Saturday, September 22, 2012

Hello Autumn

Fall at my front door



Today starts my favorite time of year.  Days are cooler.  The trees begin their multicolored foliage exhibition.

I love the brisk smell of drying leaves.  Hearing the crackle of a bonfire.  Seeing the mountains form an expansive patchwork quilt of reds, oranges and yellows.

My boots and sweaters beg to be worn.  Soups, stews and chili entice savoring.  The couch lures with a throw and a good book.

This time of year makes my senses come alive.  I am a romantic hopelessly in love with the world around me.  Autumn brings a magical romance to every aspect of life.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Big Balloon Drop

The conventions are over. All the confetti has been swept off the convention floor. Politicians are racing to the booths. Each wants your vote, but for whom do you electronically tick the box? Will it be for the donkey, the elephant, or someone else entirely?

As a country, we are at a crossroads. We have the choice to continue down our path of inevitable self-destruction or charge ahead differently than the status quo.

Manufacturing has moved beyond our borders. Our institutions are in shambles. Our government spends much more than it could ever take to cover its debts. The national debt has surpassed 16 trillion dollars. More and more Americans have fallen into the arms of an ever expanding government dole.

Friday morning, the Labor Department released the new jobs numbers for the month of August. 8.1 percent unemployment means that for 43 consecutive months the unemployment rate has been over 8 percent. Full employment is typically 3 to 4 percent. Almost 400,000 people dropped out of the workplace. Just shy of 89 million Americans are not in the workforce. That is 33 percent of the population between the ages of 18 and 65. I am not saying that everyone needs to be employed, but 33 percent is not just stay-at-home parents, housewives/husbands, and college students.

Americans need jobs in order to pay for roofs over their heads, food on the table, and clothes on their backs. Which candidate will help the business culture so that jobs can be created is very important this election cycle.

However, once people have those jobs, I want to know which candidate will help reduce the cost of housing, clothing and food. Wages are not rising to match the rising cost of goods in this country.

How does one go about lowering the cost of living? Build new oil refineries and stop burning corn for ethanol. Before some of you roll your eyes and begin cursing at your screen, permit me to explain.

Corn is a grain. We eat it on the cob, off the cob, in tortillas, and as bread. It also makes its way into many other food products in the forms of corn syrup (regular and high fructose), corn starch, modified food starch, corn oil, and corn meal. We feed it to our animals, from our pets to livestock from which we get our dairy, eggs, meat and hides for leather goods.

When the price of a widely grown crop (corn) rises, the price of everything tends to rise along with it. Have you checked the price of non-corn produce lately? Prices keep going up and up. Burning food for fuel is not something first world countries should do. It also causes an increase in the price of fuel. Everything that is shipped via truck, boat or plane is also more expensive, regardless of product.

Refined petroleum has woven its way into all aspects of our lives well beyond gasoline for our cars and other transportation needs. Synthetic fibers in our clothes, shoes, carpets, and furniture are made from refining oil. Refined petroleum also makes the plastic we use everyday.  Plastics contain and wrap our food, paper products, pharmaceuticals, and other goods. Toys and all of our high tech gadgets are made from plastic. Even recycled plastics must be re-refined.

We can pretend that the cost of a barrel of crude is the main culprit. We can also pretend that extracting more petroleum will have a major affect on lowering prices. The fact is no matter how much crude comes into this country from foreign or domestic sources, we only have the capacity to refine so much at a time.

Today, we should have the technology to build more efficient and cleaner petroleum refineries with minimal environmental impact than the ones built decades ago. Being able to refine more oil should also ease the pain at the pump, in the grocery store, and heating our homes come winter.

What we really need is to be able to stretch our dollars as far as possible. Which candidate is the man for the job? If we choose wisely and with our pocketbooks, then in four years, those convention balloons will cost less.