WEALTH CONCENTRATED IN FEWER HANDS

The goal of past generations is to have the next generation be better off than they were.
Many of us can remember a time when, if we worked hard, we advanced. If we had a job and behaved on the job, we could work as long as we wanted, retire when we got older and have a few good years of leisure as a reward for our hard work.
By most accounts, this was called the American Dream.
The recession of 2008 may have changed everything. We now have a world in which the middle class is shrinking because hard-working people are losing their jobs, and having great difficulty finding another that pays as well – if they find one at all.
Lifestyles are being cut back. Pessimistic views of the future abound. Perfectly good, hard-working people are getting discouraged. Spirits are being broken.
Thomas Picketty, a French economist, draws a picture of consolidation of wealth in fewer hands in his book, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century.” New York Times columnist and economist Paul Krugman calls the book a phenomenon. Krugman wrote about the book in an April 24,2014, column.
Picketty sees a world in which more wealth will be concentrated in a decreasing number of hands. He sees that as a dangerous trend.
No one wants anyone to get paid for laziness. Most people want to work, and want to be paid fairly for what they do. Krugman points out that more conservative economic policies of government are leading to wealth being spread more lavishly on fewer people, at the expense of a majority of others.
Without getting into a debate about the values, or evils, of socialism or capitalism, let’s look at what we have in front of us.
Many of us have gone through a downsizing at work. Companies are learning to operate with fewer people, thanks to technology advancements and other things.
When this happened in previous decades, those who got laid off were reasonably confident they would find work before too much time passed. Today, that’s not necessarily the case. There are millions of people who have been out of work for extended periods, and employers are not hiring them because they have been out of work for so long.
Hence, the capitalistic wealth distribution formula – work=money – is turned on its head. The socialist voice is getting louder. In other words: more heavily tax those few who have benefitted from this, to cover those that they injured in the process.
But there may be a better way than wealth redistribution through government. Make more widely known the available vehicles for a person to change his life. There are many opportunities out there for people to live their dreams, despite having been hurt by the current economic trends.
For one of the best, visit www.bign.com/pbilodeau. At the same time, some people have to change. It was comfortable having a job, going to work, work as many years as a person wanted and retire not only with the means to meet needs, but perhaps to also enjoy leisure.
You can be angry at wealth concentration in a few hands, or you can find a way to gain more wealth for yourself, and help others do the same.
That’s the ultimate in people helping people. If more people did that, proper wealth distribution would naturally occur, without government interference.
It’s always better to earn your own wealth than to take someone else’s. Look for a vehicle that allows you to do that, without impoverishing others in the process. Look for that vehicle you and your friends could ride together — and work together to enrich each other.
Think of the good you can do in the process. Best of all, think of the fun you’ll have doing it.
Peter

INSECURITY BEGETS A SAVINGS MENTALITY

Imagine living with such fear that a recession, an illness or bad weather could bankrupt you.
Some Americans live that way now, as do many around the world. But a few decades ago, nearly every American felt that insecurity.
New York Times columnist David Brooks, in a June 2012 column, says although the nation needs to reduce its deficit, Americans don’t really want to. Despite the political bluster, Brooks says, solving the real problem of reducing debt is fraught with political peril.
The current generation of Americans has been led to believe that debt is not a problem. They live on borrowed money, via credit cards, all the time, and think nothing of it. There is always insurance to take care of the big expenditures. Buy now, pay later. Or, pay a small premium and live without fear.
Before the plethora of insurance products, before credit cards became actual currency, Americans always lived in fear of that big event that would either kill them, or leave them penniless. The only way to postpone the inevitable was to save their money. That meant giving up a lot of things one might want, and even some things they need. People would die because they could not afford the treatment that would save them. Secure families were wiped out by drought, tornado or hurricane. There was no insurance, only self-insurance.
Even the staunchest deficit hawks don’t want to see EVERYONE, except for the very rich, living on the edge through no fault of their own. They even want room to save the irresponsible from themselves. But to do that costs money. Hence, we have a debate about government spending vs. over-taxation.
GOVERNMENT SPENDING IS DROPPING
Let’s frame the debate in reality. First, as economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman preaches, government spending IS decreasing, mostly at the local and state levels. Those budgets are getting balanced off the backs of teachers, firefighters, police officers and other government workers who are losing jobs at a rapid rate nationwide.
As we try to get more people back to work, every teacher, firefighter, police officer and other public worker who gets laid off ADDS to the unemployment problem. Think of what bigger cuts in government spending will do to unemployment. Would such cuts enhance the private sector to the degree that it could absorb all those government workers – plus a good number of those public and private employees already out of work? Common sense would say, probably not. That’s not even considering the PRIVATE businesses that might close as GOVERNMENT cuts more spending.
We do need to get government spending under control. We do need to get our national debt down. We need NOT to be indebted to foreign creditors, even though many of those creditors NEED a vibrant and free-spending U.S. to prosper themselves.
We see what Brooks was talking about when he referred to debt solutions as politically unpalatable. Many Americans love the idea of debt reduction, until it hits their own lives. Generations past were willing to risk everything – or at least they were FORCED to risk everything.
Today, there are things in place to cushion such risks. No one wants those cushions to be taken away, but we still have to reduce our national debt.
As individuals, we need to get our own houses in order FIRST. Eliminate, or reduce, unnecessary debt. The first rule: if you are buying something that will last years, it’s OK to borrow and pay back over time. If you are buying something to consume quickly, or in a short time, pay cash or don’t buy it at all.
The second rule: if you are a government worker, or have a private-sector job you feel will not last you as long as you want it, make sure you save as much of what you earn as possible. Then, establish a Plan B for income, so when your job disappears, you can walk out with a smile. For a great Plan B, visit www.bign.com/pbilodeau.
As for national debt, it didn’t happen overnight, and it will take time to eliminate. We have to do it in a way that hurts the fewest people. Everyone won’t escape unscathed. We will all pay for it in some way. But some ways are less painful, overall, than others. Let’s find those ways. Let’s not go back to the days when we were one uncontrollable disaster away from bankruptcy.
Peter