The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Sunday, September 28, 2008

10% off the top

There were a number of oddnesses about the debate (which, somewhat to my surprise, Obama seems to have roundly won. I thought it was a draw--when McCain needed a game-changing win. But the 60-30% difference in opinion among undecideds was unexpected.)

1) Anyone else notice that McCain blinked about twice a second? That the left side of his mouth drooped, and his left eye was...odd? I have a nasty fear that there may have been a minor cerebral incident.

2) Man, he lost his temper. Anyone watch/hear him saying "horseshit" on national live TV when Obama talked about McCain's supposed dissing of the Spanish president? You can find the clip on UTube. Yikes!

3) His refusal to look Obama in the eye may have been a tactic to help himself keep from losing control. On the other hand...

4) Look. Everyone made a lot out of the fact that 33% of Democrats say they have negative impressions of black people. And about 40% of the general population. I'm no math expert, but doesn't that imply that 45-50% of Republicans have those negative feelings (right in line with my own guess, actually.) Now...hmmm. I'm sure people would like to say that it's only the ones at the bottom, surely those at the top are more enlightened...

Yeah, right. No, I say that this human problem goes bottom to top, regardless of intelligence or social class. And differs between political parties based partially on that "nature-nurture" perceptual lens I've talked about. And that if you grew up in a time when such attitudes were taken for granted, it's even worse.

So...McCain. 72 years old...that's the right generation. Arizona was the last state in the union to ratify MLK day. And McCain voted against it for years. And he never went to see the NAACP until he was running for President. 40% of the general population, and maybe 45-50% of Republicans.

See where I'm heading? So which 33-50% of our presidents and presidential candidates had bigoted attitudes? What possible motivation would I have to think McCain isn't among that 33-50%? The fact that he adopted a brown-skinned baby? Kid's an East Indian. Has NOTHING to do with anti-black sentiments. Hell, OBAMA doesn't trigger as much racism as a native-born black. All my life I've known that American blacks who pretend (for instance) to be African could stay in segregated hotels. The prejudice, in my mind, is exacerbated by the guilt and fear of knowing that terrible, terrible things were done to slaves and their descendants, and no compensation or revenge ever taken. Where there is action, there will be reaction. This isn't just about skin color. McCain could adopt all the little brown-skinned babies he wants, and while that proves he's not a Klansman, it doesn't prove he doesn't have a problem with black people.

Couldn't look Obama in the eye. There seemed a smouldering anger there, a resentment...almost as if he felt entitled. The visual metaphor of the old white man and the young black man is so stark that Central Casting of a Hallmark movie of the week wouldn't have put these two up against each other.

For close to two hundred years in America, white people, especially white heterosexual Christian males were able to baste in the illusion that they were the toughest, smartest, sexiest, most powerful, best and most God-beloved people on the face of the earth. This is the core of the "10% disconnect" that I point to in film, naked and undeniable and you can't put a social band-aid over it. It's right there in public, folks, and you can't blame it on Hollywood and act like the rest of America, or the human race, is just fine, thanks, except for those racist Hollywood executives. That's just absurd.

Give anyone privilege for generations or years, and then begin to take it away, begin to point out that some of that privilege was at the expense of innocent people...start to take it away and you will trigger anger. Rage. Fear.

And there are ways that McCain's behavior fits right in there. McCain's behavior reminded me of a white Southern coach forced to shake hands with a black coach after his team loses the Big Game in a Disney Kum-Bah-Yah epic. It's the "I'd like to kill you, but I'm too civilized" act.

No. I can't think of any reason not to believe McCain may be one of the 33-50% who look down on black people. And if he is, then he must be furious, to find his ambitions blocked by Barack Obama. Dear God, he would be angry. And during the debate he displayed no respect or regard in words, vocal tones, or body language. He displayed far more respect for the white Republicans he debated against. None of that here.

Frankly, it really bothers me to think this.

#

If the election continues along its current path, Obama will be our next President. I will be very, very happy. Sarah Palin seems totally out of her depth, and it raises serious questions about McCain's judgement. And the recent polls seem to suggest that more and more people are leaning toward B.O.

If that happens, may I respectfully request no inordinate crowing on this blog? There will be plenty of web sites where people can dance and stick out their tongues. This country has serious issues, and anyone who wants to believe that Republicans are less loyal, intelligent or moral will not find a sympathetic ear on MY head. We need to pull together, every one of us, and I sincerely ask that we only jump up and shout maybe a dozen times. No Bronx cheers.

French-kissing for joy will be encouraged, however.

##

Some time ago I said that a core aspect of turning your finances around is saving 10% of your income. Not for "big purchases" or "vacations" or "buying a house" or whatever. Save it as if this is your grandchildren's inheritance. MAYBE it is a retirement account. But the best attitude is that it is not to be touched in your lifetime, short of the direst emergency. Before you pay taxes. Before you pay debts or bills. 10% off the top is YOURS. This is the fiscal version of the "Golden Hour" concept--the idea that 10% of your waking hours belong to YOU. Not your boss, your kids, your spouse...YOU.

My contention is that anyone who has the discipline to do this will get frickin' rich. The reason isn't that 10% of your current income will take you to being a millionaire. The reason is that the person who can save 10% off the top is an extraordinary person--they simply think about their finances and life differently. The person who can do this prioritizes purchases, develops iron discipline. sees ways to make more money (after all, the easiest way to ease the bite is to INCREASE your overall income.) You will find that as you resist the urge to dip into that growing nest egg, you develop strength and focus that you have never had before. You develop a sense of security you've never had. And the nest egg gives you a "screw you" cushion that allows you to walk away from bad deals and bad jobs, to think long-term, to think of ways to make a living that is in alignment with your values.

It is a life-changing, game-changing exercise. 10% off the top. Don't you deserve it?

24 comments:

Marty S said...

Steve: my wife and I did exactly that. We put 10% of each of our incomes in 401ks from the time they were invented. Now I am retired and realize I fell into a trap the government set for me. When you retire even if you don't need it starting at age 701/2 there is a mandatory distribution you must take. Any distribution you take is treated as income and taxed. But you don't just pay the income tax on the distribution. You pay additional taxes based on that income. One example is your social security. You pay tax on a percent of your social security depending upon your total income so when you withdraw from your 401k or IRA you pay additional tax on your social security benefit. If Obama passes his tax break for seniors and it arbitrarily stops at an income of $50,000 then you may lose that benefit. These are just two examples of how having too much of your money in 401ks can hurt a retiree. I figure in some cases the net result could be a tax of as much as 50% on these withdrawals. In a sense its even worse if you really need this money to live on instead of just making the mandatory withdrawals. That's because if you really need $20,000 dollars to pay your bills you will probably need to take out $25,000-$30,00 to get that money.

Steven Barnes said...

that's REALLY interesting, and I invite readers to elaborate.

Kukulkan said...

I agree that the debate (at least the portion I saw) was a draw. However, the most memorable moment for me was the bracelet exchange. Sen. McCain mentioned how a mother who lost her son in Iraq asked Sen. McCain to wear a bracelet with her son's name on it and to make sure her son didn't die in vain. Sen. Obama then goes, I've got a bracelet too, from Sgt. . . . . This was incredibly painful to watch. It was absolutely clear to me that the only reason Sen. Obama wears that bracelet is as a political tool. I cannot imagine who that soldier's mother felt on Friday night. Mind you, I think that Sen. McCain brought up the bracelet as a political tool. But he didn't mangle the memory of the soldier as did Sen. Obama.

Kukulkan said...

Should have been "what that soldier's mother felt."

Anonymous said...

"We put 10% of each of our incomes in 401ks from the time they were invented. Now I am retired and realize I fell into a trap the government set for me. When you retire even if you don't need it starting at age 701/2 there is a mandatory distribution you must take. Any distribution you take is treated as income and taxed. But you don't just pay the income tax on the distribution".

The only trap you fell in was not considering and at some point getting into a ROTH IRA as opposed to a 401K.

Josh Jasper said...

I'm really not getting the sense that McCain is much of a racist, if he is one at all. It's a feeling, but it's all I've got to go on. He might have a temper, but I'm not seeing any overt racism on his part.

Marty S said...

Anon: I did consider and shift some of my money into Roth IRA's, but it was impossible to do that with the majority of our 401ks.
On another topic I just listened to a Democratic news conference on the bailout bill. They blamed the whole problem on Wall Street, when Wall Street is only half of the problem. The rest was idiots like my niece. She bought a house she really couldn't afford. But the house went up considerably in value. My sister begged my niece to sell the house and put the equity in something smaller that she could actually afford. My niece refused and instead took equity loans on the increased value of the house. She used these loans to make the payments on the house.She took several of these loans each time the house went up in value. When the house stopped gaining value and she couldn't loan more she stopped making payments and now the house is in foreclosure.Wall Street may have been an enabler in this situation by being willing to give her loans, but nobody forced her to actually take them.

Anonymous said...

During the first debate, McCain consistently called Obama "Senator Obama."

Meanwhile, Obama consistently called McCain "John."

If that pattern had been reversed -- with Obama calling McCain "Senator McCain" but McCain calling Obama "Barack" -- would that have been patronizing behavior on McCain's part?

As for who "won": I don't think anybody who supported either Obama or McCain was likely to be swayed by the first debate, as I heard it on the radio. Maybe it was different if you were watching on television, but the spoken dialogue (as far as I could tell) consisted of both candidates saying pretty much what any informed voter would expect either of them to say. I.e., nothing that I heard would be likely to change any minds.


--Erich Schwarz

Reinestorm said...

i'm still torn myself. I think they're on two different tracks headed for the same goal. Obama wants all the right things, but still doesn't have a viable way to fund those things. And with the impending buyout, I am unsure his liberalisitic plan will even work. But still, this country needs him. As far as the 401k thing goes, I'm still putting my money into it. I think AMerica has lost all faith in Republicans (although I have found it thanks to Mr. Romney). If Obama wins the election, though we will all have to put our trust that in the end his ideas will make us grow. But for the first time, I have volunteered to be an election official. Yes, that's one of the folks who works the polls from 5a.m. until whenever. And yes, this year it will be whenever.
I did it intially thanks to some inspiring words from Tavis Smiley, but I'm feeling worn already. There aren't that many volunteers and we're going to get hammered by the unprecedented numbers. Don't know what shape I'll be in, but it will definetely be an experience to remember.

Lester Spence said...

I thought the debate was a tie but I think this was because I listened rather than watched. I'm thinking McCain's negatives came from something he couldn't control--his age and appearance as compared to Obama.

Burr Deming said...

McCain was indeed transparently angry. I think it goes beyond the debate or even the campaign.

John McCain suffered unimaginably in service to the rest of us. When his sacrifices are denigrated or ignored by those who never endured such treatment, his anger is understandable. I believe this instance is more revealing than the debate.

Dan Moran said...

Bad week for McCain.

8 Point Lead in Gallup

These results, from Sept. 25-27, span the time period since John McCain made the announcement that he was temporarily suspending his campaign and returning to Washington to work for a bipartisan solution to the financial crisis, and since Congressional leaders first announced progress towards the resolution of a financial bailout bill. The results also include one complete day (Saturday) after the first presidential debate on Friday night. McCain had reached a point where he was tied with Obama earlier in the week, but Obama has gained steadily in each of the last three days' reports. Overall, Obama has gained four percentage points over the last three days, while McCain has lost four points, for an eight-point swing in the "gap" or margin.

Scott Masterton said...

Steve,

You saw a whole lot of things I didn't. I didn't get a sense that McCain had a sense of entitlement, nor a lack of respect for Obama. I felt that the views between the candidate were not really that far apart.

To be perfectly honest, the first thought that popped into my head is that we'd be okay no matter who wins.

Peace,
Scott.

Steven Barnes said...

I would have had no problem if Senator McCain called Obama "Barack." I've heard candidates refer to each other by both first and last names. Never thought it much of an issue.
#
The racial thing is trickier. McCain may be above that. But...if 40% of the American public have negative impressions of black people, would you please point out the Candidates and elected presidents who ARE or WERE racists? I think the reality that they have to be there, and in large numbers, is just too painful for white people to face. So...unless you can point to who you think IS, it is almost irrelevant if you think McCain ISN'T, if you know what I mean.

Mike Ralls said...

>would you please point out the Candidates and elected presidents who ARE or WERE racists?<

Sure; pretty much every President and candidate from 1789 to . . . oh at least 1972 would qualify as a racist by 2008 standards. And a good number of the post 1972 Presidents and Candidates would have some racist points in their past if not in their present as well.

President George HW Bush had no problem putting Colin Powell in charge in 1990. Did 20-year old naval aviator George HW Bush think blacks were completely equal to whites in 1944? It's not impossible, but it would be unusual if he did.

The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there.

Also, chances are that the future will think we are barbaric we believed X. What X is, I don't have a clue, but if history is any judge than the future will think we are deeply wrong over something. So it goes.

Christian M. Howell said...

For close to two hundred years in America, white people, especially white heterosexual Christian males were able to baste in the illusion that they were the toughest, smartest, sexiest, most powerful, best and most God-beloved people on the face of the earth. This is the core of the "10% disconnect" that I point to in film, naked and undeniable and you can't put a social band-aid over it. It's right there in public, folks, and you can't blame it on Hollywood and act like the rest of America, or the human race, is just fine, thanks, except for those racist Hollywood executives. That's just absurd.

Isn't this almost exactly what I said about MOST whites?

The execs can only put out feelers to see where the VIEWERS are. If viewers want it, they usually get it, though sometimes it is diluted because of "modern American race relations," but it still stands.

Many white males have the "McCain problem" you described. Its because, in my opinion, there are 3 different white men in the same "suit."

1. The one who has to deal with you (black man) as an equal.

2. The one that has to deal with you as his superior.

3. The one that has to deal with you as your superior.

White men exhibit all three phases throughout a day and it is mainly because they could consider themselves "the" Americans for centuries with no regard for slaves or non-white immigrants and natives.
Without said "advantage" they would be more even-thinking, but even in dealings with white women it's the same thing. Trickle down at its best.




As far as savings, I'm not quite at 10% savings, but once I move from NYC, I can probably go a couple more percent. NY taxes are killing me.

With the race for teh White House I can see Obama winning especially based on that silly reaction meter they used. Republicans spent a lot of time flat-lined which said to me they were just not willing to go negative.

I also noticed that McCain was the first to "attack" rather than stating only known facts about each other and their perspective policies.

Obama just seems the more solemn candidate, actually interested in moving America (every race) into the 21st century rather than being the "DC guy."

I can't wait to see the Biden/Palin debate this week. As Bill Maher said:
Sara Barracuda meet Joey the Shark. He's going to kill her. She has no real experience in global politics and Biden is the Senate Foreign relations committee.

I personally just want smart, forward thinking PEOPLE (I would have voted for Hillary) in the White House for a change (8 years of an idiot is enough).

The funny thing is that Bush has been "bragging" about being a C student, but a C student at Yale is like an A student at Podunk U, and Einstein needed a math tutor so there are many ways to gauge "smarts" but the way to get "smarts" is to STUDY, STUDY, STUDY.

I hope that Palin takes that advice before she goes out there. And speaking of Palin just the fact that Obama isn't saying "Family Values my ass, how can you raise our kids when you can't raise your own" is a testament to what his Presidency would be like.

And quoth "The American President;" now is the time for serious people to solve serious problems, and it looks like were gonna get one.



Obama 08. The right choice.

Josh Jasper said...

Marty -

Wall Street may have been an enabler in this situation by being willing to give her loans, but nobody forced her to actually take them.

Wall Street's problems are mostly not because they loaned her money. Actually, the CDO traders didn't loan her anything.

The worst of the crisis is because the trading arm of companies like AIG bought the debt of people like her to trade on. If the problem was only debts like hers, we'd be in much less trouble.

The problem is that the banks are the ones lending money. Without loans, we have much less access to liquid capital in our economy. Everyone depends on loans. Not just the housing sector.

The hope is, this will be a loan, not a payout, and that Wall Street will make good on these debts. Allegedly, this worked for Sweden - taxpayers there got equity in the banks for the bailout.

Now, if we were to bail out people as we were the banks, we'd have to figure out how to get equity out of a person. That's not likely to happen. She could get charged ruinous interest rates on loans, but presumably, she's already got those. If her house has been repossessed, there's not much more that can be done to punish her. For that matter, getting her back on her feet financially is not going to help people much with getting loans from banks.

At least, this is how I understand it.

Christian M. Howell said...

The racial thing is trickier. McCain may be above that. But...if 40% of the American public have negative impressions of black people, would you please point out the Candidates and elected presidents who ARE or WERE racists? I think the reality that they have to be there, and in large numbers, is just too painful for white people to face. So...unless you can point to who you think IS, it is almost irrelevant if you think McCain ISN'T, if you know what I mean.

I think the term racism is no longer valid. let me explain. I define three types of discrimination:

1: Structural Racism - From the 1600s to the 14th Amendment. The government would back claims against blacks.

2: Institutional Racism - From the 14th Amendment to the Civil Rights Act and desegregation. The states could no longer ignore Federal law.

3: Social Placism - Title VII to the present. Blacks are so numb that many allow themselves to be "looked down upon," while trickling these frustrations down to their families - especially their women and staying far away from "the struggle." (Not only am I educated but I can whip a thug's ass quick)

Placism as described is the desire of whites to live like their ancestors who could openly berate, threaten and even injure with no danger of official repercussion.

That's the body language I speak of and not because I'm angry because it's obvious.

Oh yeah and because I'm going out with my boots on so I express my observations, everything else be damned.

salina said...

If we must use numbers, I'd bet the percentages are actually higher. Racism isn't necessarily a choice as much as a social construct. It entails more than just overt discrimination and oppression; there's the matter of white privilege, the almost involuntary stereotypes and prejudices that Whites (and even non-whites) have bought into, and even expectations. We shouldn't reduce the issue to a matter of "I like blacks" vs. "i don't like blacks", it's more insidious and problematic than what can be quantified.

Marty S said...

Josh: I offered up my niece as an example of someone who took loans she had no hope of paying back. These loans take the form of mortgages, credit card debt etc. People were encourage to take on debt they couldn't afford in television commercials, unsolicited credit cards etc. The current crisis is both on the head of those who gave any amount of money to anyone who wanted it and those who took advantage of it.

Josh Jasper said...

Marty- how, much bad personal debt is out there? Ballpark figure. If all of that bad debt was paid off would wall street suddenly recover?

Steven Barnes said...

Christian--
For what it's worth, your comments here are well-reasoned and FAR more lucid than your previous ones. I'm going to assume these are your typical mode of thought, and say that I like what you have to say.
It's important to be specific and precise when we talk about these issues--to, in essence, extend the exact same respect and consideration that we are demanding in return. Thank you.

Christian M. Howell said...

For what it's worth, your comments here are well-reasoned and FAR more lucid than your previous ones. I'm going to assume these are your typical mode of thought, and say that I like what you have to say.
It's important to be specific and precise when we talk about these issues--to, in essence, extend the exact same respect and consideration that we are demanding in return. Thank you.



I'm only human. I don't let things build up. Sometimes I overreact but I've had an interesting view of America.

Anonymous said...

I have used the 10% rule and much to my surprize I hit the 6 figure mark - even earning 40K a year ...

David Bach's book the automatic millionare is good.

The millionare next door also very good.

Still have to work on bag lady fears.

I have to say my house will be paid off in 2013 and that means I can look at doing some other things. What freedom.

Thanks for helping me look at the real fear and not the garbage.