Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What if we stopped pouring our cash into the giant pool of money?

What if we stopped buying all that stuff? Do we really need it? Does it improve our quality of lives so very much? Take a journey with me for just a moment.

Imagine that you are ninety-five years old. You're sitting at your dining room table, having a cup of tea and a biscuit. What matters to you right now? Look around you. What's in this room with you? Who is in this room with you?

Are you surrounded by beautiful things? Do you enjoy dusting them? Do you enjoy looking at them, touching them, feeling them? How did you acquire them? How costly were they? What did you give up to get them?

Are you surrounded by people you love who love you? Are they speaking to you as if you are intelligent and have something to contribute? Your body isn't what it used to be: Are the people with you conscious of your needs and loving in assuring they're met?

Can you see trees, perhaps a mountain or the ocean from your window? Can you see a river or a lake or pond? Is there a nourishing garden for body and soul nearby? Do you still love the scent of a tomato picked from the vine?

When you look back on your life, what do you remember that gladdens your heart? What do you tell your great-grandchildren, perhaps your great-great-grandchildren, you are glad you did? How many of those moments are big ones and how many are what many might consider small?

What do you wish you had done with your time and your money twenty years ago, when you were seventy-five? Forty years ago at fifty-five? What choices do you wish you had made when you were younger? How much time do you wish you had spent at Target, WalMart, and the mall? How much money you spent in those places do you wish you had spent differently? How do you wish you had used those dollars?

Ask everyone in the room to leave. Turn and speak to your younger self, the self sitting in the chair reading this right now. Tell yourself what you wish you done differently with your life, the daily choices you wish you had made, the things you wish you had done with your money.

Start doing them right now.

Then come back here and tell me what you saw, what you felt, what you want to change about the way you use money.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Consumers have all the power--What if we started to use it consciously?

In The Giant Pool of Money, we begin to understand just how much money is available in the world. Did you notice how powerful we, as consumers, are? The world economy depends on us. It depends on us to buy things. It especially depends on us to buy things on credit.

First, we buy things that are worth less than we pay for them, so the folks who make them can turn a profit. That's not so bad, right? We all want a little extra cash in our pockets. Profit is good. So we've been taught.

The big deal, though, is that when we use our credit cards to buy stuff--be it computers and high-def, wide-screen TVs or socks and school supplies--we pay interest. Say in August you plunked down six hundred Visa dollars for clothes and calculators to outfit the kids. Did you calculate the interest you'll pay for those purchases? How much did each of the items cost once you add the cost of the credit to their purchase price? Maybe you made it up by carefully shopping for bargains. Or maybe because you found the bargains, you were able to buy an extra pair of jeans or the trendy backpack your son wanted.

Whatever the case, your purchases contributed outright to the giant pool of money. The interest you pay on your credit cards will continue to contribute to that giant pool. Oh, and since shopping is exhausting, did you stop at the food court while you were at the mall and buy snacks and drinks for the girls and their friends? Don't get me wrong. I understand low blood sugar and shopping don't mix. So do the fat cats. That's why there's so much high fructose corn syrup in the drinks you bought, and very likely in a good portion of the food as well. Those guys know that a sugar rush and the resulting crash can lead to impulse buys.

That gleam in their eye, if we could see into their board rooms and private clubs, is in the shape of dollar signs. They're counting on us to spend, spend, spend and charge, charge, charge. They're counting on us to keep filling their giant pool of money, drip by drip, dollar by dollar.

What if we didn't?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The giant pool of money--think there's not enough for you and me and everyone else?

In this time of global economic melt-down, think about this: Take all the dollars spent everywhere in the world in one year. That's every dollar spent on the planet by every city, county, state, country, war machine, church, mega-corporation, small business, family, and yes, homeless drug addict. All those dollars, every dollar spent everywhere on the planet every single year do not begin to add up to the number high-roller investors the world over pump into sure-thing cash cows.

What the world's rich guys have left over to invest, after they buy their yachts, their fancy homes in three countries, their fast cars and luxury sedans, their five-thousand dollar suits and their $10,000-a-night resort hotel rooms amounts to seventy trillion dollars.

Think the 700 billion dollar bailout is scary? That's almost three-quarters of one trillion dollars.

The fat cats have seventy trillion dollars to play with. Remember, that's more than all of us--every person, organization, corporation, government body on the planet--spend every year, from bread to bombs.

They call this investment cash the giant pool of money.

So where did they get this giant pool of money? According to reporters on a recent This American Life episode titled The Giant Pool of Money, a lot of it came from you and me. When we bought gas for our cars, televisions made in China, clothing made in Indonesia, furniture made in Sri Lanka, pizza, McBurgers and the Colonel's chicken buckets, we threw our dollars, hand over fist, into the giant pool of money.

It's not all bad. While we filled the deep, deep pool in which the fat cats play, we also enriched offshore companies, often third-world countries. We were, quite literally, sharing our wealth and giving a hand up to people in countries who want all the glittery, glossy houses, cars, entertainment centers, I-pods and I-phones we have.

Because we are willing to pay, always, more than an object is worth, thus making a profit for the seller, we feed the wealth of those who figure out what we'll buy and get it to us while we're still eager to grab it.

So if you're thinking, during this time of economic crisis, while you watch your IRA and 401K plans melt away, while politicians tell you there's no way there will be Medicare or Social Security for the Boomers like they provided for their parents and grandparents, while you pay more and more for gasoline, car insurance, health insurance (if you're lucky enough to have it), and yes, milk, bread and shoes for the baby--if you're thinking there simply isn't enough to go around, think again.

The world has plenty of wealth. There is enough for everyone. Our task, should we choose to accept it, is to learn how to share. Greed has no place in Ordinary.

My thanks to blogger Hayden of Lyric Flight, whose comment on Talking up the green economy, suggested this topic.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Take a stand

Stand on the street corner with a sign that says WAR
Stand on the corner with a sign that says PEACE
Take a stand

Wear a pin on your lapel that says WAR
Wear a pin that says PEACE
Show your heart's desire

When your colleague stabs you in the back, raise your fist and say
This is war!
Hold out your hand, look her in the eye and say, Peace
Act like you mean it

When a driver zooms into the parking spot you've been waiting for
Hold up an ugly sign in red and black and orange that says, WAR
Hold up a happy sign in cheerful blues and teals and yellows that says Peace
Feel the difference

When your child lies down on the playground kicking and screaming that she doesn't want to go and you're worn to a frazzle
Raise your fist to the heavens and say, War!
Sit down and scoop your child into your arms and rock her until she feels peace
Be the world you want your child to know when she grows up

Sit down after work with a beer and the remote and watch three hours of war, violence and murder-as-entertainment
Read a book to your child, take a walk in the cool evening air, share a candlelight dinner with your sweetheart, get out your art supplies and doodle, trim the dead leaves from your plants, paint the bathroom, write three thank you notes, call your best friend, knit a sweater, drink a hot cup of cocoa, go to bed early
Make peace

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Talking up green jobs

With the stock market tanking and bank after bank failing, lots of people are peeing-their-pants scared right now. The haves are trying to figure out how to get richer with the bailout and, failing that, how to recover their losses. The have-nots are trying to figure out how to pay the rent and the heating bills this winter, keep the lights on and the kids in shoes that fit.

Most of us between are wondering how to protect ourselves. If the haves have stolen our retirement funds, and if it's true there aren't enough workers to provide social security for the baby boomers, now that the government has borrowed against our SS funds for the next three hundred years or so, will we spend our declining years begging for handouts on the streets?

How bad will it get before it gets better? More importantly, what can possibly make it better?

Part of the answer lies in green collar jobs.

Green Jobs Now posters

Green for All sorts the talking points for green collar jobs this way.

  • Green collar jobs rebuild a strong middle class
  • Green collar jobs provide pathways out of poverty
  • Green collar jobs require some new skills (and some new thinking about old skills
  • Green collar jobs tend to be local jobs
  • Green collar jobs save Planet Earth

Now that's an Ordinary solution. For more depth on each of these points, go to Green for All now.