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We're just a matter of hours away from Election Day, and if it were possible, I'd make every voter watch "IOUSA" before casting a ballot. It's a stunning overview of the unbelievable scope of the country's fiscal misbehavior. You're best off watching the full-length version (if you can) in the theater (it's showing at the Century 20 in West Des Moines), but there's a 30-minute version on YouTube and on the movie's website.
The bottom line is that we don't just have a $10.5 trillion existing debt (that, by the way, amounts to $34,463 per American) -- we also have a huge pile of additional obligations for which there are no plans to pay, amounting to a full (and unbelievable) $53 trillion. If you were willing to sit through Barack Obama's infomercial on Wednesday...or Ross Perot's infomercials in 1992...or Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth"...then you absolutely must watch the condensed version of "IOUSA".
With those issues in mind: Here's how the McCain vs. Obama matchup looks, from a policy standpoint at least.
One of the things we need most right now: Private accounts within Social Security. Contrary to the apparent beliefs of some Democratic members of Congress, Americans are capable of handling their own retirement savings. Do we need more and better financial education so that people can learn how to weather the occasional market storms (like the one we're surviving right now)? Absolutely. But consider this thought experiment:
A house is often a family's biggest investment. If that house declines in value, as many of them have recently, that family loses (at least on paper) a lot of money. Thus, if the government really wants to protect American families from losing money, should it take over homeownership?Obviously, that would be completely absurd. When we buy houses, we take risks, and it's our responsibility to learn what those risks are and take thoughtful steps to protect ourselves. The government can no more protect us from rising and falling home values than the government can protect us from getting caught in a thunderstorm without an umbrella. The government isn't going to save us from changes in home prices, nor should it even remotely try to protect us from changes in the stock markets.
We're back to Standard Time again, and once again, we ought to consider giving Daylight Saving Time the boot for good. DST steals one hour in the spring and returns it in the fall -- without giving us any interest on the deal. And it costs us in the meantime, since there's lots of inconvenience involved in adjusting the clocks. We should stick with Standard Time year-round and stop pretending like government can create something out of nothing just by passing a law telling us to change our clocks.
GM and Chrysler are going begging for $10 billion from the Federal government for a bailout. There's a way to save General Motors, but it'll take foresight and real leadership. (Full disclosure: As of today, I own stock in Toyota and Honda. Both companies have ultra-long-term business plans.) I hope, for the sake of employees, stockholders, bondholders, suppliers, dealers, and GM drivers (like me), that GM and Chrysler can survive the next 100 years...but I'm not betting on it.
Here's a hint about the future: India is sending unmanned spacecraft to the Moon. If we really think we're going to send astronauts to the Moon again by 2020, then we'd better get serious about fixing government spending so we can afford it. The rest of the world is going to keep moving towards greater prosperity as fast as it can, and an Indian Moon shot is just one sign that it's already happening.
Keywords in this show: bailouts • business plans • Chrysler • Congress • Daylight Saving Time • elections • Federal debt • General Motors • housing • Honda • India • "IOUSA" • McCain, John • Moon • movies • Obama, Barack • 100-year business plans • private accounts • retirement • savings • Social Security • space travel • stocks • Toyota