Hear ye! Hear ye! The King hath made a proclamation!

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From this point further, let it be known that laws no longer matter, says King NObama. Sure, Congress can pass legislation, but as King, his highness can decide which laws shall govern the kingdom. And now that the King has only two years left on the throne, it’s time to pull out all the stops to follow through on promises made to special interests, including illegal immigrants (never say “undocumented”, a euphemism suggesting false citizenship is akin to misplaced vehicle registration), whose children and grandchildren are natural born citizens and mostly voting Democrats.

Call it executive action or call it reckless disregard for the rule of law, if you want to be more truthful. What America needs less than just about anything is a President with nothing to lose deciding that he can do whatever he damn well pleases for the next two years. If you think we’ve been on the wrong path, you ain’t seen nothing yet if NObama is hellbent to cement his legacy as the President who sacrificed his country for his party, his book deal, and his future as a high priced public speaker.

While many Americans bemoan the persistent stalemate in Congress, I happen to be of the opinion that government is not about making more laws. It’s about making as few laws as possible, eliminating unnecessary laws, shrinking the role of government in the lives of free Americans, and ensuring that what little role is left for government is at least respected by all, including the current occupant of the White House. Abuse of power is reprehensible, and it is unbecoming of a man who portrayed himself so differently when he did have something to lose. I want my America back, and I want it now.

A Day I’ll Never Forget

Gilliam Gas Station, Edgewood, Texas

Rural Gas Station (Photo credit: fables98)

After 7 months of no blog posts, I break the silence with a true story from before 6 AM this morning.

So there I was, standing at the cash register of a little mom and pop gas station in the middle of nowhere.  I had just pumped my gas, and I had gone inside to pay before getting back on the road.  The gray-haired guy behind the register said kindly, “What pump?”  Heck if I remembered.  Usually I pay attention, but I must have been tired or something.  My mind was just blank.  Finally, he said, “Oh, you must be up on #7.  That’ll be $5.”  That should’ve been the first clue to me that something was not right.  Who the heck buys $5 worth of gas these days?  But again, mind checked out, I simply reached into my pocket and pulled out a $20 bill.  Never mind that I usually pay with credit.  We can get hung up on details, or I can tell a story here.  So let’s get on with it.

Without any hesitation, pops took the $20 bill and grabbed 3 personal checks from the register tray, each written out for $5 to the gas station.  He handed them to me for my $15 change and, KA-CHING, closed the register.  Perplexed, I stood there looking into my hand, completely incredulous, wondering what had just happened.  Who on earth would give personal checks as change from a cash register?  Cripes.  He hadn’t even endorsed them over to me,  and why would I want a fist full of third-party checks anyway?  Surely, the old guy must have been losing his marbles.

“Sorry, but I want cash, not personal checks,” I said.  He looked at me just as bewildered as I was feeling, as if to say, “In my day, we trusted one another and took personal checks as change.”  After a moment of silence, it was clear that he really didn’t know what to do about this situation.  He might have been 80 years old, but these were uncharted waters, it seemed.

“Well, I am just going to have to tear up the checks, then,” he said.  This made absolutely no sense to me, but I had given up hope of making sense of this debacle.  However, just before he tore them up, he stopped.

“I’ll have to call the manager to resolve this,” he said.  I first wondered how a store of this size could have a management structure.  So, this guy was not the owner himself?  Well, okay, I thought.  I wasn’t leaving without $15 in cash.  I waited, and waited, and waited.  Finally, an impatient lug walked in to pay for his gas and grew frustrated by the hold up.  He started muttering something, and I hoped it wasn’t about me, because I wasn’t going to take any flack from somebody who had no idea what I was dealing with at the moment.

The longer I stood there, the more I started thinking.  I really didn’t think that I was on pump #7.  As long as things were taking so long, I decided to go out there and see for myself.  I wandered around, as if lost in a parking lot wondering where I had parked my car.  It was a gas station, for crying out loud, and I could not find my car.

It was just then that I remembered this gas station was an odd one.  There were two pumping areas, and I was in the distant one, not the one next to the building.  I wandered to the more distant one, and I still could not find my car.  You mean now somebody has stolen my car?!?  BUT WAIT!  How had I forgotten that I was driving a rental car, not my silver Lexus?  No wonder I was having trouble finding it.  Good heavens!  Somebody get me out of this place, I thought.  But, finally, I spotted it–a white nondescript car, but unmistakably the rental car I had been driving.  And, as I had thought, I was NOT on pump #7.

Back into the station I went, determined to get this mess cleared up so that I could get back on the road.  I found the old guy still spinning his wheels waiting for management to fix the first problem with the personal checks.  I told him that I wasn’t even on pump #7, but rather pump #6.  He gave me the deer-in-headlights look, and I somehow knew this mess was going to take forever to get fixed.  So I waited, and waited, and waited.  I think we were still waiting for the manager.  Like where could the manager be, exactly, in a place the size of a log cabin?

Just then, I had a strange feeling hit me.  Something told me that I needed to get out to the car.  I don’t know why, but I knew something bad was about to happen.  Call it Divine intervention or whatever, but I heeded the call and proceeded promptly to the nondescript white rental car.  When I got there, I only saw it in the distance speeding away.  It ran over a curb as it left the parking lot.  This day had just gone from bad to worse, and I hardly knew what to do.  Finally, I realized that I must call 911 immediately to report the theft.

“Your car has been stolen?” the 911 operator repeated to me.  “YES!” I confirmed.

“Where are you located?” the 911 operator inquired.  Conveniently, as I stood at the phone booth, I noticed that the address of the gas station was on the side of the building.  Further, the gas station had a name that was something like Red Roof Inn.  Yes, like the hotel.  Heck if I knew why the gas station was named after a cheap hotel.  I just gave the information to the operator and waiting for the next question.

After much back and forth, I suddenly realized I was talking on a pay phone.  A PAY PHONE?!?  THIS PLACE STILL HAD A PAY PHONE, and why hadn’t I thought to just use my cell phone?  It was then that I felt my left front pants pocket for my cell phone.  DOH!  I had left the phone in the rental car that just got stolen.  To make matters worse, I had also left my WALLET in the rental car.  I hated carrying my wallet and often left it behind.  My wife had warned me about that.  When she found out that the rental car had been stolen with my cell phone and wallet inside, I was going to be a dead man.

Just then, I heard somebody playing a harp.  A HARP?!?  Why would somebody be playing a harp at a gas station at this hour in the middle of nowhere?  Was I at the pearly gates?  Was this heaven, where rental cars get stolen with cell phones and wallets inside?  Seems to me there are always angels playing harps in heaven.

No.  It wasn’t heaven, but it was a harp–the harp sound that plays when my alarm goes off on my iPhone.  It was 5:45 AM.  Time to get up and work out before showering and heading to work.  This whole wacky story, while retold entirely as I remember it, was a dream.  It’s been years since I had a dream this vivid.

Wow was I glad that I hadn’t lost my iPhone.

Two Brothers Debate Latest on Lance Armstrong

ImageOne of my heroes is in the news again–Lance Armstrong.  Though it would be easy to join in the barrage of criticism for Lance, I refuse to partake, and I am guessing there are others like me who feel he deserves better.  After an email exchange that I had with my brother earlier today, I thought our sentiments might be worth sharing.  This sort of revelation has a way of bringing out the full range of emotions in people, and I have experienced many on this topic.  Perhaps you, too, have thought long and hard about the legacy of Lance Armstrong.  If so, then maybe you will take solace in knowing that many others are going through the same at this very moment.  Give this email exchange that I had with my brother a read, and share your own thoughts:
 
Gordy
 
I agree with your frustrations that he may have said too much, though I understand what might have motivated him.  I think his tragic flaw is his hubris–his overbearing sense of pride and self-confidence. He couldn’t stand losing the battle in the court of public opinion. Due to the witch hunt against him, his sponsors had dropped him and his ability to compete against world class athletes had been taken away. If he hadn’t considered fessing up to some degree (I think he is still not telling all), then he would be letting the bastards get him down. He is still young enough to be a superhuman athlete without the dope. Lots of people think he could win the Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii. He was on track to compete there before the naysayers got their way. Next, I think they are hellbent on proving that Santa Claus doesn’t exist and that the Easter Bunny doesn’t really lay Cadbury eggs. 
 
Truth be told, I take caffeine pills daily to overcome a lack of sleep. Someday, I hope people don’t try to take away everything I have ever accomplished in my life because caffeine enhanced my performance.
 
In the end, when people reflect on Lance’s life and accomplishments, many will still remember him as the guy who almost died from cancer, came back to win 7 consecutive Tour de France titles, and inspired a generation of cancer sufferers and everyday Joe’s to never, ever, give up hope. In addition, Lance inspired Americans–kids and adults alike–to get on a bike and ride it like they had never ridden before, with determination, drive, and heart, if only to imagine for a moment that they, too, could conquer their foes in the Alps, overcoming their opponents on the steepest climbs and displaying awesome feats of superhuman proportion.  Like the legend of Paul Bunyan, Lance Armstrong’s legend will remain intact long after the dust settles on the doping hubbub. Unlike Paul Bunyan, the legend of Lance Armstrong is real. The enormity of his contributions to mankind cannot be erased by his imperfections.  
 
Dan

Sent from my iPhone

On Jan 14, 2013, at 8:42 PM, Gordy <@aol.com> wrote:

Now I think Armstrong is a idiot! Now I’ve lost respect for him! There is no reason in the world he needed to do that! Everyone uses blood doping in cycling, always have. They already stripped him of his official titles, screw everyone! Everyone in the pelaton was doping prior to the race for training or during at some point! No one has ever won without doping enless you go back to the pre medical information days.
           
            Thank you, Gordy
                            

Wells Fargo: Bankster Bandits Traveling by Stagecoach

Stagecoach in Boulder parade

Image by Jerry W. Lewis via Flickr

Disclosure: OK, so I have all but abandoned my previously self-imposed limit of 199 words per post.  Most of my posts will be shorter in the future, but I cannot avoid the occasional long post.  Hopefully you will find the extra time worth it.  Thanks for reading.

I interrupt my blogging hiatus for an incredible, yet true, tale of the Old West, in the spirit of the Wells Fargo stagecoach imagery that has been so carefully nurtured in order to make people think of them in a romantic, Louis L’Amour-like way, not like a corporate behemoth with over $1.2 trillion (with a “T”) in assets.  Yes, my tale was like a lost episode of Gunsmoke that got shelved for fear it wouldn’t make people feel good about the weekly ritual of depositing their funds at the trusty bank.

Like most people, I avoid face-to-face encounters at the bank like the plague, as I have long preferred dealing with ATM’s.  They just give me what I want, and fast.  If I wanted to chit-chat with strangers, I would find a donut shop somewhere.  Anyway, today’s unfortunate visit was required because my ATM card quit working (could have been that magnet I had in my pocket last week).

Before I arrived, I already had a bad attitude.  I pay this joint 25 bucks a year for overdraft protection so that I don’t need to keep lots of cash sitting there to prevent an overdraft.  Suddenly, in the rare event I use the protection, they started hitting me up for $10 PER DISBURSEMENT from the protection.  Now, that fee has gone up to $12.50.  WHAT do I get for the $25/year that I pay?!?  But I digress.

And so, I hitched my horse, patted the dust off my chaps, and walked through the swinging saloon doors to encountered banker #1 wandering around with a clipboard like those survey takers at the mall.  I wanted to avoid her, but I succumbed to the temptation that she might offer assistance.  Nope.  After standing in the line of patrons, I reached banker #2, who was some young kid who hadn’t been trained on my tricky request for a new ATM card.  He said I would have to sit down with banker #3.  But wait, banker #4 stepped in and said that banker #2 could do it from his terminal.  Just then, banker #2 asked me if I had heard the news about my previously FREE CHECKING account.  I knew this could not be good.  When I replied, “NO”, he proceeded to tell me it is now $7/month, unless BLAH BLAH BLAH (or something like that).  Banker #3 said she would be happy to sit down with me and discuss options that could keep my FREE CHECKING FREE.  Great.  Yes, I would prefer not to get bent over by Wells Fargo yet again.  So, I agreed.

Ten minutes into the ordeal with Banker #3, I took the bait when she asked about my kids (she rightly presumed that I have them):

“Yes, 3 of them.  A toddler boy and twin infant girls,” I said.

“Oh, TWINS!” she said.  Shit, I thought.  Why did I mention that?

“Are they identical?” she inquired.

“Yes, identical,” I replied, hoping that would be the end.

“Oh, how cute.  If you know the secret to having identical twins, please tell me,” she said.  WHAT?!?  OK, ten minutes ago I didn’t know her.  Now, she wants reproductive advice.  I smiled on the outside as I recoiled inside.

Then, of course, as she was taught in the Bankster School of Banditry, she proceeded to give me the hard sell on some kind of accounts for my 3 kids.  Honestly, it all sounded like BLAH BLAH BLAH, except the part that went something like, “…and this will help them to think about Wells Fargo as they grow up.”  Wonderful, you need to start them young, I thought.  How about giving them a pack of cigarettes and a shot of whiskey with each deposit, too?  I could have cut her off, but we courteous Midwesterners are all too often proper when it comes to listening.  Me especially.

After probably 15 minutes, she was done selling me and decided to punch the 3 keys required for me to get a new ATM card mailed to my home.  Upon doing so, she told me that banker #5 might be calling me at home to ask how banker #3 did in servicing my needs.  Good Lord!  All I wanted was a new ATM card.  Instead, I become the subject in a marketing experiment to see how much money can be wrung out of a non-revenue transaction.  If there is any solace I take in the ordeal, it is knowing that bankers #1-4 wasted their time on me today.  They only confirmed my previous thoughts of jumping ship to a credit union not obsessed with increasing quarterly profits in the face of a lending downturn, rising bankruptcies, and increased government regulation.

So, as I threw my leg over Sugar Foot and rode off into the sunset, all I could hope is that banker #5 would be identifiable on my caller ID.  If not, I might be faced with more reproductive questions.

The American Way: Ignorant, Complacent, & Incompetent

Dunce

Image by OmarC via Flickr

NOTE: A second consecutive flagrant violation of my own 199-word limit, this essay was written long before I started the Itty Bitty Witty blog.  Like the previous post on Social Security, this one is as apropos today as it was 2 years ago when I wrote it.  For regular readers, you have noticed my lack of writing over the past month.  I WILL BE BACK, but I am on a hiatus as I focus on other things in my life for a while.  I appreciate your emails inquiring about the blog.

If we Americans have learned anything over the past few years of economic turmoil, it is that lots of people made lots of mistakes that nobody would have thought was possible just a few years ago.  Whether these people were bankers, politicians, CEO’s, or just plain folk who bought homes that were beyond their means, there is enough blame to spread around.  However, a sad reality that has become quite evident is that everybody wants to pin the blame on somebody else.  It is human nature to look for fault in others, and pinning the blame on somebody seems to relieve the rest of us from having to share in the blame.  However, I propose that we consider a more grim reality.  Americans have become ignorant, complacent, and incompetent at virtually everything we do.

Before you throw out my theory as pessimistic rants, consider more deeply your workplace, the places you shop, and the things you see and hear everyday as you go through life.  Evidence of our ignorance, complacency, and incompetence is all around us.  We are so ignorant and complacent, in fact, that most of us do not even realize that we are wallowing in dysfunction.

Sure, the failings of borrowers and lenders are at the heart of the financial collapse that just took place, but a more insidious disease has enveloped society as a whole.  Most of us are too dumb to know what is going on around us, we are too lazy to do much of anything that does not bring instant gratification, and we stink at what we do for a living.  Fortunately, since these qualities are shared by our bosses, peers, friends, and family, we can all get along well enough and avoid feeling like a bunch of bumbling idiots.

This “grim reality,” as I call it, has become evident to me in the 16+ years since I graduated from college.  In that time, I have worked for one of the world’s largest public accounting firms, two of the world’s largest food companies, and one of the world’s largest manufacturers of office products.  In every case, I worked alongside people with college degrees–many from high-priced, reputable universities.  Still, I say without reservation that ignorance, complacency, and incompetence were pervasive in all of these companies.  In addition, I have begun to look for signs of dysfunction outside of the companies where I have worked, and it takes no time at all to find it.  Again, I implore you to open your eyes and look around you.  Ask yourself whether things make sense, and ask yourself whether things will get better or worse over the course of time, based on the trends you see.

Do I consider myself ignorant, complacent, and incompetent?  Surely I do, in certain respects, but I also have a sense of self-awareness about it, which gives me peace of mind and hope that I can overcome my own failings and help others to see theirs, as well.  Humans are imperfect by nature, but ignorance, complacency, and incompetence are not immutable traits.  We all must be accountable for ourselves, and we each must take responsibility for overcoming this scourge so that we and all Americans can once again be proud of ourselves and our ability to make meaningful contributions to the world.  For the time being, we have become basket cases waiting for the government to tell us what they will do next to save us from falling into the abyss.

How did we get here?  We got here by our own successes.  Democracy and free market capitalism gave us a leg up in a world where governments elsewhere were generally more controlling of business and personal freedoms.  These competitive strengths in the U.S. economy delivered a long stretch of growing prosperity that only now seems to have crumbled before us.  Like the only child who gets everything he wants, so did we seem to get whatever we wanted–new homes, new cars, flat screen TV’s, and iPhones.  None of these material possessions brought us happiness, but they did bring us a tremendous amount of debt and a new feeling of being shackled to our jobs for eternity.  We got overconfident in ourselves, we lost our motivation to work as hard as we once did (we were already living like fat cats), and we started to figure out that we could get by without having to truly understand the world around us.  We could just wing it like everybody else.

How do we get out of this mess, and what happens if we don’t get ourselves out of it?  These are simpler questions to answer than one might first think.  First, individuals need to demand more of themselves, voters need to take responsibility for what is happening in government, and businesses need to get back to the business of firing those workers who are not pulling their weight.  In short, each and every one of us needs to feel a greater sense of accountability for ourselves, our government, and our businesses.  We are a society that has gotten used to riding on the coat tails of others, counting on the government to solve our problems, and believing that our success in business would never come under threat from abroad.  Harsh as it may sound, we all need to take our knocks in order to have a wake-up call.  More individuals need to run out of unemployment benefits and go bankrupt.  Local, state, and federal governments need to make more stupid decisions that incite outrage and action by voters, and more businesses need to be allowed to fail.  Failure can be a great motivator for those individuals, politicians, and businesses that suffer the consequences of their own actions.  Unfortunately, we have become a pass-the-buck society that blames its problems on others and casts those who lose out as victims.

If we do not change our ways, then the downward spiral in America will continue.  It is no wonder that foreign competition is ravaging American industries.  People in developing countries around the world are working harder than Americans, both in school and at work, and they do not feel the sense of entitlement that we feel.  We can hide from this truth for only so long.  Government can pump money into the economy to goose the economic indicators and make it look like things are back on track, but such shenanigans miss the point.  Americans need to learn some lessons the hard way.  We don’t need a bankrupt government to reach out to us with more money it borrowed from delusional investors.

Social Security–The Ultimate Ponzi Scheme

Social Security Poster: old man

If Only This Message Were Still True!

NOTE: The post that follows is a flagrant violation of my own 199-word limit, per the slogan of the Itty Bitty Witty blog.  However, I previously wrote this piece for another blog two years ago.  Unfortunately, NOTHING HAS HAPPENED in the past two years to shore up Social Security.  If anything, the situation has gotten worse, as we now know just how dysfunctional Congress has become, as evidenced by the debt ceiling brinksmanship and pathetic, short-term resolution.  The outlook for Social Security is bleak, but never hopeless.  This is America.

Since “Ponzi Scheme” has been repeated a billion times of late in the media, ever since Bernie Madoff made off (pun intended) with billions of dollars of investors’ money, I felt this was the perfect time to talk about the Ultimate Ponzi Scheme–Social Security.  What makes it the Ultimate?  Three factors make it untoppable, even by the biggest cons ever to walk the earth: millions of beneficiaries, government mandated contributions by all workers, and an endless source of funds to keep the scheme alive for now.

First, for those of you with an ounce of doubt regarding whether Social Security could truly be considered a Ponzi scheme, let’s review a few facts.  My favorite online dictionary (www.thefreedictionary.com) defines a Ponzi scheme as follows:

Ponzi scheme: A fraud disguised as an investment opportunity, in which initial investors and the perpetrators of the fraud are paid out of funds raised from later investors, and the later investors lose all funds invested.

Social Security is, in fact, disguised as an investment opportunity.  Put your money in each week while you are working, and the government will send you checks after that until the day you die.  Not a bad deal, for those who collect the checks.  That leads to the next part of the definition.  Those who collect on Social Security are funded by contributions made from later workers.  Everybody knows by now that there is no pot of money in the Social Security trust fund.  On the contrary, the checks are going out as fast as the government can bring the money in from current workers making their contributions.  This leads to the last part of the definition–later participants lose all funds invested.  There has been plenty of talk about when Social Security will go bust–start paying out more in benefits than it is taking in by way of contributions.  The question is not whether Social Security will run out of money but when it will run out.  Whether it is my generation or my baby boy’s generation, Social Security will go bust, and there will be lots of contributors who do not see a nickel of their money ever again.  So, there you have it.  Social Security fits the definition of a Ponzi scheme very well.  Now, let’s get back to talking about why it is the Ultimate Ponzi Scheme.

Let’s start with the beneficiaries.  If you are like most Americans, you have family members who wait for the check to show up each week from the good ol’ Social Security Administration.  Since Americans are notoriously poor savers, far too many Americans live off this money and could not make ends meet without it.  Then, there are the other seniors collecting their checks and heading to the casinos or far away places for nice vacations.  I have read statistics supporting that senior citizens today have a higher standard of living than in past generations.  This is all well and good.  Who doesn’t think that Grandma, Grandpa, or your parents should have a nice retirement?  However, all of these goodhearted people are pawns in the government’s Ponzi scheme.  Why?  Because they are voters, and because they believe they are entitled to their government check, no matter how insolvent the system might be.  This means that any attempt to fix the problem will be political suicide, if it means reducing payments to beneficiaries, unless the politicians behind it are shrewd enough to put the biggest burden on the smallest number of constituents.  Surely, that is where the solution will come someday (but not now, for heaven’s sake).

Next, let’s talk about government mandated contributions.  While some people feel sorry for the unsuspecting victims of Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, one thing is for certain.  Nobody made those investors put their money with Madoff.  It was by their own doing that they chose Madoff and believed in his big lie.  Social Security, on the other hand, has one-upped all other Ponzi schemes by making it federal law that everybody must contribute, whether they want into the scheme or not.  I am 37 years old as of this writing, and I am here to tell you that I would waive my future Social Security benefits in exchange for the choice to stop contributing immediately.  Why?  Because I do not believe in the Ponzi scheme.  Unfortunately, if I did find a way out of my Social Security obligation in each paycheck, I would likely end up in prison for tax evasion.  What a deal for the federal government!  Cook up a scheme that steals money from those who keep the lie going, and toss them in jail if they somehow stop making their payments.  The SEC requires that mutual funds and  publicly traded companies provide a wealth of information regarding the risks of putting money into their mutual fund or stock.  However, it is OK for the federal government to knowingly collect regular contributions from millions of young workers when there is no disputing that Social Security will become insolvent before some of those workers can collect anything.  If that doesn’t qualify as fraud, then I don’t know what does.

Lastly, let’s talk about the endless source of funds to keep the scheme alive for now.  It is no secret that the U.S. government has no qualms about spending more than it takes in.  This is how we get to a budget deficit projected in 2009 alone of about $1.8 trillion.  Our total national debt is estimated to be $11.8 trillion right now, and the government estimates that the next 5 years will add about $9 trillion more to this figure.  What this means is that the U.S. government, unlike you, me, or anybody else managing a budget, can solve its budget problems by simply borrowing more money.  How does it do this?  It does it by selling government bonds to investors, domestic and abroad, who still believe that U.S. government bonds are a risk-free investment.  As long as the rest of the world stays just a bit more corrupt, a bit more socialist, and/or a  bit less supportive of individual liberties and the pursuit of happiness, people will lend money to the U.S..  Whereas Bernie Madoff’s house of cards would surely have collapsed on its own if he had not fessed up, the U.S. government can keep the music playing, so to speak, for as long as it wishes.  All it needs to do is keep borrowing to meet its obligations, and it will not have to admit to the whole fraud.  If this seems too good to be true for the U.S. government, that is because it is too good to be true.  There will be a day when U.S. government bonds will not be perceived as “risk free.”  Investors will demand higher rates of interest on government bonds, and the government will be facing the same bleak situation as all those gullible ex-homeowners whose mortgages suddenly reset in accordance with the terms of their variable rate mortgages.  The government can tinker with just about every element of the free markets (and it has), but it cannot ultimately outwit the worldwide markets for debt, which presently make it possible for the U.S. to borrow at rates of interest that are not indicative of the true risk involved.

So, as you can see, there can be only one Ultimate Ponzi Scheme, and Social Security wins the award.  What should be done about it, you ask?  The President and Congress need to share the facts with Americans, and they need do what is most equitable.  Without question, the government will have to break its promises to many Americans, but bad news is not like wine–it doesn’t get better with age.  In the name of equity, even current beneficiaries should take a hit.  Actuaries need to help figure out what will be required to shore up Social Security, and Congress should take a long and hard look at Social Security before deciding whether to save it.  The private sector has long since gone away from pension programs (defined benefit, like Social Security) in favor of 401k plans (defined contribution).  Maybe it is time for Social Security to bite the dust also.  If each American could see an actual account balance and have some say in how that money is invested, then personal accountability could start to make its way back into society.  Guaranteed checks from the government sound good, but there is no such thing as a free lunch, as the expression goes.  I, for one, do not like being made a pawn in a Ponzi scheme.  In my lifetime, I have contributed $60,000 to Social Security, and my wife has contributed $48,000.  Still, I would rather that Social Security be exposed for what it is–the Ultimate Ponzi Scheme–than have to continue contributing to the scheme until the day I retire.  What is lost is lost, but what money I still have I can put to productive use in my own retirement planning.

Proof That Watching Cartoons Can Be Harmful

Few things make me LOL.  Fewer still make me LMAO, and I am not quite sure what that would entail.  Working your AO makes sense, since there is work involved.  There is a show called “Dance Your AO” (http://dyao.oxygen.com/about-dyao), which also seems plausible (and the work of marketing genius, I might add, by combining dance and weight loss competition in one show).  But laughing to burn off calories?  I am skeptical.  BUT I DIGRESS!  Today’s post is about a story and video that truly made me LOL.  Most of us know The Flintstones cartoon well.

1979 Flintstones Fish Card Game

Image by andertoons via Flickr

Who could forget Fred’s car–the one he started and stopped with his feet?  Environmentally conscious as his solution might have been, he was ahead of his time by a few thousand years.  Moreover, the cartoon was FICTION.  That is, it was fiction until a guy in Michigan decided that faulty brakes were no reason to leave his truck parked.  He could stop it WITH HIS FEET!  Reportedly (http://n.pr/oceVzy), he traveled at speeds up to 40 MPH, a speed that would have made Fred Flintstone envious.  Best of all, police captured video of the guy trying to stop his truck unsuccessfully (see above).  Nobody was hurt, but several cars were damaged.  A small price to pay for LOL.