Who’s Minding the Food?

Junkfood junkies!

whos minding the food

“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.” ― Orson Welles

The Standard American Diet is about 2,200 calories per day, with 50% of calories from carbohydrates, 15% protein, and 35% fat. It is very different from those of our forefathers.  

Since the start of the industrial revolution, the everyday lifestyle of mankind has changed in many ways.  When the United States was founded in 1776, the vast majority of its citizens lived in an agrarian society. We farmed and grew our own food, or worked for those that did. Once industry took hold, and large cities began to spring up, we shifted to a largely metropolitan society. In 1870, almost 50 percent of the U.S. population was employed in agriculture, today it is less than 2%. Farming is neither glamorous, nor easy. 

This shift has resulted in a two-fold negative lifestyle impact on the people in our nation:

One – We must buy processed and preserved food from supermarkets.

Two– We no longer endure the physical labor needed to burn off the calories in the food we eat.

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”– words of Jesus Christ from  Matthew 7:9-11 NIV

We in the USA may take it for granted because our nation has never known long-term widespread famine, or food shortages, but food is perhaps the greatest way to control a country. Laws ,economics, and education  may restrict your life in a myriad of ways, but cut off your food and water long enough and you’ll die. Poison the food supply, and you slowly sicken, weaken and given enough time, kill the people who eat it.  All food is made of up to three components: Fats, proteins, and carbohydrates (carbs for short).  Carbohydrates are just the scientific word for sugar, and comes in two forms, complex and simple. Simple carbohydrates are made up of just one or two sugar molecules. As such, it doesn’t take much for your body to break them down and absorb them (as glucose) into the bloodstream. For this reason, simple carbohydrates raise blood sugar much faster and usually higher than complex carbohydrates.

According to a study printed in The BMJ (formally called The British Medical Journal) in an average American diet,  about 57.9% of the daily caloric intake of about 2200 kcals is coming from ultra-processed foods, 9.4% from processed foods, 2.9% from processed culinary ingredients. Only a mere  29.6% (less than a third) of our food intake is from unprocessed or minimally processed foods.

There are more than 38,000 processed food products on grocery shelves in the US. This includes the so-called ultra -processed foods which accounts for 90% of the added sugar in the Standard American Diet .  Additionally the majority of these items contain chemical additives, dyes, and preservatives that are unhealthy to say the least. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) often takes the place of refined sugar, but is far worse. The human body can’t process this artificial sugar made by converting starch into fructose. HFCS has been added to many products to ‘make them taste better’. Whenever you see ‘new improved’ on a box, automatically think added sugars and fat. Any calories you consume that you don’t burn off daily are stored in your body as fat.

 The Standard American Diet is SAD indeed.

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Feed The World?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock your entire life, it should come as no surprise to you that billionaires (and to a lesser extent multi-millionaires) control the world. They are the modern day equivalents of kings, and world domination is a game of kings. As such, these contemporary would-be rulers reign over almost every aspect of our lives. They may not officially own the country, but they do control either the food supply, or the distribution chains for it. (I’m not even going to get into restaurant chains. Americans may be eating-out more than ever, but restaurants are still just a luxury, not a necessity.)

Of the 38,000 processed foods on the shelves in food stores, more often than not we go for a trusted name-brand. All of the major supermarket chains have an in-house brand that’s comparable or sometimes superior to the national brand. They may even have similar packaging and be placed side-by-side on the shelf.  Many of these knock-offs or, no-frills alternatives are manufactured by the same exact factories as the recognized brand.  All of the official brands in the world are owned by just ten corporations as shown in this infographic from Oxfam.   

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Additionally most supermarkets stock all major brands. There are few exceptions such as the Trader Joe chain which stocks nearly 95% of their store brand instead. Trader Joe is an American company which specializes in organic health foods.  Their groceries are top-notch, and cost a few pennies more. You get what you pay for. The top-selling supermarket company in the world is Kroger.

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Top 10 Supermarket Companies in 2018

(Sales in billions)

  • The Kroger Co., $105.10
  • Albertsons, $57.39
  • Royal Ahold Delhaize USA, $43.20
  • Publix Super Markets, $34.56
  • Aldi, $25.86
  • H-E-B Grocery, $21.94
  • Neighborhood Market/Marketside (Walmart), $17.04
  • Wakefen/ShopRite, $16.30
  • Whole Foods Market (Amazon), $15.40
  • Southeastern Grocers, $10.63

We are what we eat!

There are countless diet cooks, cook books, and health books in print and on line, yet two out of three Americans are overweight.  This is senseless!  Food is necessary for life, but not everything we are able to eat is good for us. Sometimes it’s a matter of the ingredients, other times it is portion size. The times of day and the frequency of which we eat can also play a part. Some people eat to live while others live to eat. Of all the addictions in the world, food addiction is the worst because you need to eat to live. Junkfood may taste wonderful, but all things in moderation. The quality of life of a morbidly obese person is far diminished from that of a person leading a healthy, active lifestyle. The bottom line is that health is far more important than wealth if you want to live a successful and happy life.   No one can force you the eat healthier, that decision rest sole with you. As always I wish you success and happiness!

Who’s Minding The Market?

Is the game rigged?

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‘The key to success is to focus our conscious mind on things we desire not things we fear.’ —Brian Tracy

You’ve probably heard the old cliché ‘the rich get richer while the poor stay poor (or get poorer)’. Although this truism  is often used by the media as a way of stirring up class warfare, it would be more accurate to say, ‘you get what you pay for.’  Success expert and motivational speaker Brain Tracy often remarks that the real reason people are poor is because they haven’t decided to be rich. The truth hurts, but facts are facts. Facts may offend, but facts are incontrovertible, transcendent of whomever says them. Rich people didn’t get rich by making poor people poor, for the most part, they did it by fearlessly investing their money somewhere. 

Knowledge is power

There is a lot of fake news out there, and our society has never been more plugged in and connected. Unfortunately there is a big difference between reading something and understanding it. Not every bit of information being relayed to you is for your benefit. Some information like advertising contains subliminal messages to entice you to purchase their product. Is that flashy new model automobile really that much better than the car you own, or than the dozen other advertisements from other car companies all of which claim to be the best and most reliable on the road? At the end of the day, you can only drive as fast as the posted speed limit, and few people are impressed by your car for very long, if ever. A 17-year old Hyundai Accent that still runs will get you to work just as fast as a brand new one.

Subliminal messages appear in just about every piece of information presented to you. It is a hidden suggestion in the content intended to sway your opinion to their side of the issue.  Someone is pulling your strings, and you won’t even know it unless you learn to read between the lines.  The poor are exploited by the rich because the rich have power, and the poor lack it.

Money is power

Financial freedom is one example of power that the rich have. When you have enough money, you can do anything and go anywhere.  With the possible exception of the nouveau riche, all rich and successful people invest in the stock market. Poor people do not invest in the stock market for a variety of reasons.

  • The most overused excuse is that they lack money. The reality is that they waste money on junk.
  • The next excuse is that they don’t want to lose their money. The reality is your money is gone the moment you spend it on any consumable item. Try getting your money back for the pack of cigarettes you smoked.
  • Stocks are very expensive.  Amazon may sell in excess of $1860 a share, but there are literally thousands of ‘penny stocks’ that cost less than a pack of smokes or even a can of soda.
  • They don’t understand it. That is a valid excuse. A fool and their money are soon parted. However, it is a limitation which can be easily overcome by study and time. Leaders are readers!

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“It’s my own desire

It’s my own remorse

Help me to decide

Help me make the most Of freedom and of pleasure

Nothing ever lasts forever

Everybody wants to rule the world.”   – song Everybody wants to rule the world by Tears for Fears (1985)

Power is power

The rich have knowledge, money, and power. This allows them to control various aspects of our lives.  Some rich people like President Donald J. Trump root for the common man and want every citizen to achieve whatever goals and dreams they aspire to. Others like Bernie Sanders want to control every aspect of our lives from cradle to grave. To warped frustrated old men like Sanders, we are not people, we are cattle. Unfortunately many young mush-heads believe the socialist garbage being spooned down their throats. America is a great nation because of Christianity and capitalism.  No nation on Earth is perfect, but the USA is the greatest bastion of freedom, liberty, and opportunity in the world, and there are powerful men that are working hard to change that. The current generation, known as millennials, are the first generation born in the USA not to be richer than their parents.  They were duped and manipulated by misinformation, fake news, liberal teachers, and mass media.

Is the stock market being gamed?

All media outlets are ultimately owned  by the rich, and they can use these media outlets to influence the thoughts and behaviors of the masses.  If a financial expert on a top news program  suddenly proclaims that the bull market is nearly over, some people panic and sell their shares because the price drops. A short while later, the stock rebounds to new heights. Not only has the skittish investor  lost on their initial investment, but they also missed out on potential gains had they held on to their shares.  An important book to read on this topic is Unshakeable by Tony Robbins. It is impossible to ‘time the market’ and a wise investor knows that bull markets are around long, and bear markets only last a short while. The key is to stay the course. The market is not rigged, but there is some level of manipulation being used against unseasoned investors to exploit their fears. As Warren Buffet would say, ‘when everyone’s selling, he’s buying’.

Facebook Stock is currently trading at $178.28 as of  April 18th 2019. The 52 week high was $218.62 and the low was $123.02. If you panicked and sold it at $123, you would have missed a nearly 50% gain. If you sold at $218, you could have locked in any gains you made, and reinvested it at a later time buying something else, or buying shares at the current $178 price in the hopes of future gains. If you had bought Facebook in 2012 at its IPO of $38, you would have made out like a bandit in either case. Imagine how the people feel who sold their shares a week after the IPO when the stock plunged to about $26 per share and so-called experts were calling it a bad investment! Better yet, imagine if you had brought AMAZON in 1997 for its IPO at a mere $18 a share. A $10,000 investment in that company alone would have made you a millionaire today.  What you hear about a company on the news may cause you to panic and sell at the wrong time, or encourage you to buy at the wrong time, or worse yet never even buy at all. Past performance is no indication of future performance.

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Inside, OUT!

You may have heard of Insider trading, where sensitive information about a company is clandestinely shared with an individual so that they can gain an advantage over the average investor. This is against the law, MOSTLY. There are exceptions to this rule for certain people, and possibly even ways to theoretically circumvent the laws if you are rich and powerful.

What exactly is insider trading? In order for a person to be considered an ‘insider’ they need to have either a 10% stake in that company, or access to valuable, non-public information about that company.  CEOs, presidents, vice-presidents, and board members  are all considered insiders.  In order to LEGALLY trade on shares  IF YOU ARE AN INSIDER,  these transactions must be properly registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and are done with advance filings. It is also illegal to share insider information to protect friends and family members who might own stock in that company.  That’s what happened to Martha Stewart in 2001 when she found out  her friend’s company ImClone’s new cancer drug was being rejected by the FDA, and she suddenly sold all her shares days before the official announcement.   Attempting to save $250,000 landed her in jail. Illegal is still illegal even if you don’t like the law. Had she just waited until news of the rejection of the new drug was publicly aired, she might have taken a little or no loss, avoided jail, and would have been able to write off any losses as a tax credit. Greed can get you in trouble fast.

The bottom line

You will never be able to spend your way into prosperity. The only way to get rich quick is to do it slowly. Rich people run the world, and they got rich because they made the proper choices, took risks, and invested their money. They earned their money the old fashioned way, they worked for it. The good news is that opportunity exists everywhere if you are willing to look for it, and do the work. As always, I wish you success and happiness!

WHO’S MINDING THE BANK?

Whoever controls the money also controls the country!

whos minding the bank

In 1913, president Woodrow Wilson pushed though his Federal Reserve Bank enforcing a central banking system upon the country, supposedly for the good of the country. The Bank that Woody built in turn allowed the USA to begin running up a massive federal debt by borrowing huge sums of money to pay for any shortfalls in the federal budget.  As you may have heard, CASH IS KING because cash on hand provides opportunity to seize the moment and clinch the deal. No one benefits by being a day late and a dollar short.  Borrowing money at interest may at times be necessary, but it is never cost effective over the long term because due to the compounding of interest eventually you end up paying two or three times the original price.  The only difference between personal debt and government debt is the scale, but the result is the same. Whenever the interest rate is increased, the ability to repay the debt is decreased.  Until recently, ultra-low interest rates, set by the Federal Reserve to support the economy, allowed lawmakers to borrow without fretting too much about the cost of that debt. But as the economy has strengthened, the Fed has gradually raised rates.

Each time the Fed raises rates, the stock market also reacts negatively. This is because all banks in the USA are required by law to be members of the Federal Reserve Bank.  These local banks then loan out money to consumers,  which they have in turn borrowed from the Fed. This is known as fractional reserve banking.  If the Fed raises rates, all debtors suffer. Local banks have to raise their rates, to recoup the loss. New loans suddenly become more expensive than old loans, and spending drops. If spending drops, the economy slows, businesses close, jobs  are cut, etc. It’s a cumulative effect. Fractional reserve banking is a sort of ponzi scheme in that as a result, approximately 90% of the ‘money’ in the world really doesn’t exist. It’s just debt on paper, an I.O.U.  The only ones growing rich are the owners of the banks.

How do you make money on ZERO?

Short answer, you don’t. Zero means zero. It’s also bait for a trap.

Forget government spending for a second, and let’s go back to basics. (Remember the only real  difference between macro and micro economics is the scale.)

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You receive a credit card offer in the mail offering 0% interest on new purchases and balance transfers for a year, or longer.  For the sake of this hypothetical example, we’ll set the term at two years, no interest, and a credit limit of $20,000. You now have a revolving credit line, and the bank is secretly hoping that habitual use of this line of credit will result in a maxed out card. Let’s assume that on day one, you make a $20,000 purchase on some extravagant item that you can’t afford, but have always wanted.  Now assume that the minimum monthly payment is just 1% of the total balance.  The 1st month you pay $200, the 2nd $198, the 3rd $196 etc. At the end of one year, you still have a balance over $17,729. And you only have 12 more months to pay this off before your 0% offer ends, and the bank starts charging you its normal 22.9% rate on your outstanding balance.  If you could only afford the minimum balance with your current income, you will never be able to pay off this debt in time, and even worse you’ll be getting charged more in interest than you are paying in, so you’ll be enslaved by debt for the rest of your life. The only way to pay off this initial debt in a 24 month period is to make 24 equal monthly payments of $834 and make no new charges. Under that repayment plan, you have a true zero fee loan that the bank makes no money on, and you beat the trap that most people fall prey to.

So how do we pay off the federal debt?

In a nutshell, the same way. We need the Fed to reinstate the zero percent interest rate, and keep it there while we trim all the fat from the federal budget  eliminating any and all unnecessary spending.  

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Who’s the boss?

Unfortunately, the Federal Reserve is a private bank, not owned by the government. It is unique in that it is both public and private, and is independent within the government. As such, it can control our economy for better or worse. Just as nominees appointed by the president to the Supreme Court of the United States can impact our country for decades, so can nominees to the Fed. President Donald Trump may have a golden opportunity to reshape the orientation of the Federal Reserve as several of its board members will be retiring in the near future.  Currently, Trump’s two recent nominees to the central bank, Herman Cain and Stephen Moore, are imperiled by growing resistance from within the president’s own party.   The RINO Republicans are jeopardizing the president’s promise to strengthen our economy, eliminate our national debt, and Make America Great Again by opposing his nominees.  Cain was a former presidential candidate famous for his 9-9-9 tax reform plan and is a big supporter of Trump, as well as a long-time friend.  Herman Cain’s nomination is effectively dead, but that may have been a ploy to get Stephen Moore confirmed instead. Moore is a strong supporter of capitalism, and has stated that the 16th Amendment which created the national income tax was the most evil law passed in the 20th century.   All of this is a moot point is the Democrats should somehow steal the 2020 election, so it is of the utmost importance to stand behind President Trump, now more than ever. As always, I wish you success and happiness!

FAKE NEWS?

‘Q’ the footage!

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(This is the second in a two part series, for part one read EVERYONE’S WATCHING!)

In 1897, Adolph S. Ochs, the owner of The New York Times, created the famous slogan “All the News That’s Fit to Print.” It was a declaration of the newspaper’s intention to report the news impartially. It  still appears on the masthead of the newspaper today.  Print news is dying and many small town newspapers either get absorbed by larger competitors or shutter their doors forever if they fail to find buyers. Every large newspaper still in existence is owned by some billionaire somewhere for reasons both whimsical and nostalgic.  Democrat Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, owns The Washington Post.  Democrat Bill Gates, second richest man owns at least four papers. Warren Buffet, also a Democrat, is the third richest man in the world and owns 30 regional newspapers through his Berkshire Hathaway holding company.  Although using newspapers for obtaining news is rapidly declining , they  still have a significant subscription base as about one in seven adults still read them. Forget newspapers for just one second. EVERY FORM of information distribution be it print, radio, television, film, or internet is ultimately owned by some billionaire, and reflects their personal political, religious, and economic agendas.  

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More people get their news from the internet than newspapers, and television is still the king of media but internet news as a whole is gaining rapidly . These demographics change when you filter out age groups, as most younger Americans get the lion’s share of their news from the internet and through social media platforms such as Twitter, Face book, YouTube and even Snapchat. In 2016 the Pew Research Center released a study showing 89 percent of surveyed college students said they got at least some of their news from social media. The future of the nation lies in its youth. If you can influence children from an early age, you will be able to control their thoughts and manipulate them for the rest of their lives.  We get information from many sources, but it’s up to us to use our cognitive abilities to determine if the news makes sense.

Back in 2012, a viral video produced by Invisible Children blew up on social media. It focused on a barbaric Ugandan warlord named Joseph Kony.  Since the 1990s, Uganda has been engaged in a number of civil wars, the most protracted being a 20 years’ war against Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) .   Joseph Kony makes Idi Amin look like Mickey Mouse in comparison. The video and the group behind it stirred up the youth of the nation with the tagline KONY 2012 and a plea have someone somewhere do something to bring Joseph Kony to justice.  Of course, nothing resulted from the media stunt except that the young social justice warriors found other causes to champion, such as the ice-bucket challenge, or eating Tide Pods.  Turning 18, or even 21 doesn’t make you an adult, it only gives you a legal status. These young adults lack discernment, life-experience,  and enough wisdom to see that although something may have seemed like a ‘good idea at the time’ it truly wasn’t.  They are what Saul Alinsky   referred to as ‘useful idiots’ and are targeted by powerful liberals who ultimately want to destroy the USA and kill the American dream.

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Upper echelon liberals in the DNC (Democratic National Committee) want the best possible lives for themselves while destroying the American dream for the average citizen in the process. They will lie, cheat, steal, and in if they think they can get away with it, even kill in order to gain and retain wealth and power.  One example is  Bill Maher who has publicly rooted for an economic downturn which would destroy the life savings of hard-working American citizens because he believes it’s the best way to cost Trump reelection to the presidency in 2020. The talk show host, comedian, actor, and political commentator’s net worth is $100 million.

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Using the power of the internet and social media platforms, these powerful members of the DNC have been waging a non-stop media war against the rightfully elected US President, Donald J. Trump. They have slandered and libeled him ever since his unprecedented win against Hillary R. Clinton in the 2016 election. The DNC tried to stir up college students to support their platform by comparing Trump to Adolf Hitler, and calling him deranged, arrogant, incompetent, and just an all-out ‘bad man’. They spent two years alleging Russian collusion that was non-existent. When the findings of The MULLER REPOERT were summarized and released, they could not accept the facts, just like they could not accept the election results in 2016.      

 “President Trump is a truly unique leader in American history. He’s a kid from Queens who became an international business leader and made billions by getting things when no one said he could,” –John McLaughlin, Trump’s 2016 campaign pollster

“They told him he couldn’t be president and beat the establishment and he did. For two years the establishment is telling him he can’t do things in Washington and he’s succeeding in spite of them. He never retreats. He doesn’t back up. He’s relentless. He just wins,” ­–John McLaughlin

Facts are facts

‘Pics or it didn’t happen’ is a phrase used on Internet forums to counter the vast range of unverifiable claims made by users. It’s ironic because even when presented with facts, many will question the information. There are verifiable facts that even the brightest college students will ignore. There are kids that don’t even believe the moon landing in 1969 happened, instead choosing to believe it was filmed on a sound stage.  This is one of the reasons that young Americans are embracing the lie of socialism, and  if they are not educated to this folly, one day they might succeed in electing a tyrant intent on destroying the US once and for all. Donald Trump is the only man intent on repairing the damage done by the Obama administration. Had the majority of voting Americans been tricked into electing Clinton instead,  It would have been a continuation of the destruction of our way of life.  To date, Donald Trump has accomplished 289 of his campaign promises in just 20 months.

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Enter Qanon

The left obtains power by silencing and destroying their enemies, but the truth is out there  if you look for it.  The problem is the signal-to-noise ratio, and being able to filter though the mind-blowing amounts of information.

Currently more than 3.7 billion humans use the internet . Each day, more than 2.5 quintillion bytes of data is created. That’s more information than you could process in a lifetime being generated every single day. Half of all the web searches are being done from mobile phones. The most popular search engine is Google, which now processes more than 40,000 searches EVERY second (3.5 billion searches per day)  and accounts for 77% of all the searches conducted.

The Internet has expanded the variety and amount of accessible political information. On the positive side, this may create a more pluralistic form of public debate; on the negative side, greater access to information may lead to selective exposure to ideologically supportive channels. It is possible for a person to create their own virtual echo chamber through search engine optimization and the proper key words.  In other words, if you love Trump, you’ll find sites praising him, and if you hate Trump, you’ll find sites damming him. It is more important to consider not only what is being said, but who is saying it and why.  Consider the source. Both parties have an agenda. Both parties believe in their cause. Only one is right, even though they both believe they are right and the other is wrong. I have said it from day one, I am a conservative Republican, and I fully support President Donald J. Trump and his political agenda of Making America Great Again. I’d also like to see the entire DNC united on a platform, one with nooses and a trap door.  They have conspired and committed treason against this nation, and treason has a death penalty. Just ask Julius and Ethel Rosenberg .  

Since October of 2017 an anonymous online poster code-named ‘Q’ has been dropping cryptic tips and information in various internet chat rooms first in 4-chan, than on 8-chan. Many of these posts invite the reader to examine various articles, images, and tweets which support the claim that Trump has been targeted by members of a ‘Deep State’ which has been trying to destroy the USA in secret. There are many sites and even apps for your smart phone which will allow you to filter through the various Q ‘drops’ and read post made by fellow Q researchers. Donald Trump managed to do with Twitter what Roosevelt did with radio, and what Reagan did with television. He used the medium to directly address the American people.  The internet is far more powerful than newspapers, radio, or even television ever were. The sum total of human knowledge is stored online, and can be directly accessed by anyone with a  wi-fi  capable smartphone. These phones record video and take pictures which can be uploaded by concerned ‘citizen journalists’ in an effort to counter the lies of the left. When Liberals claim Trump had a rally, and no one showed, there are literally hundreds, if not thousands of posts of pictures and videos to discount the hoax. Trump was elected by a grassroots movement to reclaim our nation from those who would see it destroyed.  Career criminals have been pillaging the USA for years, and Trump was the only person powerful enough to stand up and fight back.

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Consider this analogy:
Say there is a school yard bully. He terrorizes the smaller and weaker children, beating them up and staling their lunch money  so he can enjoy a free lunch while his victims suffer and starve.  The only true way to defeat the bully is to find a champion willing to stand up for the little guy.  Trump is the champion standing to  those who are trying to transform our nation into a third world socialist nightmare. Trump is a patriot and believes in the American dream.

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The world is run by billionaires and it takes another billionaire to face up to those who would be kings in a game of kings for global domination.  It may be like David vs. Goliath, but if God is with us, who can stand against us? A storm is coming and there has been a ‘Great Awakening’. In order for us to continue to enjoy our economic success, to live our lives in the pursuit of liberty and happiness, America needs to be strong and remain free.  The DNC will do anything and everything it can to steal the 2020 election and undo all the good Trump has accomplished.  If you don’t support Trump, you don’t support the USA, and you don’t belong living in it. America is a nation governed by the people for the people, we have the power to take back our country from those who are willing to destroy it, and despite who we elect to represent us, the real power still rests in us, and our votes. 

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There’s still time to research the facts and dispel the liberal lies, so expand your thinking and get on the right side of history before it’s too late. As always,   I wish you success and happiness.

 

How big is the Federal deficit?

Can the debt ever be repaid?

How big is the federal debt

“A national debt, if it is not excessive, will be to us a national blessing.” – Alexander Hamilton

The average American doesn’t understand how money, budgets, and debt work at the local level. Personal finances are referred to by economists as ‘microeconomics’. When you start dealing with the finances of nations, your discussing what is known as ‘macroeconomics’. In any case, the underlying principals of income, budgeting, and debt are basically the same, only the scale is different. Savings is always good, and debt is never your best choice. Debt in and of itself is just a tool, but it can quickly spiral out of hand, and you are always spending more money when you go into debt than if you were to pay the full amount upfront in cash. The decision that needs to be greatly mulled-over is the benefits of waiting verses the benefits of instant gratification. 

Going into debt for any reason is never to be taken lightly, and should NEVER be used for trivial pursuits. Sometimes it can be very important to make an purchase in order to establish a platform for future benefits.  On a personal level, an example of this could be purchasing an automobile. There are not many individuals who buy brand new cars outright with cash, though older, used cars might be attainable. In some parts of the USA a car is a necessity. You can’t get to work, or buy groceries because there is no direct public transportation available.  Buying items you really don’t need like the latest video game, or the newest smart phone are examples of foolish debt.

In 1803, the USA doubled in size through a land deal between the United States and France, in which the U.S. acquired approximately 827,000 square miles of land west of the Mississippi River for $15 million. Known as The Louisiana Purchase, this deal was more than the country could afford even at the bargain price of 3¢ per acre, yet it was also an offer that then president Thomas Jefferson could not refuse.  The purchase deal  had to be paid immediately because Napoleon needed the funds for a war with Great Britain.  As a result the US was forced to borrow the funds from two banks in Europe at 6 per cent interest.  It took twenty years to pay back the loan, and cost $8 million in interest fees.  Even after the repayment of the loan in 1823, the USA remained in debt for another twelve years.  On January 1, 1835, president Andrew Jackson paid off the entire national debt. That was the only time in U.S. history that had been accomplished.              

Most nations have national or sovereign debts, and there is nothing wrong with having a debt in many cases. Most creditors don’t worry until the sovereign debt is more than 77 percent of GDP, according to the World Bank. In the fourth quarter of 2018, the U.S. debt-to-GDP ratio was 105 percent. That’s the $21.974 trillion U.S. debt as of December 31, 2018, divided by the $20.891 trillion nominal GDP. So the USA is in ‘the danger zone’ where creditors could begin panicking.  This was one of the reason we lost our historical AAA+ credit after the deficit doubled under the Obama administration.  

The national debt is made up of a few things, and is the total of all the bonds held at the Federal Reserve. Money begins and ends with the issuing body. When certain debts are extinguished, so is the money that created them. US Federal reserve notes are based entirely upon debt having been created through the process of fractional reserve banking. In this process, bank notes are printed and then loaned out to be repaid over time with interest. Our money is not based on a gold standard, or backed by any form of precious metals. A dollar is worth a dollar because the US Federal Reserve Bank tells you that it’s worth a dollar. It is a promissory note printed on paper or stamped on a metal coin that is redeemable for an equal amount in goods and services.  For all intents and purposes, a dollar is little more than an I.O.U.  Since all money created has interest attached to it, the amount of debt will always exceed the amount of money  in circulation.

When president Woodrow Wilson created the Federal Reserve Bank by signing the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, he created the perfect excuse of widespread spending abuse by the government. If planned government spending exceeded the federal budget, the deficit could be plugged by borrowing the funds from the Federal Reserve Bank, at interest, for the public good.  As a result, the federal deficit was  $25 billion by 1934, and rose to $250 billion by 1945. In 1982, the national debt reached  $1 trillion for the first time.  There has almost always been massive government over-spending which blew the budget. In the past fifty years,  only five years have had balanced federal budgets: 1969 under President Richard Nixon; 1998, 1999 and 2000 under Bill Clinton; and 2001 under George W. Bush.

The worst example of government over-spending occurred during the two terms of the 44th president,  Barack Hussein Obama II , the worst president in history.   On January 20, 2009, when he was sworn in, the debt was $10.626 trillion. On January 20, 2017, when he left, it was $19.947. President Donald J. Trump has been doing his best to slow the out of control spending, and he has been making progress.  It’s going to take time to repair the damage done by the previous administration.

“President Obama has almost doubled our national debt to more than $19 trillion, and growing. And yet, what do we have to show for it? Our roads and bridges are falling apart, our airports are in Third World condition, and forty-three million Americans are on food stamps.” – Donald J.Trump

The ‘I’ in Team

You earn so much in personal income each year. Your personal income is analogous to the national income from tax revenue.  Your personal budget is like a small scale version of the federal budget. Think of the national debt as you would your personal credit card. It’s the excess that has been borrowed plus interest that has been charged to bridge a spending gap.  If you’re still following along with me in this example, you’re smarter than the average American. 

The nation’s debt limit is similar to the limit your credit card company places on your spending. But there’s one significant difference. Congress is in charge of both its spending and the debt limit. When you max-out your credit card, one of three things happens:

  • You request a limit increase, so that you can continue spending more money than you can afford.
  • You request an addition line of credit, so that you can continue spending more money than you can afford.
  • You stop spending more money than you can afford because no one will extend you additional credit.

On February 9, 2018, President Trump signed a bill suspending the debt ceiling until March 1, 2019. As a result, the limit will be whatever level the debt is on that day. On February 11, 2019, it was $22 trillion. At that level, the U.S. Treasury estimates it will run out of money in September 2019. The debt ceiling is a limit that Congress imposes on how much debt the federal government can carry at any given time. When the ceiling is reached, the U.S. Treasury Department cannot issue any more Treasury bills, bonds, or notes. It can only pay bills as it receives tax revenues. If the revenue isn’t enough, the Treasury Secretary must choose between paying federal employee salaries, Social Security benefits, or the interest on the national debt. Congress created the debt ceiling in the Second Liberty Bond Act of 1917. In 1974, Congress created the budget process that allows it to control spending. That’s why Congress raises the debt ceiling. Congress must raise the debt ceiling so the United States doesn’t default on its debt. During the last 10 years, Congress increased the debt ceiling 10 times. It raised it four times in 2008 and 2009 alone.

In addition to the current national debt of $22 Trillion, the USA also has additional debt in the form of unfunded obligations, or future services that the country has promised to pay for years in the future. This is an estimated additional $80 trillion, but might be as high as $200 trillion according to some estimates.

According to experts, there are three possible ways to pay off the deficit:

  1. Raise Taxes
  2. Cut Spending
  3. Print more money

Unfortunately, each of these by themselves are all bad ideas.

Raising Taxes

All taxes raised in this country are paid for by the top 40% of wage earners.  So 60% of the workers in our country pay ZERO in federal income tax.  This is why tax cuts are always tax cuts on the wealthy. It’s because only the wealthy are paying taxes, and that’s not fair. When you raise taxes on the wealthy, you stymie economic growth and slow the economy, thus reducing tax revenue.  Consistently over time, the government has collected 17% in tax revenue of the total of the portion of the US economy regardless of the tax rate.

taxovertime

Cutting Spending

When you cut spending there are certain places you can and can’t cut, plus when you do cut some federal program, the beneficiaries of that program are going to have a hissy fit.  50% of the federal budget funds social security and medicate. So you can’t cut that. Salaries of federal employees also can’t be cut, nor can you cut military spending unless you want to weaken the defense of our nation. The only fair way to cut spending here would be to phase out certain programs, and privatize some federal jobs.  The problem with privatizing some jobs is that they are tied into national security,  so only cutting jobs or lowering the starting pay for new hires could reduce costs. Also this would only affect agencies that receive tax dollars to pay bills. Quasi-government agencies like the United States Postal Service would be unaffected (as they were during the recent government shutdown) because they receive no  funding from tax dollars. All of their income is derived from postage sales.            

Printing more money.

When you print more money, you increase the number of  dollars in circulation and create inflation, so the spending power of the dollar is diminished. Also depending on how fast you increase the money supply, you run the risk of galloping or hyper inflation. Galloping inflation is when prices rise 10% each month. Hyper inflation is worse at 50% per month. Now as costs rise, salaries eventually rise to compensate, but any savings you have never increases and is worth less.  Inflation is a tax on savings.

“Blessed are the young for they shall inherit the national debt.”– Herbert Hoover

Is there a way out?

According to economics professor Antony Davies there is a way to balance the federal budget within 5 years

1) Cut ALL federal spending 10% NO EXCEPTIONS.

2) Maintain this spending level for 4 years, no increases, and no adjustments for inflation.

At the end of 5 years the budget will be balanced.

If you keep the budget balanced and maintain that fixed level, eventually the economy will grow and the deficit will be paid off in about 80 years.  There are ways to do it faster. The federal government collects $3.3 trillion in revenue and spends $4.3 trillion. So a straightforward way to pay off the debt would be to increase taxes 20% and cut spending 20% to run a $1 trillion surplus. That would pay off the nominal debt in about 15 years, depending on economic growth and interest rates.  Unfortunately both of these seem unlikely.  It is still possible to accomplish, but pie-in-the-sky programs like the Green New Deal proposed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez would destroy our economy, as would an expansion of the welfare state, or any move towards socialism. The best way to increase tax revenue would be through a fair tax or flat tax in which EVERY working person pays an EQUAL percentage tax, with no possible deductions or exemptions. Such a tax would drastically raise the taxes on the poorest citizens while dramatically lowering the taxes on the richest.  You could also eliminate the IRS, and reduce government oversight and expenses related to tax collection and processing.  Everyone would pay their fair 10%. In any case, right now we have the right man for the job sitting behind his desk at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, Washington D.C.,  working overtime to Make America Great Again! As always, I wish you success and happiness!

At Face Value!

Even a penny is a treasure!

treasure

One of my earliest memories of my father involved him giving me a small metal treasure chest filled with old coins. In actuality, this was a just a metal coin bank, but unlike the usually piggy bank shape, this one was shaped like a stereotypical pirate chest one might see in an old movie, or in an illustration from a book on pirates. Although I was quite young at the time, I do remember three things about the incident.

The first thing was that my father originally told me a tall tale about finding the treasure chest buried in the yard by pirates. Not quite the right thing to say to a young impressionable boy with a vivid imagination. My first impulse was to grab a shovel and start trying to dig up the yard in search of more buried pirate booty. Upon realizing his mistake, retrieving the shovel and re-filling the holes in the back yard, my father confessed to making up the whimsical pirate story in jest to have a bit of fun at my expense. A kid will believe anything, they’re too young to know any better.

After a long explanation that pirates like Long John Silver and Blackbeard were not part of the modern world,  the second thing I remember was being delighted that the coins all looked different from contemporary money. I was old enough to know the difference between pennies, nickels, dimes, dimes, quarters, half-dollar, and dollar coins. A lot of the coins were from the 1800’s. This was my father’s coin collection, and he wanted me to have it to encourage an interest in both saving and collecting money. This is something which has stuck with me my whole life. A year or so later, my father died suddenly as a result of kidney failure.

The third thing I remember about the treasure chest of coins was that sometime after the death of first my father, and then my step father, my mother sold the coins to a dealer without my knowledge. It’s not like I looked at them every day, and we had to move quite a bit after she sold the house. Things ‘out of sight’ were always said to be ‘packed away in storage’ until I forgot about them. My mother only understood two things about money, she could spend it, and she never had as much as she’d like.

Bringing home the bacon.   

The origin of the piggy bank is disputed by different sources. Some say  that early coin jars in the middle ages were made of a type of clay called pygg. This word sounded like pig, and an English potter mistakenly created a pig-shaped bank when someone asked for a pygg money jar. There is little evidence to support this widely believed myth.  What is known is that sometime about 1900, the first modern Piggy Banks were sold in the USA, and they cost 25¢. Billed as a new novelty, these early clay banks didn’t have the removable stopper on the bottom of the bank. If you wanted to remove the coins, you had to smash the bank, or kill the pig, so to speak. Even to this day, whenever I empty my coin jar and take a bunch of wrapped coins to the bank, I say to the back teller that I killed the piggy bank.

I never quite understood the charm of a piggy bank, or of giving them to children to teach about saving. A coin jar works much better. It’s my humble opinion that parents who encouraged children to save money in piggy banks did so because young children have a nasty habit of putting everything they can grab into their mouth.  By making a game of putting the penny in the piggy bank, it helped keep the coins out of the mouths of babes. Of course, I may be mistaken, but that’s the nature of opinions.

The next time I became excited about coins and money was 1976, the USA bicentennial.  There was a lot of hoopla concerning our great nation reaching its second century. Tall ships sailed into NYC, there were extra fireworks around the 4th of July, a lot of patriotic symbols on all kinds of novelties could be had. And the money changed.  The  quarters, half-dollars, and dollar coins all had a special bicentennial obverse and a double date. Likewise, after a ten year absence, $2 bills were reintroduced with a bicentennial themed back depicting the signing of the Declaration of Independence. I had never seen a $2 bill. My mother was very excited. That was when I suddenly remembered about the long-unseen treasure chest of coins, which I then asked for, only to be told that that was ‘lost in the move’. As a consolation, I was given several specimens of all the new bicentennial money, including several $2 bills. I’ve had a love of $2 bills ever since.  I even have some Canadian $2 bills, both the obsolete paper money and the two loonie or toonie coin. Canada stopped printing $1 and $2 paper money back in 1986. Canadian dollar coins have a loon (a common Canadian waterfowl) on the obverse. They were nicknamed loonies. Some Canadians even started referring to piggy banks as loonie bins. In the late 1980’s Playtoy Industries of Toronto Canada manufactured a Giant Loonie Bank. Sadly, according to a recent news article, Canada says that currency which is no longer being printed will cease to be legal tender in the near future, and will become worthless paper.

looniebin2

This takes us back to collecting coins and money in general. For the most part, money is the one collectible item that always retains its face value.  The USA considers all US currency to be legal tender. If you take a 1937 ‘Mercury Dime’ to your bank, you can deposit it into your account as 10¢. Once a bank gets a hold of old money, it takes it out of circulation never to be seen again. If you took it to a coin collector instead, you’d get more than face value. The silver content alone is worth more than a dime.  To collectors, the condition of the money and its rarity give added value beyond that of the face value. I save all kinds of old money. Some of it is for sentimental reasons, like my $2 bills. Others like my Indian Head pennies are rare. Some coins I have paid slightly above face value to get an entire set in ‘uncirculated’ condition. To collectors, uncirculated coins and collector proof sets command high value. The US Mint sells these collector proof sets for way above face value. The 2018 proof set has ten coins all bearing the ‘S’ mint mark from San Francisco with a frosted, sculptured foreground set against a mirror-like field. You get the five America the Beautiful Quarters, the Native American $1 coin, Kennedy Half-dollar, Roosevelt dime, Jefferson nickel, and Lincoln penny.  Face value, it adds up to $2.91. The US Mint sells it for $27.95 +S/h.   To me, it’s not worth the extra $25.04 for super-shiny, uncirculated coins. Some people buy these  proof sets every year for their children and grandchildren.  I’m not saying that they won’t increase in value among collectors, just that they only are worth face value if you spend them.  I can’t tell you the exact number of times some teenager came in to the convenience store I worked at back in the day with a horde of old coins. In my mind, I just knew that someone had raided grandpa’s coin collection, but the money was legal tender, and I was simply speculating on how it was obtained.  I would buy out the rare monies once they left, replacing the antiquities with contemporary counterparts from my wallet.   

I’m probably never going to cash in my coin and paper money collection, but it is a comfort to know that if something terrible were to happen, I could at least spend it for face value even if I couldn’t locate another interested collector willing to obtain the collection for a premium.     

“Loose Change” AKA “Penny Song”

Lyrics by Andrew Peterson

I’d give you all of me to know what you were thinking

And if I had one wish I’d wish I wasn’t sinking here

Drowning in this well, oh can’t you tell?

I can’t pick myself up off the ground,

Well I’ve been face down and pushed aside.

Well you know I’d rather just turn tail and run

than lie here in the sun and watch you pass me by

Cause I ain’t worth a dime.

(yeah yeah, oh yeah) Yeah, yeah (yeah yeah)

But If only I could stand up straight, I wouldn’t have to lie and wait,

I could up and roll away, never be ignored

I’ve got a feeling that I’m something more

than just a piece of copper ore, turning green and looking for

The reason I was born.

I’ve been around since 1964, in banks and bottom drawers

And on railroad ties. I’ve been passed around and cast aside

Skipped and flipped and flattened wide, Spun around

And thrown away and left alone to lie

But If only I could stand up straight, I wouldn’t have to lie and wait,

I could up and roll away, never be ignored

I’ve got a feeling that I’m something more

than just a piece of copper ore, turning green and looking for

The reason I was born.

(yeah yeah, oh yeah) Yeah, yeah (yeah yeah) na na na na na

But I heard about a penny found, lying underneath the couch

By a woman who was kneeling down, looking for some change.

Then the woman danced around and called her friends all over town

Told them what was lost is found, it’s another penny saved.

And so I find that all this time beneath the surface I could shine

Like all the gold a king and queen could measure

You see even a penny is a treasure

(yeah yeah, oh yeah) Yeah, yeah (yeah yeah) na na na na na

The 1987 movie Throw Mama From The Train stars Danny DeVito  and Billy Chrystal as Owen and Larry. Middle-aged Owen lives at home with his overbearing mother. He seems like he might be a little slow.  Larry is his writing teacher at the adult continuing education program he attends. There’s a scene that is genuinely emotionally touching  when Owen wants to show Larry his coin collection. Larry doesn’t want to see the coins, but Owen makes him feel bad when he says he’s never shown them to anyone before.  Owen slowly pulls out coins saying “This one is a nickel. And this is one is also a nickel. And here’s a quarter, and another quarter, and a penny.” Larry is annoyed at this, as the coins are all seemingly contemporary currency, and not worth anything more than face value. Owen then proceeds to explain how each coin is special to him because they were the change his Dad gave him during various father-son trips.  It’s a collection of coins from change his dad gave him, and that’s where their value lies.

Although the original coin collection my father gave to me is long gone, the special memory of the gift remains. Like any successful person who faces a setback, I started over, and in time I slowly began to amass a new collection of coins.  As my financial situation improved, I started adding things like old paper money, silver certificates, foreign coins, uncirculated coins, you name it. At face value, my collection is worth thousands. To a collector, it’s worth even more. As far as I’m concerned, it’s priceless, and not for sale. Someday, I too hope to pass my collection to my son, when I finally have a  son. Hopefully he will be able to keep it longer than I did my father’s. In either case, you can’t take it with you when you go, and a good man provides for his children, and his children’s children. Money is nice to have, but the memories we make with our loved ones are worth more than all the gold in Fort Knox. As always, I wish you success and happiness!   

Collection or Clutter?

Kitsch me if you can!

collection

Way back in 1994 when Amazon.com  first launched, it billed itself as Earth’s Largest Bookstore, they had a series of TV commercials in which contractors searching for potential warehouse storage sites  were measuring large places up to and including The Great Pyramid of Giza and saying ‘still not big enough’.  Mind you, this was back before Jeff Bezo started selling everything under the Sun.  The point was that if you ‘could’ have everything, where would you put it?

amazon

Several years ago, I took a visit down to Linthicum, Maryland to visit a guy named Thomas Atkinson. Tom has the largest collection of Star Wars toys on the East Coast, it not the entire world. He has more than 14,000 pieces on display in his home.  I saw toys that I dimly remember owing or playing with back in the late 1970’s when Kenner first started selling Star Wars toys in 1978. (Most of my toys went into the trash when my mother got evicted, which happened frequently after my step-father died.)  I also saw rarities and limited edition pieces that were so scarcely produced that owning one was like owing the Holy Grail. It was truly impressive, and to be envied if you are into that sort of thing.

The down side of his massive collection is that practically every square inch of his ground floor rooms are filled floor to ceiling with display counters and stands holding tons of toys. I was honestly afraid to move too quickly and possibly destroy a priceless relic. There’s so much to see that it’s impossible to see it all. Your mind just can’t processes everything you’re seeing.

However, Thomas is doing collecting the ‘right’ way. His collection brings him joy, but is not just a personal treasure trove that he hordes away from prying eyes.   He’s very proud of his unique collection,  referred to as The Star Toys Museum, and is willing to schedule free tours of his Museum during select times and days for small groups. This is the man’s home as well as a museum. A proper museum should house a vast number of displays, and the more to see, the better. Whenever I’ve been to the Smithsonian or the American Museum of Natural History, there were more artifacts on display than I could remember. There were signature pieces that were the crown of the display, but there were other things that you didn’t expect to see, and were surprised. If I was going to have a collection of Star Wars toys, I’d do it just the way Thomas Atkinson has. To schedule a free tour (address available upon request) or to view items from the collection, go to startoysmuseum.org.

STARTOYS

A man’s home is his castle.

My home is NOT a museum, it’s a sanctuary, a fortress of solitude, a place of privacy just for me to get away from the world.  My one bedroom apartment is just big enough for me and all my stuff. I have small collections of various types of things, but nothing so huge that moving about would be a problem. The collection that I’m most proud of is my library. It’s floor to ceiling, and fills an entire wall, with a couple of small stand alone cases on a second wall. Many of the books are signed editions and I’ve collected and read them over many years. A personal library was something I always wanted growing up, and it was something that was usually associated with the wealthy.  Are these books worth anything? Maybe, maybe not. Like most private collections, it’s NOT for sale. I didn’t buy them as investment materials, I brought them for me, because it was something I wanted, and life is too short to have regrets.  Someday after I’ve passed on, maybe they’ll be sold at an estate auction. Or, maybe friends will want a few select books, and the rest will be discarded. Or maybe they all will. Either way, I won’t be around to see it. You may have heard the old adage ‘he who dies with the most toys wins.’  I prefer to say instead ‘he who dies with the most toys, STILL DIES!’  You can’t take it with you when you’re gone.

library

Not all that glitters is gold.

Fanboys (and fangirls) are the most obsessive collectors of  toys, novelties, comic books, you name it. Many of these beloved tchotchkes are worthless, over-priced baubles. How many of these silly trinkets does a man need?  Now I’m NOT saying a person should live a Spartan lifestyle in a mostly empty home with hardly any personal possessions, but all things in moderation. You don’t need to fill every square inch of shelf space with expensive curios, and glitzy baubles. So yes, accessorize your home and put your stamp upon it, but set limits. If it’s something that you really want to own, buy it. Life is too short for regrets.  But, if you absolutely MUST own everything you set eyes upon, prepare to be poor. Most of this stuff does NOT increase in value, and if it does, it’s only during a short collectors frenzy phase. The major fad back in the mid 1990’s was collecting Ty Beanie Babies. Some of the rare ones at the time sold for hundreds of dollars. For a small stuffed animal. By 1999, Ty was all but ready to stop making Beanie Babies. Due to the outcry of a few rabid fans, they restarted the toys.  Most of these are worthless except to a very tiny group of devoted collectors, and most of them have all the Beanie Babies they want, so they’re not buying. Or selling for that matter.                

When the movie Guardians of The Galaxy came out in 2014, a co-worker gave me a Funco Rocket Raccoon POP! figure for Christmas. It’s cool, but nothing I’d ever buy for myself, let alone collect. It’s sitting on top of my desk collecting dust.  (Thanks Tony)

poprr

I have a friend named Dave. He has more than 400 of these Funco POP! figures. He thinks they are really cool looking and is trying to get the whole set. There are nearly a thousand varieties of these toys, all numbered by issue, and they range in price from $6 to $15 from what Dave’s told me. Some of them are quite rare and do sell for hundreds of dollars online to obsessed collectors.  Let that sink in for a moment. Hundreds of dollars for a vinyl doll that you can never take out of the box for fear of it no longer being in mint condition.  So for argument sake, I’ll assume that Dave has EXACTLY 400 POP!s and that he paid $7.50 for each of them. That works out to $3000. For toys. That you can’t even play with. But they make Dave happy  and to each his own, but Funco POP!s don’t grab me.   I’m happy with my one and only POP! which I received as a gift.   I can think of a lot of better things to spend $3000 on, like a fantastic vacation, or a used car.

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. – 1 Corinthians 13:11 KJV

The Bible tells us we should  not store our treasures here on Earth. Yeah, when I was younger I wasted a lot of money collecting worthless junk, some of which I still have.  But as I got older, I grew wiser and started using my money for more important things.  Looking back upon the toys of our youth may evoke memories of a simpler time, or a better place. In the end, things are just things and are a part of our past, not our future. It’s not good to live in the past, but there’s nothing wrong with looking back upon it from time to time to see how far we’ve progressed. We are all here on this Earth for a limited time. People and experiences are much more valuable then trinkets which have only nostalgic or sentimental value. Oh don’t get me wrong, on rare occasion from time to time I still buy some silly thing in a fit of whimsy.  Just look at my gnomes in the kitchen. As Always I wish you success and happiness!

gnomes