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03/10/2003 Archived Entry: "Poor little North Korea..."

On the Political Front:

North Korea's test firing of another missile is placed in context by Mark Fiore's cartoon on "loser dictators." Meanwhile the US has rejected North Korea's demand for direct talks to end the nuke crisis.

Speaking economically... "Bond and stock traders fear action by the United States and Britain without backing this week from the UN Security Council could lead to economic and financial disruption around the world." I am seeing the impact of this in the microcosm. In the lives of friends and family, of my neighbors -- all of whom are ordinary people who work hard and stay out of trouble. One of our closest friends (who lives States-side) has just learned he will be cut back to 1/2 time, along with almost everyone else in the company. A lady with whom I lunch announced last week that she and her husband will have to sell their modest house because -- even with two incomes and no children -- they can't afford the mortgage payments. Family members have seen a large chunk of their retirement funds washed away by the stock market avalanche. I am working around the clock on a project that may provide an "in" to one of the few growth industries still left in North America. And, for all of that, I am one of the lucky ones and not disposed to complain about the long hours. A friend of Brad's, a good programmer with work experience and college degrees, was living out of his car up until a short while ago because there was no work. People who were surprised by the loss of 308,000 jobs in America in February simply have not been paying attention. They have been listening to media lies and not opening their eyes to what's happening on the street. People in the street are hurting, they are working to the point of exhaustion, they are afraid for their economic future and that of their children.

Economic security no longer exists...for several reasons. For one thing, the government, from the feds down to your local city council, are looking for any way to grab the loose change from your pocket. Alaska is an example; there the governor is plundering the average Joe and Jane by imposing "fees" which he claims are different from taxes...as tho' that difference mattered to how much discretionary income working people will have left to spend on frivolities like clothing and books for their children. "The governor's budget will bring $113 million into state coffers by raising the cost of auto titles and registration and business licenses. The governor also wants to tax you $10 for every studded tire you buy. The governor's plan increases the state fuel tax from 8 cents to 20 cents a gallon. And the governor wants the Legislature to consider a seasonal sales tax." Meanwhile, "House Transportation Committee leaders are thinking about increasing the federal gas tax to sustain the nation's deteriorating highways, but others in the House say that's unlikely with gas prices at near-record highs."

On the Personal Front:

For some time now, I have been pursuing a policy of assembling a year's supply of non-perishables in our pantry and cold cellar, buying the goods in large quantities when they are on sale. For example, we now have a two-year supply of heavy duty trash bags, one of the most useful commodities you can stock and a staple, versatile item that is recommended by everyone from survivalists to the Red Cross. I view this stockpiling as an investment. One reason is that the goods themselves are getting more expensive...and the prices are rising quickly. As long as I must have a store of value (and everyone should), I prefer to have it in the form of 10 canned hams rather than in the form of a $50 bill, which is approximately what those hams cost. Or, more accurately, I prefer to have the store of value diversified, with both hams and $50 bills. But, at least, we can eat the hams. Stocking up on groceries is an economic investment that most people can make and immediately. As long as you buy items on sale that are non-perishables and things you use anyway, there is virtually no downside to this investment strategy.

My best to all,

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