More Opinion by The Springboard

THE UPRISING OF THE AMERICAN PARTY "Clearly the voters are engaged right now, at least for sure on the republican side, and what they have concluded is that the republican party has not done their job. Thus, Donald Trump gets their vote."

Friday, December 30, 2011

Argument Against Voter ID in Wisconsin Is Silliness

If ever there was a word in the english language that has been overused, and frankly misused in the last few years, it is the word 'disenfranchise.' And it happens to be a word often used when opponents of the voter ID laws in Wisconsin try and make their arguments against the law. "Requiring voter ID," they say, "infringes on the rights of certain people to exercise their Constitutional right to vote in an election."

I say this is a load of hogwash because the way I see it, making that claim could be applied to any number of opportunities we may wish to take part in. For example driving a car, or buying a pack of cigarettes, or a six-pack of beer. In Wisconsin, and I'm certain this is also the case in other states as well, one must have a valid photo ID to receive food stamps, to cash a check, to make a withdrawal from a bank account, and the list goes on.

The bottom line comes down to something very basic for me. Participating in certain things requires us doing the basic things to actually do it.

While it's not along quite the same line, if I want to start a business for example, I have to obtain a license. I may need to find investors or obtain a small business loan to get started. Using the argument of the opponents of the voter ID laws, making me do these basic things may disenfranchise me. Requring me to do these things may make it harder, or impossible to actually start a business.

The simple fact is that if I want to start a business I must do the basic things to do this. Just like if I want to drive a car I must obtain a license. Heck, you need a license to fish or hunt too.

And how hard is it really to obtain some form of legal photo ID I wonder? If one really wants to cast a vote and exercise their right, they should not be looking for a way to play the role of the victim and cry woe-is-me I can't vote. They should be looking for a way to do the basic things they need to do to go to the polls and vote. If they are not willing to that, these people are not disenfranchised. They are creating their own circumstances. The tools are there. The opportunities are there, and the argument against voter ID laws in Wisconsin is just nothing more than silliness and whining.

Monday, December 26, 2011

An Explosive Cupcake?

I'll admit that reading the story about the woman who had her cupcake confiscated at a Las Vegas airport security checkpoint does give me reason to laugh out loud a bit. I mean, come on. Can a cupcake really be something that we should be concerned about potentially taking down an airliner? I think most would agree that's probably not the case. Still, and perhaps it's just me, but I do think it's not so unreasonable to at least think about it beyond the obvious ridiculousness of it. I can't help but wonder if, before 9/11, had this story come out about someone trying to bring a boxcutter onto a plane, might we be laughing just as hard about it?

We can of course sometimes go off the deep end, and we often do. What's that old saying about having good intentions? And this story is probably a good enough example of that. But again, who would have thought before 9/11 that someone might actually be able to take down a plane, and start a war with something so simple as a boxcutter?

I think the only thing that we should take away from this is that terrorists will try anything. They will also observe what we do, and they'll use that information to come up with new ways to get past all of our measures. Like a good accountant can find loopholes in the thousands of pages of tax code, terrorists will find a way around our security checkpoints. It may just be a matter of time. And ridiculous as it may seem, what they send our way will not look like a bomb, and might very well look a cupcake.

Well, not now. We've got the cupcake thing under control. Perhaps it could be Grandma's best chocolate chip cookie? Who knows? I'm just saying we need to be on the lookout.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

SMALL BUSINESS SATURDAY

Yesterday marked the 2nd annual Small Business Saturday®, an event snugly nestled between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and as the people who started this event say, during one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year. Of course it is a bit ironic that the folks behind this whole thing are in fact American Express, who happen to be nearly a $54 billion company.

By any measure, that's no small potatoes.

But neither is the impact that supporting small business has on local economies, and on something I often talk about in my blogs, and in the opinions I write at HubPages; competition. To my mind competition is really at the heart of the entire concept of the free markets. I have argued for some time now that in many ways, when we leave out the little shop on the corner in our regular shopping, we narrow the field. We break the opportunity for any real competition. Our choices become fewer, and what we have left is to choose from a shorter list of people in the marketplace. At the end of the day that means that they, the bigger businesses get to dictate the status quo. They get to dictate the prices in the market, and frankly the wages and benefits that worker's receive in the marketplace. It becomes more of a circumstance of "take it or leave it."

Yeah, that's still the free markets working. But is this the kind of free markets we really want? Is this really how we want our choices to be offered to us? In these narrow and limited ways?

What those big box stores, and huge conglomerations of eateries and banks, and other types of businesses are really saying to us is, "Where else are you going to shop?" For that matter, where else are you going to work?

If there is no pressure on the bigger businesses to pay higher wages, or to offer better choices on the shelves, they'll just do whatever brings them the most profit—heedless of the overall cost to each and every one of us. Keep in mind that right now when the choices are so limited, these businesses are only competing with each other on likewise limited terms. Terms that they ultimately decide because for most of us, the real competitors in the marketplace are not even considered.

Sure, it does mean that we get cheaper products. But is cheaper really better when we have to give up so much to enjoy it? If lower wages and less benefits are ultimately the result of this narrowed competition, is that truly to any of our benefit? Where has customer service gone? How about quality? Even to a large extent, where has business integrity gone? And again, what has happened to wages?

I'm not saying we give up entirely on the bigger businesses. But I do think that we should be more inclined to shop local whenever we can, and small whenever we can. Just a little bit of market share passed along to a small business operator goes a very long long way. And we're not just limited to shopping local stores by the way. It could be as simple as choosing a jar of salsa made by a small startup in lieu of a jar made by Frito-Lay.

Most of the time spending money small and local means that more than likely a much higher percentage of that money is going to stay right in the community where it gets spent in. Small, local businesses have a habit of also supporting small, local businesses, and so many of the products you'll find on their shelves will be from small, local businesses who employ people in the community, and do other commerce within the community and surrounding areas. The operators themselves often live in the communities as well, and so more of their profits wind up staying local as well as they also shop local.

I've suggested in the past that we spend about 25% locally. That's honestly a number I sort of picked out of the air. Actually devoting 25% of our spending locally, or on smaller businesses overall is a tough deal to do. But if we do spend more often locally, the impact that it will have on our economy going forward will be enormous. The money simply goes farther. The choices will become more. And the opportunity to more easily shop small and local will become more likely.

What I'm saying is that while I applaud the efforts of American Express for starting this, because really what they are doing is creating an awareness for the importance of small business to all business, we ought to be doing this far more often than just one day a year. If we do that, eventually we'll be doing it anyway without even thinking about it because improved competition will keep more players in the marketplace. We'll be spending locally naturally rather than having to do it now, contemplatively.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

TO BE OR NOT TO BE...A TURKEY

Luckily the turkey I'll be stuffing into my face today only cost me 58¢ per pound at my local grocery store. I'll have to make sure I can get all I can out of that bird considering where the markets fell to on yet another dismal day in the markets yesterday. Gazing at my wheezing portfolio, this bird, my friends, could well be my last meal.

It sometimes feels like what we have here is the Energizer Bunny of dips, doesn't it? It just keeps going, and going, and going...down!

I mean, yes. I am being a little bit fecetious. We're still above 11,000 on the Dow. And our lowest lows were in the 6000's, so we're not doing all that bad considering where we've come from.

So, what am I thankful for this fine Thanksgiving Day? I'm thankful for my gumption and my tenacity to stay the course despite it all. It's a horn I've been blowing for quite a while that the sky is not falling. The end of the world as we know it is not upon us. The world economy is not really on the brink of collapse, and certainly neither is the U.S. economy for that matter.

It just feels that way.

So yes. I'm staying the course. I'm not pulling my money out of this ugly thing, as much as I've been inclined to do so several times, having had enough of watching my hard-earned, and dilligently saved dollars slowly disappear. Nowadays it definitely seems to be true that the more I save the less I have.

But again, I'm thankful for my willingness to just keep going with it. I'm going to buy, buy, and buy some more of all of the stocks that I think will be good and strong when all is said and done—and that are quite frankly good and strong now.

I hope in the end the real turkey doesn't wind up being me.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

An Open Letter to the Protesters

by Breakfastpop

The Occupy Wall Street Movement is going on and on and all you have to show for your efforts are filthy parks and violent behavior that has completely obscured any message you hoped to impart. You are driving small business from the area and causing unprecedented problems for the people who actually live in the neighborhood. Your focus on corporations is impossible to understand. I assume that many of you have parents who work for these companies. These "evil" corporations have put food on your table, made health care accessible, and helped your family accumulate money in 401k's. If the people at the top earn the big bucks, so be it. They earned it and they deserve it. If you want a bigger piece of the pie you ought to be willing to work hard for it. That is the American way. We have opportunity and we work hard. It is completely un-American to stand there with one fist in the air and the other hand outstretched asking for something for nothing. I agree that we are going through rough times right now, but we will come out of it if we enact the policies that have a track record of working. If you want to raise your voices in protest, I suggest you go to Washington. The trouble started there.

You are demanding loan forgiveness for student loans you received. When you receive a loan, you sign an agreement that requires repayment of the debt. In the real world, that's how things work. You enter into a contract and you are required to fulfill the terms of the transaction. It's not rocket science. What right do you have to ask the American people to shoulder the burden of your education? You borrowed the money and it is your responsibility to pay it back. If you don't have a job, ask the bank to defer the payments until you're working, but don't ask responsible citizens who take their obligations seriously, to solve your problems.

The same is true for home mortgages. When you borrow money knowing that you can't afford to pay back the loan, you become the problem. True, the banks should have never made these loans in the first place, but you can thank the government for that. President Clinton believed that home ownership was a right and he pressured the banks to lend the money to unqualified people. If you are one of these people, ask the bank to work out an arrangement until you get on your feet, but don't expect the American taxpayer to bail you out.

We are at a crossroads in this country. We can choose to turn our backs on history and common sense and suffer the consequences of our ignorance. The only system that works is capitalism done right. If you see capitalism as the problem, then perhaps you don't belong here. If socialism gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling, then you ought to take up residence in a socialist nation. It would probably turn out to be an excellent learning experience. Go to a socialist country and stand in line with your hand out. You will find yourself in a nation that is programmed to fail. Your hands will be empty.

If you expect the government to take care of all of your needs from the cradle to the grave, try Cuba. It won't be long before you are one of the refugees dying in the boats trying to come back to this country that has made you so angry. It wasn't people like you who made this nation so great. It wasn't people like you who created a thriving business, discovered a cure for a disease, or built an empire. Those people knew how to handle adversity. They used their creative energies to get through the hard times. They were not gathered in the park, sleeping in their own filth, groping females, doing drugs, destroying small business and neighborhoods. They were out in the world trying to get a job, and job to hold them until they could secure the position they really wanted. They persevered, and in the end they succeeded. Unlike you they didn't have their hands out. They are the backbone of what made our nation the most successful and generous in the world.

Get out of the parks and get a life. The party is over and now it is time to grow up.


Breakfastpop is the author of the HubPages daily blog of the same name, whose primary focus is on politics and social issues. You can read more of her work at http://breakfastpop.hubpages.com.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

THE OCCUPIERS ARE WING NUTS

I'm inclined to believe that everyone in the occupy movements going on around the country are all mad. Not mad as in angry, though they are that too. Mad as in crazy. Mad as in stark, raving nuts.
The left wants this to be their cause. We've heard from Nancy Pelosi on it. The President of the United States has touched briefly upon it, and seemed to simply nod and acknowledge it as a "real" movement that is a reflection of America's being fed up with the big boys. We've heard from wingnuts like Cornell West about it, and even Don King, the flamboyant (and let's face it, weird) boxing promoter has said he would go there and encourage the protesters to exercise their right to protest.

Have at it buddy. Whatever.

The reality is that this entire occupation is a disaster, and it's only becoming worse. Violence is erupting in the streets, people are being beaten down and businesses are being hurt. Not to mention there is one thing that is absolutely certain in this occupy crowd. Racism. And I find this hilarious when I think back to how badly the left wanted to paint the T.E.A. party crowd as racist. Yet not a shred of evidence could be found on film, on tape, or in pictures to prove that anything racist was being said or encouraged in any T.E.A. party rally. They're still crying racist to this day at anyone on the right. But, racism is rampant in the occupy movement, and most of it seems to be directed at Jews.

Funny too that when you look at the real history of the democrats, there seems to be a strong racist element there that nobody wants to truly acknowledge. It makes me want to scream something very juvenile back at them all on the left when they call me a racist because I oppose the views of the president, "I know you are, but what am I?"

The plain truth is that the left is not going to get their T.E.A. party counter. The truth is that the left should be completely embarassed by even the suggestion of it. Quite frankly, the left should be running for their lives having had any association with these nuts at all. If ever there was a living, breathing example, this occupy movement was the left's attempt to clutch at straws. This was the left's hope for a confirmation by the American people themselves that their (the left's) progressive, socialist agendas were resonating with the voice of The People.

They weren't. And they're not. And now it's time to go home boys and girls.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Trouble Looming For Perry

When Texas Governor Rick Perry first came onto the scene I thought there was some promise for a real conservative voice entering the republican race, and I thought there would be no way that Mitt Romney would be able to compete with that. Then I saw the debates, and the first thought that came to mind was, "Oh no." And then I thought of John McCain and something I often said about his campaign. That is, I thought it wasn't McCain's message that was the problem. It was articulating his message that was the problem.

Granted, McCain was no conservative. Let's be sure about that. But clearly his plan for America was a much better one than Obama's plan was no matter how you sliced it. On paper McCain was the better candidate. But those debates were the death knell for him. What's on paper doesn't matter at the end of the day. McCain simply could not convey anything to the American people in those critical debates that made any sense.

There's no question that Obama is a strong campaigner. He's an even better debater. He proved that in the last election. I think we can't lose sight of that fact. Neither can Rick Perry. The republican voters, and the independents who are not in Obama's camp know this as well, and no one wants another candidate who cannot beat the opponent.

While I'll admit that there are perhaps too many debates—13 to be exact—if there are going to be debates Rick Perry needs to be in those debates. His decision to pull out of the debates tells me one thing. He can't handle the pressure. He can't articulate his message when it matters. And he's going to need to be able to be a strong debater if he wants to have a shot at beating Barack Obama if Perry is ultimately to get the nomination.

The bottom line is that I'd like to see Perry succeed. He really is the real conservative up for the job of running the country. And I like him over Romney. If Perry were to get the nomination he would have my vote hands down. His tax plan would certainly work, and I think would pump tons of revenue into the government's coiffures. His energy plan is spot on. And let's make no mistake about it, Mitt Romney is no conservative.

But Perry needs to show he can be there through thick and thin and handle himself under pressure. These debates, while cumbersome and boring to some, are the stage that tells us all how each of the candidates will perform in the final debates when it's down to one republican and one Barack Obama. Right now on all counts Rick Perry has performed badly. Leaving the debates now will only serve to solidify how poorly he's done in the mind of Americans. And I'm certain his absense will be an ongoing topic for discussion in the future debates, making a bit of buffoonery (if that's even a word) out of anything Rick Perry tries to accomplish outside of the debates.

There's that old saying that if you can't stand the heat you get out of the kitchen. But if you want to be a chef, you either stand the heat in the kitchen, or you're just not cut out to be a chef.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What About Bob?

Does anyone else notice a theme that seems rather apparent in this crappy economy we're all stuck in? Everyone wants more money.

We are all well aware that of course the government wants more money. President Obama seemed to almost chant that with his "pass this bill" rhetoric—the real message behind his jobs bill is of course more taxes. And not a day goes by we don't hear from somebody in the Congress, or a representative from our local municipality that the coiffures are dry, we need more, more, more!

The banks are considering charging fees for the use of their debit cards now. Of course the answer to that is because we are having trouble turning a profit. When you travel to Las Vegas, they want to charge you a resort fee that can be as much as $15-$20 per night. For? Would you have guessed it's a charge for the use of their towels, and to have a maid come in and toss your sheets? All things that back in the day used to be a part of what you pay for in your regular nightly rate to stay at a hotel.

...because we all know that the hotels in Vegas are financially wheezing so that these fee resorts are a must charge—even though profits were up by around 36% last year despite the lagging economy. Do pardon my sarcasm on this particular item, thank you.

In all of this I ask, "What about Bob?" What about you and I? Aren't we Bob? Look, we're having trouble too. We are having trouble turning a profit just like everyone else. Our costs have gone up too. I don't have the exact numbers in front of me right now, but I can tell you that nearly every single daily necessity has risen in cost steadily, and heavily over the last at least four years or so.

Might I only ask one other begging question besides asking, "What about Bob?" Where exactly in hell is all of this frigging money?

I'll admit that this is a bit of digression, here, but I do think it's important to make a note of it. That is, I hate to get back on my bash the CEO bandwagon here, because every time I do that I get called a moron for not understanding about risk reward, and entrepreneurship, and for not appreciating hard work. But the reality is that all the while, while CEOs keep saying they need more to keep the wheels of their business turning, I see their paychecks rising in record numbers. The money isn't going into infrastructure. It's not going into improving efficiency. It's not going into giving their employees pay raises.

But CEOs are getting pay raises. So is the Congress. So are the guys who cut the grass in the park that's across the street from my house.

So again I ask, "What about Bob?" Because if the argument seems to work for everyone else that the costs keep going up and that's why I must charge more, and need more to get by, why can't Bob make the same argument? When Bob goes to the table and says, "It just ain't cuttin' it boss," the boss just nods his head and sends Bob back through the door.

"Whine, whine, whine," the boss says. "Just deal with it. Times are tough."

And to that I say the following. Exactly! So why don't you? Just deal with it, that is. I think it's high time one of these geniuses, be they in Congress or be they in business, with all of their fancy degrees actually use an ounce of their brain to figure out what the problem is before they determine what the solution is. Because every time one of these solutions come up, Bob has to give up more of his money.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Oil Prices Could Not Be Sustained

This most recent price drop in oil, and ultimately the price of a gallon of gas is a bit interesting. I think it says quite a lot about where the economy really is right now, and to what extent we are in recovery. I also think it means oil prices will continue to go down, not up. The truth is consumers are still tapped out. Jobs numbers may be slowly bouncing back, but just because more people are back to work does not mean those same people are caught up financially, nor that they will have much in the way of disposable income. People are going to pull back where they must in order to save money. And because oil is so closely tied to every other thing we buy, people will have to pull back not just on driving, but on other things as well.

This pullback is showing already in a decline in miles driven and gallons of gas sold. I think the fact that we got to a pullback on consumption of gasoline so soon is telling. Oil prices simply could not be sustained. People cannot afford the additional cost. Granted, I've made the argument that oil is perhaps one of the most important commodities in the United States, and when you value it against its current prices, even the higher prices, it seems rather cheap. I've made comparisons to a 20 oz. bottle of Coke which runs around $10 per gallon, and 5-Hour Energy which sells for as much as $192 per gallon. Still, the reality is that while the actual prices of those things are much higher than gasoline, we don't consume those items in the same quantities that we do of gas, and so inevitably the price of a gallon of gas is going to take a bigger, more hurtful chunk out of our wallets, and as a result, it is going to cause us to have to make some decisions as it relates to spending. Certainly it gives us cause to make decisions about driving.

The result? We won't likely see $5 per gallon of gas anytime soon. And I think if we do see gas rise to $5, there will be a major spike downward in gasoline consumption, and I think discretionary spending goes out the window, spiraling us into an interesting dynamic of very, very slow economic growth, higher savings rates by Americans, and lackluster consumer demand. In a way, we're kind of in this mode right now. But I think if we can keep prices down, we can have better growth going forward. Not great growth. But better growth than what we'd see if gas prices were to run up to $5, because obviously that cost would trickle upward eventually into especially food prices, and it just is not possible for Americans to have their two highest expenses see dramatic cost increases and have any possibility of any significant growth in the economy.

Again, the folks are tapped. What's that old saying? You can't get blood out of a stone. Prices will have to be adjusted to what the market is willing to bear. And right now that's not a lot. So, companies will have to go back to the drawing board and draw down their margins and look for better ways to create jobs for Americans despite it all (because without jobs there'll be no growth), and they'll have to get really creative in how they do this profitably. No more are the easy days of easy decisions to simply move work out of the country and take away people's pay and benefits. Government has tossed as much money as they can into the economy. Now its time for corporate dollars to make it into the hands of Americans through work. There's simply no other way. Corporations need buyers. Buyers need money. It really isn't rocket science is it?

Monday, January 3, 2011

I Still Believe Gold Is In A Bubble

The excitement hasn't exactly quieted down yet. People are still very much sure that gold is the investment to hold right now. I think they are half-right in their thinking. Gold will continue to hold value over time. I think that's fairly indisputable. However, I'm inclined to believe that the current price of an ounce of gold is inflated by a lackluster economy in not just the U.S., but across the world, a lagging dollar, and all of the uncertainty that those two things have on people's confidence in paper currencies for which there is no tangible backing for.

Simply put, gold is the most recent example of a bubble in play, and like all bubbles, it is going to burst one day. It's only a question of when.

There are telltale signs of this. For one thing, there are standalone operations that have set up shop in strip malls, and kiosks have even been opened up in the bigger malls. Pawn shops have become major operations just from buying used gold to be sold and melted down and resold to eager buyers. People are flocking to everything gold, and they are turning their attics and basements upside down trying to find anything gold that they can sell.

It's the crazy, in my opinion, that marks the end of a bubble. When oil was going through the roof, people in the know started shouting out that the price for a barrel of oil would surpass $500. An outfit formed that would sell gasoline at today's price that could be used when tomorrow's price went higher. That business tanked. It was another example of the crazy. Oil crashed. When housing boomed and people began getting crazy, refinancing over and over and taking out more and more money each time, buying lavish vacation homes, boats, cars, and anything else their hearts desired. Housing crashed. When the Internet was at its height and people began talking about 'the new economy,' and how business could be transformed, not needing a penny of any real revenue to make it big, and wages were being replaced by stock options and straight shares of company stock, this was the crazy. The Internet boom crashed.

Granted, gold may not be quite on scale with these other bubbles. But with people converting a lot of their dollars to gold, it still will have an impact. And it's still a bubble. It will still burst like all bubbles ultimately do. My only suggestion is to proceed with caution.

Links of Interest

Gold Market, Investing in Gold
What are some good penny stocks?
Consumer Financial Protection Is A Necessary Evil