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Analyzing the Obama Plan

Monday, January 5, 2009, 11:20 PM

One of my chief concerns is that our leaders in DC do not really understand the nature of this crisis and are therefore going to either perform ineffective actions or, worse, harmful ones.

I have been silently crossing my fingers beneath the table, hoping that Obama’s team would figure out that this crisis is unique and will require some non-status-quo solutions.

Although I titled this "Analyzing the Obama Plan," this is neither a partisan nor political posting, and not even as much a critique of Obama himself as it is an examination of how the DC machinery currently operates.  No one person controls much more than a sliver of the overall process and results that emanate from DC.

Now that there’s finally some meat on the plan which we can react to, let’s parse the numbers.

The Obama Plan

Obama's proposal to stimulate the economy includes tax cuts of up to $300 billion -- including $500 for most individuals and $1,000 for couples if one spouse is employed -- as well as more than $100 billion for businesses, an Obama transition official said.

The break would be retroactive to Jan. 1, and couples receiving a $1,000 tax cut would begin receiving an extra $40 in twice-monthly paychecks as the government tries to spark more consumer spending. [Edit: This is strangely worded.  The plan calls for less taxes to be taken out, not for extra money to be put in.  I wonder what happens to people who have opted for zero witholding?]

New federal spending, also aimed at boosting the moribund economy, could push the overall package to the range of $800 billion or so. Some $77 billion would be used to extend unemployment benefits and to subsidize health care for people who have lost their jobs.

Another provision brought to the negotiations by the Obama team would award a one-year tax credit costing $40-50 billion to companies that hire new workers, and would provide other incentives for business investment in new equipment.

The rest would go toward job-creation projects such as roads and bridges and toward long-term goals such as alternative energy programs.

To summarize:

  • $800 billion in total
  • $300 billion of that for tax cuts, resulting in $40 every two weeks for couples
  • Of the remaining $500 billion, $77 billion would go for extended unemployment benefits
  • Another $50 billion goes to companies that hire new workers
  • This leaves roughly $375 billion, spread over two years, to go towards infrastructure projects and possibly some alternative energy programs

Said another way, less than one tenth the amount promised to a destitute and undeserving financial industry ($8.5 trillion and counting) has been pledged as relief to taxpayers and state infrastructure budgets. I suppose the truest measure of one’s priorities are one’s actions.

Now, as I pointed out in Crash Course Chapter 13:  A National Failure to Save, engineering associations have estimated that the repair bill to bring US infrastructure up to first-world standards is more than $2 trillion.

That is, $2 trillion is the bill for repairing what we’ve already got. Getting a new smart grid, or high speed trains, or reconfiguring our public transit systems, or restoring our waterways for ship transit would be entirely above and beyond that number.

Here we might ask ourselves what impact $185 billion each year for two years would realistically provide. Sure, some jobs would be created, and this is a good thing. But my hoped-for infrastructure upgrade looks like little more than a stabilization project.

So I am hard-pressed to see this as a sufficient amount to begin to address our urgent infrastructure needs, especially when I wear my “non-status-quo” hat.

Instead of $800 billion tossed into a somewhat ordinary array of tax cuts, business incentives, and road repair, I was hoping for at least a glimmer of something new.

For starters, a non-status-quo approach would have us begin by admitting that the money lost on the real estate bubble has been hopelessly betrayed into unproductive works. In the words of the boomers themselves (once upon a time):  "Man, it’s gone."

Right there is Obama’s first opportunity. Come right out and say, “Man, all that phony wealth, it’s gone!” The truth is, the world was living on borrowed money and borrowed time, and both ran out. We partied way past our bedtime, and now is the time for a restorative rest, not another dose of artificial stimulant.

But DC doesn’t play the game of self-awareness, instead preferring bold actions and big spending.

So let’s play it with them.

Assuming that a massive round of government stimulus money is a foregone conclusion, then we might as well make the most of it and start by creating a set of national priorities.

Right now, as best as I can tell, the national priority is to get people shopping again. For reasons too numerable to mention here, that’s a failed plan. In fact, it’s no plan at all. It’s a reactive tactic. Attempting to reignite the debt-based, consumer model of years past will squander time and money.

My priorities would include creating truly livable communities where work, play, food, and entertainment all existed close to people's homes.

I would pour money into distributed solutions such as localized cogeneration plants,so that the waste heat from electrical generation was not waste at all, but a valuable by-product. Local communities would be more in control of their power and responsible for using it wisely.

I would establish massive grants for innovators and streamline the bureaucratic and corporate barriers to entry that stifle so many creative ideas before they have a chance to flap their wings even once in the public marketplace of ideas. Big corporations are good at some things, but off-the-wall innovation isn’t one of them. Let’s stoke the passions of garage tinkerers everywhere with prize money that would at least rival a winning lottery ticket.

Imagine what $5 billion could do for the permaculture movement. Or $50 billion for residential solar grants (not tax credits). Or $100 billion for applied research into energy efficiency and next-generation battery development. How many of our best and brightest would jump at the chance to put their energy into a national calling to creatively solve our biggest problems?

Any one of these would perk my ears up and make me take notice, because it would imply that somebody, somewhere understood the problems we actually face.

I will keep a close eye on the amount that actually gets directed towards "alternative evergy programs" and the portion of that heading somewhere other than existing ethanol plants in the districts of high-ranking politicians.

What we find in the plan is that families will get an extra $80/month, some bridges will get repainted, some roads resurfaced, and corporations will walk off with another $50 billion if they promise to hire more people.

For now, I reluctantly have to give the new stimulus package low marks for creativity. It is a status quo package with absolutely no surprises, except, possibly, for the amounts being discussed.

It may well soften the blow a little, and tide us over, but I see nothing in there that indicates a fresh round of new opportunities in the offing.

This only serves to confirm my belief that real change has to come from outside the beltway and be resolutely placed in the center of the bargaining table.

That’s where you come in.

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49 Comments

SteveS's picture
SteveS
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Re: Analyzing the Obama Plan

Chris,

Thanks again for the keen observations. My comment though is focused on what you don't say. I cannot thank you enough for keeping politics out of your message. I find too many well-meaning sites fall into a political discussion and there all is lost. Case in point - I was reading about the Fair Tax which was very intriguing, so I picked up a book about it. The author started off saying how the Fair Tax movement is and must be totally bipartisan, then a few pages later he started throwing very partisan politics around. I put the book down and never finished it.

It seem to me members of this site understand the apolitical nature of our problems, or perhaps more so the omni-political nature - meaning our economic woes stem from bad politics from all ends of the spectrum. 

I know it is hard to discuss a nation's state and not get into a political discussion and Chris, you must be a tightrope walker since you handle it so well. I've tried to discern your political persusions and it eludes me. Thanks - keep it that way, you're doing a great job.

 

Davos's picture
Davos
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Re: Analyzing the Obama Plan

Great breakdown and analysis!

 

"This leaves roughly $375 billion, spread over two years, to go towards infrastructure projects and possibly some alternative energy programs

 

...and lobbyists and pork and? 

 

A. M.'s picture
A. M.
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Re: Analyzing the Obama Plan

Chris,

Thanks for the excellent write up.
I was listening to the details of this plan this morning on NPR, and it struck me that this is indicitive of a larger mentality that has really taken root in American Culture; and that is treating symptoms instead of addressing causes. From medicine to violence, we're only trying to apply topical remedies.

In this case, they're trying to solve rampant overspending and underproduction by increasing overspending. Seems to make sense to the layman...

The image that comes to my mind is a run-away bus, in which the occupants have no seat-belts.

It keeps accelerating, and though it hasn't hit anything yet - it's inevitable at some point. The buses speed is tantamount to the economy, which is increasing; while the occupants represent the folks who stand to be hurt in this equation. When the economy finally hits a jersey barrier, the momentum is going to throw people from the bus... It's hard to tell if it'll be the Bankers driving, or the politicians and CEO in the front seat, or the farmers and laborers in the back.

Either way - applying the breaks at this point in time probably will just cause a different manner of accident, and the only safe place to be is outside the bus.

Cheers!

capesurvivor's picture
capesurvivor
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Re: Analyzing the Obama Plan

Helpful analysis, Chris, and reinforces the idea that change comes from the periphery, not from established power bases. We boomers also used to say "power to the people". It just occurs to me as I write this that we should have been concerned about electric power, LOL! 

One would like to hear an Inaugural Address that addresses Triple E problems but... 

SG 

Downrange's picture
Downrange
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Re: Analyzing the Obama Plan

Thanks for a very nice synopsis and commentary.  The key point I take away is the comparison of the trifling amount planned to go to "consumers" compared with the "bank-saving" trillion or two thus far shot into a black hole.  That relationship is totally out of whack and must be reversed if the "Titanic" is to stay afloat a bit longer.

bearing01's picture
bearing01
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Re: Analyzing the Obama Plan

The real question - Where's the money going to come from to pay for all this?

As long as the Fed Reserve is monetizing this debt it's all paid for with inflation.  The Fed can't create wealth.  If this isn't paid with earned money (savings) then all it will do is redistribute the wealth.  For every dollar the gov't spends to create some inefficient job there will be a job lost somewhere else in the private sector. The ones getting the bailout or new jobs will benefit at the expense of everyone else.  As prices rise (due to inflation) the companies further down the money food chain that operate at low profit margins will fail and produce unemployment on that end.

This is just one big disaster.  The gov't is just making it worst.

Lemonyellowschwin's picture
Lemonyellowschwin
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Re: Analyzing the Obama Plan

Given that our government is insolvent, doesn't any money spent and any money given away, and any tax cuts simply put more wood on the currency bonfire?

Mike Pilat's picture
Mike Pilat
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Re: Analyzing the Obama Plan

The complete lack of understanding on the part of our government truly frightens me. It's not where we are right now that's so bad, it's where we're headed. And I'm honestly a bit surprised that those who wanted "change" seem to have desires that might (perhaps literally??) be only skin deep. I don't want to judge the next President too early, but thus far, I have seen nothing but a hardcore push back to status quo, bureacratic Keynesianism. Where is the intelligence? Where are the protests? Why aren't career bureaucrats frightened about losing their own jobs?!!

The subversive irresponsibility of money-printing angers me, but I agree with Chris on this. If we're going to spend the money, this might be the very last Keynesian "boost" we'll ever be able to give the economy. Let's make sure we aim before we shoot. Unfortunately, it seems many in Washington, like their fellow Americans, fail to grasp the difference between paper dollars and wealth or capital. Sure we have a financial crisis, but we can print money. I doubt we're going to find a way to print oil anytime soon, so it's time we started to focus on the oil crisis, amongst many others.

I think the stage is getting set for some severe destabilization in the medium term. Bureacracy and overpowered government are "luxurious" complexities only available to civilizations with a great surplus of wealth. We are yet falling into the abyss in America, but we have most certainly depleted any surplus, so we had better plan our next steps very carefully. Try convincing Washington to get out of the way and it will feel as though you are attempting to persuade a sycamore into running a marathon. 

Yes this is a financial crisis, but Washington has failed to grasp the true reality. Finance is something of an artificial (and luxurious) construct of humankind. Food, heat, transportation, and shelter are far from artificial. You can feel them.

Frustrated,

Mike

bearing01's picture
bearing01
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Re: Analyzing the Obama Plan

Tax cuts would be okay provided the gov't reduced its spending in a commensurate manner.  However, it's only spending more.  As you said, the gov't is insolvent.  Considering the gov't has to borrow bigger sums and cuts taxes to reduce its income for paying its existing debt obligations and prints more money to pay for its debts (monetizing the debt) which means the debts are being paid with diluted dollars... yes the dollar is toast.   The dollar is only alive because other countries have been proping it up to keep the party going.  It's becoming a bigger expense for the rest of the world at our benefit.   When the music stops those left holding dollar savings will be the loosers.

We have not sunk yet because people still need to raise dollars to pay off their huge debts.  Also, coordinated central bank interest rates are creating inflated / weaker money supplies in most of the countries so exchange rates are some-what holding. Also, the gov'ts have been interfering in the gold market to keep it down to make the dollar appear not as weak.  When the huge money supply begins to get lent out and obama dollars start flowing the huge money supply will create big money velocity and watch out inflated prices.  When dollar holders feel that inflation will not be haulted then the dollar will crash when everyone tries to buy today instead of tomorrow, unless interest rates rocket up to save it.  Then the newly created obama bubble economy will crash because all the weak companies addicted/relying on cheap credit will fail.

bearing01's picture
bearing01
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Re: Analyzing the Obama Plan

I don't agree with any Keynesian shot in the arm if it's going to inflate the money supply.  The economy will only survive until the fix wears off and will just crash again if it doesn't get another.  It's not like jump-starting a car.  It's like giving a shot of heroin to a drug addict in rehab to help him get off drugs.

The reason we had a bust was because too many people & companies over invested and malinvested in an economy that appeared strong & wealthy but really it was fantom equity wealth and debt, not savings.   All these companies were profitable as long as the credit they operated on was cheap and inflation kept prices rising faster than wages were increasing.  The Fed was intentionally blowing up a credit bubble because the interest rates were forced below the natural interest rate supported by the savings rate of people.  Last year when the dollar started to get too weak from the inflation and prices became far too high the fed raised the interest rates.  The barely profitable companies relying on cheap credit became unprofitable.  People could not afford to buy houses at more sensible interest rates and lending standards.  

We need a recession to clean out all the bad investments, failed non-profitable companies and to put unemployed home builders in other jobs that do demand their services.  A shot in the arm keeps the failed economy on the same road to no where.

azzenstudent's picture
azzenstudent
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Re: Analyzing the Obama Plan

 

At the moment, there is little that Obama can do except pursue conventional wisdom to its logical dead-end. We have a consumption-based economy that has crashed. There's nothing waiting in the wings, so we will attempt to supercharge the old economy with stimulus. Once this failure becomes obvious, the real work begins.

We need to be clear that the viewpoints expressed here are so far from the mainstream that we may as well be speaking Esperanto. We are already convinced. Unfortunately, pretty much everyone else is not. Getting Obama, or Geithner or Summers to understand our viewpoint will require the old paradigm failing without causing the kind of catastrohe that brings about military juntas. How this unfolds will be interesting in the proverbial Chinese sense.

Optimism, yes! Opportunity is everywhere and we need minds exercised with duress to discover new things. Chris is exactly right. Tinkering in the garage will do more to change the economy than anything the Fed or Treasury can conjure.

Arthur Vibert's picture
Arthur Vibert
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Re: Analyzing the Obama Plan

To paraphrase JH Kunstler, as long as we persist in believing that the "happy motoring, blue-light special" world is just a bailout away, we're going straight down the road to economic hell.

I think this is bigger than our (or anyone else's, for that matter) government can fix. It's not going away. The best moves, in my opinion, are local moves. Do what you can to make your neighborhood/community resilient and prepared. If we all do this, perhaps there's a chance. If we wait for the government to fix it, I think we will have a very long wait indeed.

Arthur

Dogs_In_A_Pile's picture
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Re: Analyzing the Obama Plan

Chris -

Great post.  I'd like to run with the "Man it's gone" theme a bit. 

You have written in the past about the enormous challenges to 'fix' Social Security solvency.  How feasible would it be for some future administration to come along and illustrate to the American people that SS is broken and the cost to fix isn't worth it?  Lets say legislation is drafted that proposes to continue paying those who are already on SS or will be in the next three years, but SS as the rest of you know it is done.  Poof - gone.  Thanks for your tax payments for the last 30-40 years of your employed lives, but the system is broken and can't be fixed.  You get nothing - Next in line please.

I pulled the following info from an article I found by Andrew Samwick.  http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2004/10/the_social_secu.html

The info is a bit dated and I am paraphrasing and condensing.  In 2004 SS had a projected unfunded obligation of $10.4 trillion in the Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) program. This was over and above all of the payroll taxes (12.4 percent of taxable payroll) and income taxes on benefits that go to support the program under current law. 

The problem with this implicit debt is just like that of explicit debt - we accrue interest on that debt as a function of the current interest rate.  Back in 04 it was around 3%, taking the implicit debt of $10.4 trillion, the implicit debt will grow by 0.03*10.4 trillion = $312 billion, up to $10.7 trillion.  $300B!!! and then Crash Course Chapters 4 and 10 kick in and the problem is exacerbated by failure to reform.

Do you have any idea wht the current numbers look like?  Is it even possible to enact viable reform in the current environment?  Can we reform SS to the point where we can project at or near zero unfunded obligations?  It seems to me that the only way to get there is through deep reductions in future benefits and/or increases in future taxes.  I get the sense that the problem is too huge to overcome with conventional legislation and reform and some of our 'leaders' on Capitol Hill may just have to commit political suicide and embrace some form of "Man it's gone" reform. 

What's the worst that can happen if it's going to happen anyway?  Or in the immortal and prescient words of Publilius Syrus:

"Tis foolish to fear what you cannot avoid."  (ca. 100 BC)

 

Keep up the superb work.

bearing01's picture
bearing01
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Re: Analyzing the Obama Plan

Ron Paul has been standing up in Congress telling everyone that gov't can do nothing but make matters worst.  He told them we would have today's problems while Bernanke and Paulson told everyone things were running great.  Yet, Bernanke and Paulson are trying to solve problems they didn't see coming.  Ron Paul's words have been falling on deaf ears.  In four years when the economy is still in recession maybe we will want change once again.

Kathy Nestell's picture
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Re: Analyzing the Obama Plan

Martenson for President 2012!!!  Vote for CHANCE!

 

 

Mike Pilat's picture
Mike Pilat
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Re: Analyzing the Obama Plan

Paulson and Bernanke and Bush would pretty much be utterly irrelevant except for the power they have as a result of our military and the fiat money system. But (at least in theory) they hold no real hard power over either of these. If the people reject fiat, then there's little the government can do. Likewise if the military finally says enough is enough with our aggressive war policies, then hopefully we can keep under control.

I don't agree with the concept of a Keynesian shot in the arm. But I'll tragically admit that I've somewhat lowered the bar for Washington because unfortunately I don't honestly see a complete abandonement of Keynesian economics anytime soon. I just wish the freshly printed FRNs went where they were needed. I'm also not particularly fond of increasing taxes on the rich, but to the extent that the rich are rich because they were bailed out, then perhaps there's some justice. But really it's just patching more and more band aids on a failed system. 

I don't know about anyone else, but I think the national mood has shifted ever so slightly. Instead of complete, absolute, and blind euphoria in the wake of the election, I think it might be starting to set in that Obama is A) only one person, and B) not God. 

Some day, future historians might charge Bush or Barack with "fiddling as oil peaked." I only wish the government was fiddling (i.e. doing nothing) right now. It's depressing for me to see the tragic direction Washington is enthusiastically aiming this nation in. 

Mike

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Re: Analyzing the Obama Plan

Can we really call it a tax cut.  A healthy percentage of those receiving it don't pay taxes to begin with.  More like a handout...

And do we really need more handouts?  Is that really a good message for Washington to give in a recession?  And if it is...wheres my handout.  

mainecooncat's picture
mainecooncat
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Re: Analyzing the Obama Plan

To quote the poster formerly known as Student of Jefferson:

"Some day, future historians might charge Bush or Barack with 'fiddling as oil peaked.'"

Bulls-eye.

nodebthere's picture
nodebthere
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Re: Analyzing the Obama Plan

Hi:

 Well done !! Blog and opinions were great .

 Re my earlier  blogs : The Titanic has already hit the iceberg and we just have some else at the helm and we don't have enough life boats!!!

I am glad Barak is going to be in office, as I'm sure many Canadians are. Please get yourself out of debt!!!!

                                                                                                            Bob Gordon

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cannotaffordit
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Re: Analyzing the Obama Plan

Yes, Kathy.  Marteson for President in 2012.   Or, even BETTER, Martenson for Treasury Secretary NOW......and then on to President in 2012.

Do any of you have a way, directly or indirectly, to get a copy of The Crash Course into Obama's hands.  (How about slipping one to his girls, to take home to Daddy one night soon?)   I'd be more than happy to donate another 30+ of them, if someone can figure out how to get the whole "Transition Team" exposed to it quickly.

 I'm not kidding !!!    We've gotta think BIG. 

Look, if we want 5 to 10 million to be exposed to it, why wouldn't it be good if Obama were one of the early ones?   Hey, here's an idea.  How about getting Oprah excited about it.....like how about getting our man Chris on the Oprah show?  That ought to get it to Obama fairly quickly.  She is big on wanting to "educate" people to new and better ideas.

How about it? 

castlewp's picture
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Re: Analyzing the Obama Plan

Ben,

The only problem is that the MSM won't touch this subject in terms of Peak Oil. It is NEVER mentioned.  They will talk about alternative energy, but never Peak Oil.  Too much reality for the sheeple to handle.

 

kemosavvy's picture
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Re: Analyzing the Obama Plan

like milton friedman has said before and other economists have noted, "a tax cut without a decrease in government spending is (eventually) a tax increase", and to delve a little deeper, the only way this 'tax cut' would be sustainable without a tax increase would be if your economy happens to have growth large enough to increase the tax base by the amount less received by the 'tax cut'. tough chance of that happening for obama. in other words, a tax cut is actually a future tax increase.

alot of people on this site predict a financial collpase and frankly the possibility of that is low. i, on the otherhand, predict a very large tax increase, maybe to the point of 50-60% of household income... but not in the predictable sort of tax increase kind of way. maybe a european style VAT tax, fuel taxes, additional surcharges levied to all forms of business, new licenses and fees for internet sites, i could go on and on but i won't.

time to start applying for citizenship in a country with a low tax rate, clean water, plenty of farmland, and a sustainable economy. suggestions?

Mike Pilat's picture
Mike Pilat
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Re: Analyzing the Obama Plan

Yeah, I truly have considered some options in terms of moving out. I have the greatest respect for those like Chris that continue on in the hopes of making things better. Personally, though, I would feel much better knowing that I had a safe haven outside the country if things got really bad.

In what countries can you even get citizenship without having lived there for many years??? My guess would be that the types of countries that grant citizenship easily are probably the types of countries people generally are not flooding with immigration. Any thoughts on this??

 

Mike 

Davos's picture
Davos
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Re: Analyzing the Obama Plan

Hello Mike:

I read that Switzerland will take you, I think it was for $125,000.00, the book was old. Some countries don't allow you to own real estate.

I think the Casey Group was saying Argentina, I suppose they feel they are on the mend now.

Interesting topic none the less. Take care

bearing01's picture
bearing01
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Re: Analyzing the Obama Plan

You don't need a citizenship to live in another country.  All you need is a work visa.  Canada has plenty of farm land, a balanced fical budget with total public debt around 25% GDP, solid banking system, a fully funded Social Security and Medicare system and one of the few countries that aren't suffering a housing problem right now.  And it's just a car ride or short plane trip away.

The easiest way would be if you have a university education and you accept a job with a Canadian company.  They would get the work visa for you.  I can't comment anymore than that.  I am a Canadian who Immigrated to the USA via the employment route.

http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/index.asp

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Re: Analyzing the Obama Plan

Thanks Davos for all you're doing, and particularly this info on Switzerland & Argentina. 

Like Mike and others, I've been seeking info on the subject of long term legal residency / citizenship requirements for American citizens without family ties in other countries to little or no avail.

If anyone has any knowledge on the subject, (beyond, "marry a local"), I'd love to hear it.

 

Thanks in advance,

- Love my country, but my kids more.

ckessel's picture
ckessel
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Re: Analyzing the Obama Plan
Arthur Vibert wrote:

To paraphrase JH Kunstler, as long as we persist in believing that the "happy motoring, blue-light special" world is just a bailout away, we're going straight down the road to economic hell.

I think this is bigger than our (or anyone else's, for that matter) government can fix. It's not going away. The best moves, in my opinion, are local moves. Do what you can to make your neighborhood/community resilient and prepared. If we all do this, perhaps there's a chance. If we wait for the government to fix it, I think we will have a very long wait indeed.

Arthur

Arthur,

I agree. Local stimulus rewarding innovation is our only faintest chance this late in the game. More business as usual will be no help at all. Shortages in fuel and food will mark the beginning of the end. I expect that the energy consumptive solutions as regards employment and infrastructure improvements will run up against peak oil quickly. Duck and run as we will be competing directly with China and the rest of the world for what is able to be extracted and for that I don't think we have long to wait.

Coop

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Re: Analyzing the Obama Plan

Thanks for the insightful comments, Chris.  There is something I believe we need to keep in mind when analyzing this...

Forgive the analogy, but as a pilot it is what comes to mind-

The aircraft is overloaded and out of fuel.  We are going to have to ditch at sea in bad weather.  The original flight crew who got us into this mess is in the aft lavatories losing their lunch or donning parachutes and it is up to a relief crew - selected mainly on the basis that they have flown small single engine airplanes in the past - to get us through.   So what does the new captain say to the passengers?

Of course, it is things like, "fasten your seat belts, remove all sharp objects from your pockets, take off your shoes, hold a pillow on your lap, don your life vest, etc. etc.".  He/She will give cursory information about the plan for ditching, exits, rafts, rescue ships in the area, and an outline what to do after - all in as a calm and authoritative voice as possible.   He/She may even go further and, like John Wayne in "The High and the Mighty" tell them how some airplanes have remained afloat after ditching so long that they became hazards of navigation.  The Captain knows that if he keeps people calm and maintains some order on board, some of them may survive the impending crash. 

In the current circumstances, I don't expect any president or president-elect to be totally frank.   To do so would in fact be irresponsible as it could lead to total chaos.   

Due to this fact, as well as the fact that Obama has to deal with huge pressures from established power blocks, trying to devine how good or bad his reaction will be, or even what it will entail, is going to be a very difficult task.

 

 

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mpelchat
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Re: Analyzing the Obama Plan

I live around Detroit. Our road ways have been falling apart for years to the point that concrete is falling down from under bridges as well as a long list of other infrastructure problems.

With reference to the road way bridges, the general solution was to sand blast under the bridge, repaint metal I-beams and put plywood reinforced with 2X4's between the metal I-beams so when more concrete falls it will not hit cars going under them.

Another great solution is to black top roads with half the required materials each year than once the pot holes come back during winter patch it with a tar and rock mixture. When an offical was asked why the roads are not fixed properly he stated "We can cover twice the road doing it this way."

This is the mentality we are dealing with in our elected officials.

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castlewp
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Social Security Announces benefits increase for 2009.

Social Security has good tidings to share with Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries: they will receive a 5.8 percent increase in benefit payments beginning with the January payments! 

I'm confused. How and why does this happen?  Any ideas?

Bill 

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Xflies
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Great Post Chris, I gave up on this site for a few weeks

fustrated by the seemingly one-sidedness but I'm glad I came back.  This post was not only informative and non-political, but it came with fantastic suggestions on what to do, and how to do it.  This paved the way for other responses to add on to the suggestion list or to critique the suggestions given.  It's fantastic!  As a phsyical natgas storage operator, I know a thing or two about the energy markets and alternatives... your idea on cogens is one we've been pitching for a long time and I was just looking at putting in solar panels but was surprised to see that there was no tax break or incentive to do it and the payback was still too long.  One thing I would throw in there is legislation on packaging recognizing how useless and wasteful packaging really is.  A marketing company would be wary being the first to be socially responsible and cut down on the packaging fearing the competitors would have an edge but if it was mandated, everyone would just get used to less packaging.

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Davos
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Re: Analyzing the Obama Plan

Hello Pandamonium:

Great analogy, but I'd go much further: The flight called Economy 13 was run by an airline that hired Lorenzo who subsequently contracted the maintenance out to Enron whose accountants fixed the EGT, fuel and oil gauges and even programmed the FMS and even trained the new crew, a bunch of abinitios who paid the airline to sit right seat until they had enough hours to get their ATP. We are now out of fuel, our engines melted off the wing because the gauge was in the green when it should have been in the red and we are going to turn into the mountainess terrain because the FMS is jacked.  I thought the FAA were AH's but I have to hand it to them, one govt. agency that doesn't cook the data, can you imagine if the BEA or BLS spit out the ATIS?

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castlewp
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Re: Analyzing the Obama Plan

I thought this was an interesting opinion/prediction from a fellow blogger.  Your take?

"I see several similarities to how Obama is doing things, adding all of the fun new acronyms to out financial system just how FDR did. FDR also called a "bank holiday" which I see coming from Obama shortly after his inauguration. I think he will freeze trading and also transactional accounts until his economic team can "figure it out"


His "so called" solution will be to have Hank Paulsen call a Force Meajure eventually when the Dow hits 4,000 or less basically saying that the economy is a "force beyond their control" at which point the IMF will step forward and offer to sell gold to the US in exchange for the dollar in order to back a new gold backed currency.

This is the reason the IMF has been secretly BOOSTING the price of gold over the past 5 years IN MY OPINION, because they knew they would end up selling it back at some point, and they are also "IN SELLING", within member countries at only $54 dollars an ounce so they are stockpiling gold taken OUT of the US only to sell it back to us shortly at a 600% return. That is the reason they boosted the price so high, to encourage people to sell so they would have the ability to re-sell to the USA during this upcoming period of time. I am a firm believer that when the World Bank or the IMF place up new FAQ's, it means they are DOING IT ALREADY, and they have that FAQ up about in-selling already.

OK two bad things will come from this. First of all we will have the new currency eventually and it will be backed by gold (well somewhat), but in order for there to be enough gold to back a new currency 2 things must happen. The currency will basically be introduced at half the value of the dollar or less,so all accounts holding retirement, etc will drop in value by half or more over night. Values of homes, anything dollar based etc...all drop by 50% at least.

The second bad thing is that gold value will have to match currency outstanding since they will pseudo back the currency with gold, so gold will go from $800 an ounce, down to about $60 an ounce. So there will be HUGE backlash by all of the people who have been hoarding gold thinking it is a "safe investment", I feel otherwise.

I want to express to you these are only my opinions and I can't make time frame predictions, but I can tell you that one huge trigger will when you see a SINGLE country pull a significant amout out of the US economy, that is your tag sign for downfall in my opinion, that is when the plunge to a 4,000 DOW or less begins." 

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Matt Holbert
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Re: Analyzing the Obama Plan

bearing01  As someone who is married to a Canadian citizen, I have been visiting Canada -- and talking with in-laws -- for 20 plus years.  I -- and my wife -- are always struck by how Canadians think that they are immune to U. S. trends.  Up until about 2 months ago Canadians thought that their housing prices were not going to drop.  They have just begun to realize that prices will drop dramatically.  As the US goes, so goes Canada.  Canada does have more resources per capita than the US and are not in an overshoot situation per se.  However, as we know, the US will not let a little thing like sovereignty get in the way of "acquiring" resources. 

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Re: Analyzing the Obama Plan

Hi Davos:

I agree that my analogy didn't go far enough.

Davos wrote:

"can you imagine if the BEA or BLS spit out the ATIS"

No,I can't.  That's a good analogy too (though if the altimeter setting and wind speed/direction were way off, it would be pretty obvious while still on the ground).    But time and again the FAA has failed to follow safety recommendations from the NTSB (not that they always should) and we also have had companies that routinely cooked the books on maintenance they failed to perform or did improperly, weight and balance fudging,  overworked crews and so on, sometimes with catastrophic results.  

You're right - the situation is more dire than my analogy.  All the more reason that we cannot expect candor from Obama, or pin any hopes on the new administration taking corrective action.  There is no easy way out at this point.  Chris's analysis is as good as it gets here.  My  point was just that it is a difficult area to explore due to the lack of openness.

On the other hand we are not quite in the same situation as passengers on a plane.  Those of us who look for it do have sources (like this website) for good information and the ability to take some action on our own and with our local communities  to greatly improve our chances.  

Cheers.

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bearing01
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Re: Analyzing the Obama Plan

 

 Peter Schiff Interview about the US Treasury bubble and Obama's Plan.   

http://watch.bnn.ca/clip127416#clip127416

 

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bearing01
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Re: Analyzing the Obama Plan

The USA is one of the "good guy's"  and we don't go occupying other countries for their resources.  The USA would have to invade Canada with military force to occupy it.  But why bother?  Canada already exports everything it can (includinging all resources/commodities) to the USA.  This is why/how Canada has a trade surplus and has been paying down its national debt!  The reason Canada is in recession right now is because 40% of Canadian GDP is its exports to the USA.  Therefore, USA's recession creates a Canadian recession.  Canada now has to find a new customer (hint, Asia)

Because Canada is in recession, yes, the prices of houses are now falling in some cities.  It is not even close to being a similar problem as in the USA or Europe.  Europe adopted the USA's policy of having the investment banks underwrite all the mortgage loans out as investment bonds to investors.  This took the mortgage liability off the banks balance sheet and off the hook for making bad mortgages.  Because banks didn't own the mortgage debt they were willing to sell mortgages to people that didn't have jobs!  Then G.Bush passes a bill in 12/07 to forgive Americans of the capital gains tax if a bank short sells the house at a price lower than the the mortgage principal and forgives the difference.  Because Americans bought houses with no money down and can walk away without financial penalty there is no incentive for Americans to keep paying the mortgages on their over priced houses.  Canadians however did not have a credit bubble and therefore a housing bubble from relaxed lending standards.  If a Canadian stops paying their mortgage they are still liable for the entire mortgage principle unless they claim bankrupcy.  Therefore, people are not walking away from their houses in Canada like in the USA, because those who qualified for mortgages could actually afford them.  The Canadian housing market has come down a few percent in certain Cities like Edmonton, Calgary and Toronto.  In Edmonton and Calgary it was Oil money driving up the house prices and now with those workers laid off there are no buyers.  In Toronto, the industrial center that exports much to the USA, the market has softened as well but some particular areas (like down town) People can still sell for more than they bought 2 years ago.  It is projected that the Cdn housing market will decline somewhere around 3 to 5% in 2009.

Not that Canadians think they're Immune... they just don't pay attention to USA too much.  I've been telling my wife's parents for over a year now that the USA will enter a deep recession and Canada will likely have recession also.  They're retired and on good pensions.  They were living in their own little world and because they weren't seeing or feeling any recession in Canada they weren't looking for it.

Besides, today we're in a World recession and it's all because of our Federal Reserve and the Inflation & Credit bubble it has created!

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bearing01
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Re: Analyzing the Obama Plan

I don't believe the IMF has been boosting the price of gold.  That would be deliberately weakening the US dollar.  GATA has found that gold has actually been held down to make the dollar appear stronger with all the Inflation the Fed has been creating.  This gives false confidence in the superiority of the US dollar!  Also, if we were to go back to a gold standard it can't be an overnight process.  If the dollar isn't valued properly according to gold then the new standard will fail.  They won't be valuing gold at $60/oz because that would make the dollar 14 times stronger than it is today.  When FDR revalued gold he did it to devalue the dollar by 40% (to hault inflation).  If the US were to go on a gold standard then gold would probably become $1500/oz or more like maybe even $5000/oz considering all the money printing that Obama will require to buy bonds to keep interest rates low and to fund his $750,000,000,000 stimulus package next month. That $750 Billion by the way is not included in the more than $1.2 trillion budget deficit for 2008.

I also don't think we will have a banking holiday.  When FDR did that they shortly after passed the Glass-Steagall act (1933) where they introduced the the creation of the FDIC to insure banking deposits to prevent future bank runs.  They also reformed the banking system to separate investment banking from commercial banking.  You'd only see another holiday if there was fear of another bank run or they were to restructure the banking system. 

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Ray Hewitt
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The Obama Plan is about power

This only serves to confirm my belief that real change has to come from
outside the beltway and be resolutely placed in the center of the
bargaining table.

That’s where you come in.

Chris and his followers have no idea what they are dealing with. Politics is about money and power.The powers-that-be won't give it up if they have to destroy this country. You have no political influence; you're a tiny fringe group and and going nowhere. You'll be frustrated all your lives waiting for doomsday scenarios to come true. Only one is going to happen, the  mother of all Depressions. My advice is to give more thought to personal survival. You're not going to save the human race. Christians have been wasting their time on that one for 2,000 years. That's my opinion.

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mainecooncat
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Re: Analyzing the Obama Plan

He lives!

Pandabonium's picture
Pandabonium
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Posts: 88
Re: Analyzing the Obama Plan

Hi Mike,

This is something I've looked into for a very long time (over 20 years).   The answer depends on what it is you want to do (other than simply getting out of the US) as well as what your situation is financially.  Also, is it residency you want or actual citizenship?  The latter will generally require 5 years of residency.   I have expat American friends in each of the countries I will mention here.  

Costa Rica has some attractrive options.  Panama offers residency with a $20k investment in real estate.  Malaysia has an excellent residency program with a relatively low savings and income requirement. Thailand is OK too, but has been tightening in recent years.  I presently live in Japan and will apply for citizenship in another year (I am married to a Japanese citizen which is why I can stay here unrelated to any job). Fiji now offers a residency program, but it requires bank deposits of Fijian $200k which is about US$116k. 

I have land in Fiji and one option that I know others are following is to have a 2nd home (or family or friends to stay with) in another country such as Tonga or New Zealand,  Then travelling between homes every several months.    But one can stay in Fiji for up to 6 months on a tourist visa, then go to nearby Tonga for a few months and come back to Fiji or move on to a 3rd home.  New Zealand's tourist visa rules are more complicated, but not impossible.  Could get tiring though and there are many details to work out - not the least of which is who takes care of the farm when you're away.  I had all that worked out at one point, but due to various things that happened, decided to stay in Japan for the time being.  My income is well below the $80k exemption limit, so I don't pay US taxes anymore.

Even if you don't act on it right away, exploring the possibilities is a good idea IMO.   Charles Lindbergh used to advise that in planning, we should always have a "back door" - ie a plan B.  I've excercised mine and am very glad that I did.  I have a plan C and D as well. 

Best of luck.

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Mike Pilat
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Posts: 929
Re: Analyzing the Obama Plan

Ray:

I agree with you that taking care of yourself and your family should probably come first. If you and your family are not feeling secure, then there is no way that any good can come out of this.

But without sounding like much of an elitist myself, I am grateful that the past few years I've had a great number of opportunities to study these interlinked crises and learn about potential for mitigation. Chris's website is one of the best resources I have found to network and exchange information about these related topics. I feel interested, but also obligated in sharing what I know with other people, regardless of the opportunities for direct personal gain. 

I believe that the Establishment has clouded related and even denied it and I think most of the public is warming up to this. But most people don't have an understanding to fill the vacuum and that's where all of us can come in. No one is being forced to try to change the political system, it is all voluntary. I think just about everyone on here realizes that the political system is the 600 lb. gorilla. Even if we don't change it, when it all comes crashing down eventually, I hope that some common sense and truth will enter the system. Historically, I admit this is unlikely, but I also acknowledge that history will tell us the stakes are HUGE.

Mike 

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Ray Hewitt
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The Obama Plan is about power

MIke

I've been involved in libertarian causes since Ayn Rand in the 60s. I know the nature of politics from every conceivable angle. What disturbs me on this site is that so many causes depend on political influence. That requires money taken from taxpayers and all kinds of coercion. That's only feeding the beast. You, meaning Chris's followers, don't want to go in that direction.

This website is at its best when it teaches the evils of big government and ways to live independent from it. Politically speaking, I see a runaway freight train. You don't want to get in the way.

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Mike Pilat
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Posts: 929
Re: Analyzing the Obama Plan

Ray:

I'm 100% with you on that. I'm a strong libertarian and I think I'm mostly in line with Chris when I say that the goal here is just to reach a critical mass and inform as many as possible. If that succeeds, then I think it will naturally flow into politics.

Our political system is so blatantly corrupt now that I have no delusions of taking it on directly. The only way this movement will succeed is if it truly erupts at the grass roots level. 

I think we can agree in saying that the solutions to these problems are require Big Brother to get out of the way. Re-localizing and becoming more efficient in our lives flies in the face of a nearly omnipotent central power. Ultimately, this is a power struggle. I see it this way: if we can get the message out fast enough to enough people while we still have the means to disseminate information and at least a credible threat to repel government oppression, we have a shot. But if we let the government plunder everyone's wealth and property first, then we will have reached the end of the road to serfdom. 

Re-localization is eventually inevitable no matter what. I would much prefer to retain my liberties and relocalize on my terms because of the limitations of the earth rather than be forced to relocalize on the terms of the government and in effect become enslaved. 

The sense of euphoria that Obama has created already seems to be slightly tempered. I hope that people will start to think once again and realize we have systemic failures. Ultimately, however, the American people have been poor keepers of their own Liberty. This must change. I believe education is the linchpin and I want as many Americans educated on this as soon as possible. 

You speak of "getting out of the way" of the freight train. There certainly is a runaway train here, but I see a continual disappearance of places to hide. This website can help in that, but ultimately, if we just continue to get out of the way, we will have given up all of our rights, no?

Thanks for your comments.

Mike 

pjc's picture
pjc
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 26 2008
Posts: 30
Re: Analyzing the Obama Plan

How does Chris get his views to Obama's desk, as well as to as many Americans as possible?

Isn't there a route of citizen information into the White House?

How many subscribers and guest are available to send a format e-mail to Congressional members promoting www.chrismartensen.com?

Ron Shimshock's picture
Ron Shimshock
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
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Posts: 35
Re: Analyzing the Obama Plan
prema_camp wrote:

How does Chris get his views to Obama's desk, as well as to as many Americans as possible?

Isn't there a route of citizen information into the White House?

How many subscribers and guest are available to send a format e-mail to Congressional members promoting www.chrismartensen.com?

prema_camp,

I recommend you check out the Promoting the Crash Course area in the Forums.  Lots of good discussions going on there.  Also probably would be a good start if when informing people we get the website address right ... it's www.PeakProsperity.com, not chrismartensen.  Wink

Ron

pjc's picture
pjc
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
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Posts: 30
Re: Analyzing the Obama Plan

Thank you Ron.

I found a response I liked under "Promotion" from Scott in Madison WI. As I'm in India 10 mos. a year in retirement service,  I'll follow his suggestions on my return. I did send a letter to an Obama address. And e-mailed the reports to a list until enough people said it was too much information. Now I read "martenson" daily, adjusting my living in response and adding to the growing energy of Chris's and other contributors' views.

Prema

SamLinder's picture
SamLinder
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Posts: 1499
Re: Analyzing the Obama Plan
Pandabonium wrote:

Hi Mike,

This is something I've looked into for a very long time (over 20 years).   The answer depends on what it is you want to do (other than simply getting out of the US) as well as what your situation is financially.  Also, is it residency you want or actual citizenship?  The latter will generally require 5 years of residency.   I have expat American friends in each of the countries I will mention here.  

Costa Rica has some attractrive options.  Panama offers residency with a $20k investment in real estate.  Malaysia has an excellent residency program with a relatively low savings and income requirement. Thailand is OK too, but has been tightening in recent years.  I presently live in Japan and will apply for citizenship in another year (I am married to a Japanese citizen which is why I can stay here unrelated to any job). Fiji now offers a residency program, but it requires bank deposits of Fijian $200k which is about US$116k. 

I have land in Fiji and one option that I know others are following is to have a 2nd home (or family or friends to stay with) in another country such as Tonga or New Zealand,  Then travelling between homes every several months.    But one can stay in Fiji for up to 6 months on a tourist visa, then go to nearby Tonga for a few months and come back to Fiji or move on to a 3rd home.  New Zealand's tourist visa rules are more complicated, but not impossible.  Could get tiring though and there are many details to work out - not the least of which is who takes care of the farm when you're away.  I had all that worked out at one point, but due to various things that happened, decided to stay in Japan for the time being.  My income is well below the $80k exemption limit, so I don't pay US taxes anymore.

Even if you don't act on it right away, exploring the possibilities is a good idea IMO.   Charles Lindbergh used to advise that in planning, we should always have a "back door" - ie a plan B.  I've excercised mine and am very glad that I did.  I have a plan C and D as well. 

Best of luck.

You can run, but you can't hide: Wink

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/01/08/world/main4708094.shtml

(AP) 

A strong earthquake shook Costa Rica
on Thursday, shattering windows, cracking walls and sending frightened
residents running into the streets of the capital.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or major damage.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the 6.1 magnitude temblor was
centered 22 miles northwest of the capital of San Jose in the early
afternoon, near the Poas Volcano national park.

The quake's depth was measured at 28 miles.

Local TV station Teletica showed broken windows, fallen ceiling
panels and cracked walls in the city of Alajuela, north of the capital.
Teletica said the quake was felt strongly throughout the small Central
American country.

Security Minister Jeanina del Vecchio urged people to remain calm
while authorities surveyed areas to see if there was major damage.

Thousands of people ran from homes and shopping centers, frightened
by the quake. The quake triggered small landslides outside the capital,
and cell phone service was interrupted briefly.

There were at least four aftershocks.

Judd's picture
Judd
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 12 2008
Posts: 20
Re: Analyzing the Obama Plan

Chris

Your thoughts on the plan echo some of the points on your crash course, tax cuts with 2 ongoing wars that seeming are far from over, flooding the playing field with more currency, and little or no attention to peak oil/enviromental collision. It is too early to tell where this administration will head but I am hearing the footsteps of the past and trying to hold onto the status quo.

Judd

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