12.15.2010

Catching Up...

Life rips by with a little one around. It's a cliche because it's true. Less sleep and more housework and general management of parental duties (picking up and dropping off; nurturing of soul and spirit; trips to the doctor and, this year, the dentist; deep philosophical discussions on subjects such as trees and water) lead to less time for writing and reflection.

We're heading into potty-training season around these parts. Lyla kicked it in regular underwear last night for about an hour; she was thrilled to be shut of the diaper. Still, she blasted her underoos after awhile and we had to get her set up with the cumbersome duty-catchers before bed.

Wish us luck for the holidays...

Over the next couple of weeks, I want to record my impressions of a number of fine stories I've read in 2010. It's been a slower year for me on the reading front, but I still chewed through better than fifty titles. I read some stuff that really resonated with me.

A number of my students wrote a short essay in an introductory literature class that I've been teaching this term. I asked this general question: What should an effective piece of literature "do"?

The answers were superb and as varied as the varieties of citrus in a Florida produce stand (which is to say that I had about five stock answers). The best answers were, I thought, variations of the following: Effective literature should stick with the reader and make him or her think.

I can dig that answer, and this year I dug quite a lot of good writing. I'd like to think I did some of my own as well. I know some good things are going to happen in 2011, and I'll post news when the occasion warrants here on the web journal.

In unrelated news, I'm a little confused by some of the stuff going on in national politics. I'm no fan of the tea party, for many, many reasons I won't go into here, but I do find it curious (to say the least) that guys like Mitch McConnell railed against porkbarrel spending and, yet, they included their own earmarks in a recent spending bill.

Oh, that's right! He put the earmarks in the bill before he was against them! You might want to revise the bill for your part in it, Mitch, before you open that mouth of yours...

Also, if you want a good look at the negative implications a spiralling national debt can have on our country, I recommend Ten Trillion and Counting. I understand why the Obama administration is extending the current tax legislation, but adding 900 billion to the national debt in two years is not sustainable--not for me or you or our children. It's politically expedient, that's all.

The economy is fragile, to be sure, but gambling that keeping the status quo and not paying for services as we go (especially as more and more boomers become eligible for entitlements in the next twenty-four months) is a risk that could be catastrophic.

In Oregon, John Kitzhaber is saying we need to go to a results-based government. That means across-the-board freezes in expenditures, and that will impact a lot of Oregonians. It's probably just rhetoric, not unlike the rhetoric that republicans used in November to woo the tea party and get elected before stuffing spending bills full of earmarks, but it's also an opportunity if it's a fiscal policy that is actually followed.

And the foundation of this ideal is better funding for K-12 and and higher education in Oregon, as well as relaxing some of the growth guidelines to attract more industry. Growth--managed growth--is good for that state.

Our country and our states need to proceed with caution. I do think there are positive signs of the economy turning around. In our zip code here in Jacksonville, the median price of a home actually went up 1.8% in the third quarter of 2010. That was unexpected. Also, petroleum speculators are predicting an economic turnaround, which means we'll be looking at $3.19 again before too long.

Sheesh. Lots of frustrating and conflicting financial news here today. Sorry about the buzzkill. Drink some dark holiday beer tonight and drop by tomorrow for a look at a couple of fine stories.

And finally, to wrap this up, I have to break my own policy and briefly mention a dream I had this morning. One shouldn't burden others with the retelling of dreams, unless in an engaging story, but right before Lyla woke me up at 6:00 this morning, I dreamt I was singing "A New Day Has Come" in front of tens of thousands of people. I was doing it acoustic.

Nobody was into it except for one little girl in the front, who was dancing in her chair.

4 comments:

Aaron Polson said...

Potty training.

Godspeed. That's all I can say. I'm happy to live in a diaper-free environment. Those are not the memories for which I will ever long.

jessibeaucoup said...

I am so frustrated by the policital and economic situation in this country right now. I definitely support the idea that we can't cut spending during an economic crisis - or at least spending on core services, unemployment benefits, eduction, food stamps, immunizations, Medicaid. I agree with you that you don't get elected by railing again 'pork' and then stuff your bills with it but I think the joke is more on the idiots in this country who believe perpetual liars. I think the simple and obvious solution is that we need to raise taxes on those who can most afford the burden. It is a no brainer to me. As a country, we are enjoying the lowest tax rates of at least the last 100 years and we are now paying the price. The longer we put it off, the more painful it will be.

When we continue to keep taxes low and then cut spending, we are really hurting the poorest of the poor because they are typically the ones whose services are being cut. We are really seeing this trickle up to those who are in or used to be in the middle class. Long-term unemployment and the housing crisis have combined to leave a staggering number of people in dire straights that they could have never imagined. There are very few people in this country who would also find themselves broke, hungry and homeless after an extended period of unemployment and people who want to rip the safety net out from under our country strike me as just plain heartless.

Let's hope that Obama and the new Congress can figure some of things out and start this country on a better path!!

Daniel W. Powell said...

Afternoon Aaron,

Yeah, we'll see. She's a fast learner, and I think she's about ready. Do you get much writing done over the holidays? I'm going to try to make time this year, but I usually let it go for two weeks...

Daniel W. Powell said...

Hey Jess,

Merry Christmas, and thanks for dropping by! Heartless is a good word for it, as are phrases like self-interested and misguided. The reason our standard of living is so good in this country is because, as a culture, we buy into the idea of offering services. Unless you are second generation wealthy, and born into a financially secure lifestyle, you are a product of government's involvement in your life. From education to defense to transportation and infrastructure, we pay for things with taxes.

I'm with you. Let them expire. I'll pay the extra 1,000 this year in taxes to begin drawing down the national debt so that future generations can borrow at a decent rate. Congressional Quarterly just wrote a GREAT report that showed, with adjustments for inflation, how the gap between the rich and the poor in this country has widened over the last century. The leaps, in that regard, over the last ten years are exponential.

The fact is that Americans want services, but we don't want to pay for them. Many rail against the government, but they rely on it. I'm skeptical of what will happen in 2011. I think the economy is showing modest signs of growth, despite what's been happening domestically (and we've seen with Europe's meltdown that we rely more than ever on the world economy for any semblence of confidence in the markets here) with regard to the unemployment rate and this tax bill.

But it's a huge gamble. Honestly, we're at the point where we're throwing our hands up as a country and saying, for all intents and purposes, What's another trillion?

Sheesh.

On a happier note, I hope you and Ty are doing well. Things are very good out here, although I have a calf strain and had to cut the run short today. 22 degrees for the overnight low!

Uncovering Original Ideas

There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope....