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The Tally Ho

Monday, October 25, 2004

International Man of Mystery

Yes, I am back once again. My leaves of absence disturb me, but my life has an interesting way of spinning beyond my control. So, I am currently in New York visiting Steve and decided to relay some information and thoughts.

About myself, I returned from Paris in August and am now back in the cultural mecca that is Decatur, Illinois finishing my endless list of degrees. I cannot think of any place that I would rather NOT be at this point in my existence. Anyway, I'm not spending much time there as I am busy traveling around the country and the world for interviews and in search of jobs...Thus, my current presence in NYC until tomorrow night. I am in town for a series of interviews with investment houses and accounting firms and am getting a feel for jobs, for the city, and what it has to offer (in case my fiancee and I end up living here). In that regard, NYC pales in comparison to Paris from my perspective. I don't find it endearing or aesthetically pleasing or overly comfortable. But, it is the center of opportunity in the wonderful world of finance and thus, it is my major destination state side. It is manageable, but it will take some getting used to.

As for my take on things happening in the world right now, Steve and I have of course had some interesting conversations since I came to town. First, the flu vaccines. Those of you who read the blog often know how passionate I am about France and the French (I may be the only non-French in the world who is so). But, I find it telling that in a world where the contrast between "developed" society of Europe and "developed" society of the US could not be further apart, it is Europe who seems to be perpetually accentuating our flaws. We have piss poor foreign policy, they let the world know. We have a "third world" healthcare system, they have to rescue us. How can the world's most powerful sovereign nation not be able to defend against something as basic as flu? And that is to say nothing of funding or gov't programs. This brings to the forefront one of our many weaknesses in a very real and frightening way. But, will enough Americans notice or care enough to push for change?

Steve and I were also talking about American economics and the future of the country's industries. Personally, I understand that Dems need to run on the economy. Also, I feel that the Bush presidency has done a shitty job of managing the economy. But, my economic thinking tells me that no one can save us...we are too far down the hole. Sure, macro numbers look increasingly better and indicators look like we are out of the recession. However, it is just fog. Look at American workers and American education. How did we get here? We got here because we as a society took the Wal-Mart mentality. We want more things at lower prices--forget the value-added of a good product. We what huge houses that fall apart. We want cars that are trendy but don't run 6 months past their warranty. ETC ETC ETC. So, the Boomer generation has grown to cut costs and lower prices. And, Pavlovian American consumers have been conditioned to EXPECT low prices. Thus, job attrition...we priced ourselves out of our own labor market. Additionally, who educates today's business students? Boomers. Is change on the way? Not for 20+ years. The real American economy, in my extraordinarily humble opinion has no where to go but down until we figure out how to convince the WORLD that there is value in value-added and that production cost and price shouldn't be the driving factor behind consumption.

But, coming back to the first note about healthcare, in the same Pavlovian method, we have been trained to EXPECT low taxes. Now, the economy is in the crapper, we want programs, we want security/wars/etc, but we don't want taxes. The race isn't really for President. The race is for the CEO of Fantasyland. We can't balance budgets because we don't have the economy to support it. We can't increase taxes because Americans are already in their pockets. We can't create new programs because the risk on T-Bills and T-Bonds is going to change if we keep digging ourselves spending holes. For the last 60 years, we have been invincible. Not so much anymore. We have serious social issues, serious economic issues, serious world issues and we don't have the resources to challenge them to a resolution with little hope in sight for the future. I look at 2000 as a defining moment. And, to close with a quote for a discrediting quote from a Kevin Costner movie, "When a defining moment comes along, either you define the moment or the moment defines you...That was a defining moment and the definition was shit."

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