Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Fall of the Dollar

Now here's something interesting. According to this article, the officials of the International Monetary Fund IMF have issued a warning that the United States Trade Deficit could trigger the collapse of the dollar very soon. They also said "that the world's big economies were already too dependent on the willingness of American consumers to live beyond their means." Sounds like trouble a-brewin'.

I'm not going to talk much about the IMF because I don't have many facts, or an editor to help me know wether I'm getting it right or not, but I do have strong feelings on the second matter: the willingness of Americans to live beyond our means.

America is the land of plenty, where you can have anything you want, and nowadays that usually means consumer credit.

Start with the house. Some financial planners will advise you not buy a house that will require a mortgage of more than two or three times your annual income. A quick parusal of the real estate listings will show that housing prices are becoming very inflated. I'm particularly interested in Salt Lake City, so I'll use it as an example. Finding a newer home inside the Salt Lake Valley for less than $200K is becoming quite tricky. If everyone operated with the notion that I mentioned before then people would have to be making $70K-$100K per year. That is not the case. There are people that make that much money, infact, its getting easier with inflation, but not in the numbers it would require to keep the major new home builders in business. Therefore, there are more and more people living beyond their means.

Next, let's consider the auto markets. According to, the average price for a new car just broke $30K. That's a lot of money. You have to hand it to the engineers, though. Nobody has a cold butt, the ride is phenomenal, the stereo rocks, and you got leather seats (and for the affluent-appearing types, don't forget the H2). More and more features are going into cars, driving the costs up, up, up. However, don't expect Americans to give up seat warmers in favor of finacial stability. Never underestimate our power to live beyond our means.

Lastly, what about the big box store. I won't name any in particular but I do not differentiate between warehouse stores and other big boxes--big box is big box. These are helping to ensure that America far outconsumes its international neighbors.

A nation's economy is based on a balance between import and export. We are WAY out of balance. Other countries hate us because we live a lifestyle that is so far above theirs, but the irony is that right now, we are supporting everyone's lifestyle in one way or another. And that brings me back to the IMF. The world is now dependent on us to live beyond our means. This sort of arrangement will not last. The Great Depression caused a worldwide economic slowdown and one of the major causes was that too many people bought stocks on credit. The FDIC was instituted to contain major fluctuations like that in the US economy. Once again, credit is being used too much and when everything comes toppling down, the resulting devastation will be a hurricane to the rainshower of The Depression.

I'm doing my part to live within my means, but who really knows what to expect.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Tau Bates Forever!

It just so happens that I think blogs are a great way to toot ones own horn. So here goes.

This year I have been nominated to join Tau Beta Pi. Tau Beta Pi is an honor society for people in engineering or technical fields. The significance of this is that membership is limited to the top 1/8 of the junior class and top 1/5 of the senior class and membership is only by nomination. It's my unerstanding that faculty members make the nominations and I'm very curious who it was.

For the last four(!) years I have been bustin' my crank in school to get good grades. Up until now I haven't had any scholarships or distinctions to show for it except having been named to the Dean's List at Salt Lake Community College a few times. Now things are looking up. I am in a very good position to see a portion of school paid for by scholarship awards. Scholarships have a two-fold meaning to a student. The first is that it is a tremendous economic boon and the second is that it truly is a recognition of the hard work that a student puts into school.

Now I want to do a little ranting about school in general. In the previous paragraph I placed a little emphasis on the amount of time I've spent in school. It's really not that much time, but in the light that it has taken me this long to get through the first "two" years of school takes away some of the luster. When I transferred from SLCC I transferred almost enough credits to be a senior in my last semester. Unfortunately, I still had to take a year of catch-up classes before I could actually call myself a junior. I guess that makes me a five year sophomore. How frustrating. Even more frustrating is the list of classes that will not count towards any kind of degree that I may seek. Even amid this frustration, though, I must admit that I have learned a great deal and my diverse studies have given me insight into many facets of civilization and taught me how to learn and study hard. I hardly remember life before school.

This Tau Beta Pi nomination reminds me of a story that I've told many of my aquaintances about academic counselors: When I started to attend SLCC I went, like a good little student, to the counselors office and said that I wanted to be an engineer. At the time I wanted to be a Civil Engineer, and have since changed to Mechanical Engineering. Anyway, I told this guy that engineering was for me. So he thought about it for a minute and began to tell me why engineering wasn't for me. I'm sure he was digging to the depths of his kind heart to find a nice way to say that I probably wouldn't make it in engineering, but that's not how I took it: "You know, there's a lot of kids that end up dropping out of the engineering program. It would probably be better for you to just start taking your general education classes so that you can transfer to a university and finish a degree." I have thought about this little exchange over and over in the subsequent years and the only reason I don't go back there and tell him about it is that he won't even remember me. I never talked to him again, though I have seen him around the campus. I would love for him to see my transcript full of engineering classes (and others) with very high grades. Then I would inform him of my Tau Beta Pi nomination which puts me in the top 1/8 of my class. I was a strong student at SLCC, and I will be a strong student at the University of Utah, though it tests me and demands that I perform at a higher level. I have it in me. I know I will be successful at this too.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Creating New Brains from Without

I don't have much time to talk about this article right now, but I did want to post a link to it. Give it a read, it's very interesting.

Here it is.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Press V. Cheney: Relax!

This recent situation with Vice-President Cheney has all been a very unfortunate situation. Ever since the news came out, the press has been chewing up pieces of the Vice-President's staff and pointing fingers like so many third graders. They are using this as a launchpad for every imaginable theory and to poke holes in the reputability of the Republican party, proving that there are many other things that are being held from the public. While I don't doubt that there are things that the government keeps from the public, I don't think this is the sort of thing that we should be worrying about.

The incident in question has nothing to do with immorality or illegalities, unless you count the game license that Cheney apperantly wasn't carrying, and that doesn't worry me. The matter at hand is that of recreation, and the incident was clearly an accident. Unfortunate as they are, accidents that can't really be blamed on anyone happen. This qualifies. It's one of those wrong place, wrong moment scenarios.

The main reason this is getting so much attention is that there is nothing else really going on in the world. A correspondent with the Deseret Morning News pointed out that the Torino Olympics are strangely free of scandal and *gasp* seem to be moving along just fine. Of course there is the trouble about Katrina Aid and terrorist trials, etc., but nothing as juicy for the liberal media as denouncing the conservative administration.

It's to bad recess doesn't end for some of these press types.