Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2009 Resolution

I want to want less. 2009 will be my less is more year.

In the sermon I heard last Sunday in Houston, the preacher suggested using the phrase, "I want to want..." As in "I want to want to volunteer more" or "I want to want to be more forgiving." The idea is that eventually, you'll want what He wants. With all the multimedia that confronts us everyday with material and ephemeral wants, it's easy to lose focus. So my focus will be on less. Less money spent. Less alcohol drunk. Less gossip. Less worrying. Less waiting in airports. etc. It's also a realistic resolution. Instead of an outright abolition, I'm focusing on a theme.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Perks of Privelege

My first resolution for 2009: DCA airport or bust. Perhaps once Dulles finishes all of the construction, it might be a nice airport, but I've been burned too much in the past by delays, lost bags, and those darn people movers.

So what makes DCA so great? Privelege. Since D.C. air is a no-fly zone, planes must fly up and down the Potomac River. Wealthy individuals live along the Potomac in the condos at the Watergate, the townhouses of Georgetown, the apartments of Arlington, and the houses of Alexandria. These wealthy individuals years ago lobbied for a plane curfew and they got it. Flights cannot arrive or depart after 10pm EST - so as not to disturb the privileged people's slumber.

The second reason DCA excels is the dearth of lines. My theory on this is because so many congressmen fly in and out using DCA, the DCA administration doesn't want to displease the congressmen. See, despite the fact that the congresspeople can skip security lines, their constituents can't and those constituents fly on the same plane as their elected officials. So I think they overcompensate on security guards and staff so that everyone stays happy. And I certainly do!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I'll have a job...

I'll have a job as long as Americans can grow up in this country and still spew the following nonsense:
If a politician announced he was running on a platform of "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need" he would be laughed off the stage. That is also the correct response to anyone who continues to make the case that markets do best when left alone.
It's time to drive the final nail into the coffin of laissez-faire capitalism by treating it like the discredited ideology it inarguably is. If not, the Dr. Frankensteins of the right will surely try to revive the monster and send it marauding through our economy once again.
First of all, Miss Huffington - what was the source of our nation's wealth if not capitalism? What enabled this country to succeed so quickly?

Secondly, laissez-faire capitalism died long ago. It died with the income tax of 1913 and the expansion of government spending which crowds out private innovation and charity. It died with the New Deal. It died when the Government Sponsored Enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were founded. It died with the increasing regulations placed on the market and the individual over the last century.

We live and work in a mixed market economy - not a laissez-faire one.

Finally, the government sets the rules. The rules that created the series of perverse incentives that created this debacle. And it will only get worse as the government bails out failing companies to the detriment of the few that are actually keeping their noses above water.

We cannot cede the free market ground. It hasn't had a fair chance to prove itself in our lifetimes.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

OMG, this is so me.

I like to think that I've gotten better, but this rings eerily true:
Overachievers have high aspirations and like to dream big. There’s always a lot on their plate - their To-Do Lists are full and they have an abundance of ideas for future books, businesses, projects, and improvements. They see every moment as a valuable opportunity to invest in a worthwhile endeavor.

Overachievers also have an overwhelming sense of urgency. While this is part of their recipe for success, it can also backfire when they are unfocused or try to do everything at once. Anxiety strikes when they see their time slipping away and not accomplishing as much as they had hoped.

Despite doing 2-3 things at the same time and using tools/systems to be more effective, overachievers often feel guilty for not doing enough. They feel like they should always be doing more and this creates an ever-present pressure that can, oddly enough, get in the way of their path to achievement.

I mean it's part of the reason why I went to grad school and started this blog, but no matter how much I do I always feel like it's not enough.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

uno mas beef with It's a Wonderful Life...

Why does Mary have to be an "old maid"/spinster/librarian type if George doesn't exist? Is that really so awful? His brother was dead without him. The pharmacist went to jail. Mary being a spinster is really her hitting rock bottom?

It's a Wonderful Indebted Life

George Bailey. George Bailey the selfless hero. George Bailey the irrational enabler of irresponsible debt. Yes, this is the disturbing revelation I had as I watched "It's a Wonderful Life" this evening. Granted, this is an exaggeration, but part of me wonders how deeply entrenched frantic borrowing and desperate house buying is in our culture.

Bailey Brothers Building and Loan helps poor (but good) people finance their homes. When Black Tuesday strikes, George explains to his clients that everyone's money is wrapped up in the equity of other people's homes. That's standard, but George Bailey Sr. apparently lent at a charitable, practically nonexistent rate leaving little room for error let alone profit. The movie's message is that you have to be a martyr to be a good, respectable businessman. At another point Old Man Potter's rent collector says that Bailey only charges half of what it costs to build the home. All for the sake of getting everyone a home. At what price? To what end?

I've questioned the rationale for a state interest in home subsidization before but this gets me thinking even further. Some companies and charities help subsidize home ownership in the name of social equity, fairness, and economic empowerment. Granted much of this was financed by a home ownership push by the Clinton Administration and continued under Bush, but a lot of private organizations honestly believe in pushing home ownership. However, if a person is not capable of saving a reasonable down payment or can earn a decent, steady salary - can they be trusted with the equity in their home? Can they be trusted to meet their payments? When Ernie the taxi driver or Mrs. Welsh the school teacher or Violet the town tramp can't make their payments, it hurts George Bailey's ability to finance other people's homes or to pay back the bank. Altruism isn't all that it's cracked up to be. How's that for a Christmas sentiment?

Well, I still cherish this movie even if only for nostalgia's sake. I believe in civil society - just not using private company as a charity. I love the part when Mary offers their honeymoon nestegg up to help the Bailey Building and Loan clients during the Black Tuesday crisis. That's a responsible individual volunteering to help. I also love how Bedford Falls rallies around George and his family. I believe in the goodness of individuals and in the Christmas spirit.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Academic Namby Pamby

Let me preface this post by saying I'm not usually a grade grubber.

Ok, so I thought I rocked my U.S. Financial Policy final, and apparently I did. I got an A just like I did on the paper, the presentation, and the midterm. Needless to say I was surprised when I logged into our grade system to see I got an A minus. She practically admitted I earned an A:
Hi Whitney,No problem, you have a very legitimate question given your grades
in this class. You got an 8/10 for participation, which was better
than average (about 6). You did very well in the class. A's
are reserved for the 2 or 3 students that were doing A or A+ work
throughout the semester.

So she picks favorites? I was finally proud of growing out of my brown noser stage and then I find out it could have come in handy!

We exchanged another round of emails and apparently she only counts a 95 and up as an A, but this is not stated in the syllabus nor was it ever mentioned in class. The only reason I'm so particular is that I have to keep my GPA high in order to count another study abroad trip towards my degree and every little bit counts...especially when I'm anticipating my first dreaded B in statistics. Here's hoping...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Oh those feminists

So one feminist writes a piece complaining about Obama's gross negligence in not supporting women by favoring infrastructure/construction jobs over social work and education. So then another feminist responds irately that this is a myopic view of gender roles and that the country needs to instead invest in skill building, education, and vocational training so that women will enter the construction workforce in larger numbers (only 9% of construction workers are female now).

Though I disagree with her endgame, I agree with the second feminist's proposal to invest in skill building, education, and vocational training....just not solely for women. America needs a better trained and equipped workforce. We are woefully behind, but we shouldn't force a square peg in a round hole. If women don't want to be construction workers, so be it. Yes, there are social norms that make it difficult to do a "man's job," but there are laws on the books that can protect women from discrimination while on the job - no matter what that job is. Men and women gravitate towards different types of professions. There are - dare I say - differences amongst the sexes. Why do we have such a hard time celebrating this type of diversity? As long as men and women are free to apply for whatever job they choose and there are no legal obstacles to them doing these jobs, let the individuals decide what they want to do!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Mentally and emotionally exhausted

I completed a marathon doubleheader at the library this weekend (with a respite to bake about a 12 dozen cookies and host a party) and successfully completed one final, but can't seem to get over the hump on my statistics final. It's not that I don't know what I'm doing - I kinda do - it's that I'm paralyzed by fear. The fear of incorrectly labelling my data, setting up the dummy variables, and getting rid of the outliers because if I mess the setup up the rest of it is screwed.

Then there's this odd tension at work that won't seem to go away. Management is stressed so everyone else is stressed and add unto that year-end reviews. ugh

All of the Christmas presents I have bought are stacked in a corner of my room. I can't necessarily remember who gets what, but I know I'm done shopping! I have yet to start wrapping or writing Christmas cards.

Then there's my erie and persistent maternal urge for a puppy. Yes, in part I'm trying to replace a boyfriend. My mother doesn't approve. She says that I should put my energy into finding a boyfriend not a puppy. It's not like I don't date. I do - the boys just don't seem to have the follow through lately...but that story is for a different type of blog.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Fun recession quote of the day

From today's NYTimes:
The recession was actually not officially declared until last week, but the psychology that drives it had already been e-mailed, blogged and broadcast for months. I used to worry that my TiVo thought I was gay — doesn’t everyone enjoy a little “Project Runway” at the end of a long, hard week? Now I worry that my browser knows I am about to lose my job.

Obama unstimulating stimulus

Another one of the questions on my U.S. Financial Policy final was about the National Council of State Legislatures (NCLS) recommendations for the Obama stimulus plan. NCLS is the more liberal version of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in case you were wondering.

I'm still not a huge fan of bailouts and stimulus spending, but a couple of the NCLS recommendations are not too shabby. For instance, I do see a need for broad, discretionary grants to alleviate state shortfalls. Normally, I'd want the states to be held accountable, but given the falling property values and hard economic times it will be hard for the states to recover on their own. And while I applaud the fact that 49 of our states have balanced budget requirements, it's times like these that you worry about their ability to finance their deficit. Another recommendation was sales tax "fairness." Basically, states want the right to collect on remote sales that are purchased in their state. This is one recommendation that wouldn't actually cost the feds any money and could help with those pesky state shortfalls. But then the question is how much of a stimulus is it to balance state budgets? What's going to directly benefit individuals?

The problem is that the recommendations are very broad and in the hands of Obama who knows how it will turn out. But maybe it won't be so bad....from what we've seen of the Obama stimulus plan so far, it's pretty tame. I agree with Tyler Cowen:

When it comes to fiscal policy, many projects are not very good. Most
projects take a long time to come on-line. The fiscal stimulus should,
most of all, be directed at an effective marginal incentive scheme to keep up
state and local spending. I am still enthusiastic about Obama's economic
team, but I am starting to worry a little. How many of these expenditures
actually help needy people? How many actually will help the economy?
In fairness to Obama this was a radio address, and thus hardly the setting for
meaty analysis, but still I am a little underwhelmed.

#6 on my take home final for U.S. Financial Policy

#6. What should a state government do when one of its local governmental units faces a fiscal crisis of the type experienced in Richmond, CA? Are there fundamental responsibilities for the state to come to the aid of or to restrain troubled localities?

First of all, states need proper financial management and oversight of districts to prevent a crisis from occurring. California made positive changes in light of the Richmond crisis that improved governance in this manner. They became more explicit in what debt municipalities can and cannot issue (no more COPs); the state has set the precedent that they will take over financially troubled districts; and the state now requires more frequent and thorough reporting (13). In the event of a crisis, all of these measures help the state be better informed and equipped to manage the situation. The state does have a fundamental responsibility to its citizens but not necessarily the localities. The state is obligated to intervene if fiscal mismanagement leads to the potential interruption of service provision, but shouldn’t provide monetary aid until it reaches that point. Prior to that point, state supervision and oversight should be sufficient (I agree with Governor Wilson’s sentiment that localities shouldn’t be lead to believe that they can spend themselves into bankruptcy and be ensured of a state bailout). District constituencies should hold their local officials responsible for bad debt management via elections and lawsuits, but hopefully increased state supervision should prevent Richmond crises from reoccurring.

Doesn't it just make you wanna sign up for some public policy classes right now!?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Funny Nintendo reference for the day

I should be doing my two take home finals, but I gave myself a moment's reprieve to scan my Google Reader and came across this funny reference from Megan McArdle:

Okay, this is cool. Go to the new Google Reader and do the following:
Press the "up" arrow twice
Press the "down" arrow twice
Press the "left" arrow once Press the "right" arrow once
Press the "Left" arrow once
Press the "right" arrow once
Press the "b" key
Press the "a" key Blockquote

That sequence, again, is up up down down left right left right b a
Enjoy the weekend!

It reminded me of when I bought a tshirt with the code on it for a boyfriend a few years back.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Fun excerpt from my grad school class tonight...

While discussing the information assymetry problem in the credit markets, someone asked:
"Well if the rating agencies are so important, why can't the government just take over that function?"
My professor's response:
"Food is very important, too, and the government doesn't take over that!"
I <3 my prof.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Why did the pilgrims starve at first?

They started off as communists - that's why! Ilya first told me this this weekend - how I got this far into my libertarian career without hearing this story certs me. I had this waiting for me in my inbox this morning.

Now I'm really ashamed that I was the only pilgrim at Thanksgiving dinner last week.