Neighborhood Ice Cream Trucks in February?

It’s an overcast midwestern winter day, the temperature is in the 40s, and I can hear some funky music outside. What? Is that the ice cream truck?

I look outside and sure enough an ice cream van is slowing driving up the street playing that little melody that is supposed to draw the attention of all of the little kiddies within earshot.

The economy must be pretty bad if the ice cream man is out looking for clients in winter. Heck, just 3 days ago, the temperature was in the 20s – probably colder than his frozen treats – and my front yard was still covered in snow.

Weird.

A Look Back At A Bad Social Security Idea

Back in 2005 Presidential contenders George Bush and Al Gore were discussing plans to save social security.

Bush supported a plan to allow employees to invest part of their social security funds into the stock market.
Unfortunately, Bush won…but if his idea had come to fruition, there would be a lot more people up at night.

George is going to speak to us this morning on the economy. When he speaks, boy do I feel reassured! He always looks like a little kid who’s been pushed out on stage against his will. “Talk, George, Talk!”

And now we have the chance to elect the wandering John McCain. Actually, he has sounded more confident in the debates than at other appearances. But when he wandered around the stage at this week’s debate, it reminded me of people with mental illnesses pacing around aimlessly, presumably releasing up pent up energy. Maybe he’s nervous about the possibility of actually winning. Then what?

We don’t need any more wandering presidents. The Republicans have had their turn…and look at the economy. We really can’t afford four more years.

More Bad Economic News

Tonight’s nightly news is full of bad economic news…layoffs, across the country state budget cuts for healthcare and other services, a drop in the stock market.

We were told that the big bailout was necessary to prevent the drying up of credit…yet the credit well is running dry anyway.

One sheriff in Chicago is refusing to evict people because he can’t tell if the folks are renters or homeowners. Good for him!

I don’t trust any of the politicians. There are plenty of solid good ideas being floated on talk shows and blogs..but will they be used? That would be too easy and would not appease the special interests who have the funds to lobby Congress.

I like the idea of dropping the interest rates on the mortgages if that will keep people in their homes. “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” The mortgage fat cats should have done this already!

If someone has been paying their mortgage faithfully for 10 years, then suddenly they’ve lost their job…work out a plan to give them a financial break of some kind to get them through some tough times. Anything less is like theft.

I hear that the government may have to cut back on student aid. Ouch…that will hurt. But we may have to pick and choose what we can do now and what may have to wait until later. We need a big picture plan. It’s just like your own family budget.  Our government needs to set some priorities, and some budget items may have to wait. Not a great proposition, but what happens if no changes are made?

Wall Street and Congress Should Quit Threatening Us

“Housing Prices Will Drop”

Good. I’m ready for a drop in my property taxes. I’m not planning on moving anytime soon, yet I have to keep paying more and more real real estate taxes to the county. A lot of elderly people and other working class people can’t keep up with these increases.

Also, I could never afford to buy my own house now. What about other people in the same income bracket? Especially young families. Let ’em drop.

I’ve always heard being a mortgage lender was a great way to make a lot of money. Drop those salaries and commissions. Drop those interest rates. You created the system, fix it yourself. Don’t make ALL the taxpayers responsible for your mistakes. Put some people in jail if you find they violated the law.

Let people stay in their houses and take less of a payment for now. Get that cash flowing.

“We Won’t Have Any Credit”

The only money I owe is on my house. I pay off my credit card each and every month. People like me will still have credit as long as companies are making money off of us. Every time I use my card, Wal-Mart, QT, etc. pay the credit card a fee. Somebody’s making some money off me.

Are school’s teaching math anymore? For those home buyers and mortgage lenders “in crisis”…go back to school and learn to manage your finances.

And where was the oversight? I thought banks had regular visits from banking examiners? If the mess is this big, how can we trust that it won’t get bigger with a bail out?

George Bush….keep your damn bail out plan. You and  your rich buddies put your own personal cash into it if it’s so damn important.

This is no “investment.” It’s a threat aimed at the emotions of the American people.

How many lobbyist are pushing for this plan? Who are they and what are they being paid?

Bailout, loan, whatever you call it…we are not so naive to believe that this is a “good deal” for the economy or that suddenly the employment rate will drop, etc. We’ve already got a war to pay for. We can’t have it all without creating newer, bigger problems down the road.

And how many more companies are going to expect a bail out? Where does it end if you don’t stop it now?

Money To Burn

I attended a July 4th picnic held in a neighborhood that’s best described as a little rough around the edges. It appeared to be a working class neighborhood. Although I have been in neighborhoods at the lower end of the economic scale where the yards were meticulously kept, this was not one of those. It had a more rough and tumble look to it.  The streets were filled with older cars and big pick-up trucks.

It was also located in a county where fireworks are legal.

All afternoon we heard the pow-pow-pow of fireworks. I would have assumed the the high cost of gas would have had a bigger affect on these residents. But apparently they had plenty of money burn.

Today at work, the soda machine vendor commented that his $100 worth of fireworks didn’t go as far this year. Only a couple of hours of fun vs a couple of days.

If raising gas prices limits the amount of money people can spend on fireworks…I would be willing to pay more for gas during June and July. Fireworks cause too many injuries to innocent children and damage to innocent property owners.

Who’s Really to Blame for High Gas Costs?

It’s easy to blame the “greedy oil companies” for high gas prices. We hear a lot of talk about “supply and demand.” Let’s talk driver to driver.

First… go to your garage or driveway and see what kind of vehicle you are driving. Do you see a big truck, a van, or other gas-guzzling vehicle? Why did you choose that vehicle?

If the only thing you carry in your pick-up truck to work is your lunchbox, get out a mirror and take some of the blame for the demand that’s causing $4/ a gallon gas prices.

I drive by a construction site every day and their must be 200 pick-up trucks carrying just one guy back and worth to work each day. Whatever tools may be in the trucks would fit in a smaller vehicle. These aren’t trucks delivering the materials used to erect the building…these are “I like sitting up high” vehicles rarely used to move friends or to bring home large items. These vehicles could be rented when needed while a smaller fuel-efficient car could be used for daily travels. The amount of money now being burned to drive these vehicles could pay for another car now.

“Yea, but I need it to pull my (boat, camping trailer, motorcycle trailer, horse trailer).” Guess what…for most people, these are LUXURIES….not necessities.

Not only do these big vehicles costs their owners more money…they pollute the environment, they steal from future generations (FYI oil doesn’t grow underground overnight) and they make the roads more dangerous to those driving small cars.

Everybody who owns a car is feeling the pinch of rising gas prices and the ripple effect on the economy. Have you ever thought about those who have always taken mass transit? Did you ever think about WHY some folks in some cities ride the bus? Like those people who make minimum wage and can’t save enough to buy and maintain even an older beater car. They’ve been budgeting for bus passes for years. In some cities, bus service sucks…limiting their job choices. And what about disabled people who maneuver bus routes in wheelchairs? Do you think they are all making big bucks with a world of “welcome” signs greeting them wherever they go?

Here’s another thought. You decided to move out of town a-ways. Owning a piece of land or a newer home in a newer suburb requires you to drive a truck, van, hummer, or SUV. The best paying job you could find is 60 miles away. So now it’s costing you a small fortune to commute…while in some cities, there are whole neighborhoods of old buildings sitting empty. Some of these places were abandoned years ago due to “white flight.”

Now get out a calculator and figure out how much you saved in taxes or per square foot when you justified your home purchase however many years ago that was. Perhaps you have lived far out long enough to still be ahead…but now when you figure in the cost of driving back and forth to work…where you going to cut back? Your retirement plan? I think a lot of people are going to do the math and buy a smaller car. Others may decide besides the hassle of the commute, they could net more money with a lower-paying job closer to home Remember, everybody doesn’t earn a high salary and they’ve always had to watch what they spend on things like food, shelter, and clothing.

Here’s another argument: I need a big car to drive the carpool to school.

Do they have big subdivisions in Europe? Does everybody there pile into a van or SUV to get to school? Are they are a lot of wide open spaces criss-crossed by highways full of SUVs, RVs, etc.? Did you ever compare our gas costs with theirs? Does anybody know how to walk in this county? Who created – and bought into – the way we American’s have designed our communities?

I used to hear a lot of talk from architects about designing “green” communities and the importance of urban planning, blah, blah, blah. So one time we were in Washington, DC for a convention and we had to travel across town for dinner. Most of us took the Metro….but some of the architects took a taxi. Gee, were they afraid of the subway? Were they too classy for the train?

In the end, everything is local. Local to your household. And now that gas prices have invaded your local pocketbook, the alarm signal has been set off. “Something’s gotta be done!”

I think there are a lot of people out there say, “Yea, no kidding. We’ve been struggling for awhile. Where have YOU been?”