Friday, October 24, 2014

California - Poverty

I read today that the U.S. census is using a new measure to gage the level of poverty. Gues which state makes the top of the list with the new measure? That's right, good ole California, where the poverty rate is over 23%. I am not surprised because even though we have many people who are above the poverty line, in California being above the poverty line is not enough. The cost of living in California is one of the highest in the nation. If you are too survive here, you need to make much more than just above the poverty line. In fact, to live a modest middle class life style you need to make over $60,000. Since the median wage in the U.S. is about $28,000 and the average wage about $43,000, most people are not even close to making it in California.

So what is California doing about? There is a new move to raise the minimum wage. Will that help? It would if employers actually hired people with low or no skills to work full time at that wage. Unfortunately they will not. There is a reason employers pay low wages to those who have low or no skills. It's because that's all the market will alow. You can't pay some one to do work that the market will pay for. Customers will not pay $10 for a Big Mac. What will happen is that if (and when) the minimum wage is raised employers will slash hours, cut the head count, and automate as much as possible. If that does not keep them profitable, then they will close up shop and move to another state (which is already happening in California). The end result is that employees will make more per hour, but fewer will make more in total pay because hours will be cut, people will be laid off and replaced with technology, or there just will not be any jobs to be had (because the business has moved or closed it's doors). The poverty level will actually increase.

What needs to be done is for the minium wage to be abolished, taxes lowered, regulation streamlined and reduced, workers compensation reformed and made less expensive, union power and influence curtailed, all business related costs lowered as much as possible, and to make the business climate made as positive as possible. Why? Because this will actually create a flood of jobs that will eventually pull people out of poverty.

The only thing that pulls a person out of poverty is a job. The only way that there will be jobs in good quantity (and eventually quality) is if businesses feel that it is in their best interest to be in California. Is that going to happen? Not in my lifetime.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Opinion - Culture and Work Ethic

Does culture affect work ethic? In other words, is it culture that produces societies that seem to be more "laid back" or more "driven"? Or is it some other factor? Based on my living in north and south America and also my travels across north America and most of Europe. Here in my opinion and observation.

I think work ethic has something to do with geography and climate. Since we have all "evolved" around farming, I think that farming (and all the related activities like planting, harvesting, etc...) is a big factor. Northern European cultures tend to be more productive and driven while southern European cultures seem to be more laid back. This makes sense in that it takes much more work to survive in colder climates. In northern Europe the farming season is shorter because of frost and snow. You don't have the luxury of taking it easy. Thus societies in colder regions tend to be more driven (in my opinion and observation). Societies closer to the equator tend to be more laid back. The farming season lasts longer and there is not as great an urgency to get things done (you can take your time harvesting because frost and snow is not necessarily a factor). You can also see this in the U.S. where the south is much more laid back then the north.

What about South America? I think South America reflects a bit of the influence of geography and climate, but it also reflects the huge influence of colonization. I have noticed that the culture in south American countries tend to be like the cultures that colonized them (Argentina like the Spaniards, and Brazil like the Portuguese). I have also notice that the colder the climate, the harder working the population tends to be.

What about Africa and the middle east? I am not sure in these areas since I have not spent any time in the area. I suspect though that climate, geography, and colonization have had their effects. I also think that maybe religion has been an influence as well.

What about Asia? I think there is a different influence in this area and it has to do with farming rice. Cultures that are dependent on rice tend to be harder working than those that don't because rice is very labor intensive and hard to farm. I think that is why you see countries that are closer to the equator in Asia still have a harder working ethic than say European countries that are closer to the equator (or the southern area of the U.S.)

Does that make one culture better than another? No, in no way! it just accounts for some of the differences. Also, cultures are not monolithic. Though some may be more driven or hard working than others, that does not mean every person and that culture is. I also think that each individual also has their own work ethic (or maybe it would be better to call it work style). For example, my wife has a very driven work style. I on the other hand seem to be much more laid back (or lazy as my kids tend to remind me).

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

World News - Terrorist Attack in Canada

The terrorist attack today in Canada came as a surprise to me. First, that it happened in Canada and not in the U.S. or in one of the E.U. countries. The Canadians have not been that involved in the war on terror, so to have them experience a terror attack is surprising. Second, that we have not seen these type of attacks more often. In the west, we have a multitude of soft targets that can be attacked at will. How some gunmen have not attacked a mall or a school or some government office before is surprising considering how unprotected they are. Maybe this is just the first of many such attacks? Can you imagine the effect on our economy in the U.S. if we have gunmen attack our shopping centers or schools? The result would be panic and chaos. So I guess I am surprised that this type of attack has not occurred before, and in the U.S. or the E.U. Then again, maybe it's coming.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Poverty - Lawlessness

I wrote in the past about the moral rot of nations and how that causes them to fall. What then causes poverty? I believe the greatest contributing factor to poverty is lawlessness. That is, the failure of the rule of law and the increasing lawless activities of a population. As I look at countries that have a huge poverty rates I see countries where either there is no justice or crime is rampant (or both). For example, how can people be confident that if they are productive it will not be taken away by criminals or worse, the actions of their government? Why start a business if you are not sure you will be able to keep the profits (or even make one at all). Why plant a field if you are not sure that you can take the crop to market and make a profit? In a country filled with lawlessness and injustice basic economic activity can't take place. No one can better themselves because however they better their lives, it will be taken in one way or another.

How do you fix a lawless situation? The only way is by imposing the rule of law, but you need a lawful entity to do that. You need a lawful law enforcement mechanism and government, which usually does not exist in poverty stricken nations. Maybe what citizens could do is start with enforcing the rule of law in their own neighborhoods and once that is established, then expanding the rule of law to other areas. Is that easy? Absolutely not, and that is why poverty is so persistent. That is also why aid does not seem to help. If you supply aid to a lawless nation it just gets stolen or wasted. It rarely gets to those who need it.

The other issue involved is what happens if the population at large is lawless? Then you have chaos and and there is nothing that can be done. I think this is what concerns me most about the U.S. It is increasingly becoming lawless. There is more and more corruption. The is more and more failure of justice. There is more lawlessness among the population. If the lawlessness persists then we can expect poverty and a host of other social ills to increase. God help us then.

Monday, October 20, 2014

California - When will it run out of money?

Fortunately for California there are plenty of deep pocket democrats, liberals, environmentalists, and technology companies that it might pay it's bills for a while. Unfortunately for the citizens of California, unemployment will remain high (still one of the highest in the nation), taxes and fees will remain high (still one of the highest in the nation), regulation and government intervention will be high (still one of the highest in the nation) the cost of living will remain high (still one of the highest in the nation), and the quality of life will not be all that good (high traffic, crime, and other issues of the like).

I think where California will run into trouble is if real estate and stocks drop in price once again. Much of California's "income" comes from property taxes and capital gains taxes. So if the real estate markets and the stock markets take a dive (which I think they will any time soon), California will have a deficit once again. One other thing that California has working against it is that the state and local governments keep spending more and more. Though the state has a balance budget, it has spent every dime it has taken in and has very little in reserve. One nice downturn and California is going to be hurting.

Well, that was a long way to say that if the economy is fine, California is fine. If the economy tanks, California is going to be in a world of hurt.

One more thing. There has been an exodus of people from the state, but it has mostly been productive conservative individual and businesses. So there is not much left of a conservative base here in the state to keep the politicians from spending as much as they want or get whatever they want (though there has not been many conservatives for many years, there were enough to defeat stupid ballot measures, but that is now gone). So the state keeps digging a whole when it comes to finances and obligations. California's unfunded liabilities are huge and basically will never be paid. There is just not enough money to pay for it all. In the long run, California is doomed. It's not a guess, it's math!

Creativity - Do The Work

One of the enemies of being creative is just not wanting to do the work. You could call it being lazy, but I don't experience it like that. It is easier to just be normal, or like everyone else, or to copy someone or something else. Being truly creative is hard work and I think many times we fail to be truly creative because we don't want to do the hard work it requires to truly birth something new and different. A variation of this is to create something like what you have already created. In this case, you are just copying yourself. Unfortunately, our society sometimes rewards that. If we create something truly new and original, our society sometimes wants more of it and we are left with little option than to go ahead and make something similar. Hey, I've done that because it pays the bills.

True creativity means being willing to do the work it requires. Just go for it and do the work. Don't avoid it. If you have to pay the bills, then go ahead and create something similar to what you have already created, but get started on something new and different as soon as you can. I guess it is a matter of courage. I have also found that the more you work on something different and original, the easier it becomes to start and create something new and different.

Do you want to be remembered for being average or not being able to break out and do something different? Go and start something new as soon as possible and do the work. In the end the reward is worth the effort.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Writing - Putting Words On The Page

There are times when i don't know what to write about so I just start throwing words up on the page to see what comes up. I do this to get my mind working and to also keep my word count up. Since I have a daily goal of writing 2000 words a day, it is sometimes very easy to run out of things to write about.

You would think that with so much going on in the world I could find something to comment about, and that is actually true. But, there are times when I just don't feel like writing about anything that has happened in the word. I could write about Ebola, but not much has changed since the last time I wrote about it. I could write about the plight of Argentina, Venezuela, Ukraine, Syria, or the rest of the middle east, but things are not much different since the last time I wrote about these areas (they are all just a mess). I could write about Russia or China, but here again, not much new has happened, so why bother. I guess I would like something to happen that way i can write something new.

Well look at that, i just wrote about 200 words just by putting some words on the page. If you are writing and you seem to be stuck, just keep throwing words up on the page and see what comes from. Maybe nothing much comes from it, but then again, you might write enough to creat a post you can publish.

Technology - iPad v. Laptop

I have an iPad which I don’t use very much. Why? I seem to gravitate to my Windows laptop instead. Probable because all the writing I do. Yes, I can write on my iPad, but since I write over 1000 words a day, having a keyboard has become essential. Now I could use a keyboard with my iPad, but then I have one more thing to carry around. I could look at using a Surface, but my laptop does the same stuff and it was much cheaper. In fact, it was much cheaper than my iPad.

Is there a solution to having so many device options? Is the one device to rule them all? I’m not sure there is a solution. I think that we will just need to use the right tool for the job at hand. If you are creating lots of content, then a laptop is the way to go. If you are just surfing the internet and checking you email, then a tablet or even an smartphone is all you need. I have not used a large smartphone yet, maybe that might be more of a fit for the one device that will rule them all? Well, my phone contract is not up for another year. I’ll have to wait till then to see if that will work for me.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Laptop - Acer E3-111

I bought this laptop for about $250 for school last summer. I needed a windows machine to do many of my assignments. I bought it with reward points I had on a credit card, so it did not cost me much. I was also looking fo the least expensive machine I could find on Amazon. I was not expecting very much since it only has 2 GB of ram and uses a celeron chip, but it has turned out to be a nice machine. I can do all I need to do including using Word and the other Office programs. I can write using Finale for all my school ensembles (I am a Jr. High band and choir director). I can also use my favorite mind mapping program, FreeMind. Considering that I was not expecting very much, I have been pleasantly surprised by how well this laptop has worked out for me. For the price, I can also upgrade to a newer version when they become available.

The economy - Insiders Selling Stocks

One way to tell if the economy is healthy is to look at what corporate insiders are doing. If insiders (like CEO and corporate officers) are buying their own stock, then things must be going well. If insiders are selling their own stock, then things must not be going so well. So what are insiders currently doing? They are selling their own stock. Now that might not be a bad thing if it's just a few of them, but according to what I have been reading, insiders are selling like crazy. In fact, the level of selling is back up to where it was in 2000! Maybe all the hype of Wall Street is just a con. Maybe they are hyping things as being good so that they can unload their own holdings and leave the retail investors with the mess they have created? Things just don't feel good to me. i think we are going to have a big crash at some point and we will all be left holding a mess.