The Results

So I spoke to my mortgage broker, finally, and it’s as I thought: alone, I qualify for very little. But he gave me very good advice on how to spruce up my tax returns, and how to make myself look as a better candidate for a mortgage perspective.

The house plans are still on. The “how I’ll get there” plans are going to likely change, but right now, I’m learning the importance of keeping my options open. There’s a lot to be done here, there’s a lot of work to do. But the good news is, the broker told me, “Keep doing what you’re doing; you have a great and responsible plan.”

That was encouraging. I’ll be honest, I don’t feel quite so responsible when it comes to my finances, because I have a very pervasive – obviously!!! – traveling habit that does tend to eat into my finances, more often than not. But then again, I’m looking at where I am in my student loans, where I am as far as debt payoff, and I realize: I am doing miles better than I think. Even if it means depriving myself of a few things, I more often than not get to my goals. I finally opened my first IRA, which I’m pretty confident I won’t be able to fund fully within the calendar year, but is still a hell of a lot better than having no IRA at all. I may qualify soon for my company’s 401K plan. Also not much, but also very good. And these are all pretty fantastic benchmarks, because not for nothing, but how many people in their twenties are in the position of contributing something to their IRAs?

No matter how broke I’m living now, no matter how little it seems I have insofar as cash-on-hand, I am doing really, really well in ensuring my financial future.

And that? Is good news.

Kat G

Reflections on a Re-election

Barack Obama won his next four years in the White House.

To say that I’m relieved right now is an understatement. Considering how much has been at stake for this election, both for me personally and in the scope of the Big Picture for the Country, I was honestly scared for what I would have to do if we would’ve ended up with a President Romney. I’m relieved. Exhausted mentally, on all accounts, but relieved above all.

You’ve seen my writing on the topic of politics. I’ve ranted up a small storm every time the debates were on. But all kidding aside, this has been a nail-biter.

The issues on the line were ones that directly impact both of the working generations: that of our parents, the baby boomers looking to retire, and the young people – their children, really, or, well…people my age, to put bluntly – who are just entering the workforce fresh after college. Social Security will be the way most of our parents will pay for retirement. Not everyone has a 401K. Not everyone has or will have a pension. Not everyone’s kids will be able to afford to take care of them. And if you consider that the kids of this equation – the voting bloc aged from 18 to 30 – are so saddled with debt from student loans that they’re forgoing having any sort of a life of their own so they could pay it back, then you have to wonder how the kids and the parents will be able to take care of each other.

All of this, to a middle-class working woman with student loan debt, with a valid concern about reproductive rights, with a very valid concern about how much money I will be paid for my work, and an extremely valid concern as to whether or not I would ever be able to stop working later in life, is pretty damn important.

And yes, I will be up front about the fact that I judge a country’s leader by the way he leads his own life, in addition to where he stands. The people who say that both candidates are the same could not be any more wrong, in both the personal and public aspects of the persona. Obama had proved that while he’s far from perfect, he has it where it counts, and had taken chances on decisions that had, so far, paid off. Romney had proved that he values his secrecy far over his candidacy, and he had paid for it with this election.

Secret life and private life are different, let me just say. You’re entitled to the latter, but not the former. And if you are running for public office, both will be combed through thoroughly, and nothing would be left to chance. No, the two candidates are not the same. Last time I checked, Obama doesn’t have a lower effective rate than his own cleaning guy. Obama had never exported my job to China. And Obama definitely never had a plan that boiled down to, “First put me in the office and I will tell you”.

But most importantly, this election had highlighted the GOP as it really is, and just how far it was willing to go to get the results it wanted. Florida governor Rick Scott got slammed in court over voter suppression, and voter intimidation, and he still persisted in attempting to suppress. There has been a historic number of smear campaigns – and I’m not exempting the Dems from it; I’ve seen maybe two anti-Romney ads that were more factual than insult-based (then again, my TV-watching is limited) – in the media. And with stances like that of Todd Akin and his utterly despicable “legitimate rape” remarks, as well as Paul Ryan having the brilliant (read: absolutely nightmarish) idea about rapists suing for and having visitation rights to the children that were born of their crimes, we got to see exactly how divorced from empathy the GOP has become. Truly, the entire attitude of the GOP came down to, “We got ours, you’re on your own”. Great – except life doesn’t work in the Ayn Randian style, and never will. No one gets anywhere on their own.

Oh, and the budget ideas…I don’t even want to start on it. As I discussed in my Debate and Taxes post, there’s no way, mathematically, that tax cuts generate revenue. Dwight Eisenhower was likely generating electricity from spinning in his grave, and he was the last Republican to balance the budget.

Another thing that this election had highlighted for me is the aspect of human nature that clings to belief in the face of facts, the part of people that would rather go for a lie than hard facts. We’re told, by self-help gurus, coaches of all sorts, and well-meaning friends and relatives, that if you want something badly enough, believe in it, a la The Secret. If you want something, picture yourself already having it.

But what politics and The Secret alike fail to consider is that if the facts do not back the possibilities, and if there is no underlying solid base to the end result, then no amount of wishing, hoping, or praying will yield you your desired result. That’s just simply not possible. Think about it in the terms of interviewing for a job. You might be the best person for the job; you walk into the interview and talk up your best game. Your resume stands up to cross-examination. However, if you have no qualifications necessary for the position, there is no chance you’ll get it. You can’t interview for a financial management position if your background is in communications. You can pray, yes. You can hope, yes. You can visualize yourself in that position. But unless you have done something to get the qualifications (work/intern at a financial firm, get a second degree in finance, etc.) for the job, you cannot walk into it and hope to get it just by a wing and a prayer.

Human nature is to cling to the ideal in the hope of having it come true, and rarely do people as a whole stop and reassess just how realistic those ideals and hopes happen to be. The conservative base has divorced from reality when it had shown its hand on social issues, and continued to hope that, despite the overwhelming evidence that the majority of the country did not subscribe to the same social value set as themselves, their world view would win out. Had they actually stopped, looked outside their ideology, and looked at what people – especially young people, who are their own children and coworkers alike – really live like, they would see that their own view isn’t really reconciling with the reality of the current generation. But instead, they thought that if the other people would just see their world view, they’d know that they’re in the wrong. If they could only have the good old days, they would see just how great things were. After all, it worked well for them.

Never mind that for a lot of people, it really didn’t work that well, but I’m more into dissecting the mindset.

The fact of the matter is, a lot of the people who had bought into Romney’s sales pitch – and let’s face it, this campaign was a massive sales pitch; this applies to both sides – had completely ceased to analyze and read between the lines. The statement that they had clung to was, “I can defeat Barack Obama!” and for those people who were not okay with the president for whatever reasons (it will take too bloody long to get into why they weren’t okay with him, so I will not), that was enough. They had not  stopped to consider that Mitt Romney had not demonstrated where, precisely, he was a better choice than Barack Obama. Foreign policy? Taxes? Social issues? Jobs? Nowhere had he demonstrated sufficient consistency and knowledge. And on close analysis of his campaign, he had turned his coat on issues so many times that no one even knows where he stands anymore. But they heard, “I can defeat Barack Obama!” and that was enough. The bubble was set and sealed, and people got comfortable with it and in it, while the rest of the world looked on, analyzed, dissected, and saw the bubble for what it truly is.

Ignorance of the facts does not work. Ever. If an ostrich buries its head in the sand, sure, it cannot see what’s going on and is comfortable and secure because of an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality. But at the same time, the backside of that ostrich is fully exposed and ready to take a kick. Facts catch up and kick very hard when ignored, and it hurts a hell of a lot worse than taking the hit head-on. And what we have seen in this election was an ignorance of the facts that, in the case of the far right with the tea party, etc. was just plain frightening.

I got into a thing on FB with someone who insisted that cutting taxes brings in revenue. Mathematically, that’s wrong. Logically, that’s wrong. And yet it was a belief across nearly half the country that that was the case, even though any IRS agent will tell you that it’s not. And no one on the right bothered getting a pen and paper and setting up a few equations to see how it worked. You don’t need to be a math genius to know that if you have an x = y setup, you cannot have 1/2 of x = 2y. In fact, any public elementary school teaches you this.

Mitt Romney was one of the original pioneers of outsourcing, and Bain Capital records and articles support that. And yet, people believed that he would bring the overseas jobs back. Someone please explain to me why, precisely, would someone do away with something that he had directly profited from? If money does the talking, then the income that companies in this country had made because they had outsourced their labor should be speaking volumes. Bringing jobs back into the US would have decimated many companies’ profit margins. And why would they do that, then? No one on the right had asked this.

Paul Ryan had admitted that the Romney budget plan was trickle-down economics. Considering that that’s what had precipitated this mess to begin with when Reagan had implemented it, it’s amazing that the right had not asked the key question of exactly what would trickle down, if, as stated above, letting wealth and profit go anywhere would kill the profit margin.

The red states who had overwhelmingly voted for Romney are also the poorest states in the country, where use of public assistance is the only way for some people to survive. Mitt Romney had said multiple times that he would do nothing for safety nets, and in the infamous 47% video, stated that those people considered themselves “victims” and that he wouldn’t worry about them. Those red states are among the highest rates of public assistance – and they voted for the man who was perfectly fine with eliminating their only source of survival. They hadn’t stopped to consider that hey, if this guy wins, I won’t have a red cent to my name, or any way whatsoever to survive. That was a perfect example of cognitive dissonance, and it was stunning in the worst possible way.

This election campaign and watching the result has been an overwhelming exercise in watching the power of the human mind as it saw what it had found attractive and clung to it despite massive amounts of proof that what it was clinging to was nothing like the reality. Had I still been in college, I would’ve used this election for a thesis. Hell, if I go back for the Master’s in Psych that I want, I would very likely use it.

But there is a silver lining to having gone through this campaign as an observer: this election had also shown me exactly what people can do if they stand up and stand together. Just the financial aspect of Obama’s victory is evidence enough. Think about it: Romney had an absurd amount of wealth at his disposal, not just his own but that of donors, all as wealthy as himself. He got defeated by grassroots contributions. Small, $3+ contributions, given repeatedly by millions of people, had all stacked up to a presidential victory. Yeah, I donated too, a couple of times, at $10 each. But those $20 that I tossed into the pot had helped. As the saying goes, nickels and dimes make a full jar. It all added up, and it had a lot more influence than the conservative SuperPACs. In Florida, where voter suppression had made the news on an almost consistent basis, people had turned out to vote in record numbers, with lines going for miles. We’ve seen it with the alcohol during the Prohibition,  and we’ve now seen it with voting: if you want something to be as popular as possible, disapprove of it and attempt to suppress it.

Do you have any idea what it feels like to know that together, united, by contributing even the cost of a bagel on a weekly basis, many of us can overpower the wealthy individuals who are in control of the coffers and the media? Do you know how utterly empowering that feeling is, to know that yes, even though your contribution was minuscule, you made a difference? Do you know what it feels like to know that efforts to suppress a hard-won right have backfired despite the opposition just because people had decided to come together? It is something that you cannot ignore. And it confirmed what I already knew: united we stand.

The US motto is not, and has not been “In God We Trust” until the 1960s. I will, forever and a day, acknowledge its original motto as the real one, and it was borne out of the end of Civil War: E Pluribus, Unum. Out of many, one. After the Civil War, that’s when people had started saying, “The United States is” as opposed to “The United States are“. That’s what this election was about. That was the attitude that had turned the tide against the Big Money aspect of the campaign. And that’s the attitude that’s going to pay off. Not the, “You’re on your own, we got ours, why aren’t you doing X or Y?” attitude, but this. Out of many, one. That was what I had seen happen in NJ and NY after Sandy had slammed into our region. People ceased to give a damn for politics, wealth, and money, and instead had just turned to helping each other out.

That, really, is what I hope to see in the next four years. The smear campaigns are over. The votes have been cast. The president has been reelected. It’s DONE. Now we actually have to live, and coexist, and make things happen. Let’s do that instead of grandstanding on stances and rhetoric that, when dissected, have inherent flaws across the board.

K.G.

PS: Please stop with the whole, “Both parties are the same” line. They’re not and never will be. The right has been taken over by violent maniacs from the minute that Obama had won the nomination prior to the 2008 campaign. While the Democratic party was far from perfect from day one, the one massive difference between the kooks on the left and the kooks on the right is that the kooks on the left had gone largely ignored. The kooks on the right, known as the tea party, had taken over the party in full and the reps of the party actually and fully believe the stances of the kooks. The extreme leftists had gotten largely ignored. Yes, they exist, but not once has it happened that a Democratic voter/supporter/citizen would resort to violence and threats on the opposite side of it to make a political point. Democratic candidates had been shot at (Giffords), and had their offices vandalized (mutilated cat on an AR rep’s front door). Liberal institutions had gotten vandalized, broken into, and attacked repeatedly (look up the several bombings of abortion clinics, GYN offices, Planned Parenthood; murder of Dr. Tiller). But you do not, ever, see a Democrat attacking the headquarters of Focus on the Family. I didn’t see a liberal spray-paint a conservative office. I don’t see liberals picketing funerals. I don’t see liberals threatening to attack a candidate. But already, the conservatives are starting to threaten violence because Obama won the second time. So don’t get me started on the “both parties are the same” myth.

Wrapping Up the Year

Today is interesting, so far. It finally got a little colder, my new eyeglasses are ready (because LivingSocial is awesome and six years of contact lens wear does tend to spoil the love a little), and it is also seventeen years since my blood family and I, myself being only nine years old at the time, touched down in a Tower Air jet into JFK Airport.

Now, it’s 17 years later, and while the flight is a highly blurred memory of time long past, this is usually when I think back on the year and look forward to the champagne toast to kick off the next one.

This year, I:

– Went to CA for the first time.

– Got my business registered and opened

– Got my photography on

– Published Book 3

– Right about quadrupled my readership…I kid you not; all the relentless Marketing 101 I’ve been teaching myself has been paying off big-time…and thank you all for sticking with this ramble-fest!

So, what’s on my agenda next year? Mind you this: I don’t exactly make resolutions. I just do. I keep a list, and cross it off. Call it an annual version of a bucket list, if you will.

My agenda iiiissss….

1. Get back into dance class. My teacher is back the first week of January. Hello there, hip scarf, I missed thee.

2. Get my SmugMug on. People have asked me about prints before, and I think this will be an awesome way to have a formal portfolio.

3. Get my Lens Collection on. The Sigma telephoto is not enough, ladies and gents. Lady wants a Nikkor 18-200mm, which is about $800. Lady also requires a 12-24mm wide-angle. And lady is definitely lusting after the 800mm super-telephoto lenses, but the lottery will have to preempt that purchase…

4. Release Book 4 and engage in a heavy marketing push. Self-explanatory. I want the books to work for me, after I spent the time working on them.

5. Contract more. Once again, despite Tax Season looming, I’m open to commissions for design. Book covers? Ad campaigns? Coaching on Marketing 101? Photo shoot? Bring it on!

And most importantly…

6. Enjoy everything around me just a little bit more. :)

 

But you guys know that.

Much love, and a happy New Year to all, in advance.

K.G.