All about ideas…

Mea Culpa

with 4 comments


Dear Readers,

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve not posted anything to my blog. Not even about those little known stories the mainstream media tends to ignore…and I love. It’s not that those stories don’t exist. Heck, plenty of them exist everywhere; just look at any issue of Wired Magazine’s Wired Science blog. I’ve just been occupied elsewhere.

I admit to having “liked” Bruce Bartlett’s facebook page which supplies me with endless conversations (and articles) on economics and politics as well as the absurd. Of course, I still read the news every morning in the Washington Post (especially Wonkblog) as well as The Atlantic, The New Republic, The American Conservative, Bloomberg, and a few others like the Financial Times and the Economist.

But over the course of the last year I’ve become more involved in volunteering my expertise to community non-profit groups. My little, rural town in the Sierra Nevada foothills can’t afford paid services for the help it needs. We’re still suffering from the severe recession.

Wages are below median average for California, and industry, as we generally think of it, is practically unknown here. For years, Colfax, where I live, was ruled by a “no expansion” crowd that hamstrung local businesses and the community at large. Finally, that hold is breaking as a result of the Great Recession. Businesses, hard hit by lack of customer revenues, are finally speaking up and demanding revenue growth in order to stay in business and to fill the empty storefronts. Residents are seeing the need to build sustainable businesses that can help support necessary, and even desired, community services.

I’ve spent most of my adult years in large towns where governmental actions made a huge difference in both the local economy and in people’s lives. When governments partner with the business community, local service non-profits, and residents great accomplishments occur that better the lives of everyone in the community. The current Tea Party inspired, Ayn Rand anti-government fad fails to acknowledge the many benefits government provides communities via increased demand revenues and stabilizing taxes.

For me, when my local community chose to develop an Art Walk which promoted both local artists and main street businesses, expand the reach and profitability of our annual July 3rd Independence Day Celebration (yeah, I know it’s a day ahead of the real thing), and develop a community-wide business plan to promote our city, I volunteered. Unlike the Ayn Randers out there, there’s more to a good life than just me…and the financial perks I personally am getting. I saw these non-profit activities as a chance to rebuild and renew our business community.

Certainly, Social Security and Medicare made it economically possible for me to spend my time on efforts to help my community develop and become more profitable. Without those earned insurance benefits, as they currently exist, I’d be bankrupt…and be left wondering what to do to survive. It’s not that I didn’t save in retirement accounts throughout my 40-some working years. I had. I invested the maximum amount the federal government allows each working year. Regardless, between 2001 and 2009, following the great crash, I lost nearly 2/3s of my retirement savings. Over that decade, I continually bought more shares via my retirement accounts, but the values (profits) decreased. The end result became my need for these two primary insurance benefits into which I paid for over 40 years.

Nevertheless, those insurance benefits now afford me the ability to spend many hours each week voluntarily working for my cash-strapped community, rather than solely worrying about how I’m going to pay the bills or how to survive another month. I’m not forced to go begging for state or federal assistance. Or made to feel like I’m the lowest of the low for needing help. I still have my dignity and the knowledge that I’m taking financial care of myself.

But I’m no hero, by any means. Those earned insurance programs now have just provided me the means to the end of helping my community at large.

Strikingly, my community volunteering increased my skills far beyond what I learned during my career…and I really enjoy all I’m learning in the process of doing. Sure as heck beats vegetating and waiting to die!

But I guess, for me anyway, I feel valuable again. I feel like I really can make a contribution to my community and my fellow citizens…and that makes me feel important and good about myself.

I understand my senior’s path isn’t the same for everyone. But it’s working for me and adding to the renewal efforts of my community while not increasing costs. Most of all, though, I’m getting far more personal satisfaction out my volunteer activities than I’m putting in terms of time and my increased skills.


4 Responses

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  1. You write:

    “industry, as we generally think of it, is practically unknown here.”

    I wonder why?

    Did you ever ask yourself whether the unfriendly attitude of the People’s Republic of California to business in general might be to blame.

    I suppose it never crossed your mind that the “no expansion” folks, by restricting the growth inherent in the free enterprise system were doing the same thing, albeit in a different way that your idealized government intervention in the free market system in the form of “increased demand revenues (whatever that means) and stabilizing taxes” have done for cities like Detroit.

    So after creating laws restricting growth, now you’re going to create laws to spur growth… Hmmmm?

    There’s a real simple way for governments like yours to stimulate the growth of local businesses. Leave them alone! The only legitimate purpose for government in a free society is the protection of the rights of its citizens. It’s not the government’s job to stimulate anything other than waste and corruption.. and it’s already very good at that.

    Bill Bonner just wrote an excellent article on this subject.

    See: “Why Central Planning Fails” at:



    F. Swemson

    March 8, 2013 at 9:25 PM

    • I happen to live in a very conservative, Republican controlled county and voting district. If you weren’t so bloody angry, you might ask questions before you start criticizing.

      Valerie Curl

      March 16, 2013 at 2:22 PM

      • Thank you for finally replying… but what questions should I be asking Valerie? My criticism comes not so much from anger as it does from frustration over the fact that we keep making the same mistakes with the same results each time. The free enterprise system is the ONLY system that has ever brought the common man up from poverty to prosperity, and yet we as a society keep trying to control and manage it.

        Each time we do so we make the problems worse, and yet we stubbornly keep believing lying politicians who tell us they care about us and want to help, only to prove to us that they are, like all the others, only out to enrich themselves and increase their power over us. Look at the mayor of New York… a brilliant self made man, a multi billionaire, and now he see’s it as his job to prohibit his citizens BY LAW from buying certain foods that he deems unhealthy. Is that the job of government? To protect us from ourselves? No… The job of government is to protect our individual freedoms & liberties… i.e. to protect us from others.

        It’s obvious to me what the problem is. I suspect that you’re a bit younger than I. I graduated high school in the early 60’s. Mine was one of the last groups of public school students who got a fairly honest version of America’s history in our schools. Sadly that’s no longer the case.

        I care about one thing only. Individual freedom & liberty. That means that anyone who works hard and is successful has the right to keep the fruits of their labors and or their intellect. That also mean however that people are free to fail as well. Ironically, if you go back to America before WWII, you’ll see that the rich were incredibly generous in supporting all sorts of charities to help the poor, who for the most part, were better off then than they are today. The rich in America still give more than in any other country, but after the government takes more than half of what they earn (and wastes a huge % of it along the way) they have a lot less to give.

        Are there some crooks amongst the rich? Of course. And we need strong laws and strong courts to insure that they’re brought to justice, but it’s wrong to assume that all successful people got there by exploiting the poor.

        The free enterprise system flourishes when everyone does well. Big business can’t sell its products unless people can afford to buy them. It’s not in their interest to keep the common folks poor. All of the cliches that you hear from the far left today are lies. They don’t care about the people, they care only about their own power.

        Perhaps it’s you who should be the one who’s asking questions… If you do, you’ll find the answers you seek aren’t to be found in more government, but in less.


        F. Swemson

        March 17, 2013 at 11:47 PM

        • There is nothing wrong with capitalism until it captures government for its own benefit. TR wrote about this subject quite eloquently in his autobiography (available on Amazon as a free e-book). While reading TR’s autobiography, I’ve been struck by the absolute similarity between the political and business ideologies and practices that existed in the late 1800s to what exist now.

          My community, and the volunteer work I do for it, has nothing to do with government or government control. Quite the contrary. As a community, our local businesses are coming together to determine how to make our own community and their businesses more profitable. There is a sincere understanding among these businesses that there is greater opportunity, and lower individual cost, in a mass effort than in a singular effort.

          Regardless of what you choose to believe about me, I am a capitalist. But I believe capitalism can be both constructive and destructive, depending upon how and who manages it. Yes, capitalism does need to be managed. As we’ve seen during the laissez-faire periods of the Irish Famine, the late 1800s in America that nearly destroyed capitalism in the US, the crash of 1929 caused by over-exuberant speculation in the financial markets, and the world wide Great Recession, capitalism – particularly laissez-faire capitalism – can be extraordinarily destructive. Markets are not perfect, in part because transparency of information is not perfect.

          Moreover, humans are not perfect. The desire for short term greed will always overcome the more rational desire for long term gains. That’s human nature….which is why regulation is necessary.

          Never the less, in my small, rural mountain town, business owners chose to join together to make a better life for themselves and our entire community, not out of some grand dogma but out of simple economics…and a desire to make a better community for their neighbors. If I can help in any small way to help our business community…and our small residential community succeed…I’m more than happy to do so regardless of the fact that I do so without remuneration. But what has held this small town back is not liberal ideas, but conservative ones, i.e. it wasn’t done that way 60 years ago so we shouldn’t do it now.

          Looking back at the distant past does not solve the business, economic or family pressures of today’s marketplace. Nor does laissez-faire economics. A community is made up of more than economic winners, as my small community shows. It’s made up of winners, losers, and those in-between, all of whom seek a better existence for themselves and their families…and all of whom have an existential understanding that what benefits one can benefit all if plans are properly designed.

          My small community is a microcosm of the larger macrocosm. And current conservative dogma fails it which is why my community, particularly the business community, is dumping that dogma for a different idea.

          Valerie Curl

          March 18, 2013 at 8:07 PM

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