Sunday, November 2, 2008

I am SO out of here....

Just came back from whirlwind tour of Europe – 6 cities in 7 days. The financial collapse happened while I was away so you can’t blame me. It was fascinating how many Europeans, learning I was American insisted that I tell them what was happening. Why were we doing this to them?

As I was sitting in a pub in London, eating a $15 cheeseburger and drinking and $5 diet coke, I saw a bus go by with an advertisement for 6.7% interest on a passbook saving account. At home, the same account pays something like 0.03%. So I wondered– ignoring currency exchange risk – why would anyone put money in a US bank? Another advertisement offered 200% returns on money invested in Dubai real estate.

And I got to thinking that perhaps the real problem is that Whackaminijob from Iran might be right. America might be coming to the end of its dominant power position in the world. We might be facing a British Empire type demise. After all, we import obscene amounts of petroleum both in the form of oil from the middle east and plastic from the far east – while exporting nothing much more than ethereal cash that we borrow from both and promises of future cash which we have no clue how we will get. It’s probably an oversimplification, but if you picture cash as fluid, it seems to me the tide is flowing in the wrong direction and the reservoir is getting low. At some point, (maybe now?), there won’t enough cash left in NY to keep the system operating. Printing $750B will help for a minute, but it will also instantly deflate the value of each dollar by 5% or more. Can anyone spell Argentina?

Here in the US, we used to have a fairly well rounded set of value-adding functions that combined to create wealth -- natural resources, hard work, innovation, technology and tools, pluck, etc – mixed with a pride and sense of fear in not accomplishing something. If you didn’t work and succeed your family went wanting. Now, it seems we’ve squandered that American wealth building machine. A sense of entitlement replaces fear of failure. Distrust of those who have succeeded in accumulating wealth, and a desire to punitively tax them back to a lowest common denominator status, replaces ambition to join them at the higher strata of society. American innovation seems sort of a hollow concept lately –incremental vs. transformational.

I guess I am just an old geezer now, cranky and unforgiving. I don’t feel sorry for people who didn’t finish school, don’t work hard, and don’t create their own wealth. I don’t feel that my lifestyle – which I studied hard for 22 years, and worked harder for another 30 to achieve – is the right of every American, hard-working or not. It's certainly not the right of the criminaliens.

My hard work has created jobs for dozens or perhaps hundreds of families. My teaching has helped hundreds more build careers and create value for themselves. I don’t feel the least damn bit guilty for what I have accomplished or acquired, and I don’t feel selfish for wanting to share it my family rather than having it stolen by the government and redistributed to strangers who have not created enough value to provide for themselves.

Frankly, I am shocked and dismayed that 52% of the American voting public seems to disagree with me. But time will tell. Socialism fails - human spirit is too strong to put up with it for long. The sad thing is that historically when socialism fails, it destroys the underlying country that allowed it to spawn. I, politically incorrectly, pray to my chosen judeo-christian God that we find a way to avoid that fate this time.

The one good thing resulting from the global economic meltdown is that waterfront property in Iceland is cheap now. If the socialists win on Tuesday, I just may head off to Reykjavik to wait it out in a cottage by the shore.

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