Monday, August 29, 2011

Politics, Society, and Entrepreneurship

The recent sovereign debt ceiling crisis faced by the United States had been a revealing spectacle for the world to see. Political pundits had characterized the delays, the lobbying, the bickering, the negotiating, the arguments, the rallying, the compromises, the handshakes, the handslaps and all the other motions that politicians go through as the democratic process. As financial markets and other governments watched in growing anticipation and anxiety, it was clear that both the Democrats and the Republicans were going to take the resolution of the issues to the brink. Beyond analyzing the political aspect of what had been going on in Washington, however, it was the mindset borne by both contending sides that got me interested. While the Democrats, which Obama is a part of, argue for expanded spending and economic stimulus with fiscal policies in the nature of Keynesian economics, conservatives have labeled their socialist/”communist” leanings (including entitlements) as ridiculous. After all, in a household, whenever your budget is running on a deficit, common sense tells you that you cut back on spending. What further highlights the seemingly growing frustration of Republican-citizens, which I have observed based on their comments on Yahoo news threads is the “leeches” of society sucking the government coffers dry. The US being a very advanced form of democracy has transformed itself into a loophole ridden socio-economy thanks to political maneuverings and lobbying. They have illegal immigrants who get federal benefits from taxpayer paid programs and seemingly ridiculous entitlements programs that condone the thriving of unproductive communities and sub-societies. Now, I am no one to label or cast a stereotype on certain groups of people, but a Fox News Channel documentary (I know, I know, I had to use the bastion of right-wing journalists to get a sense of the picture, lol) showed how American Indian society has now ended up thanks to decades of federal government handouts. It’s John Stossel’s documentary “Freeloaders”.

Now it is very understandable, being a taxpayer myself, that a diligent American taxpayer would find it offensive to support a government through tax payments in view of a crumbling economy, while his taxes are seeping to the hands of those he deems undeserving. Welfare has become such a contentious issue now. To what extent should people help those in “need”, do we give until we are bled dry (which is what is literally happening in the US)? Aside from legitimate budget items, the money the US government borrows also goes to entitlements and other welfare programs. Is there indeed a limit to charity? I would think that it’s a dilemma of cutting the arm before you lose the patient.

As for the Republicans, they have been against calls for taxing the richer tiers of society. While they call for less spending, they reject the notion that revenues could be propped up by taxing the rich. Increasing revenues, however, does indeed make sense. Actually, both sides make good points when they call to reduce spending and ask to raise revenues. These are salient points of sound management and common sense. Warren Buffett, however, just threw a monkey wrench at the political posturings of the GOP when he stated that Congress should stop coddling the billionaires:

In any case, it's not even about new taxes. It's about ending the tax cuts/tax holiday. No one's introducing an additional burden that shouldn't be there, it's just reinstating what should have been there all along

In my opinion, being the well-off people in society has its obvious perks, but also bares a duty (if not patriotic at least altruistic) for general society. In a slowing economy, you can’t expect the low and middle classes to shoulder the burden of keeping the economy afloat. Leadership or at least the responsibility of taking steps forward has to emerge from the higher-ups, from those who can afford it and those who are in a position to do so. It’s interesting to note that elitists seem to be always above it all, but when the society, which they always seem to be domineering on, suffers, they wash their hands of its problems. Well, there’s no point impressing if there’s no one left to impress, or a country/place to impress others for that matter. I would think that it’s the same for any economically-downtrodden country. Anything that’s meant to impress just becomes obnoxious, irritating, insensitive, insulting and out of touch. Just imagine a Maybach cruising through the slums. The disparity is obvious and the image plain shameless.

And so we come to this point, after you putting up with my literary meanderings, what’s the whole idea of me narrating issues which are already abound on the net? To be concise, it’s about entrepreneurship. While the Federal Reserve keeps on buying fixed income and bloating its balance sheet (printing money), it’s implying something to the general public as well. Of course it can’t say it directly because that’s just tantamount to solicitation and dictating what people should do. Free markets remain free because people are left to decide how they can maneuver in a given economic scenario. Within what is seemingly a bloated equity market, thanks to the historic low interest rates permeating in a credit-based economy, are the consumers who keep the revenue streams of companies continuous whenever they spend for goods and services. Companies, meanwhile, are able to balance their toplines with their bottomlines by cutting back on expenses, which means lay-offs and less demand for G&A expense items that could have provided more jobs in the economy. There is irony in financial and economic optimization, because indeed, the allocation of scarce resources becomes stingier. So the lives of people go on amid the economic churnings and walkabouts of decision makers and capitalists. Ultimately, a new generation of entrepreneurs have to emerge. Those who are armed with creativity, ingenuity, and guts to take risks have to be the ones to start providing more relevant jobs beyond temporal manual labor and directionless economic enterprises.

It's time to encourage entrepreneurship and risk taking and end the drone-employee mentality. That's just the same as waiting for hand-outs, waiting for the rich folks to give someone something to do. It’s already the case here in the Philippines, the employment-mentality is so ingrained that the spirit of entrepreneurship seems to be an embarrassing occupation and role in society. The Filipino-Chinese have earned the respectable image of being a community of business advocates and captains of industry, but how come there are so few Filipinos who venture into job-generating endeavors? Why can’t most people here see beyond high-paying jobs? Does society make it shameful to run one’s own business? Is there no grandeur or fulfillment when one is able to give other people jobs? Is it really much desirable to have other people judge their economic-value amid corporate-ladder competition? Should the employee-evaluation sheet’s ratings contents encapsulate and dictate the future of one’s career? Why is it so important that we have other people judge and determine the direction of our career, if we know fully well what we can be capable of? The domestic psyche of course is a challenge to analyze, but if we are indeed in the same mentality-boat as the Americans, then entrepreneurship should be cast in a new light. Trade and industry represent the spirit of democracy and freedom. Creativity, ingenuity, and innovation are cornerstones of an advancing society and risk-taking, which characterizes entrepreneurs, is the key step to providing other people the proper platform to collaborate and create something new (whether these be systems, processes, devices, products, services, technological or pharmaceutical breakthroughs, etc.). Organizations provide the place and the channel to develop new ideas/things and rarely can a man single-handedly create and deliver what society would be willing to pay for.

All compositions, statements and opinions of the author are copyright © Earl T. Malvar 2009-2010. All rights reserved. There is no honor, respect, admiration, intellectual and academic dignity garnered through plagiarism.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Facilitators of Corruption, Witnesses or Snitches

Everyone who has had first-hand knowledge of the misdeeds of the previous administration are starting to come out, which is probably the best decision for these "facilitators" of questionable and corrupt activities. When the floodgates break, the deluge is unstoppable and these people would rather be publicly known as the turncoats who snitched than become randomly murdered strangers who met "unfortunate accidents". The funny thing is, with the details coming out, when should we expect legal action to be taken? Again we circle back to how quickly Philippine society forgets of atrocities and crimes, regardless if petty or grave. Is this a function of the Catholic mindset? I'm a Catholic myself, but the intermingling of religious beliefs and the Filipino culture baffles me. Has this always been ingrained in the Filipino DNA? After reading pre-history texts in elementary, I was taught that pre-colonial Filipino society had oddities in penalizing crimes and even in investigating who the erring party was. Tying a guy up to a tree and letting the ants eat him alive would certainly be an interesting spectacle to these people who are wading on the taxes I pay to the Bureau of Internal Revenue. If only I could decide at what percentage the Philippine government deserves to get from my earnings, unfortunately if that happened, it'd probably be in the 1% to 5% range and nothing more, after finding out that 3 out of the top 5 executive agencies that get these are 1) the Department of Education, 2) the Department of Public Works and Highways and 3) the Department of Defense. Why should I even support these budget allocations when all I see are crappy (overpriced) facilities for the young Filipino students and how crappy their knowledge and use of English (pronunciation and grammar) is. Really? Filipinos online keep on BRAGGING about how good we are in English, but really, come on, these braggarts can't even type one sensible error-free sentence. And don't even get me started with the DPWH, shitty roads period. They can't even lay the cheap ass, low-grade asphalt (so contractors can churn the maintenance and get paid after every rainy season) flat on the road. The asphalt bulges up and becomes the speed bumps on the road. Wow, look at me, I'm driving on EDSA, a pothole to my left and asphalt speed bumps to my right. How about our pitiful military forces? For a supposedly free country, our soldiers still have to contend with communist insurgents and Muslim separatists. How free is that? Maybe we're a bit too liberal as a society to allow extreme divisiveness. Instead of spending and focusing on potential external threats, our military forces keep on getting distracted by skirmishes inside our country. Okay, maybe I'll just have to make the Department of National Defense an exception to my list, it might indeed be deserving of some funding. There's only so much one individual can do to transform things. Even a single witness can tempt fate and confess away, but we all know actions have consequences. It takes guts to tell all, especially when the deeds were designed to remain as secrets. The workers of monumental tombs were supposed to get buried with their overlord. No matter how much of the truth we try to tell to the public, the ultimate question is, do they pay attention?

All compositions, statements and opinions of the author are copyright © Earl T. Malvar 2009-2010. All rights reserved. There is no honor, respect, admiration, intellectual and academic dignity garnered through plagiarism.