America and the Pain of Prejudice

Yesterday, mid-morning, I emerged from a take-out restaurant towards a parking lot, walking through the seating area of the outdoor dining plaza. There, I encountered a heated stand up exchange of words between two men. One of the men was part of a group of 4 or 5 men seated or standing nearby.

I saw it was a very angry exchange, and at first thought to walk directly to my car. But I slowed in curiosity. A shopping center security man, white, thin, about age 60 or 65, in his badge, black belt and short sleeved white shirt had his hand, open palm, inches from the face of the man in front of him. He stood there, imperious, clothed in authority, calm and unrelenting. Move on. Leave this area. The temperature was rising.

The man and his companions were all of middle eastern descent, possibly Persian, mostly 40s or 50s in age, nicely dressed.

The security man finally answered the other man’s loud, agitated question: “Why can’t we sit here? Look around. Others sit here. This is a public space. Why don’t we have a right to sit here and drink our coffee like other people?”

“Because you’re loitering.” I looked around. White people were seated in the same area.

I walked up to the two. “Calm down,” I said. I motioned to the security man and said: “Back away.” He would not. He was like a white hot steady molten bar of stubbornness. His adversary was also so filled with adrenaline that he would not or could not listen. He turned to me. Which, on reflection was fine. He was now not locked into he security guard, and less likely to throw a punch. His loudness and anger seemed unabated. I let the man speak, just listening. “Just give yourself a few seconds to calm down,” I said, lucky to get those words in. In the meantime, his companions began to take smartphone videos and pictures of the situation. I wanted to call the police before the matter turned really ugly rather than after. Of course, my mobile phone was dead.

Clearly, I was not going to defuse this situation when it was the security guard with his ridiculous charge of loitering who continually fueled the fires with his insistence that the men disperse. I walked towards my car, and out of nowhere, the man to whom I had spoken was there in the parking lot. He had walked away from the confrontation thank God. We spoke. “Didn’t we have the right to sit there? Who was he to tell us we had to move? We were just sitting, drinking our coffee like everyone else.” His anger now betrayed a tinge of hurt and confusion. “He can’t do this. This is America.” He spoke this almost like a child, his voice with its middle eastern accent seeming to me in that moment to be the true voice of America. I put my hand on his shoulder. “I understand. The man is prejudiced. He has a problem. He is not the America most of us believe in.” A few yards away, loud words were still being exchanged. The idiot guard seemed to have his feet planted in concrete.

As I drove away, I replayed the scene. The man’s words “This is America,” were branded into my heart. I felt ready to cry. Why did I feel so strongly, I wondered? Where did the man’s hurt, and now mine, come from? It came from this idea of “America.” In a world of sectarian and religious hatreds, “America” was to be something different. It was to be a place of individual worth, political liberties, equality of opportunity, and freedom within the confines of just laws. The middle eastern man was appealing to an idea.

This idea of America was something both real and amorphous. It was unspoken, but it was there, like a living thing of delicate beauty. When the cold wind of prejudice comes upon it, it releases first anger, then a rivulet of deep sadness. I felt the man’s anger and pain because we shared this precious idea. Instinctively, I knew that if the idea did not apply to him, it applied to none of us. The idea was something to be protected. Passion for this idea was right and good. I embraced the memory of the morning, and embraced a new resolve to fight for my clients.

New Life for a Collapsing Economy

Money for nothing.

Politicians and bureaucrats intensely fancy the notion. The more freebies they give the people – enhanced welfare, higher minimum wages, Obamacare, cash for clunkers – the less apt the people are to rise up and boot a politician’s butt outta office.

Alas, the intensity of one’s desire is no measure of the degree to which success occurs.

I loved the hell out of Dawn Allen in the eighth grade, but Dawn had no interest in me. Intensity yielded bupkis.

Intensity has yielded an equal amount of bupkis in the near-decade-long and so-far miserably failed effort by D.C. and the Federal Reserve to put some giddyup in the U.S. economy’s get-along. No matter the economic, fiscal or monetary policies and stimuli foisted upon America, America refuses to cooperate.

The plans have been for naught, aside from keeping the economy from crumbling into a messy heap – but, then again, there’s a very good argument to be made that crumbling into a messy heap is exactly what the economy needed a decade ago to rid the various financial markets of malinvestment (and probably more than a few of the malinvestments we voted into Congress).

Thus, we come to my modest proposal: If you, the federal government, want to give away free stuff, then give us something that will truly impact the consumer economy. Give us free retirement money.

The Fed desperately wants Americans to spend more money. That’s what Fed governors lust for with their near-zero (and soon to be subzero) interest rates.

But saving the profligate grasshoppers at the expense of the frugal ants has exposed a conundrum that the ivory tower-types clearly failed to contemplate: If ants can generate no safe yield on their money to adequately prepare for the lean years, then they will instinctively save more of their paychecks so that they can build the nest egg they need later (when Social Security might or might not exist).

Truth is in the numbers. Since 2008, the savings rate here has more than doubled to roughly 6% from just under 3%. Americans – at least those of us ants saving for our future – don’t have the desire to fritter away our dollars on oversized, gas-guzzling SUVs and more dinners away from home or another season’s worth of clothes.

Dear Fed governors: Wanna know why you can’t breathe life into this faltering economy?

It’s because people like me don’t want to spend. We can’t get a safe return on our cash, and, so, we save more. I’ve increased my 401(k) contribution to 13% of my paycheck, and I just recently funded a whole-life insurance policy, into which I contribute cash every month, so that I can build up a cushion to draw on in retirement if I wish. I’ve also opened a new investment account to put money into a foreign currency every month (because most of us with a brain realize the U.S. dollar you’re trying to manage has all the strength of a soufflĂ©).

More of my money flows away from consumption and into saving because I fully expect we’re stuck with abnormally low interest rates on a near-permanent basis. And based on the bankruptcies of consumer companies and the commentary from middle-market companies on Wall Street that still survive, I know I’m just a microcosm of a much larger trend in America today.

Get the Government Investing in Your Retirement

So, back to my proposal…

If you, Fed governors and the politicians who lean so heavily on them for managing the economy, want Americans to spend their paychecks to revive a brain-dead U.S. economy kept alive only by dint of your financial CPR, then instead of futzing around with interest rates and worrying about inflation and unemployment, dump a ton of money into our IRAs every year. Or open a government-sponsored IRA – a GIRA – in every taxpayer’s name and fund it with $2,500 a year. (This is radically different from Obama’s myRA plan, which relied on us to fund our account.)

Roughly 195 million taxpayers file returns annually, not including those over 65 and those under 18. I’m excluding those groups because under-18s are generally irrelevant since most are spending family dollars anyway, and over-65s are already soaking the government through an unfair Social Security system.

For the rest of us, D.C. could spend a bit less than half a trillion a year putting money into a GIRA. Buy each of us U.S. savings bonds or five-year U.S. notes worth $2,500 yearly, and mandate that we cannot touch the accounts until we are 72. (And don’t pull any shady crap like taxing this money – that’s counterproductive – or returning the account to the government when we die; it should and must go into heirs’ GIRA accounts – that’s only fair.)

By doing this – instead of, say, helicopter money, which, I am quite certain, will be the Fed’s next step – D.C. will instantly reduce financial anxiety.

And if you reduce financial anxiety, Americans will more freely spend their money. Depending on whose study you believe, two-thirds of Americans have less than $50,000 saved for retirement – a pittance in the grand scheme of retirement. Help them contribute to their future, and you can bet they will help you rebuild the economy.

As it is, we’re spending more than $1.1 trillion annually on health care security for every American (and there are many ways to save there, by the by). So, why not spend less than half that amount to ensure economic security for every American, and, oh, as a side effect, save an economy that is on the cusp of collapse?

Just a modest proposal for those of you stuck in the ivory tower.

Broadcast Television Makes It Clear: It’s a Man’s World

I listen to the news allot and all’s I hear is what former Secretary Clinton did wrong. Never do we hear how she has changed the electoral process; because she’s a smart woman. When General Collin Powell left his job as the Secretary of State-crickets. Even when Condoleezza Rice left the Secretary of State’s Office; there was no scrutiny, no backroom discussions, and no investigations. I am certainly not condoning wrongdoing from either side of the aisle of party favorites.

It just seems that the women really get a kick in the knees when they want to go further in their careers. Former HP (Hewlett-Packard) CEO, Carly Fiorina was highly criticized by her staff and by folks that wanted to run against her in the 2016 election. One of the men had the audacity to make reference to her looks as a measuring stick in which to vote for her. It was totally insulting and abusive. Her biggest mistake was running as a Republican for President.

The polls that are coming out in favor of former Secretary Hillary Clinton; yet they are skewed and can’t be trusted. We don’t know if they are trying to give actual numbers, or are they using any scientific data? I never hear who they’re collecting the data from, or what demographic are they using to determine if Donald J. Trump is ahead or Clinton is winning. It’s a mystery show!

This is the problem that each political party is facing. If they don’t support former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, you elect a man who has no experience whatsoever in the political arena (except giving money for access) and has no ethic compass for human beings; including human rights at all. If Clinton is elected you are supporting someone whose judgment on ethical lines, which are blurred and that’s a nice way of putting it. The Clinton Foundation is as shady as a full-grown pine tree in the summer time. It is… what it is. But there has been no investigation to say anything other than, it’s a Foundation that helps HIV/AIDS for people who need advice and medical services. There have been no outright criminal investigations that would shut the Clinton Foundation down; as they did the Trump Foundation in New York.

However, going back to my original point, are the men as scrutinized as the women when they aspire to higher offices (like Senator or President) or higher post in the workplace? I don’t think so. I see a lot of one-sided reporting on television; especially the early morning shows, who shall remain nameless for now. The saddest phenomenon is these are television shows that are sponsored by men, coordinated by men, tailored for men, produced by men, financially subsidized by men. It’s sickening.

If women are ever going to have a fair system of reporting; then women have to produce their own television shows; during prime time. Women have to become a force to reckon with; in the digital broadcast media conglomerate. Furthermore, the world has such an online presence; women need to be as strong on the Internet as well.

Lately, the polls are finally taking notice that women are running for more Senate seats and Congressional seats in Washington D.C., and women may very well take over the Congress and Senate eventually. They have the momentum. But I want to see women become fairly reported about in the news as well. That has not happened. I want to see women discussing issues about women, and discussing the plight of our children among themselves on a talk show.

Not just sitting as a token female, who is being disrespected. I’m sick of seeing a woman talking and a man who continually speaking over her, and drowning out her reading about facts. Nor do I appreciate a woman being called names, and men referring to them as ‘obsessed with sex,’ just because she is raising the issue of sexual assault. Which is a horrible crime that needs attention in this election cycle and discussions going beyond the election season!

This practice has to change and change soon. Women or else we can just continue to believe; it’s a man’s world and nothing will change that perspective. No matter how many cracks in the glass ceiling there are.