When you buy an iPhone, where does the money go?

Where people expect the money goes

Where people expect the money goes

Where the money actually goes

Where the money actually goes

I find this pretty surprising myself.  For the 5 minute explanation from Robert Reich, see this video on Upworthy.com. It’s funny that he talks about the economy and the decrease of unions being linked to income inequality.  Today I saw another video explanation, also by Robert Reich, on the rising gap in the U.S. economy, talking about the number of unions rising after WWI.  It’s part of a series of videos called Inequality for All.  Another in the series talks to some people working at an energy plant, and really brings home the question about corporate profits and what is the value of the work people do.  Productivity has been increasing and stress is so high.  I support the recent discussion to raise minimum wage.  It’s not a simple answer, and it may not fix the problems as John Green explains here.   Personally, I can’t believe Walmart can use the catch phrase “Save Money, Live Better” in their ads, as it turns out, we pay $6,000 or more per Walmart Employees due to their low wages.  The government is busy chasing their own tail in elections, they will never fix the problem, because corporations have no incentive.  But someone out there has the answer, and collectively we have the ability to make things better.  That’s why I have increased my spending at stores offering a decent wage and benefits to their employees.  If it means I have to eat out less to save money, that is fine.  If it means I buy more second hand, no problem.  We have more than any other country in the world, we will not suffer. Personally I love the work Mike Rowe (former Dirty Jobs TV show host) is doing.  His promotion of skilled labor is idea for getting people into decent jobs, and improving the situation in the US.  It’s time we stop doing crappy work because we’re being treated like crap.  Personally, when I go on a construction site, I want to see the work being done well.  Check out his website Profoundly Disconnected.

One last tidbit, how does this relate to health care costs in the US.  Yep, saw a John Green video on that today too.  Because we don’t have bargaining power with the providers of medical devices and medications… sounds a lot like the problem of not having bargaining power for salaries due to the lack of unions.  I wonder…


Finding our Destiny…

I never would have known that Architectural Engineers can inspect copper roofing 250 ft in the air from a truck mounted aerial lift.

From a young age, we are asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  On one hand this is a very reasonable question that emphasizes to young people the importance of choosing a career and the need to prepare for that career from an early age.  Even if we change our minds several times before finally starting our careers, the process of planning and preparing for this important life event and remain dedicated to its outcome.

On the other hand it’s quite ridiculous for kids, even teenagers, and even high school kids, to know what career will be best for them.  First we have to know our strengths and weaknesses, and I find that a small percentage of people are really in tune with these attributes about themselves.  Second we need to know the various professions available, which most young people only know what they see on TV and what their parents do.  Third we need to know what skills and characteristics are needed for each profession, when is that discussed with teenagers or young adults?  Fourth, how the heck can anyone know what a job will really be like and if we will enjoy that profession over the long haul?

Life never works out as we plan, and planning our careers is a very tricky thing to do.  People tend to think of a career as if we are destined to do a certain profession.  There must be something perfect for me, something I don’t have to put much effort into…  No wonder people these days have little work ethic.

Anyone who is REALLY good at their job did not achieve that expertise solely based on their characteristics.  Read the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell and you will follow his research to discover what makes someone truly successful.  Although skill and talent may play a role, the only common ingredient is dedication.  People have to spend 10,000 hours practicing something to become a master.  OK, yes, even if I spend 10,000 hours practicing I probably won’t become a master pianist, but I would probably get pretty good.  And even people the The Beatles and Mozart practiced over 10,000 hours before they made it big.

So my point is actually that we go around looking for what we are destined to become in life.  I think we should choose a profession and dedicate ourselves to that career to become successful in life.  I think we need to take more personal responsibility for our success in that profession, or our failure at it.  We can’t know all the possibilities out there, and we may change our mind along the way.  But whatever we are deciding to do, we should dedicate ourselves to the career and recognize the outcome is within our control.  Some people are great at making a plan, but it seems few of us are willing to dedicate ourselves to that plan.  We are too easily dismayed and abandon the path to success.

Yesterday I read a good summary approach for people trying to determine the best career for themselves on The Career Closet blog.

The Truth About Retirement

In Western culture,  we currently view retirement as a right, not a privilege. It’s become an entitlement we consider as necessary as health care, education, and freedom.  According to this article on WBUR, the retirement concept and lifestyle is relatively new.  Although the concept was created around 1900 (A Brief History of Retirement), it really became popular when the Baby Boomer generation was entering the workforce, but there were not enough jobs for this generation.

Social Security (an ingenious Ponzi Scheme bringing in revenue for the government under a guise of workers insurance) was invented in 1935, but did not popularize retirement.  Alright, so it’s not quite the same formula as a Ponzi Scheme, the government calls it an insurance plan (LA Times Article), but the formula was designed to work with a pyramid population expansion which has not been consistent, and is not sustainable in the future.

Now the new generations (X and Y) are chasing down the Baby Boomers for their jobs, but the boomers plan to keep working.  As we have seen with housing, jobs, and social security, we need to modernize our social programs, and economy to address the reduced population size with subsequent generations.

But this probably won’t happen until it’s absolutely necessary.

Dispair.com view on Retirement

How do We Fix the Jobs problem in the US?

I’m not an economist, so I have little idea how to create decent jobs for people to earn w livable wage.  There are many factors affecting the current job situation, I think we need a national discussion on these issues:

–      Unrealistic Expectations: The baby boomer generation has experienced unique circumstances that provided significant improvements in their standard of living.  The situation allowed for pyramid based (similar to Ponzi scheme) support programs for wages, social security, health care etc.  Gen X following this group does not have the same circumstances of population growth to support the same standard of benefits.  It’s more damaging to people when these expectations disappear, as they need to do in this social/economic correction.  I don’t expect that the living standard of the last 30 years is sustainable in today’s world and we should not expect to get back to that situation after the recovery.

–      Giving Kids a “Childhood”:  Modern society in the US is focused on making it easy for kids.  We need to be teaching them how to be adults, how to get work done, and how to be group centered instead of selfish and self-centered.  We need to prep them emotionally to handle adult life, not protect them from reality.  The quality of our work force is diminishing and we will lose the justification for companies to keep jobs in the US.

–      Globalization: Now businesses have the resources to move their headquarters, outsource jobs (and insource jobs), and other measure to save money (i.e. increase profits).

–      Discuss Incentives: Business have many incentives for increasing profits, rather than improving working conditions and pay, health care, productivity etc.

–      Personal Commitment:  All of these ideas combine into a point “we are more concerned with personal growth and development on an individual basis than the good of society.”  The irony is we lost control over our own quality of life in the process.  Instead of shopping at Wal-Mart because we can buy more things (even though those items do not last long) we should be more conscience of buying local.  The US regulates human rights, working conditions, environmental impact, and other characteristics that are designed for sustainable living and protection of our way of life.  Then we kick that to the curb to buy foreign made products because they are cheaper.  http://www.madeinusa.org/

Congratulations to You

Thanks to all of you, our politicians have reached a consensus.  It appears that both sides of the isle agree that the needed fix to our economy is JOBS.  Yes everyone needs a job and that will make all our problems go away (except the real problem of corruption, deceit, foreign invasion, and other problems we don’t really care about).

Years of outsourcing, and insourcing (Wikipedia definition), allowing corporations to reap higher profits, resulting in a decrease of the quality of living for the working and middle classes and widened the income gap.  Well who let them do that?

We all did, anyone with the voting rights in the US allowed this to happen.  We allow government and corporations to keep wages and benefits low while the cost of living increases.  We sit on the sidelines complaining about life’s difficulties instead of participating in change and contributing what we can for our communities.  What kind of example is set of the upcoming generations?  How will they know how to get exercise their democratic rights?  The baby boomers fought the government during the Vietnam War, why are subsequent generations standing by and allowing their power to disappear?  You can bet there will be fierce opposition if social security benefits are threatened (again the baby boomers will not allow that to happen).   Why is my generation allowing our benefits to effectively be cut?   My generation can barely pay for health care, buy a home, rely on social security or other retirement programs.  What we are asking for is to be able to maintain the same standard of living for the same effort as previous generations.

We need meaningful jobs that will help our economy grow and develop a sustainable lifestyle in our country.  We need to increase the minimum wage and level of benefits to allow hardworking people to earn a decent standard of living.  We need to reward hard work with an adequate means.  And we need to stop rewarding substandard work without consequence.

Let’s help define the political discussion on jobs and the economic recovery.

The Loss of Education – Why Politicians are Confused and Corporations/Wall Street have run Amok

If you are paying attention to the US political debates and the Republican Primary presidential campaign, it’s clear that few politicians have a clue how to fix our economy or how to meets their constituents’ wishes.  Obama campaigned on the promise of “Change in Washington.”  The promise of “Change” is extremely vague.  What kind of change was he offering and what kind of change were people hoping for?

Now the key word is “Jobs.”  Many discussions are emphasizing the idea that an increase the number of jobs available will fix (= return to pre-recession glory?) our economy.  Well just how we go about increasing jobs is the real debate.  Republicans are striving for reduced taxes and less government oversight and deceiving voters to think that giving more money and power to the wealthy will result in them wanting to help the little guy and create jobs.  Since when does anyone sit down and say “I have enough money for myself and my family to live a comfort lifestyle, I’m going to create jobs for others to be able to earn a decent living as well.”  And second, isn’t that how we got into this mess to begin with?  Deregulation and lack of regulatory development to keep up with modern financial products, and lessening government oversight of risks to our economy, in large part created this recession.

Democrats are not much clearer in their suggestions for change.  Increasing taxes to maintain government support programs is not a long term solution.  So what are the experts saying is the path to create meaningful jobs and push us back to the pre-recession glory?  Well that is another topic entirely than the message of this post.

The message here is that we, the public, are not clearly voicing our opinion for the politicians.   “Change” and “Jobs” is not enough direction.  Our current education (in the classroom and through life experiences) is not providing us the tools we need to evaluate political decisions, or to participate in a meaningful way in current politics.  We are easily distracted by less important conversations and we are unable to get to the heart of an issue.

I wonder if it’s a lack of science in our everyday lives that results in our inability to have a meaningful impact; but we blame it on a lack of control over the politicians (we could gain control if we used our voice and voting power in unison).  Granted this takes effort and commitment to research the discussion topics and find the truth.  We are our biggest obstacles, not wanting to take control because of our laziness, or the fear we have of responsibility.

So what is important to you?  What should the government be focused on?  And what do you think is the answer to fixing that priority?