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Fletcher: Hiding the topic — the economy

April 24, 2012
Stephen Fletcher , The Alpena News

Is there anyone out there who really believes that some soldiers, when stationed far away from home and family, stay celibate all the time? Since we are holding Congressional hearings on the subject, I guess it must be important.

My problem isn't the hearings, but rather that Congress isn't addressing the real problems. Evidently there were two Marines, five Army Rangers, a dog handler, a couple more Army guys and 11 Secret Service personnel in Cartagena, Colombia, having a party. Also in attendance at the event were 20 or so "ladies of the evening" - approximately the same number of military and quasi-military (Secret Service) folks.

The real question for Congress is what's happened to the Marines and Army Rangers because, back in the day, they would not have needed any help from the Secret Service to accomplish the objective.

Of course, this tempest in a teapot is all about political posturing to mask the fact the big issues of the economy and the possibility of a "double-dip" recession aren't being focused on in this election year. The same can be said of the "class warfare" rhetoric from the White House about taxation. I paid a higher percentage of my income in taxes this month than did either Vice President Joe Biden or President Barack Obama. So what?

All of the above is masking the fact the economy remains a huge problem and it is not being addressed.

This uncertainty created by federal officials really creates a problem for all of us. Not only is the value of our possessions being compromised, but more so is the concern about the value of pension and profit-sharing funds. We are left "out in the cold" planning for our financial well-being because the environment in which we must invest is so jumbled.

There is talk of both inflation and recession and it's very difficult to see where to invest. How do you make a profit high enough to beat inflation? When you add food and fuel back into the Consumer Price Index, the inflation rate for most people is around 7 percent.

The amount of earnings available on cash and certificates of deposit is next to zero. You probably have not recovered from previous losses in the stock market, so your capital has not grown in three to four years.

The real question for Congress and the president is what to do about the declining wealth in America.

About all that we can do is diversify and ladder maturities. In other words, a potpourri of investments is much more stable than remaining in only one segment of the marketplace for financial products.

We all know there are stocks, bonds, and cash but what about commodities like corn, natural gas, and gold. Cash is all about current needs, stocks address growth potential, bonds are for income security, and commodities are for possible gains during times of rising prices.

A person has to figure out which percentages of ownership of the various stocks, bonds, and commodities are appropriate for each individual situation, but we are lucky to have investment professionals in our local banks and brokerage firms to help us.

Remember what Mom said: "God helps those who help themselves." Get busy and start making changes for yourself if you don't think that you can afford to wait for the government to get it done.

If you are wishing for the government to save you, then worry about why the Marines and Army Rangers need the Secret Service to help them carry out routine missions.

Stephen Fletcher was graduated decades ago from Cornell University with an A.B. in Economics and from Michigan State University with an M.B.A. He has lived and worked in the decades from graduation until now in the Alpena area. He thinks economics is fun and interesting.



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