If you ever give a talk in a coffeehouse, be prepared to pause while the espresso machine shrieks and the barista calls out the drink orders. Rick Larsen, my representative in the House of Representatives in the US Congress, came to a local coffeeshop to give a one hour talk. In a rare event, I attended. Even though I think the US government is somewhat anachronistic, the talk was so convenient that the cost of attending was minimized to the point that there would be some worthwhile benefit. (It happened next to coworks that I use as an office.) Regardless of politics, I am interested in the current economic situation of individuals and wanted to hear if anything was about to change. Maybe, if we’re patient, and we work at it – for those that have the resources.
I’m impressed with anyone who has held office, even if I don’t agree with them. For me, if someone can vote and doesn’t vote, their complaints are heavily discounted, especially if they take more time talking than it would take to mark and mail a ballot. If you vote, congratulations. That’s the essence of a democracy or an elected republic. If a person takes that next step and runs, they deserve a higher level of respect because they tried. If someone gets elected, they’re doing more than almost everyone. Granted, to get elected runs into a money issue and has led to the rich leading because they can afford to; and yet, they get credit for surviving what appears to be an excruciating process. At the same time, gaining my respect is not the same as gaining my trust or removing any criticisms.
Walk into a packed room. Try to summarize the nation’s issues in 15 minutes. Then talk with a bunch of strangers for almost an hour without knowing the topics, the agendas, and the histories publicly where everything you say can be dissected and possibly taken out of context. Not an easy job.
The topics he introduced were: Citizens United, Transportation (because he is on the committee), and – there must be something else from those first 15 minutes, but I can’t recall it.
The topics the crowd introduced were:
(My quick commentary is in the parentheses. For those familiar with my stockholder meeting notes, this doesn’t get the same treatment. Sorry.)
- Income disparity (as something to fix, eventually)
- Healthcare (I missed the reply. Sorry, but I am human.)
- Social Security (where the question was phrased using the word genocide)
- F-35 overruns (the military-industrial complex continues)
- Syria et al (where he pointed out that extremists happen and don’t respond to logic)
- TPP, Trans Pacific Partnership (where the audience was vigorous but he reiterated that comments were moot because nothing has been written yet)
- Growlers (a local issue where the Naval Air Station’s practice flights are measurably painfully loud, and where he wants more data, and where I already decided to not live on that half of the island because the Prowlers were too loud)
- Pipelines, both Keystone and in British Columbia (Jobs versus environment)
- Coal trains (which is a jobs versus environment versus monopolistic railroads issue)
- Seattle (which is not his district, but they care about him, he’ll care about them)
- Ukrainian civilian bombing (where there was a cry for an outcry that’s missing)
- Afghanistan and torture (where he applies skepticism in any hearing and some folks were more vigorous in their outrage)
- 9/11 commission (Missed this one too.)
The quickest synopsis from my perspective: If profits are involved, action happens sooner. Personal finance issues are important and get addressed, but not as quickly. If money isn’t directly involved but data is, collecting more data seems to be the response. If the issue is more subjective than objective, then it is harder to deal with. That progression in topics probably wasn’t the intent, but it was my perception – which is necessarily subjective and therefore imprecise.
Regardless of the validity of my perception, it is what I have to work with. That is true for each of us. Regular readers have witnessed my issues with unemployment, housing, healthcare, securities irregularities, taxes, and a transition from frugality by choice to frugality by necessity. Pairing my list to what I heard today, little will change, and any change will happen far enough in the future that the current Congress’ actions are moot. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that it will take about a decade to resolve most of these issues. I must find solutions within the next few weeks and months.
Being disengaged from my government is not a good sign. I suspect I am not alone. There are limited resources for the government and for me. That’s why neither of us can get everything done. Neither of us are as wealthy as we were. Personal finance can be a lonely task. When there’s a surplus, it’s easier to find help and options. When there’s a deficit, there’s a greater need for self-reliance and acceptance that there are many things that can’t be changed. I believe this is one reason the Sharing Economy is growing; informal community rather than organized government is more responsive. More sad news for a government.
Rick did a good job of fielding the questions, and yet the majority of people asking for change probably felt unsatisfied. If they thought something was getting done, they probably wouldn’t show up to cheer him on. They showed up to express what they thought wasn’t being heard. I know I left unsatisfied, but that also met my expectations; which is another sad commentary.
Personal finance is personal. Self-reliance has always been useful. Frugality remains powerful. Politics, at least until I have a significant surplus, will remain inconsequential. I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing and hope something positive happens for this ex-aerospace engineer who has seen too many sides of America’s economic cultures.