion. My favorite coffee house in the world is there, and trust me -- I've tried a lot of them. It's called Common Grounds and, of course, it wasn't there while I was in college. Would have been neat if it had been though.
I still subscribe to the weekly Bluffton News, just to keep up on what's going on there. I worked for the newspaper when I was in college, as a proofreader and a features writer. The editor who was there when I was there, Fred Steiner, left for a few years but he's been back at the paper now again for many years. He's always been a huge inspiration to me as well as a mentor. (And I really would love to have his job.)
Anyway, what was the point of all this? Oh yeah ... do you want to live longer? Move to Bluffton.
In this week's paper, there were three obituaries. Ages 96, 98, and 102. That isn't uncommon when you look at the Bluffton News.
Also, there were two great stories on older residents of the village. One was on Luther Shetler, aged 91 and a half. I had Luther as a prof in college. He was a hoot. A little bit silly, he liked to make giant bubbles and encase people in them. He made learning fun and real. He was "living curriculum". Luther was in the news this week because he is "retiring" from 24 years of volunteer work at the local assisted living home. Of course, he will still be volunteering at the hospital. In his picture, he looks as spry and mischievous as ever.
The other story was on Margaret Steiner. She is 93 and actually was around when John Dillinger blasted his way through Bluffton once. Margaret is the Bluffton News' editor's mom. In the article on his mom, he tells the story of how she was once at the post office window when she dropped her purse. Picking it up and looking to make sure everything was okay, her comment to the postmaster was something along the lines of "Thank goodness my whiskey bottle didn't break!" He also tells the story of how, when he was growing up, his family was the only family in town to subscribe to Ebony magazine. I am sure, by the way, that, at that time, Bluffton was an all-Caucasian town, including the Steiners.
Anyway, there's something very special about Bluffton ... a feeling ... an atmosphere ... and ambiance ... or maybe it's the water (which would be a pity as I believe their water now comes from another town.) But there's something special there ... and it encourages living long and living vibrantly.
Gotta love it.
To celebrate and praise God for the fact that, for the first time in many weeks, Lisa woke up feeling good and energetic this morning! WhooHoo! And tomorrow she has one last scan which will prove beyond all doubt that she is now cancer-free.
This has been an incredibly emotional last few months. I am still processing it. But the one thing we have always known is that God was there with us ... we've know that, yes, through the promise of His Word, but especially through the hope, support, and encouragement offered to us by friends and family.
Thank you all.
A key benchmark of their plan has been to create a federal works program to rebuild America's infrastructure. Bridges and tunnels in particular have been mentioned. This is fraught with problems:
1) It takes forever to put these types of projects together. It is a very slow process. According to Obama, that will be sped up because part of the federal support will go to projects that have already been planned but not implemented due to a lack of local funding. There may be some projects out there like that. I don't know. But I do believe that, as soon as federal dollars are involved, much of the planning will be re-set to initial planning stages.
2) These projects are pretty isolated in terms of geographic scope. Congresspeople will be fighting for projects in their states and districts. It will be hard to not see lots of pork thrown in. Do you realize how much pork was thrown into the Bailout Bill? It happens whether you want it to or not.
3) These projects are also pretty isolated in terms of industries they affect, Engineering, Heavy Construction, Steel, Concrete. Yes, there is some periphery benefit but those are the main industries. The latter three in particular are all very top-heavy industries. If we're going to rely on them to spread this money around, we better hope that trickle-down works. Additionally, with all four industries, you're talking about industries that have been staying relatively strong and are just now beginning to feel recessionary impact. I am concerned that these public works projects will amount more to job retention rather than job creation.
So, I see this as a very slow way to jumpstart jobs and the economy. And, where does the money come from? Obama has been clear on that -- from businesses and upper end income earners.
But, get this, many businesses are not doing well. If they aren't profitable, it makes no difference what their tax rate is. This is why many municipalities and schools are struggling and will continue to struggle -- a declining business tax base. The well is dry and must not only be primed but refreshed if you hope to tap into it again.
And, in some cases, there are businesses making money but, get this -- the banking crisis has their hands tied. Banks have gotten crazy with covenants and ratios that they wnat their business accounts to maintain. They are in many cases just itching for businesses with assets to miss ratios so they can come in and generate cash byt taking them over. If you tax these businesses harder, many of them will not be able to meet banking ratios and covenants.
It's all a slippery slope, president-elect Obama. You must be careful what you're flinging ahead of you because you will step in it soon thereafter. You can't fling things very far in this economy.
Most of this country's lost jobs have been in the manufacturing sector. Last month, one of the sectors to add the most jobs was government. That is scary and I wish I knew the details behind those numbers. If you wnat to bring jobs back, you'd better encourage and support the manufacturing base ... and you do that through incentives both for them and for their customers. If you want to encourage clean and renewable energy at the same time, that's great. Provide cash rebates and tax credits for purchasers of those things.
He is getting his team assembled quickly though and I can appreciate that. I am sure they will be having some significant impact before he even takes office. I am okay with that but I do think it is important that they study and know the issues very well before influencing policy.
President Bush, for the most part, did not bring on a lot of the troubles he has experienced. I know some folks won't agree with me on that but bear with me. I only say it to point out that things can happen fairly quickly which have a bad impact.
The roots of the current financial crisis are clearly from before Bush took office. Should something have been done sooner? Absolutely, and John McCain and Barack Obama both apparently encouraged that at different times earlier on in the Bush administration.
9-11 was also rather unforeseen but obviously had its roots way before Bush took office. And, to his credit, in the times following 9-11 when his approval ratings were very high, Bush pledged that another attack on our country would not occur during his watch. So far, so good. But many lives have been lost regardless. That is not good.
It's easy to criticize the Iraqi War but I think it's also easy to clearly see that the whole area is just a maelstrom. Al Qaeda is going to move wherever they can operate ... and you clearly can't shut them down in all countries. In the immediate months after 9-11 when it was made hard for Al Qaeda and other extremists to operate in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Iraq is where they headed. Say what you want but that is very clear. So we made it tough for them there and they moved back to Pakistan and Afghanistan as bases. We tried to help Pakistan protect itself from that but that has not gone real well. And, of course, Iran has been one of their next focuses.
So, in the end, all you can do is chase them around and they will pop up someplace else. I wish Obama all the luck and success in the world but I am afraid he will find the same situation there.
As far as our economy ... it will be interesting to see how this plays out. I honestly think that Obama and his cadre will in the end after analysis be too smart to see big government as the answer. I hope I am correct on that. We'll see but I really wonder if his economic policies will end up looking more Republican / conservative than Democrat / liberal. Maybe it is just wishful thinking on my part but ... well, like I said, it will be interesting to see how this plays out.
So, I wish the president elect and our country only the best. I do not envy his position.
In recent years, I have been on the boards of three faith-based non-profits, one other non-profit in place to serve the disadvantaged, and four trade association non-profits. Really, recent years haven't been too bad for these groups. Not that it isn't always a challenge to find all that you need but generally speaking it hasn't been too bad.
But that has changed rapidly in recent months as more people have felt a financial pinch. I am predicting that it will get worse as things continue to slow and more people experience joblessness. Additionally, in the financial giving to most of these organizations, the 80-20 rule prevails. 80% of their funding comes from 20% of their givers. Those are largely upper-end businesspeople and a few other professionals. As these individuals feel pinched by the economy or perhaps down the road see increased taxes, they will have no choice but to cut back on their charitable giving.
So, if you're involved with a non-profit, the time is now to start visioning your way through this if you haven't already.
And, if you're someone who donates to worthy causes, please think about how you can avoid cutting back or perhaps even amp it up a little. Where can we pull back so that we can continue to fund those who serve the least of us?
God delights in seeing what we can do for Him. Tough times are not the time to pull back.
In some ways, though, there are things to be regretted when Marketing moves forward. Things always be come glossier and have greater spin. It becomes increasingly difficult to find the nitty gritty reality of things.
It was interesting to watch the two presidential candidates this year. It was very apparent that Obama started planning for the marketing of his campaign two or more years ago. Yesterday, I saw an interview with him from October 2006. He was coy about it but it was obvious that he was well into the planning stages of his presidential campaign at that time. One interesting comment he made was that being a celebrity (which he said that he was) made campaigning so much easier -- that money would just come in rather than him have to work to get it. That was pretty interesting on many levels. Especially in that it was a year later he when he made the pledge to accept public funds for his presidential campaign -- a pledge he later went back on.
Anyway, I'm not here to pick on the guy. Honest. He ran a very intelligent and well-marketed campaign. I have a lot of respect for that. He was light years ahead of the McCain campaign which found itself having to switch strategies mid-stream and then found itself so behind the eight ball that all it could do was attempt character assassination of its opponent. It really wasn't fun to watch ... not for any of us I don't believe.
But, still, as marketing of a politician becomes more slick, I cannot help but wonder what is being lost. I believe that our constitution was written from the context of a people who discussed and knew the issues. Yes, later there was yellow journalism and all that but I still would like to think that when the constitution was drafted, there was an assumption that the people would always be involved in politics ... be aware of the issues and make decisions from there.
By and large, I don't believe that happened this year. I am NOT saying the outcome would be any different had it happened; I am just saying that it didn't happen.
Yes, there are thoughtful folks out there who read and studied and discussed and ruminated ... and really I'd hope that anyone who reads my blog is among that group ... but by and large unfortunately this was a year of either voting fear (as in "I sure don't want the other guy") or similarity (as in "Wow, Sarah Palin seems just like me!")
(Really? You ever gut a moose?)
What has been lost ... can it ever be regained? I doubt it. Because marketing tends to always progress, looking to the future, is the outcome of someone who is "marketed into the presidency" the outcome we really want? I don't know. Maybe. Maybe not.
I have been emailing the RNC to start some sort of formal campaign to encourage people not only to vote but to vote the issues. I'm doubting I ever hear anything from them though.
2) I am absolutely not one of those folks who thinks Obama is the antichrist or that you couldn't be Christian and vote for him ... but I'm not against stirring that group up a little. :-} Did you know that, on November 5 (the day after election day), the numbers drawn in the Illinois (Sen Obama's home state) Lottery were ... (drumroll please) ... 6-6-6?
Here are my thoughts on the US auto industry ... still hoping others will chime in.
1) Draw The Line's earlier comment about the union situation -- couldn't agree more. In fact, I would love to see a federal mandate abolishing unions. That isn't going to happen and, yes, I know what chaos that would cause ... just playing with ideas here. But, back to Draw The Line's comments, absolutely, union members need to understand the situation their contracts are putting the manufacturers in and be willing to go back to the table, realizing that it is either do that or see their employer close completely.
2) The legacy costs of the big three must be addressed. I am referring to their ongoing pension and healthcare costs for retired workers. This must be figured out, not just for today but for the future. For today, federal money is needed to shore it up. Some people will shudder at this but I wonder if, for the future, is there a way for Social Security and Medicare to take over these enhanced legacy commitments for the big three and then future contracts with auto workers will also have their retirement and healthcare plans linked to Social Security and Medicare? I wonder if this could not be done in a way which could actually strengthen SS and Medicare for the long term. I realize that sounds outlandish but just toying with ideas here.
3) Offer a federally sponsored and significant "instant cash off" for people who buy the most fuel efficient model of car and truck offered by each of the Big Three. This would reduce fuel consumption, provide consumer optimism, encourage more fuel efficient vehicles, and keep production lines of the most fuel efficient vehicles running. A supplementary plan could give the Big Three maybe 10 or 15 years to pay back the federal government.
This is going to be painful regardless. About 10% of the US workforce is automotive related (not all for the big three of course). Jobs will be lost but, with my thoughts here, ongoing legacy costs will be met and fuel efficiency will be achieved and encouraged.
I agree that our infrastructure needs rebuilt. It appears as though part of his plan will be to channel funds through the states but some of it will be federal direct funds. My preference would be for it to go through the states. In either case, though, this all will need to be watched carefully to ensure it does not turn into pork barrel spending by congress. And, always, my preference over federal investment would be for state and local governments to have adequate tax base to cover their own infrastructure spending. Spending will be more efficient that way and more closely watched.
The problem, of course, is that, with a recession happening and threatening to worsen, cities, states, counties, and schools are finding themselves with a shrinking tax base and less money to spend. In all likelihood, many municipalities will have serious financial meltdowns in the next year or two. Their income is shrinking as the economy shrinks and they are also finding it nearly impossible to pass levies. Selling bonds will also be difficult. The same goes for schools, as we're seeing in my own hometown.
So, if infrastructure is going to be rebuilt and governments and schools are going to be supported, it needs to happen either with federal funds or by a rapid re-invigoration of the local tax base. My preference, of course, would be to see federal tax cuts to individuals and businesses, along with spending stimulus programs (tax credits for clean and renewable energy investments being a good one), which will help local economies get back on their feet. But, if our new president is determined to have federal spending for infrastructure, then so be it.
That said, I foresee a major problem with using this federal spending as the primary national plan for job growth. Federal spending on infrastructure will focus on specific areas of the country -- those areas where jockeying members of congress are able to commandeer it. However, because of the expense of these projects, there will be huge areas of our country completely unaffected ... unemployment will not be improved in those areas and cities and schools will continue to suffer. Non-profits which support the disadvantaged of our communities will also suffer.
Again, Obama has made it clear that this sort of spending to increase jobs is high on his agenda. If you agree with the points I am making about "how" this is best done, please join me in writing your congresspeople and trying to be heard. There may be hope. If not, I am afraid that this program will be spotty at best and certainly not successful on a national basis.
If you disagree with me, I really do want to hear your reasoning as well! I do not claim to be an expert on these matters -- I am just trying to take a common sense look from a business person's perspective. With any luck, my blog can be a venue for reasonable and logical discourse regarding our nation's economy in the coming months.
Today we learned that Lisa's scan showed remaining thyroid tissue in her neck. Chances are this is residual non-cancerous tissue that was not removed during her surgery. There was no sign that the cancer had spread to other parts of her body.
Tomorrow, we will go to Dayton for her to swallow a higher dose of radioactive iodine which will act like a "smart bomb" to kill the remaining thyroid tissue. For the weekend, Evan and I will need to keep some distance from her as she will be more "glowing" than usual. However, in most cases, there are, at most, only a few minor side effects from the treatment.
And, early next week, she will be able to get back on her medicine and also return to a normal diet. Next Friday, she will have a follow up scan to make sure the tissue is gone.
After that, it will be a matter of getting her medicine regulated and then seeing her endocrinologist a couple of times a year. And, like I said, our journey through cancer will be over.
We thank everyone for your prayers and thoughtfulness during what has been a very long journey. God has revealed Himself in amazing ways during this and I know that, at the very least, I am looking more closely at my priorities and commitments, and holding on more tightly to those I love.
Thank you again. God is with us and he is good. Very good.
We've been told that, depending upon the doctor who does the scan, we may get the results today ... or we may not. Please join us in praying that we do get the results. If, based upon the test results, additional stronger radioactive iodine is needed to kill any remaining tissue, she will need to stay off of the med and on the diet until that can be done. Ideally, that would all be done very soon.
So please also join us in prayer that we get an "all clear" after the scan.
Thank you for your prayers. We are upheld by them ... in the arms of our Saviour who loves us and yearns for us.
Not that it would have made any difference, but I wish I'd have started paying more serious attention to the presidential election sooner than I did. I have often made the comment that, realistically, I wonder how much impact the president really has on the economy. This is one case where I do think the impact will be significant.
Regardless, I believe that leaders deserve respect, encouragement and prayer. Therefore, I have promised to support Presidnet Obama to the extent that my morals and conscience will allow me. However, if he goes plunging over a cliff trying to make us all follow him like lemmings, I'll be writing about it.
There is one thing that really gets me about last night though. Repeatedly, I heard people on television saying what a "proud moment" this is for America to have elected an African American president. I don't get that. I don't get it at all.
For me, this election was never about race. It was about finding the best people for the jobs. It was about leadership, character, and policies -- who offered the best combination of the three. It was never about race.
In many decisions, there is what I call the "water cooler justification" and then there is the real reason -- the "emotional justification". The "water cooler justification" is the common sense and rational reason for the decision that folks will talk about to their buddies at work around the water cooler (or wherever people gather). In this case, that seemed to be the economy for most people and Iraq for others. Both are great, rational things to study and base your decision on.
The problem comes in when people, despite what they say around the water cooler, base their decision on their "emotional justification". And the "emotional justification" tends to be what they talk about right after the decision becomes final -- the truth always comes out. In many cases, despite their water cooler talk, they haven't really even studied the rational things upon which their decision could be made ... their decision was really made solely on emotion.
It's like buying a sporty new car. You may "say" you're buying it for the gas mileage or for the engineering or because it fits your family well or perhaps even because you got a great deal. That is your water cooler justification. But, when you first bring it home, all you can think or talk about is how cool it looks and how cool you will look in it. That is the emotion that really drove the decision.
All the talk last night about what a proud moment this is for America to have chosen an African American president, to me, resembles this sort of emotion-based decision. Immediately after the deal is sealed, the water cooler justification is no longer talked about -- the real reason driving the decision comes out. And that bothers me.
Sometimes, especially when we are in a situation we don't like, we make decisions based solely on emotion. It is, in some ways, a passive aggressive response. Also, sometimes when we're young and want to snub our noses at those older than us, we make even very important decisions based on emotional reasons -- what looks good or feels cool rather than what we have really researched and found to be the best decision. I voted for Ross Perot in 1992 ... his policies did make sense to me but the real reason I voted for him was that I have never been a big fan of any of the Bushes and I wanted to snub my nose at the elder Bush. (And so Clinton was elected president and now I get to explain to my son who this Monica Lewinsky in the blue dress was that was all over the headlines on the day he was born in 1998.)
So, I am wondering, how many folks who voted for Obama will someday wake up and realize that they made a decision based strictly on emotion -- that they voted race and rock star status rather than leadership, character, and policies?
I hope and pray that is never the case but time will tell.
If you voted for Obama, are you willing to post a comment here and say what it was about his Leadership, Character, and Policies that you really studied and liked ... or tell us what else drove your decision? I'd love to hear what you have to say.
Chances are that you see zero, one, or maybe two things that will have an impact on you. The rest of what might appeal to you about his plan are altruistic things -- things for the benefit of others. And I have no problem with that. Anyone who knows me knows that I devote a lot to altruistic causes. Doing so is a big part of my life.
But now, think about this ... what really has an impact on you and your life? What could make the next four years better for you or worse for you? Most of you will give an answer that has something to do with your employer -- the company or organization you work for. If they have a good next four years, then so will you. If they have a rough next four years, then so will you.
Now, let's look at what is happening in the economy. Most economists agree that we're entering a period of deflation. We might be able to control how long it lasts but most agree it is unavoidable and is much bigger than just a US thing. We are entering a period when prices will drop because consumers will have no money to pay for things. And business expansion and growth will drop because their profits will be down because prices are down. Again, most experts agree this is where we're headed and it is unavoidable.
So, looking at this, the next four years for you and the organization you work for will not be so bright.
Enter Obama-nomics. Rather than try to bolster business, encourage the growth of markets, and get things back on a track of growth, Obama's plan indicates that bigger government can do a better job of creating jobs than business can. And where will government get their money to do this? From businesses and anyone earning, now apparently, over $100,000 per year. The ones who will already be struggling just to retain jobs (your job perhaps!) and keep their organizations going and hopefully even growing again as soon as possible.
Let's look at the business I work for because I know it well. My company, when you look at downstream distribution, sales and installation of our products, is responsible for the employment of about 800 people. 800 families. Again, there is nothing in the Obama plan that encourages growth of that number. In fact, higher taxes and FMLA expansion encourage a decline in that number.
On the other hand, if government encourages my company to grow through tax incentives and perhaps even promotion and development of markets for the "green" products we manufacture, you could easily see that 800 number grow to 1200 or even more over the next four years.
Now, look at your community. Who are the "movers and shakers" if you will ... who are the ones who make things happen as far as supporting, encouraging, and even caring for the disadvantaged and struggling? In so many cases, the ones who are doing that are the ones who own and lead businesses and other organizations. They are often the key individuals who, through their time and monetary support, make things happen in your local community for the common good -- all those altruistic causes that Obama-nomics thinks it can do better by instead taking money from your employer and perhaps even from you and re-distributing it.
Does that really make sense? Do you really think that bigger federal government, the thing we all rail against but yet Obama's plan clearly creates, will do a better job of caring for you and your community than your local and usually very hard working business owners and leaders (your employers) can do?
The choice is ours ... tomorrow. Are there "bad apples" out there amongst businesses? Absolutely, just as there are always bad apples in any group. But by and large the businesses that employ you are the ones that drive the economy and also care for your community.
Tomorrow, the question with your vote is this: Do you really think big government will be better at caring for you and your community ... and, even if you say "yes" to that ... do you really think it is sustainable? By Obama's own plan, bigger government will be built by burdening businesses and those earning over $100,000 per year. At what point do you burden them to the place of where they decide it's easier to not own businesses, lead organizations, and create grassroots efforts to build up and support local communities? As a business owner, I can tell you, we're not that far away from the straw that will break the camel's back. Not that far away at all.
What are, to date, the two times he has demonstrated leadership that he most likes to talk about?
1) Community Organization. I am no stranger to trying to get a group of people to organize under a common banner, and I know that doing so is far easier when those people all are of similar conviction. The leadership of our country requires something far more difficult -- the amalgamation of many opinions. Please correct me if I am wrong but it appears to me that Obama's community organization involved like-minded liberal academics coming together to try to make things happen for the under-privileged. Leading our country will be nothing like that.
2) Leading his own campaign. Obama has had the benefit of huge amounts of private money in order to lead his campaign. And that, my friends, is exactly how he would lead his presidency -- tax and spend. Except this time it will be your own money taken from your hard-earned wages. Or it will be money taken from "evil" businesses -- the businesses that employ you. Taking from them really encourages them to pay you well and create new jobs, doesn't it?
Those are the two points that HE makes about his leadership. Let me tell you what I SEE about his leadership.
Leadership involves moving people from their agenda to your agenda. It involves putting forth a vision and geting people aligned under that vision. It involves listening to differing opinions, considering those opinions, and charting a course. It involves being able to honestly evaluate your results, admit wrong choices if they've been made, and get people to accept change to a better path.
Here's what I see in Obama.
He has worked consistently within a group that already shared his opinions. If he wants to try to shift people to his opinions, he makes promises that make no sense (see my earlier post on his economic plan). He has undoubtedly made mistakes but yet I have never heard him admit to one. (McCain, on the other hand, has been very quick to say when he has screwed up.) He has done nothing to help me, as a business owner, see why his agenda would help me create economic development -- the stated number one goal of my business.
A true leader must be able to not only lead others but lead himself. And here is Senator Obama with so many skeletons in his closet of people he associated with and a close "Auntie" who lived here illegally and gave illegally to his campaign. If you are seriously thinking about running for the President of the United States, would you not be smart enough to absolutely not have these skeletons in your closet and, if you accidentally did, to own up to them, admit your mistakes, and change for the future? I cannot believe that someone who really wants to lead this country would allow himself to have the skeletons that Obama has.
I have before called Obama a "rock star candidate" and what I mean by that is a candidate who thinks he is above the rest of the world. A candidate who is so taken by his own little world that he assumes the rest of the world will follow him. A candidate who makes no apologies, accepts no responsibility, but runs on ego and promises that don't make sense because his followers are so enthralled they don't see through it.
It's a shame. I hope America wakes up by Tuesday morning and sees Sen Obama for what he really is. If not, he will simply hang out with his cronies who control Congress and they will do whatever they please -- no evaluation, ne regrets, no apologies. He has demonstrated again and again that, even when forced and confronted with his own skeletons, he only makes excuses.
Senator Obama is no leader. Not today and probably not ever.
If you care about what happens on Novemeber 4, send a link to this post to everyone you know who may be considering a vote for Obama-Biden.
Enact a Windfall Profits Tax to Provide a $1,000 Emergency Energy Rebate to American Families:Barack Obama and Joe Biden will enact a windfall profits tax on excessive oil company profits to give American families an immediate $1,000 emergency energy rebate to help families pay rising bills. Think about it ... American family ... two cars ... 30,000 miles per year ... even if their cars average 25 miles per gallon (very unrealistic), this is 1200 gallons of gas a year. Here's your choice: $1,000 stolen from oil company profits, encouraging gas to be $4 per gallon and discouraging oil companies from developing new technologies. Or let gas prices eventually even out naturally to around $3 per gallon (or less), saving that family $1,200 or more per year while still encouraging oil companies to develop new technologies.
Provide $50 billion to Jumpstart the Economy and Prevent 1 Million Americans from Losing Their Jobs: This relief would include a $25 billion State Growth Fund to prevent state and local cuts in health, education, housing, and heating assistance or counterproductive increases in property taxes, tolls or fees. The Obama-Biden relief plan will also include $25 billion in a Jobs and Growth Fund to prevent cutbacks in road and bridge maintenance and fund school re?pair - all to save more than 1 million jobs in danger of being cut. $50 billion in notoriously inefficient pork barrel spending to save 1 million jobs. Remember -- this isn't creating jobs ... it is spending money inefficiently to try to save jobs. The depression-era WPA actually created a few jobs ... spent some money ... but absolutely did not jumpstart the economy. Neither will Obama's plan.
Provide a Tax Cut for Working Families: Obama and Biden will restore fairness to the tax code and provide 150 million workers the tax relief they need. Obama and Biden will create a new "Making Work Pay" tax credit of up to $500 per person, or $1,000 per working family. The "Making Work Pay" tax credit will completely eliminate income taxes for 10 million Americans. Problem #1: Every time we turn around, there is a different, and lower definition of a "working family". Pretty much anyone with an S-Corp or LLC small business, by the way, will not qualify. Problem #2: Far more than 10 million Americans already pay no federal income tax. Problem #3: In today's economy, most Americans will spend an extra $1,000 by paying down debt (which is helpful in some ways, mind you), replacing diminished retirement funds, or on increased gas prices. None of these things will create jobs to jumpstart the economy. Problem #4: If we don't get more meaningful jobs created, none of us will have income taxes to pay.
Eliminate Income Taxes for Seniors Making Less than $50,000: Barack Obama will eliminate all income taxation of seniors making less than $50,000 per year. This proposal will eliminate income taxes for 7 million seniors and provide these seniors with an average savings of $1,400 each year. Under the Obama-Biden plan, 27 million American seniors will also not need to file an income tax return. This is probably a good thing. It doesn't create jobs but it is a good thing.
Simplify Tax Filings for Middle Class Americans: Obama and Biden will dramatically simplify tax filings so that millions of Americans will be able to do their taxes in less than five minutes. Obama and Biden will ensure that the IRS uses the information it already gets from banks and employers to give taxpayers the option of pre-filled tax forms to verify, sign and return. Experts estimate that the Obama-Biden proposal will save Americans up to 200 million total hours of work and aggravation and up to $2 billion in tax preparer fees. Does anyone really think the government will be more efficient at doing my taxes than I will be? This would be big government spending galore. No thanks. I am not an accountant but yet I manage to complete my own multitude of forms each year. Let me keep my money and continue to do my own taxes. Don't make me pay to have others' tax forms filled out.
Fight for Fair Trade: Obama and Biden will fight for a trade policy that opens up foreign markets to support good American jobs. They will use trade agreements to spread good labor and environmental standards around the world and stand firm against agreements like the Central American Free Trade Agreement that fail to live up to those important benchmarks. I hate to say it but, for the most part, foreign countries are in the driver's seat on trade agreements. Other countries don't need expensive American products. For the most part, all they really need to do is sell products to us. The main items where we can sometimes negotiate trade agreements are basic commodities -- metals, food, etc. Negotiating trade agreements on these items to increase export actually creates inflationary pressure here in the US. Increased foreign demand lessens supply and drives up prices at home. That's not good. I am all for more exporting but it must be value-added items that create jobs here at home. Unfortunately, negotiating agreements on those items is pretty much impossible.
Amend the North American Free Trade Agreement: Obama and Biden believe that NAFTA and its potential were oversold to the American people. They will work with the leaders of Canada and Mexico to fix NAFTA so that it works for American workers. First of all, this sounds like an empty promise because NAFTA can only be amended with the okay of all parties. Second of all, who says NAFTA isn't working? My company sells more and more product into Canada each year and we have never dreamed of outsourcing jobs to Canada or Mexico. Many companies that have tried outsourcing work to Mexico are actually now bringing it back or sending it to other countries (for other reasons).
Improve Transition Assistance: To help all workers adapt to a rapidly changing economy, Obama and Biden will update the existing system of Trade Adjustment Assistance by extending it to service industries, creating flexible education accounts to help workers retrain, and providing retraining assistance for workers in sectors of the economy vulnerable to dislocation before they lose their jobs. As an employer, the government coming in and re-training my team members to do other jobs helps me how? How does that encourage me to leave jobs here? Sorry but this is just more ineffective and relatively ridiculous pork. But it gives a few freebies and generates a few votes.
End Tax Breaks for Companies that Send Jobs Overseas: Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe that companies should not get billions of dollars in tax deductions for moving their operations overseas. Obama and Biden will also fight to ensure that public contracts are awarded to companies that are committed to American workers. The second point already exists but I guess it's nice that Obama/Biden would already like to take credit for it. As to the first point, no company "wants" to open up overseas. They are only going to do so if, in some way, it brings them dollars back here to the US, dollars that will be invested in the US. Rather than punish a business for sending jobs overseas, you need to create an environment that encourages jobs be left here. There is a big difference but the latter doesn't play as well with the people you want to give freebies to in order to get their votes.
Reward Companies that Support American Workers: Barack Obama introduced the Patriot Employer Act of 2007 with Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) to reward companies that create good jobs with good benefits for American workers. This is, as I understand it, a $3,000 tax credit for each created job. In most industries it costs a company a minimum of $100,000 to create one new job. Sorry, but a $3,000 tax credit does not make me go our and create jobs. I need a market for my product and I need workers who want to work. That will make me create jobs.
Invest in the Manufacturing Sector and Create 5 Million New Green Jobs
Invest in our Next Generation Innovators and Job Creators: Obama and Biden will create an Advanced Manufacturing Fund to identify and invest in the most compelling advanced manufacturing strategies. This is a good idea. However, it is best administered on a state basis and is in fact already being done ... in states like Michigan and Indiana ... two states where the economy is very weak. While encouraging new and green technologies is great, these are still start-up organizations and it takes years for them to have a major impact on local economies in most cases.
Double Funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership: The Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) works with manufacturers across the country to improve efficiency, implement new technology and strengthen company growth. This highly-successful program has engaged in more than 350,000 projects across the country and in 2006 alone, helped create and protect over 50,000 jobs. But despite this success, funding for MEP has been slashed by the Bush administration. Barack Obama and Joe Biden will double funding for the MEP so its training centers can continue to bolster the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturers. I do not know anything about this program. It sounds good on the surface but it also sounds like something that could be typical ineffective use of taxpayers' money. I do not think I have ever worked with this program but I have in the past had some involvement with three programs designed to increase manufacturing jobs and they were both absolutely worthless, employing people who were absolutely clueless as to what it really takes to increase manufacturing. One of them actually wanted me to make ashtrays our of my process scrap. Wow, glad I didn;t invest money in that idea. Ashtrays have gone the way of the dinosaur.
Invest In A Clean Energy Economy And Create 5 Million New Green Jobs: Obama and Biden will invest $150 billion over 10 years to advance the next generation of biofuels and fuel infrastructure, accelerate the commercialization of plug-in hybrids, promote development of commercial scale renewable energy, invest in low emissions coal plants, and begin transition to a new digital electricity grid. The plan will also invest in America's highly-skilled manufacturing workforce and manufacturing centers to ensure that American workers have the skills and tools they need to pioneer the first wave of green technologies that will be in high demand throughout the world. Again, this is good but the real key to creating growth in new technologies is to create demand for the technologies. You can bring the horse to water but, in this case, you also have to make it drink. That is what is necessary with change.
Create New Job Training Programs for Clean Technologies: The Obama-Biden plan will increase funding for federal workforce training programs and direct these programs to incorporate green technologies training, such as advanced manufacturing and weatherization training, into their efforts to help Americans find and retain stable, high-paying jobs. Obama and Biden will also create an energy-focused youth jobs program to invest in disconnected and disadvantaged youth. Point #1 in this paragraph sounds good but, let me ask you this? Which do you think will create more jobs -- the government getting involved and trying to help business or the government encouraging people to buy and use clean technologies? The latter will work far better. As for the Point #2 in this paragraph: Um, yeah, that sounds "real" helpful. I am okay with providing training for disadvantaged youth but don't try to wrap it up as being good for the environment just to hide the fact that it really is pure pork.
Boost the Renewable Energy Sector and Create New Jobs: The Obama-Biden plan will create new federal policies, and expand existing ones, that have been proven to create new American jobs. Obama and Biden will create a federal Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) that will require 25 percent of American electricity be derived from renewable sources by 2025, which has the potential to create hundreds of thousands of new jobs on its own. Obama and Biden will also extend the Production Tax Credit, a credit used successfully by American farmers and investors to increase renewable energy production and create new local jobs. This is okay but, again, if you want people to develop and market new technologies, you do that not by "telling" them to do it or by giving them typically meaningless financial incentive to do so but instead by creating demand and markets for their products. As a manufacturer, I am not going to take government incentive money to create new technologies today unless I know there will be a market for my products tomorrow.
Create a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank: Barack Obama and Joe Biden will address the infrastructure challenge by creating a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank to expand and enhance, not supplant, existing federal transportation investments. This independent entity will be directed to invest in our nation’s most challenging transportation infrastructure needs. The Bank will receive an infusion of federal money, $60 billion over 10 years, to provide financing to transportation infrastructure projects across the nation. These projects will create up to two million new direct and indirect jobs and stimulate approximately $35 billion per year in new economic activity. As long as this is done in a cost effective manner and does not involve a lot of pork, it could be good. Otherwise, leave it up to the states to administer and do these things.
Invest in the Sciences: Barack Obama and Joe Biden support doubling federal funding for basic research and changing the posture of our federal government from being one of the most anti-science administrations in American history to one that embraces science and technology. This will foster home-grown innovation, help ensure the competitiveness of US technology-based businesses, and ensure that 21st century jobs can and will grow in America. This smacks of Obama's love for academic elitism (which bothers me greatly for many reasons) but, aside from that, I agree that our schools need to be more competitive and lead the way in technology development.
Make the Research and Development Tax Credit Permanent: Barack Obama and Joe Biden want investments in a skilled research and development workforce and technology infrastructure to be supported here in America so that American workers and communities will benefit. Obama and Biden want to make the Research and Development tax credit permanent so that firms can rely on it when making decisions to invest in domestic R&D over multi-year timeframes. I do not know anything about this program (which may say something in and of itself) but, if it is working, then I am sure that any administration will agree that it should stay.
Deploy Next-Generation Broadband: Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe we can get broadband to every community in America through a combination of reform of the Universal Service Fund, better use of the nation's wireless spectrum, promotion of next-generation facilities, technologies and applications, and new tax and loan incentives. This will happen just fine without the government's help.
Provide Tax Relief for Small Businesses and Start Up Companies: Barack Obama and Joe Biden will eliminate all capital gains taxes on start-up and small businesses to encourage innovation and job creation. Obama and Biden will also support small business owners by providing a $500 “Making Work Pay” tax credit to almost every worker in America. Self-employed small business owners pay both the employee and the employer side of the payroll tax, and this measure will reduce the burdens of this double taxation. In regards to point #1 -- how many small and start=up businesses have capital gains? Very few, possibly zero. How ridiculous! As for point #2: A credit to workers helps employers how exactly? I'm missing that one.
Create a National Network of Public-Private Business Incubators: Barack Obama and Joe Biden will support entrepreneurship and spur job growth by creating a national network of public-private business incubators. Business incubators facilitate the critical work of entrepreneurs in creating start-up companies. Obama and Biden will invest $250 million per year to increase the number and size of incubators in disadvantaged communities throughout the country. Historically, job incubators have been very ineffective at creating long term jobs and sustainable growth. I would be very interested to know what makes the Obama plan different from past attempts at this which have typically required lots of taxpayer dollars to create very low paying and short-lived jobs.
Obama and Biden will strengthen the ability of workers to organize unions. He will fight for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act. Obama and Biden will ensure that his labor appointees support workers' rights and will work to ban the permanent replacement of striking workers. Obama and Biden will also increase the minimum wage and index it to inflation to ensure it rises every year.
Ensure Freedom to Unionize: Obama and Biden believe that workers should have the freedom to choose whether to join a union without harassment or intimidation from their employers. Obama cosponsored and is strong advocate for the Employee Free Choice Act, a bipartisan effort to assure that workers can exercise their right to organize. He will continue to fight for EFCA's passage and sign it into law.
Ensure Freedom to Unionize.
Fight Attacks on Workers' Right to Organize
Protect Striking Workers.
Raise the Minimum Wage. I agree -- all the verbiage around these points sounds great but here's what has been proven time and time again to really happen with unionization: 1) Encourage employers to outsource to other countries. 2) Make US made products less competitive in both domestic and foreign markets. Isn't what has happened to our automotive industry proof enough of just how damning and damaging unionization is? Holy cow!
Create a Universal Mortgage Credit: Obama and Biden will create a 10 percent universal mortgage credit to provide homeowners who do not itemize tax relief. This credit will provide an average of $500 to 10 million homeowners, the majority of whom earn less than $50,000 per year. This is just "sounds good" verbiage. The ability to deduct your mortgage interest expense is there for a reason -- use it!
Ensure More Accountability in the Subprime Mortgage Industry. First of all, let's remember that it was Bill Clinton and other Democrats who encouraged subprime lending in the last 1990s, the start of today's mess. Second of all, the banking industry is now fully aware of the dangers of such practices.
Mandate Accurate Loan Disclosure: Obama and Biden will create a Homeowner Obligation Made Explicit (HOME) score, which will provide potential borrowers with a simplified, standardized borrower metric (similar to APR) for home mortgages. The HOME score will allow individuals to easily compare various mortgage products and understand the full cost of the loan. This information has always been available, for as long as I have been buying houses at least. I do not think folks have ignored it -- they just simply felt optimistic and thought things would be fine.
Close Bankruptcy Loophole for Mortgage Companies: Obama and Biden will work to eliminate the provision that prevents bankruptcy courts from modifying an individual's mortgage payments. They believe that the subprime mortgage industry, which has engaged in dangerous and sometimes unscrupulous business practices, should not be shielded by outdated federal law. Mortgage companies have already realized they must consider modifying terms of bad loans and they will do so if they can keep afloat. They do not need the courts telling them what to do.
Create a Credit Card Rating System to Improve Disclosure: Obama and Biden will create a credit card rating system, modeled on five-star systems used for other consumer products, to provide consumers an easily identifiable ranking of credit cards, based on the card's features. Credit card companies will be required to display the rating on all application and contract materials, enabling consumers to quickly understand all of the major provisions of a credit card without having to rely exclusively on fine print in lengthy documents. This is fine but remember one thing: What state is a haven for credit card companies because they find encouragement there for their practices and a US Senator who has always represented their voice on Capitol Hill? Joe Biden's state, Delaware! He is part of the problem, and should not now represent himself as part of the solution.
Establish a Credit Card Bill of Rights to Protect Consumers: Obama and Biden will create a Credit Card Bill of Rights to protect consumers. The Obama-Biden plan will:
Ban Unilateral Changes
Apply Interest Rate Increases Only to Future Debt
Prohibit Interest on Fees
Prohibit "Universal Defaults"
Require Prompt and Fair Crediting of Cardholder Payments
Again, Joe Biden claiming to be part of the solution to a problem that he helped create!
Reform Bankruptcy Laws
Obama and Biden will reform our bankruptcy laws to protect working people, ban executive bonuses for bankrupt companies, and require disclosure of all pension investments. Point #1: No one should be protected from their own stupid decisions. Points #2 and 3: I agree fully.
Cap Outlandish Interest Rates on Payday Loans and Improve Disclosure: Obama and Biden will extend a 36 percent interest cap to all Americans. They will require lenders to provide clear and simplified information about loan fees, payments and penalties, which is why they'll require lenders to provide this information during the application process. Better yet, outlaw Payday Loans!
Encourage Responsible Lending Institutions to Make Small Consumer Loans: Obama and Biden will encourage banks, credit unions and Community Development Financial Institutions to provide affordable short-term and small-dollar loans and to drive unscrupulous lenders out of business. I would need to know details on this. Sounds good on the surface but could open the door to another banking and S & L crisis.
Reform Bankruptcy Laws to Protect Families Facing a Medical Crisis: Obama and Biden will create an exemption in bankruptcy law for individuals who can prove they filed for bankruptcy because of medical expenses. This exemption will create a process that forgives the debt and lets the individuals get back on their feet. And, how, exactly, does this fit within the Obama healthcare plan? (I really don't know ... doesn;t sound good though.)
Expand the Family and Medical Leave Act: The FMLA covers only certain employees of employers with 50 or more employees. Obama and Biden will expand it to cover businesses with 25 or more employees. They will expand the FMLA to cover more purposes as well, including allowing workers to take leave for elder care needs; allowing parents up to 24 hours of leave each year to participate in their children's academic activities; and expanding FMLA to cover leave for employees to address domestic violence. As a business owner, I can tell you that FMLA is a horribly onerous thing from a paperwork standpoint. It is a discouragement to employ over 50 people and would be an encouragement for businesses to go below 25 employees. Businesses that are profitable (not over-taxed), and have a government that encourages markets for their products will take care of their employees who are loyal ... including the points that Obama's plan calls for.
Encourage States to Adopt Paid Leave: As president, Obama will initiate a strategy to encourage all 50 states to adopt paid-leave systems. Obama and Biden will provide a $1.5 billion fund to assist states with start-up costs and to help states offset the costs for employees and employers. These decisions are already being made on a state basis. We do not need $1.5 BILLION in federal tax dollars to make this happen! Geesh!
Expand High-Quality Afterschool Opportunities: Obama and Biden will double funding for the main federal support for afterschool programs, the 21st Century Learning Centers program, to serve a million more children. Obama and Biden will include measures to maximize performance and effectiveness across grantees nationwide. I would certainly look for all other options aside from a federal program, including various available faith and local community based organizations but, at the end of the day, I see value to the idea of increased afterschool programs. I do, however, think that parents should be paying for them -- it should not be free babysitting.
Expand the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit: The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit provides too little relief to families that struggle to afford child care expenses. Obama and Biden will reform the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit by making it refundable and allowing low-income families to receive up to a 50 percent credit for their child care expenses. I am okay with this but it should not be to the point of where we're paying people to work when they would otherwise be better off financially to have one of the adults in the household stay home and take care of the kids.
Protect Against Caregiver Discrimination: Workers with family obligations often are discriminated against in the workplace. Obama and Biden will enforce the recently-enacted Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines on caregiver discrimination. Again, in my experience, employers who are not stretched thin by the government already will naturally do these things for employees who are loyal, stable, and hard working.
Expand Flexible Work Arrangements: Obama and Biden will create a program to inform businesses about the benefits of flexible work schedules; help businesses create flexible work opportunities; and increase federal incentives for telecommuting. It does not take federal dollars to help business figure this out. We've been figuring it out for years and determining how it applies to our individual businesses.
Obama and Biden will also make the federal government a model employer in terms of adopting flexible work schedules and permitting employees to request flexible arrangements. Okay, as much as I think this type of thing can be well administered in the private sector, I have no faith in a Democrat-controlled government being able to do this. (Okay, that comment was indeed a little snarky.)