a blog about cents, in every form & measure

Monday, November 29, 2010

secrets aren't always kept: journalism, government, and the role of secrecy

Here we go - wow. I popped open my laptop yesterday to read the paper online as a break from chores...and this headline greeted me: The Decision to Publish Diplomatic Documents. I don't want to sound overly dramatic, but my jaw basically dropped to the table in reaction to the second instance of sensitive government information leaked to the public. It's absolutely thrilling and terrifying to live in an age where events like this comprise my daily news, and I'm trying to remember each moment, every reaction, and the details of the events which have shaped my adulthood.

The memos released are "based on thousands of United States embassy cables, the daily reports from the field intended for the eyes of senior policy makers in Washington. The documents — some 250,000 individual cables, the daily traffic between the State Department and more than 270 American diplomatic outposts around the world — were made available to The Times by a source who insisted on anonymity. They were originally obtained by WikiLeaks, an organization devoted to exposing official secrets, allegedly from a disenchanted, low-level Army intelligence analyst who exploited a security loophole.,,WikiLeaks intends to publish this archive on its Web site in stages, with each batch of documents related to a particular country or topic. Except for the timing of publication, the material was provided without conditions. Each news organization decided independently what to write about the cables."

So there you have it. Omgee indeed. My first thought was exactly that, followed by an instant curiosity about the secrets revealed that were no longer secret to the world at large. Anyone who has the desire to learn the contents of these cables can - and so the goal of the New York Times will be fulfilled. To provide knowledge to the public at large; to create a means of communication through which to enrich our lives - that is the purpose of journalism. That, and to publish whatever content will keep them afloat. Either or. Crazy though - what organization has private communications that aren't potentially damaging or embarassing? What do I really have to learn from these cables, which all date from 2007 or later? What can I do about it? What do these cables reveal about our government and its relationships in a post 9/11 world?

I'll be thinking about my own answers to these questions, but what do you think?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Black Friday - the quick & dirty version

This year is alllll about quality over quantity, and so I definitely have some pricey items on my Christmas gift list! Like many, my desire to be generous can sometimes cause some serious damage to my bank account, but luckily my procastinating at work lead to a glorious find - black Friday sales all week long on Amazon.com!* Looks like I'll be doing my price comparisons and shopping online [again] this year, complete with free shipping and discounts! Here's to shopping with a glass of bubbly in hand without the crowds...I'll meet you on the couch!

*This is not a sponsored post.

Monday, November 22, 2010

when being in "good shape" doesn't refer to treadmill time-

So here's an idea: what if the rich - you know, those people we love to hate and constantly bemoan when discussing tax rates - actually admitted they shold be paying more to Uncle Sam? Are there those among them who can attest to the rich being in pretty good shape right now with our current tax code?
That's exactly what Warren Buffet, Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway (and one of America's richest men) suggested in an interview with ABC News' Christiane Amanpour to be aired during Thanksgiving weekend. What a novel idea! Said Buffet, "I think that people at the high end -- people like myself -- should be paying a lot more in taxes. We have it better than we've ever had it."

This Sunday's episode of "This Week" will be focused on The Giving Pledge, which is a major philanthropic effort spearheaded by Buffet, and Bill and Melinda Gates.

Buffet stated that tax rates for the lower and middle-bracket classes should be cut, but that taxes for the wealthy should be increased. Upon Amanpour's prompt that popular thinking dictates that tax cuts for the wealthy energizes business & capitalism, Buffet explained the following:

"The rich are always going to say that, you know, just give us more money and we'll go out and spend more and then it will all trickle down to the rest of you. But that has not worked the last 10 years, and I hope the American public is catching on."

So what do you think? Should we keep the status quo (because oh yeah, that seems to be working)? What about tax increases for the rich and upper classes? What about minizing rates between classes, or eliminating taxes for those in lower income brackets altogether? Do you think that Buffet is implying that he supports the tax proposals that were recently submitted to Congress? And here's a novel thought - if Buffet so clearly thinks that he's being undertaxed, why doesn't he voluntarily donate to the IRS? Hmm....

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Red, White Blue...good writing is without a stripe of any color

The New York Time's magazine has a brilliant piece that you must read, NOW titled Inside Sarah Palin's Circle. It doesn't matter who you stump for, like, or avidly hate. Good writing is a precious thing, and I only wish that pieces like this - which sheds some light on Palin's absence of action as well as a playbook of her recent public decisions/endorsements - were published more often!

Did you click on the link yet? Do it!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Top earners? Who dat???

One of my goals with this blog is to understand finance as a whole; to truly understand how the things I read on print pertain to my life and my future. An article recently published by the Wall Street Journal titled "Top Earners May Face Big Hit" struck me as a great example of the philosophy that I hope to espouse with this blog.

This article summarizes a recent presidential panel's modification of certain tax credits and deductions which currently exist of our current tax system. Their proposal, as stated by the WSJ, "could hit higher earners hard, largely by wiping out deductions and investment breaks that tend to especially benefit those who make enough money to itemize their taxes." I'm sure, that by the time you read that last sentence, you thought "ok, whatever, high earners...zzz...NEXT!" So would I, and I did, but my darling husband sent this article to me with a high 'alert' attached - could this mean something to me and mine?

Why yes, indeed it could and it does. In plain language, the panel proposed that the deductions that "high earners" receive for mortgage interest payments be removed from our current tax credit system. It's thought that "high earners" can recoup this loss from other types of changes encompassed within the proposal but the question is...are all "high earners" the same? I think not. I would never think of myself as a high earner - in my opinion, I get paid a very modest salary. My husband earns more than I do - is he rich? Nope, not at all (in fact, my closet can definitely attest to this fact) What he does have is an excellent credit score & a tendency to save, which allowed him to put a down payment towards a lovely apartment. I'd say a good amount of his salary goes towards the mortgage & housing costs, and now his concern is mine - that the proposed change would dramatically affect his take-home salary and tax return.

The point is - does it seem right to create something that would greatly impact what was such a huge life decision for him? Who qualiifies as a "high earner"?  While I am the first to agree that our nation needs to implement drastic changes so as to reduce our nation's budget deficit, it's pretty clear that there is something of note here, namely, that our definition of a "high earner" needs some further clarification within the context of individuals who utilize tax credits to make saavy business decision to their benefit and others. Color this whatever party color you'd like, but could we afford our apartment without the mortgage tax break? Probably not. We'd rent out an apartment, steadily losing money on a place we could never permanently call our own. What will we do if this passes? We're not panicking, but it does have us rethinking some of the larger decisions we've each made over the years (like taking out school loans, for example).

What about you? How would the proposed modifications change your life? Would any of your recent life decisions be impacted? What type of changes would you propose to our current tax system?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Holiday cheer for LESS!

If there's one thing I love it's a good discount code, and what could be better than kicking off a discount code Friday series?

I've just started designing my very own personalized holiday cards this season, and will most likely be using Shutterfly.* I've heard good things about them, and to make things sweeter, I just found a 25% off coupon code!

Just enter "FAT WALLET 5" at checkout!

*This is not a sponsored post

Thursday, November 11, 2010

"“I’d rather get this right than get it rushed,” Mr. Obama told Mr. Kirk, according to a senior administration official who was present."

Unless you've been under a rock (where? can I join you? mmk thanks!), you're probably well aware that after the media-fueled star-spangled parade that were our national mid-term elections, President Obama went on a well-publicized tour of Asia that took him to India, Indonesia, and as of this posting, South Korea. It is in South Korea where the G20 summit has convened, and where President Obama, in good faith (we presume) entered earlier today in lengthy negotiations with President Lee Myung-bak. Hours flew by, and our President, having entered the negotiations no doubt with his head crammed with talking points and accompanied by some over-paid negotiations consultant/strategist, left the negotiating room to enter a press conference. It was amidst flashing bulbs and before a host of microphones where it was announced that no treaty had been met between himself and the governing head of state of South Korea.

I haven't yet mentioned what these proposed negotiations were about, but in what could be perceived as quite the PR stunt, President Obama has decided to undertake the subject of the American economy during this trip and use it as a standard of sorts. In the papers, on the television, and through streaming video we became convinced, that Obama was working hard, all day & all night, all for our side, and that he would meet his self-imposed deadline of creating a free trade agreement once in South Korea. "It would happen!", he seemed to say, much in the style of "Vote for change!"

Yes, despite the public's sudden affinity for tea (lots of it, please, particularly of the generic wrapped in paper smells cheap kind), or because of it, Obama is once again the champion of the American everyman's. Specifically you and me, all of us. A free trade agreement with South Korea would mean lots of things, not the least of which my company would be able to take a greater share of the Korean market, and when they make money...I get to keep my job! The longer I keep my job, the more money I make, and the more shoes I buy. Oh yes, that's the type of stuff I learned in Econ 101 (did I mentioned I dropped that course freshman year? too many graph thingers). Sounds good for everyone, and yet a treaty was not reached was because the terms of such an agreement could not be agreed upon, despite all the talks that had gone back and forth before the actual event. Did Obama present an air-tight case? Did President Lee? We may never know, but what we do know is that the pressure is officially on - Obama is "damned if you do, damned if you don't" regardless of what type of bacon -- or sonmat (Korean domestic beef) -- he brings home. He has to do something that will stimulate our economy and by doing so satiate the political greed which I think is plauging both our national parties right now. Congress will have to endorse the treaty, and event with the current make-up of the House,  all will need to be persuaded as freshman senators begin to mark their territory and form their due allegiances in anticipation of 2012.

So watch carefully, the events that will continue to fold over the next few days. A penny earned is a penny gained, but will Obama lose in the long run? What types of talking points would you be sure to bring up to him if you could? What would you do with a few extra dollars and cents? What does the treaty need to encompass for you to be "sold," much as Congress will undoubtly have to be?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What's the big deal about cents?

oh yeah...who doesn't love Lincoln!?
So, here you are - you've found the blog through a web search, or maybe I emailed you relentlessly about checking it out (sorry mom!). Either way, you're here, and probably asking "what's the big deal about cents???"

Well, duh, omg, it's always about the cents. Cents, sense, however you spell it, it all boils down to one thing - it's a commodity to be used in your favor. Can you get it? Sometimes. Can you save it for a rainy day? Sometimes. Is it hard to get? Most definitely. But can it be earned? Fo' sho!

That's the biggest lesson here. I think my good "cents" came from a variety of sources: my grandma's wisdom, my mom's everlasting persistence, all those huge books I devoured (and still do!), a daily diet of Bible stories, and just alot of observation. I earned my good "cents," and I hope my blog can be a source of good "cents" for you-  truly. I'm not claiming to be a guru, a saint, or even good with a budget (honestly)...I'm just saying that I've got my own 5 cents worth, and I'm happy to share. Whether it's a bit about my day and how some good "cents" (ok, officially  stopping with the quotation marks now) saved me or some analysis about an interesting newspaper article - I will share it. That's my good cents for you, and I hope you'll throw some at me in the comments! Like the stray pennies laying in the street that I always look out for (and pick up..eww, I know!), good cents can be yours, or mine, just for the taking.

So here we go! omg! (pronounce omgee, by the way) that makes cents!!!

omg! here we go...

here we go! I am beyond excited to begin writing here at omg! that makes sense! I have had several blogs throughout the years, but they've all been fairly short lived endeavors and have covered a multitude of subjects like "wow sometimes college sucks" and "Hi! I am paid to write this energetic spiel about kidnappings in the Midwest for this particular news outlet!" In any case, this is my new space, and I am looking forward to making it a long-lived enterprise...because like all things worth having in life, anything worth having takes time to cultivate! And so this blog will represent my commitment to writing as I continue to pursue the type of life good 'cents' entails. I'm excited to begin this journey, and I can't wait to share with my readers what it means to have good "cents" as a girly girl with big dreams and an even bigger heart!