WIC Trouble

WIC Trouble

A friend was buying groceries. The woman ahead of her was paying for her cart of groceries with WIC bucks. (Women, Infants and Children food program, from the US Department of Agriculture, administered by the states.) The woman held up the line for 15 minutes. She not only looted their wallets but inconvenienced their time. She had picked a half gallon of 1% milk. The guidelines precluded that. A stocker had to run to the back to exchange it for a quart. Alberston’s doesn’t carry that item. A substitute had to be found. My friend was steamed. Welfare programs, seen up close often disappoint, to speak euphemistically.

Two days later, I overhead a young couple at church who walked up to the full-time missionaries.

They said, “Hey, we can give this to you.” They pulled from their backpack two large cans of canned orange juice.

“This is some of our WIC juice. We get so much we can’t drink it all.” It’s a case of freebies so lavish the recipients cannot consume them. The non-qualified get the overrun.

Ten Commandments About Money

Ten Commandments About Money

Does your life feel like an action movie? Are you constantly getting shot at, figuratively, careening in high speed chases, falling off cliffs into raging rivers, and facing down roaring monsters? Is your financial life a wreck? Do accidents seem to follow you around?

Ten Commandments about Money

1. Pay your own way. Otherwise you are suffering the indignity of dependence.

2. Get educated. It pays. Take classes. Get a credential. Online courses are often free and include certificates that verify completion. Read books. The Richest Man in Babylon. Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, As a Man Thinketh, holy books.

3. Don’t promise more than you can deliver. That’s dishonest. People who do that are fakes.

4. Budget. That means to plan your spending. Then track actual spending. Compare what you spent with what you planned. Use Ace Money Lite to plan and track.

5. Be frugal. Buy stuff cheap. Wait to buy until you have the money. Plan purchases ahead. Find cheaper alternatives. Do without. Eat cheap food. Don’t buy prepared food, fast food, frozen food and restaurant meals. Beware of subscriptions, cable TV contracts, gym memberships and cell phone contracts. Don’t buy big screen TVs, game consoles, exotic pets, guns, ATVs, and DVDs. Pets limit where you can choose to live. Places that allow them are fewer and cost more. Beside, pets eat and get sick. Those things cost.

6. Don’t quit your job until you have found a new job.  If you start a side business, keep your “day job.” Prospect for a better job even while working at a good job. Always be developing your options.

7. Purge from your mind the myth that forty hours of work a week is sufficient. 8-5, M-F was so Detroit, 1950. Rather, plan on 7-6, 5.5 days with ½ hour lunch. Twenty to thirty years of that will be a good start on success. No kidding; it takes a long time of consistently applied true principles to build wealth and security, self-respect and a sterling reputation. Catching up financially from vacation takes a long time. That’s why wise people take vacations from work only sparingly. You can’t afford vacations.

8. If you’ve made mistakes, face them honestly. Admit your debts. Don’t evade them. You can build anew. First you must admit past failures. How else will you avoid repeats? Don’t wallow in sorrow and loathing. Think of these remembrances as courses you’ve taken. Don’t brand yourself a failure because you’ve stumbled. Everyone stumbles.

9. Have a reserve of money for emergencies. Or you’ll feel like a victim, like trouble hunts you down. Emergencies come to everyone.

10. Find a person authorized to receive tithing, a tenth of your income. Pay it. Show gratitude to people and heaven.

Corollaries:

Create opportunities. Advertise. Promote.

Get out of bed early. That requires going to bed on time.

Get out of debt. Stay out of debt. Follow Dave Ramsey’s plan. Daveramsey.com. Don’t buy “on time.” Don’t rent furniture. Don’t lease a car.

Use an envelope system if you have to.

Show gratitude to your boss and co-workers. Inconvenience yourself for them and the customers. Know what they want; provide it. Be courteous and helpful at work.

Always think of the long run. Success takes time.

Show up on time. Sober. Call if you are going to be late. Make up lost time on your own.

Leave cash and checkbooks home. Shred credit cards.

Ride a bike. Walk.

Don’t covet. Don’t expect classy possessions to soothe your lack of self-confidence.

Balance your checkbook monthly. Open your mail.

Pay your bills on time. Put stamps on. Put in mailbox.

Don’t waste time texting, watching TV, surfing the net. Instead, go to skill building classes, read, exercise, recreate with family.

Monitor your cash flow, your revenue stream, your job. In corporate lingo this is called guarding your “cash cow”, whatever brings in the steady revenue.

In business, what is valuable is the franchise. That is what sets your product apart. It’s a brand or a way of doing business. Michael Jordan was a franchise of the Chicago Bulls franchise. Pizza Hut is a franchise, a unique presence in the market. The brand, the unique offering is worth fortunes. Make yourself a franchise, be valuable, make a reputation.

Always be honest. Don’t say you are an expert at some skill if you are not. Candor pays. “I’m not sure how to do that, but I will work hard to learn. I’m open to suggestions. I can find out. It it’s OK with you, I’ll work on it and let you know how I’m coming. I’ll charge appropriately.”

Share your plan with someone who cares about you. Give them progress reports. Share your mistakes so they can help you gather courage to admit, fix, and to avoid them in the future.

Solid money management and earning stability is essential to having loving relationships. Women only trust steady earners. They are freaks for orderliness and predictability. Give it.

Shed the notion that anyone owes you anything, family, friends, your church, the rich, the government. When you are dependent, you’ve lost dignity. Don’t expect gifts and bailouts. There is more dignity living in a cheap car you own outright, in a campground, than lodging in welfare housing or sleeping on the couch of a friend. Who is paying his rent, utilities, garbage, cable, internet?

If you miss three days of work for a sprained ankle or the flu, it will take working overtime for the rest of the month to compensate. Catching up hurts! Better not to incur the loss. Work through the pain.

Do a balance sheet. Total assets. Total debts. Subtract debts from assets. That is your net worth. Not so hot? Make a goal to build it to $___ by making more than you spend. Save and invest the rest.

Take as friends successful people. Emulate. Avoid learning from people who constantly fail. Treat such courteously, respect their dignity and worth, but do not take for companions poor or irresponsible people.

Realize that money doesn’t buy happiness. Even lots of money would not be enough for every eventuality. Life is tenuous and fragile. But without constant, steady, adequate income, you will feel miserable. That is a feeling you can do without.

Overheard From Kids

Kids Falling Behind.

My young relative’s birthday party was yesterday. I complimented her for winning a recent math competition. I told her how disappointed I was to know so many 3rd and 4th graders who don’t know what 3×4 is or the answer to 23 minus 7. She said some of her classmates don’t know their times tables and that she is worried how they will fare in math next year. She was in the 5th grade for the 2008-09 school year.

I asked, “How many kids are in your class?”

“Twenty-three.”

“How many don’t know their times tables?”

“About twenty.”

At this site, her school’s test scores are posted. 67% of her classmates were considered “proficient” in math two years ago. Not according to Jordan.

The future looks grim for kids.

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Horses: A Constitutional Right?

Nash is in my Spring Scientific and Aeronautical Institute. She mentioned her horses in reference to the grasses whose names we are learning.

“Horses”, I observed, “are expensive to feed.” I asked how she affords to feed them.

“The fairgrounds feeds them. The fairgrounds keeps them. We live across the street from the fairgrounds.”

Greenwood Plaza stands across the street from the  fairgrounds. I assume she lives there. It is low-income housing. Resident pay as little as $30 per month toward their $600 rent.  Taxpayers pick up the balance.

I must look into this. People too poor to pay rent that have horses? Is a state program paying? Are horses a constitutional welfare right?

Taxes or Donations

Our nephew’s high school track team sent out a fund raising request. He lives in a Minnesota town. We live in Montana.

He’s a good kid and we believe in supporting youth development programs. There could be more private funding. I sent the following letter accompanying the donation.

Dear Alex:

We’re glad you are involved in sports as a means to increase in character and stature. ( Though ths is a school athletic program, it harmonizes with the goals of the Boy Scouts of America.We like the themes of the Scout Oath: Physically Strong, Mentally Awake and Morally Straight.)

We are happy to support your efforts. We would be able to contribute more to youth athletics if the government didn’t take so much in taxes.

Best wishes,

Uncle Tom and Aunt Melani

April 22, 2009

Overheard in Student Union Building

In January, early in this semester, I heard a young man talking on his cell phone.

“He’s not out of money yet because I’m going to buy his kayak off him as soon as I get my loan check.”

This is the first thing I think of when I hear talk in our state legislature about how students need a tuition freeze, to shield them from the rising costs of college education.

I’m presently conducting a poll of what students did over MSU’s Spring Break, and what others at other universities are planning on doing.

How far did they go in their travels? Did they work any of the 9 days they had off? How many hours total did they work?  So far, few have worked. One worked 40 hours but first he got in a 3-4 day trip to Boise for a gamer’s convention. Home to Sandpoint, but a few days in Oregon first. San Diego and Las Vegas. Seattle.

Taxpayers would be more sympathetic to further taxes to shield college students from increasing tuition if students were working at every opportunity. Maybe they are not as poor as their advocates in the legislature indicate.

Recession? What Recession?

We have a long ways to go. Standards of living in Ecuador, Brazil and Mexico are far below the lowered standards of living we are experiencing since the bubble burst.

I recall a nearly naked man in Brazil, living on the jungle floor outside of town. I recall a haggard 14 year-old man-handling an iron-wheeled wheelbarrow. In it were three buckets of water. The total weight approached 170 pounds. The boy weighed 80.  He pushed it 1/4 mile on an uneven surface to some bricklayers. He stopped every 40-50 feet to adjust his load. I recall the farm laborer, also in Ecuador, going home from work. He dozed precariously on a 2″x10″ plank on a metal rack above a pickup bed. The pickup jostled wildly. I recall the roadside homesteaders in Brazil, the saw sharpener in Brazil, the neighborhood in Marituba, in which, if you had a hammer, you were known as he who owned a hammer, the one to borrow from..The idle young men. The three room house with three light bulbs, dirty floors and one bed for three children. No one in the four families we dined with owned a car. The walking masses. The cowboys of Ecuador. The farmers drying lima beans on the roadway.

We must view the hardships of our recession comparatively.

Losing Wealth

The headline read: Americans Lose 18% of Their Wealth.

Liberals must be delighted. To them, wealth is evil. They constantly castigate those who possess wealth. They concoct ways to take it. They tax it. They make it hard to amass. They think people should avoid it.

With an 18% reduction, liberals must be thrilled. Hard economic times seem to be their aim.

NPR, Obama, Medicine

The president has plans for medicine.

He is bringing people together.

The best plan is a market.

NPR this morning told of President Obama’s desire to “reform” health care. His three big goals are:

1. Increase the number of people “covered”

2. Lower costs

3. Improved quality

The system known to do such things is that voluntary, non-coercive thing called the free market. Markets give more goods, better goods, and at a lower cost. This is true whether the goods be avocados or heart transplants. Government schemes cannot deliver.

Obama is calling a meeting. He is bringing people together; Big Insurance, Big Government (agencies), members of Congress, Big Medicine (doctors and hospitals), consumers. Did he leave anyone out? The payers. The taxpayers, the producers, the earners.

Justice is best achieved in voluntary transactions, aka markets, not government planning.

Oh, my poor kids and grandkids.

Spot Reflections on Welfare

beggarsmall1Spot Reflections on Welfare

Could the stake handle 10% unemployment?

3,000 members.

300 in unemployed families.

The census says there are about three people per household, in our case, 100 families.

$50,000 per year per family.

$5,000,000 per year.

Plainly, the stake cannot provide this through fast offerings. Presently, we collect a fraction of this. Every person or family that pays fast offerings would have to increase their contribution many-fold.

Unemployment has risen to 7.6% nationally. It could easily reach 10%.

Work Equals Dignity

A friend asked to borrow $1,000. Melani and I lent it. The recipient still feels guilty, not having paid anything back. He avoids meeting me on the street. He stays away from church. I should have provided work.

A friend needed an operation for gastric bypass. He was a slick talker. Melani and I utilized some correct principles. We had a lengthy interview in which we found out that his family was contributing. That’s one good thing. We should have paid the doctor directly, not him. As one safety, there was an account set up to which we mailed the money. But we should have provided him with work. But we gave $500.00. We did not apply all correct principles.

A friend called to borrow money. I said, “Give me some time.” I called back after supper and said, “I’ve got some work that needs doing. Would you like to do it?” He said, “Sure.”

We worked together. He was a good worker. I thought about scolding him when I paid him, in this manner, “My wife would be really disappointed to know that this money went to buy alcohol.” I could tell he was a drinker, a prime reason for his financial straits.

“No,” I thought, “he earned this money fair and square. He doesn’t have to listen to me moralizing.” He was trying to quit drinking anyway.

I paid him. He kept his dignity. He did not grovel. Work equals dignity. All of our giving should be done in a way to preserve dignity. In fact, earned money is not “given”, it is earned. We are not “giving” when we pay. The parties stand in equality to each other.

Once a friend needed $2,000 to rent a U-Haul to move to the East. I knew he had guns. He wanted to borrow the money. I asked for the guns for collateral. He found another means. We are still friends.

Bishops err in not insisting on work because work is supervision-intensive. Overseeing labor requires management and management skill. First, a task has to be invented. Then it has to be watched, inspected, and measured. Bishops do not have extra time.

If two families asked to board with Melani and m, how could this arrangement be dignified? What could they do? The cleaning. Snow removal. Neighborhood tasks such as sign and trail improvement and weeding the common area flowers. Such tasks would probably not be sufficient. I could start an Education Institute. I would supervise the lodgers’ tutoring of 3rd graders at Whittier. Heaven knows there are dozens of kids who don’t know what 7×3 is. I am fully aware that the program would not succeed without leadership. It would cost me, too. I would set the standards and goals, make the arrangements, measure the progress and keep time cards.

Beggars

The last time I offered food to one that looked like a beggar- filthy clothes, burnished face, beard, duffel bags – he waved me off dismissively. Even the homeless come in degrees of need. And they have their pride. He had what he needed and was too smart to burden himself with more than he could carry. (This is a wisdom that eludes many.)

It is important to know a person’s need before prescribing solutions. Sometimes we think we know, but we are haughtily jumping to conclusions. How sorely knowledge is needed in the business of charity! It comes not in a rush. It is often lacking. Givers are supercilious. The benefactor can be simultaneously condescending and misdirected. Much government charity melds the two.

I washed dishes at Loaves and Fishes, Livingston’s volunteer, church-run soup kitchen. It is a model of Christian charity. Some eaters showed gratitude, but some were dour, not engaging in conversation with their server. One vivacious 30 year-old man poked his head in the kitchen.

“Can I help you do the pots and pans?” he asked.

“I’ve got it taken care of,” I said.

My mistake. Always allow self-help to the greatest possible extent. I had robbed him of a way to feel he had earned his supper. Subconsciously I may have been keeping the satisfaction to myself, a subtle superiority claim. Thomas Sowell in The Quest for Cosmic Justice explains this as one thing that motivates architects of government welfare. They feel so good “helping” the poor. They have to maintain a corral of poor patrons in order to themselves feel valuable. They like feeling that they have saved people. Thus, they perpetuate poverty. (All the while using other people’s money.)

The benefactors feel smug; the poor feel entitled. If we apply proper welfare principles, such as “re-enthroning work”, we will drain both swamps, Smugness and Entitlement. The two feelings run in tandem and reinforce each other like two drunks propping each other up.

Self-reliance Quiz

Self-reliance Quiz

(For Young Single Adults, young married couples, and college students)

Have you ever:

1. Made muffins from scratch?

2. Bisquits from scratch?

3. Cornbread?

4. Bread with yeast?

5. Cake?

6. Cookies?

7. Gardened start to finish?

8. Canned?

9. Slaughtered chickens?

10. Started your own business?

How much have you saved?___________________

How much is the government in debt, per person? _______________________

How much is your debt? 1. School ___________________ 2. Other____________________

Do you have a budget?

Do you tithe?

Do you support well-run charities?

Do you burden others by taking handouts such as WIC, Medicaid, SSDI, Streamline bus rides, school lunch, county health department shots, rent or utility assistance?

What principles guide you when deciding on proper recipients of giving?

_______________________________________________________________________________

_______________________________________________________________________________

What did you do last spring break?______________________________________________

Where did you go?_____________________________________

How many hours did you work last spring break, over the ten days? _________________________

What is the minimum number of hours to work weekly to be financially secure?_____

If you save $5.00 per day between ages 15 and 25, and invest it at 12% interest, how much will it be at age 75? ________________________

What is the lowest wage you ever worked for?__________

The highest?_________

How much stored food do you have?____________________________________________

Water?_______________________________________________________________________

If you had to give evidence of economizing, what would you say?____________________

_______________________________________________________________________________

Did you purchase any order-in pizza or fast food in January?

Put a $ amount on the total of such purchases_________________