Friday, February 26, 2010

The lack of in the land of plenty:

It has been said that America is a land of plenty. It’s true that we have enough of everything but due to see that because of this economy we have become a lack of every thing now. People have a lack of confidence about their future, lack of trust in the job opportunity, lack of health care, lack of equity in their houses, lack of savings in their banks, lack of jobs (most specifically), lack of trust in their government, lack of vision and doubt in the young generation to catch up to their parents living standards, lack of affordable housing, lack of privacy etc. In fact if we look closely we are having a lack of crisis.

So how to we get rid of this lack of syndrome. Well the politicians should start this initiative by being truthful about our weaknesses and strengths without coating it in accounting gimmicks and having a hopeful future. We can’t wish for a bright future when we are burdening our future generation with high taxes and extremely high and uncontrollable federal deficits. If we can’t keep our country’s budget in check how can be expect people (who are already struggling) to keep their daily budget in sync.

We need a politician with a vision and realistic approach to the problems we are facing instead of having a utopian vision about a perfect world. Nobody is perfect and if we start from there we will be able to achieve something concrete.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Who is better financially?

You keep on hearing about how the Europeans are the happiest people on earth and how the Europeans (and Canadians and Australians ) have the best health care system on earth, but still have you realized that how many Americans have moved to these places. Granted there is and will also be migration from America to other places but how come we don’t see massive net migration out of the U.S. Although our health care system may not be the best or that we don’t have much financial cushion in the case of emergency but generally people are content over here. Most of the immigrants want to come to the U.S. even with our (supposedly) inferior services and unhappy people and happiness is a relative term too.

Although we may not have superior social services (like free health care, extensive vacation time, early retirement etc) but overall we are content with what we have and what we believe in. We can envy their systems but the trade off is low taxes on our part and the choice to choose our own health care and flexibility to change jobs and move around without bothering about different cultures and languages. As they say that the Grass is always greener on the other side of the pasture.

The necessity of financial education.

In this economy where all the conventional wisdom regarding assets and your liabilities has been turned upside down, the most important thing has been lost on most people. The need for financial education has become a crucial aspect of avoiding another disaster in our economy. The schools and states have been emphasizing Math and Science in order for the U.S. kids to catch up with the world but what about the financial education. Many of these same kids’ parents have fallen on hard times because of the lack of grasp of basic financial sense.

We can rely on financial experts and advisors regarding technical aspects of money matters, but the basic financial education should be the responsibility of everyone.

Basic financial education can be like the calculation on credit card and mortgage interest rates, what is debit and credit, how to balance your accounts, how to balance your monthly household budget and daily dealings that one do regarding their finances.

If we are not able to know what is going on with our finances, then how can we expect that other people will not take advantage of our ignorance? Although I know that basically human beings are honest, but you are setting yourself up for financial ruin if you feel that some person will not take advantage of your lack of financial knowledge and rob you off your precious and hard money.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Good debt vs. Bad debt-2

And we should even be talking about the lines of credit like the home equity line of credit. Although they can be good in that sense that people use to renovate their homes, pay college bills, reduce their credit card debt but nowadays it is very hard to get your hands on one since the housing market is very volatile, you will be hard pressed to convince banks that the price of your house is high enough so that they can award you a line of credit.

Now we come to the so called bad debt. It used to be that credit card debt was bad debt because of the high interest rates. But as I said before, the classification of good debt and bad debt has totally changed on its head. Now people are using more and more of the credit card to pay for their daily essential items and for these people this credit card is the only line of credit that is keep them afloat. The car loan is also something not a bad debt after all since the people need their cars to drive to places.

All I am saying is that the notion that certain debt is good and certain debt is bad depends upon how you see them especially in this economy where the survival of the household finances is the real issue. Although the classification as I pointed before will remain the same for financial advisors, it is up to the individual to figure out their own good and bad debt.

Good debt vs. Bad debt

What is a debt? It has been said that there are two types of debt one which is good like Mortgage debt, student loan debt, loans to improve your business, lines of credit etc, which improves your lives and increase your finances and home occupation and then there are bad debts like car loans, credit card debts (the worst) payday loans and any thing with high interest rates and which does not increase your finances (although I have included car loans here because although it can increase your mobility, it does not increase your finances or improve your equity since it depreciates very fast).

But in this economy this notion of good debt and bad debt is holding only for people with enough means to manage it. Take for instance Mortgage debt, although being a good one since you are investing in a place to live in is becoming a burdensome debt to people who are struggling with unemployment and other debts. They have to think about whether to walk away from the house which can be underwater (or whose mortgage is more than the value of the house) or putting food on the table.

The same is happening with student loans, although a good debt since they are investing in their future in the hope that they will be able to find a good job and earn more money but these loans are getting very burdensome to these students who have to juggle a job, studies and maybe family obligations, so they also have to make a choice how to continue paying for college, either by taking out loans or skipping one semester, earn some money and then register for the next semester.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Back from the Dead

Just when you thought it was safe to stop hearing about health care, it has come back roaring again to torture us again for the New Year. This time the President is proposing a 950 billion dollar tab (over ten years) on the health care which he is saying is better than the last one. And this time the Democrats don’t seem to care about bi-partisanship and just want to bypass everybody in order to pass the new bill. Another aspect of the bill is that it won’t add the deficit (yeah right, I am skeptical). It is including a combination of higher taxes, cuts and fees to pay for it. But you and I know that all this rosy forecast is jus that rosy.

Nobody knows what will happen one year from now (remember the housing collapse) lest we are magicians to know what will happen in ten years. What is happening to the job market? I understand that the health care bill is very important and near and dear to the President but as I said before in my previous posts that if I don’t have a job how will I pay for the health care premiums. Granted I will be subsidized by the Government but ultimately I will have to pay it through other subtle means. You can’t have health insurance without putting food on the table and that is right now the number one issue. Getting people to jobs. If the price tab is almost one trillion dollars (and it may become an entitlement like the Medicare), I am almost sure that we can spend that kind of money on creating jobs (maybe even half of that). So instead of again exhausting our energies on a bill which is not even sure to pass, lets try to have a bill for job creation (which I am sure will have bipartisan support). This is my humble request and appeal.

Escape from Afghanistan?-2

I know that war is hell and people loose lives in it and it changes people’s perception of the world. But sometimes war is necessary for what you believe in and to help your friends in their time of need. Another thing is that if you are not ready to go to war, then why you are keeping an Army. Netherlands does not seem to be in any danger of being invaded by another European country and also since it has a nuclear umbrella (provided courtesy of the U.S.), why to keep an army and spending your hard earned income on it, if they are not going to fight anybody.

It is high time now for the European to think about what to do with the Afghanistan war. Do they really have doubts about it and want to exit it with some excuse (and dignity) or are they going to stand with the United States in this war like the U.S. did in World War II (where we did not retreat in the face of casualties but finished the job). They should not hand an effective propaganda to the Taliban that the Europeans chickened out.

Escape from Afghanistan?

If somebody who is awake has read this news that due to a conflict of opinions regarding keeping troops in Afghanistan, the Dutch coalition government has collapsed. I really don’t get it, it is said that an attack on one NATO country makes it necessary that all the countries respond forcefully, but here this is a small country whose casualties are not that much and they are trying to get out of Afghanistan. I can understand that the Dutch person are against the Afghan war, but is it fair that America should be fighting all the wars on behalf of other people.

The American has a nuclear umbrella over Europe and what purpose they have huge armies with nuclear weapons (France and U.K) and if some casualties arise they try to take their personnel out of the War zone. Netherlands want to go back to their cocoons and stay there, what kind of example they are showing the Taliban that when push comes to shove, they run out like chicken, is the American life so cheap that they keep on trying to fight all these Taliban. And mind you Netherlands are not on the top of the favorites of the Taliban because of their anti-Islam and anti Muslims stances. So I believe that the next time they (I mean the Europeans) come to ask for our help, we should remind them about their own cowardice and reluctance to fight. I also believe that all that prosperity in Europe has made them too comfortable in their homes and the call to duty is not something the new generation is use to.

My post may sound bitter but that is the truth if you believe in freedom of opinion in Europe. That is why sometimes it is better to act alone than to start negotiations with your friends because everybody has to look after their own interests and we should look after our own and not others (I mean Europeans) in some cases.

Demands on Government Services-3

While I am at it, a new report came out stating that the states revenue has declined due to the ongoing recession. My previous post suggested some tax increase and pension and wage freezes and also putting most of the government paperwork on line. Although most of my proposals will be opposed by the public (as usual) but there is no way out of this fiscal mess that we are in.

However much I don’t like it and neither does an overwhelming majority of the citizens, but it is a fact that a combination of higher taxes and fees along with wage, pension freezes and services cuts will be essential in order for the states to provide essential services to needy and not so needy people. There is no way around this, maybe it won’t happen soon but later it will have to happen otherwise more painful cuts will be forced upon people (like they are doing in California and also overseas in Greece)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Demands on Government Services-2

But how to pay for all the services the public demands without increasing the overall tax base. Nowadays it has become very popular for politicians to raise the taxes on the rich people. But unless it is a Federal tax, the rich people can move to another state where the taxes are low. But you can only tax the rich so much. They cannot support all the demands for social services and keep on paying exorbitant taxes.

A broad based tax structure should be enacted and explained by the politicians to the public without which the states would not be able to pay for the services their citizens demand. Remember most of the states are by law required to balance the budget and furthermore they can only generate revenue by taxing people unlike the federal government which can run deficits and print money to pay for all the programs.

A tax on cigarettes and alcohol based liquids should be start plus the states should increase the tax on gasoline products and also they should be taxing services at the same level as they do for the goods industry. Increasing the entrance fees on parks and also freezing pension plans and wages to current levels should be a good start. Most of the government should move their stuff online in order to reduce paper waste (although it would be inconvenient for poor people without access to computers) but this can be tackled by increased access to computers in libraries (which are in every town).

On the lighter Side:-Movies- Feast

This movie is for die hard horror fans. Bloods galore in this movie regarding some bar patrons who are hoarded inside it trying to survive a bloody monstrous onslaught of blood thirsty creatures. The movie is claustrophobic since it is filmed overwhelmingly inside a bar with an assortment of characters.

The blood gushes out like water and too much screaming goes on in this effective horror movie. Never a dull moment, although it is strictly recommended for horror fans and is not for the squeamish.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Demands on Government Services

Right now in this devastating recession that we are going through, the demand on government services is at an all time high. Just today I read a report that due to the increasing demand on Medicaid, the struggling states are trying to curtail some optional benefits out of the Medicaid which serve mainly the low income. This report also shows that since Medicaid already reimburses the health care professional far less than their costs; most of the doctors are opting out of it at a time when the need is most.

Another report a few days ago said the stigma of food stamp is slowing evaporating and more people have come to realize this as not a welfare program but the lender of the last food resort for people who were not likely to accept it when the economy was good.

But this increased demand is busting the budgets of states at the same time they are trying to raise revenue which is not easy since their residents are increasingly at the unemployment line.

All this assistance is putting a dent to the budget of states and more and more states will have to raise the taxes in order to fulfill these obligations. But the public is increasing relying on the services of the states but they are loathe to fund these same services when the time comes. Most of the funds for the services comes in the form of property taxes but in these recessionary times when the citizens are struggling and the price of the houses are going down, they are in no mood to vote for increase in their property taxes which are very high anyway in some parts of the country (primarily in New Jersey where it is the highest)

On the lighter Side:-Movies- 88 Minutes

Another Al Pacino vehicle and not that great. He plays a forensic psychologist at a university in Washington State whose testimony played a part in the conviction of a serial killer. But then it seems then the killing has started again copy cat style for every person who meets him. Some suspense but overall the movie wastes talent of a great actor. Sometimes the film seems like playing like a late night cable movie with some gore thrown in and Al Pacino seems tired and aged in this movie.

Overall a forgetful movie which I don’t under why he had to star in it. With William forsythe( after a long time) playing an FBI agent. Better to watch Insomnia (with Al Pacino and Robin Williams). I will not recommend it.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Unsustainable Truth-6

The next big programs that we have to fund are Medicaid and Medicare. These are huge entitlements and will be becoming bigger and bigger every year due to the advances in technology and the fact that people are living longer. Another factor contributing in the increase in health cost is the debt that the young doctors accumulate by the time they graduate from Medical school. How to contain this cost has been a dilemma for every administration. Politicians don’t want to touch this entitlement since most of the senior citizens vote and they don’t seem to look kindly to people who touch their most cherished entitlement (toy, prize, and right, whatever you want to call it).

Although the United States population is increasing (due to immigration) but still our young generation which is already burden with debt (student loans, credit card debt, etc) will not be able to sustain the aging population unless we either drastically reduce the benefits or increase the taxes. Both of these solutions have its own opponents like the reduction of benefits will be opposed by the elderly and the increase in taxes by the young. I fear that there will be clash generations as we approach how to keep both of these factors in balance. But there is no escaping the fact that all the countries which have embraced this welfare model of government will in future see their economies suffers due to these entitlements. Unless somebody tell the public the true picture of the finances I guess that it will be business as usual in all these places until the day of reckoning.

The Unsustainable Truth-5

I know if any politicians talks about reduction in defense budget, he or she will immediately face a barrage of being unpatriotic or not concerned about the security of the country but we really have to discuss the defense budget and where should be our real obligations be given the changed world in which we live and the economic reality we are in. It is no good to duck this issue and put your head in the sand that the issue will go away. Our defense budget has been increasing and we need to prioritize our troops so that we are not wasting our resources where it should not be wasted (Europe and Japan is one place).

We should also be in a habit of start spending what we earn instead of borrowing from international and local investors. It simply cannot be sustained. How much longer will we be able to borrow before out credit rating suffers (it is already on the intense watch list by the rating agencies). We should make it easier for people to manage their own finances and teach them how to handle their budget and savings. Savings is very essential for our country finances, yet it is not being promoted and sometimes penalized (like right now with a meager less than one percent interest rate on savings account in banks). Even with this great recession, people are somewhat illiterate about how the financial world works and they leave it to the so called professional to handle their finances which they can handle themselves if they know more about it.

The Unsustainable Truth-4

Now let’s come to the United States. The same story that is being played in Europe is being played here too. Too many unfunded promises have been made to the citizens without any corresponding money. We have promised so much to so many people that the present generation (which will become the future) will be hard pressed to pay for it and expect something or anything in return. We are accumulating so much debt to pay for just four of the entitlements that we would not be able to do anything with our development. The four liabilities are Medicaid, Medicare, Defense and Debt interest obligations. Time is not far when we will be issuing debt just to pay the interest on the previous debt.

Our biggest obligation which our European counterparts have not be deal with is the Defense budget which is more than the GDP of Greece. Nobody is saying here that we should ignore defense but come on. How much do we have to spend on defense on borrowed money? As I said in my previous posts last year that we need to get our troops out of the harms way in countries which don’t need us anymore (like Japan and Germany) also Iraq has been stabilized so we can wind down our commitment there and bring our troops home. In previous years we could have supported our troops in other countries but now with this economic mess we are in, we can no longer pay for these troops being stationed overseas in countries which are the richest in the world.

Nobody (the politicians and the common folk alike) has bothered to talk about our defense obligations in Germany and Japan. We have stationed troops there like it is still the cold war (by the way it has ended 20 years ago).

The Unsustainable Truth-3

The population of Europe is shrinking every year. At the same time the people who are already there are aging faster and living longer. They will need to have more social services and health care, which will increase the budget of all the European countries. Either they will have to tax more (which they already do and nobody likes it) or they will have to curtail their social services (which nobody likes). But even if they do an either or scenario they will be short of money since whatever debt they acquire has to be paid back with interest.

This type of model according to me is unsustainable in the long run for many countries. Look at Japan for example, they have the fastest growing old population in the world and their government has borrowed more and more without caring about who is going to pay for all this. Even when they are issuing more debt, they will have to incur more interest on it or will have to pay higher interest in order to attract investors. Their population is shrinking too (with a combination of factors like stringent immigration policy, lack of child care and society averse to women working etc).

Many European countries are hesitant to open their countries to massive numbers of immigrants since their own population is averse to integration with “other people” no matter what they openly say otherwise. The idea of the government taking care of people from cradle to the grave which is still in vogue in many European countries (and supported by their population enthusiastically) will not last much longer and for the young people who are supporting these aging population are fearful of not being able to enjoy their fruits of labor when they become old.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Unsustainable Truth-2

The welfare states as practiced in European countries (and to a lesser extent the U.S.) has been good to people in those countries when the competition was less and the population growth was sustaining the old people and also people were living less longer than they are today. But the technological advances in medicine and science have given way to people to live way longer than these welfare programs were originally intended. Further more because of this advances young people are postponing getting married and having children and also the high cost of living in these countries have made these people hesitant to take on more responsibilities than they already have. The consequence is that the population is aging faster than the population replacement or growth and as such the taxes are going either up or the states are taking more debt to pay for their aging population.

In addition to the above, most of the people are cushioned against high unemployment by a variety of programs that may or may not sustain their living conditions during their unemployment period. In Greece people employed by the states are more and more going on strikes to maintain their jobs without caring about how their government will pay for all that they are striking more. It is a big dilemma. If they cut jobs or curtail programs the government is at risk of facing more strikes and violence and if they don’t do anything then the government will have to take on more debt at a time European union people are in no mood to give them much aid.

The Unsustainable Truth

Countries all over the world are grappling with huge and mounting amounts of debt that looks to be unsustainable in the long run. The most problematic is the one of Greece where the country is grappling with high government debt relative to its GDP and threatening to undermine the stability of Europe. But other countries like Spain, Ireland, and Portugal and to a lesser extent Italy are also in trouble.
Here in the United States, we are also not immune to the fluctuations of Europe debt and we have our own huge debt to tackle. But Greece because of its low export base and high Government sector, it has been promising its people way beyond what can be easily sustained by the Government (same as we are doing here is the U.S. as will be mentioned later on). Japan is another case where the debt to GDP ratio will top soon 200 percent. This means that they will have twice the amount of debt as what their country can produce in a year.

The main problem here is that in Europe and in Japan, the population growth is either slowing or going in the negative territory and the people are living longer. So more and more old people will be depending on the younger people to pay for their welfare. This increased dependence on young people will further force them to postpone their marriage and having kids and thus more debt will be issued by their governments to sustain the welfare state in those countries.

On the lighter Side:-Movies- Tropic Thunder

Ben stiller, Jack black and Tom cruise stars in this action/ comedy film about a film crew on location in Vietnam who are thrust into real life action situation when the crew headed by Ben stiller and Jack black encounters real life South East Asian freedom fighters. Although it has its shares of laughs and action, it is a silly movie with decent acting.

Tom cruise is hilarious to watch as the potty mouth guy who is financing this movie Still believes that it is still a movie and not real life situation.It has its silly moments (especially with Jack Black) but overall it is bearable to watch But not that funny. If you are a fan of Jack Black and Tom cruise and Ben stiller then watch it otherwise you can still skip this movie. My recommendation is watch it if you have time to kill.

On the lighter Side:-Movies- Seven Pounds

It is essentially a Will Smith movie regarding a guy who had an accident in which his wife dies and seven people in another car got hurt. He is tormented by this and decides to do seven good deeds to help each of his victims which they don’t even know he was involved in the car accident. Pretty weird and depressing movie considering he made much better movie by the name of The pursuit of Happyness.

In the start you would not know what is going on but as the movie races (or crawls) toward the conclusion you would find out what the story is all about. I would not recommend this movie (but only if you are fan of Will Smith) then you can watch it otherwise watch his other movies.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Is Retirement Over-hyped?-2

I know this may sound like a radical idea, but this recession is unforgiving to people and retirement has become a mirage for most of the older folks. For one I don’t believe in retirement since we all work till we die so retirement is like you are waiting to die. Furthermore if I am going to do something and wait for retirement to do then either I won’t be able to do (because of time constraints and money) or my health may not be as great to do the kind of stuff I would like to do.

Since people’s finances have gone down the drain and you can expect the tax rates to go up along with the prices so all bets are off regarding how much you need for retirement. You may be advised you need certain amount of money but you can get way off the mark if the events in the future unfold not according to your expectations. So according to my opinions, free up some time to think about things that you would like to do when you retire and start working on it (in terms of time, money, effort) because now is the best time to work on things not when you are suppose to retire (if there is such a thing).

Is Retirement Over-hyped?

Ah retirement, magic word that puts smile on peoples faces like a kid with an ice cream in their hands. If you reach a certain age then retirement is a milestone, but for some people retiring in their Fifties is really like you have really made it and not worried about your expenses if you retire. For some it is just a chance to do something which they love without worrying about getting up in the morning or following a rigid 9 to 5 life or being together without their kids (if you have them). But is retirement really that magic word that it has been hyped to death not only by the financial industry but by politicians, media and all sorts of people.

But if you really love some thing do it right now when you are young, but wait people will say that don’t have the time to undertake such kind of venture with all the expenses and time consuming activities. But if you are going to wait for retirement then how would you know you are interested in the same activity as you were when you had the energy to do it.

In this economy where the people who followed all the rules and saved in their 401 (k) and retirement account and stock market have lost a bundle are trying to postpone their retirements in order to make some money. Then there is this demand by their kids who have lost jobs and moving back with their parents which put additional burden on them to postpone retirement to support their kids.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

On the lighter side- Sports- Football- Super bowl

Some of you may be wondering why I did not commented on the biggest sports event in the U.S. The reasons (s) are (is) I really don’t know the game that well (or not at all except touchdown). Nobody that I know of significantly follow the football although it is a prime event and even bigger than baseball (some will dispute that). It has been duly noted this time around (with surveys) that some of the people watch the game for its innovative or new ads. It is also a night for electronic stores since they advertise the biggest TV sets there are to the football crowd.

There are parties going on due to this event with alcohol and snacks and all kinds of junk food. Men are in an adrenaline state and it is a kind of festival in almost all the houses where there is a football fan even if their home team is not playing. Even some women jump on this bandwagon and see the sports with their significant other.

Since I did not watch the game, I could not comment on the ads or the game, but the final score and the winning team I checked it out. So there you have it, now I should not be blamed for not commenting on the Super bowl.

Being Labeled-2

Even when you apply online or contact the recruiting agencies saying that you want to start in a new career and you are working to acquire knowledge in that field, they will not entertain you, since these agencies are hired specifically to find potential employees which fit the description of the job the employers have conveyed to these agencies. It can be highly frustrating process. Even if you have acquired the requisite knowledge in a new field, you will stuck with the new reality of not having the experience.

Somebody has to give a chance to have that experience but as the saying goes (let George do it), it is always somebody else job to train you and then you can come to the new employer with that experience. Nobody wants to be the first to train you and fear that you might leave when you acquire that experience. In this process they loose lots of potential talent.

Being labeled is such a devastating experience that unless you go on your own or drastically acquire new degrees you are stuck with it. That is why all these manufacturing and construction jobs which are getting lost, the people who work in their tends to be older and not that much educated (not all of them) and it will be hard for them to acquire new skills and even more convince their potential employers that they can do something other than what they have been doing for the last twenty years. This process of labeling has been going on forever frustrating many people and forcing them to retire prematurely and losing more U.S. productivity while burdening our social services. We need to take a chance on these people and help them achieve new careers which can make them more productive and happy during the rest of their productive lives.

Being Labeled

Have you ever been labeled? I have. By being labeled means that you are suited for just one type of job and the employer will not consider you or take a risk on you (meaning training) since they don’t have the time or the money or don’t want to make an effort to develop human resources. I am just not saying that all the employers are like that but the majority is like that. In this fast paced business environment where even a one day loss is too much for employers, they want to hire somebody who already has the necessary experience to hit the ground running as soon as they hired. Although I can generally sympathize with these employers but to be fair nobody learns things from their mother’s womb, they gain experience only when they are hired for a certain position.

If I want to do something else (other than what I am doing right now) no sire I can’t I have already been labeled suitable for only such and such position and if I don’t have the experience good luck, I am starve or be on food stamps or better yet just go back to school (which I am doing right now-third time) to change my career goals.

It is just a shame that the employers think that I may only be suitable for a certain job like I had a choice; somebody has to pay the bills and support a family. It is not that I can just sit on my back and wait for my dream job even if I have to wait for several years.

Snowed in

Yesterday was a snow day for me. I had to take off from work since it was snowing heavily in New Jersey. But it really sucked since I am a temporary employee I had to forego one day’s pay. My wife had to work from home since she is a permanent employee and her job affords her the luxury to stay at home and work from there. I really wish I had that kind of job but one I am a temporary worker and second my job requires me to be at work no matter what so I don’t have that luxury of working from home.

There was a time not long ago that people had to physically come to work but with the increase usage of internet and telecommuting and advancement of technology, one can easily remotely work from home without losing their days and without disrupting the company’s business. Although it is still frowned upon by the senior management to work from home when you can possibly come to work, but the resistance is breaking down when you can see the benefit of minimal disruption of business even when the weather is inclement. But it is not true for some businesses and even some departments in the business where you have to absolutely come to work no matter what the weather is and use either your personal day or vacation day if you are unable to come.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Transformation of the book industry:-3

But the experience of holding the book in your hand and then flipping the pages and reading for a while cannot be replaced by the visual experience you have if browsing on the internet. Every person is different, some may like the internet experience and some may not and one more thing if you are in a hurry and can’t wait for a few days to get your hand on to a favorite book, then there is no replacing the book store. You get the book right away by walking to your nearby book store but you pay a premium (listed) price for the convenience of having it right that instance.

But I still believe that the internet has transformed the book industry for the better by letting the people have access to book information right on the internet. It is heart wrenching for the people who have lost their jobs when the book stores have closed but there is always a casualty and an opportunity when new technology comes to old industries. The price comparison between the online book stores and the physical stores is too much and the money and time saved on books purchasing have decreased tremendously. There will be continuous turmoil in this vital industry as technology advances and convenience grows with the way the books are purchased and read.

Transformation of the book industry:-2

There was also a time when the only way to read a book or research a term paper was through a library (I did it at that time). Just to do your research paper I had to go to the college library, take out the relevant books, make photocopies of the pages and then sit out in the library to do the research. Furthermore the pain was on the time constraint, like I had to come at a certain time and then leave at a certain time. It was really painful to do research in those pre-internet days.

But now when I went back to school after a long time, I did the research right in my PJs and in my home computer, printing right at home all the material and doing the researchand submitting the paper without leaving my home. It is so convenient. This is also what transformed the Book industry. There use to be so many book sellers before and now only two chains are surviving. And even they have transformed into a library type setting.

There is coffee shop in the store and chairs for the people to relax and enjoy the reading and if they like the book they can buy it too. It is just a matter of survival for these book stores. They now have a lot of competition from on line book companies who can discount heavily their books without the added expenses of physical stores and employees payroll.

Transformation of the book industry:

There was a time when the book industry was a dominant one in terms of people’s attention. It still is but now it has competition with regarding to having people’s attention. There are now the video games, internet, movies, music and the like. Although I still see people reading books on the bus and on the train and anything and anywhere where their hands are free and they don’t have much to do. But even in some of the places, people can play games and talk on the cell phone.

It is not that people have lost the habit to read, but now their lives are so busy that paying attention to some serious reading can take away more important things in their lives. I use to read fiction books like novels but it was long time ago, now my reading habits are replaced by the internet and television and text books. I read anything and everything which interests me right on the internet. Maybe I am getting old but I don’t have the patience (or the time for that matter) to read a book 300 to 500 page long (although I would commend that my wife has developed a habit recently to read novels which interests here and she is an avid reader now). I can only read non fiction or text books (when I am at school). It does not mean that I don’t read, it is just that reading pages after pages can not hold my attention much longer.

On the lighter Side:-Movies- Avatar

Another winner from the director of Titanic. I watched it with a full theatre and inflated tickets (you have to pay USD3.00 extra for the 3D glasses). This movie should be watched in a theatre and nowhere else. It is about a planet called Pandora where the inhabitants hold an extremely rare metal under a supposedly divine tree which the humans also want to take it and they are trying to coerce the inhabitants to relocate to another place so they can take this rare metal.

First they try to plant an individual with the same qualities and features into them to take them into confidence but when this human individual becomes sympathetic to the cause of the aliens then the humans try to destroy the aliens’ planet. Visually stunning with a completely new language created for this movie, it is about love and respect for other cultures and religions and also about greed. I will not pass any judgment regarding what it alludes to or not. Just sit back and enjoy this superb and I would say a long (over two and half hours) which never slows down or is dull or drags along and you seem to praying to end. Enjoying all the way through. I would highly recommend it. Not to be missed.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The unemployed saga continues

As I was surfing the web reading whatever was readable I came across an interesting article in CNN regarding people who gave up searching for job. It was really amazing and heart wrenching to see perfectly normal and able bodied family and single people giving up on job after applying for hundreds of jobs. People who have long experiences in work and who have sent out hundreds of resume are still out of work after more than one year and in one case almost two years. Some of the young folks have moved back to their parents’ house to save money or have no money; some are volunteering to brush up their resumes or just keeping themselves busy.

Even people who have applied with varied experience have found out that they are out of luck since they don’t have the “requisite” experience to land that dream. Peoples dream are getting lost and now it is just a matter of survival. We are losing so much productivity because of this unemployment situation. Now there is no guarantee that you will be able to get a job even with advance degree since the employers have a large pool of applicants with experience to choose from. And with more college students in debt of student loans, the pressure on wages will lead to lower salary for the new employees. This in turn will make them postpone their goals in life further down the road. It is really terrifying and frustrating, but this is how the new economy looks right now.

The New Unemployment figures-January 2010

With the numbers out today, it seems that the percentage has gone down to 9.7 percent but with more than 20,000 jobs gone. Do we celebrate these low figures or do we ignore it if one was unemployed, since these numbers mean nothing to the long term unemployed. As the economists are saying that we need at least 100,000 to 125,000 jobs per month just to keep up with the population. So in the coming months we will have to see if this so called unemployment figures goes down or up or remain study. Maybe the stock market will cheer these numbers that the job market is improving.

The low jobs losses should mean that most of the companies have cut so many jobs that they don’t have much leeway to cut anymore without folding up their companies or losing their businesses. But the credit market is so tight and loans are not coming by that their will be more room to lay off people. The best (or worst) part of this recession is that it has pushed the unemployed to try new things like going on their own, starting their own businesses or just going back to school.

I for one am back to school but I still strongly suggest to people that instead of waiting for any job to come by and then accepting the lower paying job thus bruising your ego, they should explore the entrepreneurship side too. I know it has been said countless times before but I will say it again that due to the internet, the barriers to entry of starting your own business has never been lower. Costs are lower and you don’t need that much funding to start your own business. So good luck on your job search and if you are thinking about starting your own business, good luck on that too.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Great Japanese Recall:-2

The continuing saga of the Toyota recall lives on. Now it recently announced the recall of its most popular hybrid vehicle because of brake issue. One of my first cars that I drove was Toyota Corolla. It was (is) the best car around I believe, and I am not happy that these problems for Toyota are multiplying. I believe something along the way Toyota lost control over its quality in pursuit of being the number one car company in the world.

It is not the end of the world for Toyota and they will recover from this fiasco but it will take them a long time with lower prices for cars and higher incentives for potential car owners.

The one thing that Toyota did not do was have a PR (public relations) campaign right away when the problems starting developing. They kept on quiet for a long time (in terms of public relations acknowledgment) and when finally they did acknowledge, their reputation had started to suffer. I don’t understand how Toyota which really make very efficient cars and have a solid business model was able to goof up on their public relations department. They were very slow to respond to the problems and equally slow to have someone higher up in the company do the damage control.

It is not the first time that a company is doing the recall and they should have studied other companies recall situation and how they handled or not handled the public relations and should have prepared for this. I guess now they will have to suffer the consequences of this nightmare and hopefully will recover their reputation as being an efficient car maker in the future.

Blogging decline (or not)

Just fresh news out there which states that young people are less interested in long form blog and more interested in social networks, where they don’t have to write that much or read that much. The article goes on to state that the young people don’t want to share their opinions with the world due to their privacy concerns. But these same people want to post their photos on social networking sites for everyone in the world to see. I can understand that blogging is very personal and it is one person’s experience or opinion but there can more important things to do with the blogs.

Not all the blogs are personal (although most of them are), you can find many with niche topics and you can make plenty of opinions of your own about them by making you think. I am not saying this just because I blog (I just started at end of October 2009) but blogging and social networks sites have different platforms and audiences. You can have a long form blog or short form it all depends on your taste. Once you are in college (if you choose to go) then you can have ideas about your term and research papers.

Anyway I am unable to express my thoughts in 140 characters or less or have it plastered on social networking sites (which I have joined only one of them). Although I believe they are a good platform to keep in touch with your loved ones and friends and great for advertisement (if you own a business or start up).

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Recession and Debt:

You may have thought that only the United States is in debt but we are also hearing (a news report) that the European Union is also mired in debt due to the severe recession that is stretching the budgets of those countries to the breaking point. Case in point is that of Greece, European Union rule says that budget deficit should be no more than 3 percent of the GDP, but Greece’s budget deficit is more than 13 percent of its GDP.

After Greece, it is Spain, Portugal and Ireland which have their budget deficit way above the 3 percent limit. It is not only these countries but the best performers (France and Germany) whose budget deficit is above 3 percent.

This recession has really taken a toll on rich and poor countries alike. Due to the recession, more people are out of work and clamoring for social services which increases the need to pay out more money and support these jobless people which in turn increase the budget deficit. In addition to this help, there is a need to have a loose monetary policy by keeping interest rates low enough for the banks to lend money but high enough that excess and cheap money does not create inflation. Even if now the recession is coming to an end, unemployment is still at stubborn high levels which will necessitate continued support to the jobless and loose monetary policy for a while.

Federal Budget-2011:-2

As people have to balance their budget, they have to cut expenses or increase income or get some loan. Cutting expenses to the bone can be done but how far you can go, you cannot tell your kid you don’t have any money for food or just some entertainment, increasing income by finding another job is getting harder and harder and to get a loan is just forget about it right now. So if we put the same scenario to the Federal budget, we will see that cutting expenses can be done if the politicians can find the will to do it, raising taxes can raise revenue but how far to raise taxes before people revolt that is the tricky part and to get some loan right now the world is lending the U.S. enormous sums of money because they believe that we will be able to pay but a time will come (fast approaching) when the debt will be so big that they will be reluctant to lend more without seeing some action on the part of the U.S. to trim its expenses and raise its revenue.

If the politicians can only see the long term consequences of this threat to the U.S. prosperity regarding the deficit and stop lying or use gimmicks to show a favorable face to the deficit, then the people will start to realize.

We really need to start balancing our Federal Budget not some time in the future but now. As I said before I will be talking a lot about the budget deficits in my future posts so stay tuned and keep on reading.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Federal Budget-2011

The President has proposed a new Federal Budget for the fiscal year 2011 which is a new record with record money (which we don’t have) to be spent. The deficit is projected to be more than US 1 trillion Dollars and raising the taxes also US1 trillion. It is a massive budget with mind boggling numbers. The President will be having a hard time passing the budget as is with both the Republicans and the Democrats (mindful of the voters’ anger) against the big budget deficit and they should be.

Even with record increase in taxes, the deficit will remain in the trillions. This cannot go on forever. Who will pay for all this? With this record debt, there won’t be much money left for domestic programs for the foreseeable future. And along with less money for domestic programs, out clout in the world affairs will diminish further since we will be hampered by our inability to pursue or persuade other countries to follow our policies and defend our interests. Even with increasing taxes on the so called wealthy and corporations, in the future the Middle class will not be immune to a tax increase.

We cannot spend our way out of this deficit even when some economists are saying that we should not be worried about the Federal debt right now.I am not an economist but I know this for sure, we cannot wait for the economy to get better, because the world out there is not going to wait for us to grow again at the expense of their money. Sooner or later our foreign creditors will start demanding higher interests rates on our securities, which will lead to more long term interests on every thing and we will become hostage to outside influences and money just like we are now on the foreign oil.

Terror trials Controversies:-2

Furthermore nobody has thought about the costs. In these economic times, when everybody (including the states and Federal Government) are hurting and trying to save money, why should we be spending hundreds of millions of dollars on something that is quite obvious, these terrorists don’t want any sympathy, they just want to die at the hands of the Americans and gain martyrdom. That is their only agenda.

It will not only incur huge expenses but also logistic nightmare for every body. A media circus will be created unless it is behind some military installation. We should also not forget the psyche of these people. They will be laughing their butt off seeing us trying these terrorists in courts (which they don’t least bit care about) who have attempted to harm the American people and have free publicity about their views in all the top media outlets in the world.

The best way to try these people is to not try them at all anywhere. And if some misguided people think that it is cool idea to try them anyway (just to show the world that we are fair), then they should be tried in a Military court (since remember they have been designated enemy combatants) and behind closed doors and outside the United States territory.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Terror trials Controversies:

After much hue and cry, the U.S. has decided not to hold the terror trials in New York City after all. Why it was selected in the first place is a Mystery. It was said that since the 9/11 attacks happened in New York, then the trials should be held there right near the World Trade Center site. The U.S. has decided to provide USD 200 million for the trial.

There is a huge controversy going on about these trials. There are as many arguments against it as there are for it. Some argue that these terrorists should be tried in Military courts because they are enemy combatants, some say they should be tried in Civilian courts since they killed Civilians. Then there is this controversy about whether it should be held in the U.S. or outside the U.S.

Regardless of what one thinks about these trials, the question is why to have this trial in the first place. In this economy when we are so much in debt, do we really have extra 200 million to set aside for these people to put them on trial and for what. They have already shown their hatred of the U.S. and if given a chance they will do it again. What will this trial accomplish in the first place that we are a law abiding nation and we believe in dealing with these terrorists in a civilized manner. They don’t care about our justice system or for that matter our civilized ways. They have vowed to destroy us in the first place and this will be an excellent venue for them to vent their extremist propaganda for the whole world to see.

The French Disconnection:-4

I have been to France before (specifically Paris) and I enjoyed walking through champs de Elyse. I was unfortunate enough not to see the Eiffel tower since the line was very long and temperature was very hot. Further more I went to the Louvre museum and also the tomb of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. French nation has given the world their culture, language, fashion, perfumes, luxury goods and the famous French legionnaires. They would not want to be the first one to be associated for banning some harmless clothing I believe.

Now this disease is spreading to Italy, where they want to ban the burqa and burqinis. What is going on here is the threat that the major European countries perceive to be an attack on their culture and religion. Even for example if the bans are successful, do they believe it will help the cause of the women who will still wear it elsewhere. There could be more backlash against this kind of clothing and unnecessarily more violence.

As I said before instead of enacting a law, why not let the public handle it their way so that it is not perceived by the outside world that the governments are behind this kind of ridiculous ban. And further more have they solved all the problems of their citizens that they have the time to do this kind of wasteful legislation which has the sole purpose of targeting one religion alone.

Then this entire notion about being a free society in Europe is just a fa├žade to show to the outside world but inside they are inherently xenophobic and scared and intolerant about other religions and cultures.