Personal Finance Blog


How might Democratic Socialism work here?

These days, it’s tough to separate the wheat from the chaff when you’re discussing politics. Everyone’s got an opinion, and building your own opinion based on what you read on the internet isn’t usually the best way to be informed without being biased. Often times, you just can’t tell whether someone has a vested interest in what you’re reading, and is trying to manipulate you. Socialism is one of those things that falls into the category of “wide levels of disinformation” simply because either slamming it as a failed political system or singing its praises is currently an extremely popular thing to do. It begs the question, though, how many people spend time trying to learn about a topic before accepting or dismissing it? Not many, it’s safe to say. Cable news networks have taken the place of reading as a means of accruing information, and those networks (on the left and the right) are all too quick to delve into the personal opinions of those dispensing the “news.” Finding a source in the middle these days is all but impossible. So with all the talk of Socialism these days, just how does it work? This in itself is a particularly tough question to answer since Socialism itself encompasses a wide range of differing ideologies based on a central tenet. In the way that free market capitalism is filled with quirks, as is Socialism. In fact, the system we live in today isn’t too far up the scale from socialism right now. Think about it this way: You, as a citizen, are in essence the “owner” of the federal government. By voting, you exercise collective control over the system. Since that is the case, you also “own” the typical bits and pieces of government, including the roads, government buildings, national parks, lakes, streams, woodlands, and all that stuff. We empower the government to take care of all that for us. That’s the collective arm of the government we have today- more so than medicare and food stamps, and all that stuff that often gets lumped into the “entitlement” category by politicians. We’re all able to obtain those services if we meet certain thresholds. For instance, if you are injured at work and can’t ever work again, regardless of how much money you made during your working life, you can sign up for disability, paid through social security, and know that you’ll have an income the rest of your life. If all the sudden you end up out of work, living hand to mouth, you’ll qualify for food stamps. As a collective, we’ve agreed to what those thresholds are, and who might use them. Changing that is as easy (and as difficult) as petitioning your congressman and senators. In this form, Democratic socialism ensures that unions aren’t broken by politicians with vested interests in breaking them, and it increases the tax burden on the wealthiest Americans, something that many of the very richest and well-off of the so-called “one percent” have already advocated for. Rather than thinking of it as redistributing wealth or making paupers of successful businesspeople, think of it in terms of solidly supporting our infrastructure: Rather than crumbling roads and bridges, we have excellent highways that are safer (and possibly even last longer) That’s not to say that the entirety of Socialism is a cure-all for what ails us. It won’t, but neither will unfettered capitalism. We’ve been down that road, and there are plenty of reasons why it just isn’t all that great, in spite of what people may be led to believe.

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Investing in Yourself: How Much is Too Much?

There’s a lot to be said for making a personal investment in yourself. It can mean investing in your peace of mind, in your career, or making a time investment in your family. With regards to your career, though, how much is too much? Where is that line between not enough and too much? Right now, there’s a backlash against college, in no small part because of the outrageous costs involved in attending four years of college, and the requisite devotion of time, effort, and study involved. It’s a major drain on personal resources, and in some circles, has come to be seen as a waste of society’s resources, as well. After all, how many grants and scholarships are awarded every year only to see students squander the time and money involved? College is a successful venue only for those most willing to undertake the difficulties involved. For many others, it’s just a waste of time.

Trying to break the routine of sending students willy-nilly to college, even if it isn’t the right venue for them, isn’t easy. All too often, high schools put heavy emphasis on academic and scholarly study without putting much thought into alternatives. For instance, journeyman programs that had all but disappeared, provide valuable training in career fields such as machining, plumbing, electrical, and carpentry. All of these are good-paying jobs somewhat undervalued by today’s society, but are seeing a resurgence thanks to the backlash against college and the realization that the workforce in these fields is aging, but not being replaced by younger, qualified individuals once the previous generation has retired.

So really, how much investment in your career is too much? This is a difficult question at the best of times, simply because it requires you to take into account so many different variables in your own life. For starters, though, if you’re thinking about investing in your career, weigh carefully the positives and negatives to such a move. For instance, let’s look at a teacher wishing to complete school with their master’s degree. Most states require certified teachers to have earned a bachelor’s degree, which means that most teachers will leave school with between $25k – $35k worth of student loan debt, provided that they took out loans to accomplish that degree. Starting salaries of teachers in middle school grades are about $38,000 (give or take depending on the district) A master’s degree might be required for some districts, but it is not typical, and may boost starting salary to just $42,000. Of course, even if the starting salary is $50,000, it’s questionable whether it’s worthwhile to have spent an additional $25,000 on masters-level coursework to start out at $50k, particularly since your yearly raises may not be regular.

Another example might be taking extension classes for computer specialization at your current employer. If your employer isn’t paying for them, you might be swimming upstream thinking that they’ll just give you money for having gone to the trouble of taking additional classes. More likely, they’ll just take the benefit of your newfound knowledge and wait till your annual review to pass you a little raise that you might have gotten anyway.

It isn’t to say that it’s never worthwhile to invest in yourself, but care must be taken to ensure that you’ll get the greatest possible benefit from that investment. If there’s no real benefit, than the investment is likely to be pointless. Of course, there’s always something to be said for improvement for improvement’s sake. At the end of the day, that’s all up to you.

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Why flying in an airplane may become quaint in the next 100 years.

Flying has always had a certain romance to it. The trouble is, as soon as airlines figured out what they had, and demand for their product increased, the price of airfare went higher than a new Boeing Dreamliner. Sure, deregulation gave consumers some options when it came to choosing flights that fit their budget, but almost as soon as that happened, airlines began doing everything they could to cram as many passengers onto planes as possible- getting rid of leg room, minimizing seat size, and adding as many rows onto planes as they could to try to offset that loss of revenue by sheer volume of tickets sold on each flight. Now really, you can’t blame them. They have shareholders to answer to, regulations to follow, and employees to pay.

That doesn’t mean the industry is going to be around forever, though. In fact, there may come a day in the not-too distant future when riding on an airplane will become as quaint as riding a horse and buggy are today.

Some of the technology under development in the automotive world today is what will ultimately end large-scale air travel- simply because it’s more cost effective in the long run. Imagine for a moment getting into your car in New York at 8pm, and by the same time the next day, being in California. Impossible, you ask? Fifty years ago, cars rarely exceeded 65-70 miles per hour safely. Today’s tire technology allows many cars to travel 85+ miles per hour (albeit illegally) with a margin of safety. Future tire technology could see cars that safely and easily exceed 120 miles per hour, and when you combine that high-speed travel with the rapidly evolving technology that is autonomous driving, what you are left with is a hyper-efficient vehicle that could get on the highway, let you sleep, watch movies, or play games with your family in a mode far more comfortable than an airliner could possibly manage, even with more legroom.

Much of the argument in favor of air travel as opposed to highway travel is the safety factor. There’s no disputing the fact that airlines today are far, far less likely to have an accident than you are in your car, but looking into the future, this is almost guaranteed to change, as the next two to four generations of young people will begin to see driving and flying very differently than we do today. If the future lack of air travel as a regular means of transportation comes to pass, it bodes well for bringing back the idea of the family car trip, and at the end of the day, actually making it once again the best, most affordable way to travel.

Posted in:  cars
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