#weekendcoffeeshare 12/17/2016

img_0373

“Hello, Jenn! It’s great to see you for the #weekendcoffeeshare this week! How have you been?” I ask as Jenn comes through my side door.

“Good,” Jenn replies. “But the weather has been too cold for me. Looks like you have the hot beverages ready for everyone!”

“I think I do, Jenn,” I said. “I decided to serve just regular stuff today. A breakfast blend coffee, English Breakfast and Irish Breakfast Tea, and Hot Chocolate. I will also make lattes for anyone who wants one. I hope everyone enjoys it. Here they come now.”

After everyone got settled in the writing studio, the first topic was the strange weather we’ve been having. If we were having coffee, I would tell everyone about the weather here where I live. After a very warm early and mid fall, it suddenly turned bitterly cold with Artic air dropping down into the Ohio Valley and resulting in very cold temperatures until today. Today, it is 60 degrees! We’re supposed to go back into the deep freeze after today.

If we were having coffee, I would tell everyone about how much I’ve been writing during the last week. I’ve been participating in some writing challenges that I thought would challenge my writing skills. In my opinion, that is the reason to participate in writing challenges and prompts. They help you kick your writing up a notch because you really have to think and research along with the writing. You can also get some feedback from other writers participating in the same prompt or challenge which is invaluable. It seems to have been busy this past week, here on WordPress, with prompts and some new challenges. Has anyone else noticed that? Also, what do you think of the look of the new WordPress Reader?

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that, even though I am working on a novel, I find great value in continuing to blog. You make great contacts, improve your writing skills, and get an opportunity to read other writers’ works. I have, in fact, done more blogging this week than writing on the novel. That has to change in the week to come. Is anyone else working on a novel? What has been your experience?

If we were having coffee, I would ask you if you are finished with your Christmas shopping? I am not and only have one more gift to buy but it is an important one. I have thought the trend toward online shopping might cut down on the traffic in the city around the malls and shopping centers. I was wrong! Have you noticed any improvement in the traffic where you live?

Last week, I talked a little about a fellow blogger’s list of gifts for writers (Chuck Wendig). I am buying at least two products he recommends. I received my Brother Laser Printer this week but I have not yet had time to hook it up and use it. I’ll keep you advised how well it performs, particularly the WiFi. I will let you know.

I am about to buy another product Chuck recommends. I use an iPad a lot for my writing. Not exclusively. I work on a laptop when writing my novel but for blogging and other things I use a BIG iPad. As we all know, an iPad’s keyboard is not very useful if you are going to type much! Right now, I use a cheap external keyboard with my iPad, but it has to be charged often and it is pretty flimsy. Chuck recommends what looks to be an awesome external keyboard for the iPad. You can see it if you go to this site for an awesome external keyboard. Folks, this thing is on sale until 12/20. I am BUYING IT. I’ve decided to order it today. Yes, it is way expensive. I think it will make me way more productive. I will report back!

Now a personal note. I hope all of you are having a happy holiday season. I don’t do much for Christmas except I do enjoy buying gifts for friends. Christmas is a hard holiday for me for a myriad of personal reasons. The next #weekendcoffeeshare will be on Christmas Eve and we’ll talk about all things Christmas and other holidays associated with this time of year. Keep on shopping and writing and I hope all of you are having a wonderful holiday season! #amwriting #amblogging #writing #chuckwendig #WordPress

*This post in response to parttimemonsterblog.com

Thanks, Diana!

 

Trump, Trade, Labor, and Banking

img_0367

I have news for President-elect Donald Trump. It’s too late. It’s too late to stop globalization. The internet, global communications and transportation, and corporate and banking connections and interdependencies reached the White House before he did. Donald Trump seems to think he can step into the White House and turn back the hands of time. But the globalization trend has already been there and it may be too late to become nationalists and isolationists now.

There is no doubt that Trump has a point. The middle class are suffering at the hands of globalization. Jobs in the hundreds of thousands have been shipped overseas. But there are several reasons for that. One reason is that labor is cheaper overseas. There is another reason. Many jobs in the U.S. are being performed automatically and do not require human assistance. In other words, robotics. Unions are absolutely not solely to blame. Cheap overseas labor is not solely to blame. We are innovating ourselves out of manufacturing jobs through the increasing use of robotics and technology.

I’m not particularly a fan of trade deals myself.  Mr. Trump is likely to slow down or halt negotiation of the TPP. However, the U.S. has become a service economy. What are we going to do for goods and products if we don’t negotiate trade deals? The plants that used to produce them are gone and if they still stand, they are woefully deficient in the technology required to produce those goods and products. It will take a generation to get those plants on-line again. I wonder if the people who voted for Mr. Trump realize how much those goods and products would cost after the cost of getting those plants back on-line and training the workers were factored in.

The stock market has been soaring since the election. Sure, this has to do with investors expecting, or perhaps just hoping for, economic growth under President-elect Trump. The stock market’s engine is investor expectations. What is likely to happen, in reality, is a drastic cut in the corporate tax rate in order to lure U.S. corporations with headquarters overseas back home and to keep corporations contemplating a move from making it.

Globalization started slowing down years ago. It is only growing at about 2 percent per year, a result of our low GDP. Since the financial crisis of 2007-08, cross-border lending between countries has slowed considerably because bank regulators took hard looks at the international lending practices of the big U.S. banks. Lending across borders is taking a huge risk with depositors’ money. We should be glad that regulators are trying to hold the line on that kind of foreign investment. Instead, Mr. Trump is likely to try to loosen up regulation on the banks to stimulate more foreign investment, taking increasing chances with our money.

In the meantime, we have a President-elect who is a businessman. Not necessarily a bad thing. But what about foreign policy? While he is negotiating deals, who will have their hand on the foreign policy button? #amwriting #amblogging #writing #banking #trade #labor

 

Politics: Trump, Banking, and the Economy

Before I begin this blog post, I want to put in a disclaimer. When I started this blog, I had no intention of talking much about either politics or business. Business is my professional field and I wanted to get away from it. Politics is too volatile. But, I’ve had a lot of questions about the effect of a Trump Presidency on certain segments of the economy and on our lives that I feel compelled to answer them to the best of my ability. I’m going to try to be non-partisan, but (full disclosure), I was not and am not a Trump supporter. I will still try to be non-partisan. If I sound like a teacher, let me apologize in advance. I am a teacher :)……it’s hard not to sound like one!

The Trump transition team has made it known that they intend to repeal or, at least significantly change, a piece of legislation called the Dodd-Frank bill. They also intend to repeal the Volcker Rule. Let me explain what that means to me, you, and the man on the street.

The Dodd-Frank bill is a very complex (and long) piece of legislation that was enacted after the economic and banking collapse that happened at the end of 2007 and the beginning of 2008 and the recession that resulted. Large banks were the primary cause of this collapse. The general consensus is that the large banks invested in too many subprime (risky) mortgages in order to beef up their income by charging high interest rates. They also invested in speculative securities for the same reason. In other words, these banks took advantage of their customers and took risks with their customers’ money. Banks in the U.S. have never before been allowed to do that. The banks essentially got caught and the economy almost failed because of it.

The Dodd-Frank bill was enacted to protect customers of large banks in the future. Some say that it goes too far and restricts the ability of both individuals and corporations from borrowing money. I have not read the bill so I cannot address that. What I do know is that banks do, indeed, need some checks and balances so what happened in 2007 and 2008 will not happen again. Apparently, Mr. Trump intends to repeal this legislation.

We used to have legislation called the Glass-Steagall Act which prevented banks from engaging in investing. That legislation was unfortunately repealed in the late 1990s. Glass-Steagall would have prevented banks from making these speculative investments and loans.

The Trump transition team has said they also intend to repeal what is called the Volcker rule. Mr. Volcker was once Chair of the Federal Reserve.  A regulation was passed in his name preventing banks from making investments that could endanger their customer accounts by exposing them to too much risk.

The positive side of repealing Dodd-Frank and Volcker is that it would be easier for consumers to obtain mortgages. It would also be easier for businesses and large corporations to borrow money and make investments, including risky investments. #amwriting #amblogging #writing #DoddFrank #VolckerRule

 

2016 US Presidential Election: Pneumonia or the Economy and Foreign Policy?

 

imageI am discouraged by American journalism. I am also discouraged that the American people don’t demand more from their journalists and their Presidential candidates. I will certainly be interested to watch the upcoming Presidential debates although we cannot forget that early voting will have already started in some states. It seems this Presidential race is a slog,  toward, at best, mediocrity.

Let’s look at what’s important. Hillary Clinton’s very temporary, very common bout with pneumonia is not important regarding this election. This is an illness any one of us could contract and recover from very quickly. THe press and her opponent have made a much bigger deal out of it than it is, probably to deflect attention from the other issues that they should be discussing. However, since these two candidates are the oldest ever running for the White House, it is appropriate that they release their health records.

Our biggest economic problem is jobs. We hear wholesale promises of jobs from Mr. Trump but he has no plan to magically manufacture them except he talks about bringing industry home. Home to what? Dilapidated plants that are light years behind technologically? In some cases, no plants or factories are left at all. Clinton has a jobs creation plan that will add about 10 million jobs during her first term. However, she also talks about the revitalization of the manufacturing sector and this writer thinks that is dreaming. She does plan to put people to work on the infrastructure which is desperately needed – if she can get funds from Congress.

It is a little more difficult to figure out Donald Trumps’s plan for jobs. He says he wants to bring back jobs from China, Japan, Vietnam, and other countries but he is not clear what he wants to bring them back to. WIthout a manufacturing and technology sector, Trump’s plan to bring back jobs seems to fall flat. He is also not in favor of raising the minimum wage.

WIth regard to foreign policy, Mr. Trump has very little experience. He is a nationalist. He is not in favor of many trade agreements with other countries or is for very strict terms. He wants to appease and support Russia while doing the opposite with China, seeing China as our enemy.  He does not support the Iran deal and does support strong men ruling the Middle East.

Mts. Clinton has been a diplomat for many years. Her foreign policy is based on diplomacy. She is very well-schooled on the issues facing the US from other countries in the world and would be one of the most knowledgeable leaders in modern times in foreign policy due to her background and her experience gained as Secretary of State.

One of the problems with this election is that the candidates nor the media are focusing on these or any other issues. Instead they are talking about Clinton’s illness or Trump’s medical history or tax returns. The American people should want to know these candidates’ stands on issues, not their personal extraneous issues. OTherwise, we cannot make informed voting positions.

If you understand the issues, get out and vote but educate yourself first so you can make an informed voting decision. #dailyprompt #2016presidentialelection #realDonaldTrump #HillaryClinton #amwriting #amblogging #writing #economy #foreignpolicy

 

Cutting Funds for Education: A Declining Future for America

image

It seems fashionable these days to say that not everyone needs a college education. Actually, that’s true. We need people with vocational training — electricians, plumbers, auto mechanics. We need people with specialty training – jewelers and clockmakers. But, we also need college educated people to do research, to teach, to help run our businesses, to be chemists and biologists and anthropologists and financial analysts. It is also fashionable, it seems, to cut the funding for institutions of higher education to the bone and the programs and people right along with them.

Let’s focus on higher education. I was a college professor for 27 years so I do have a bit of insider information and understanding. What happens when funding is cut for a state university? First, tuition goes up for the students. That is one of the primary sources of funds for universities. Of course, there is always fundraising from donors to the university but that money is far less certain than tuition increases. Every time there is a funding cut, if you have college-age children, the money it takes to run the university comes right out of your pocket.

What actually happens inside the university with funding cuts? In the state in which I live, state universities are experiencing funding cuts. The university where I taught had to eliminate some faculty and staff positions. Some were vacant. Some had actual people teaching and serving as support staff in them. There goes the unemployment rate – up. Academic and sports programs were eliminated. There were times when we were under a budget crunch at my university that we had a hard time scrounging up paper and pens, let alone the newest technology. Do you know what happens to faculty and staff morale when that happens? It starts a downward spiral. How effective do you think the faculty are at teaching your children under those circumstances? I can tell you – not very effective. The faculty and staff are worried about losing their jobs and they don’t really have the materials they need to do their jobs. Your children suffer when there are funding cuts to higher education.

Cutting higher education funding is a short-term strategy for state legislatures to use in order to save money. Some think supporting higher education is not a good strategy for stimulating economic growth. Some think that a better strategy for economic growth is enacting tax cuts for the wealthy or for large corporations while raising money by cutting higher education funding. That is a very short-term view. In the long-term, allocating money to reduce tuition and student debt and improve graduation rates would benefit the economy more. There seems to be a disconnect in the minds of our legislators between the value of college-educated young people and what they contribute to our economic growth. Unfortunately, we seem to have entered a period of time in our society in America when we can’t see the forest for the trees. We can’t see that we diminish our future if we don’t invest in education — all education. After all, people clapped and cheered when one of the Presidential candidates this year said that he loved the poorly educated.

So what’s the answer to states looking for money? It seems obvious! Cut something else. Don’t cut education. Education is the future. Education is not only your children’s future, it is our country’s future. Cut the legislators’ travel budgets. Or their expense accounts. I just bet I could find a number of non-essential line items if I went through the state budget and I bet you could too. Cutting education seems to fly in the face of good reason. In fact, it is not only a short-term solution, it is selfish. Would the legislators who vote to cut education rather satisfy their lobbyists, and reap those benefits, than adequately educate their children and contribute to the future of America? Right now, the answer appears to be yes. Let’s elect some legislators who will answer a resounding NO to that question. #amwriting #writing #blogging #bloggersrequired #GdnHigherEd

*Image acquired from Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Will the Economy Affect the Presidential Election?

I’m tired of the word “circus” when describing the 2016 Presidential election. It’s much worse than a circus as the connotation of that word is an event that includes fun and games. Even though the whole thing has seemed funny at times, the future of our country is at stake. When we finish laughing, suddenly it seems very serious. Will the current state of our economy affect the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election? In a perfect world, the voters would be looking at issues like the jobs report, inflation, interest rates, and a myriad of foreign policy issues. Have we heard much or anything about those issues this year? Not so much.

Oh, you can argue that we hear about foreign policy but all we hear is about terrorism and a little about immigration. Both are crucial issues but do we hear any real plans for either? Nothing sustainable. We already have immigration laws on the books that are not being enforced. We hear about a wall that may be built if a certain candidate is elected. The only thing we seem to know to do about terrorism outside of our borders seems to involve way too many innocent people.

Regarding domestic policy, there is very little discussion of policy positions except those that are either ultra-liberal or ultra-conservative which may not represent the majority of the American people.

I have heard little about the fact that, instead of rising, the Gross Domestic Product of the U.S. fell by 0.5% in the first quarter of 2016. In 2015, the pundits were predicting a roaring 2016 economy. Not happening. The job market. Last fall, we reached a 40 year low of the number of Americans participating in the job market at 62.4%. That has gone up slightly to 62.9%. Even though we added over 200,000 jobs during March 2016, the jobs are simply replacing jobs long since lost. Inflation. Core inflation increased 2.2% on an annual basis in March 2016 and 2.3% annually in February. Not much talk about these key issues that affect each of us.

Instead we get slogans and platitudes. Mudslinging and name calling.

Is the state of our economy really affecting the election? People certainly seem angry. Is what they are angry about……wages that don’t cover expenses, high cost of health insurance, terrorism….just to name a few….really something any of the candidates can do much about? Or has it all gone too far? Food for thought. #Hillary #Trump #presidentialelection #economy