Smart Cars hit Iowa

Driving around Davenport today, I saw two different eco friendly cars.

One was the long awaited “Smart Car” (see below). A young couple (probably about 30 years old) drove this into a local shopping center. I guess since they saved so much money on gas they wanted to apply that savings to some consumer goods.

Earlier in the day I saw an even smarter car driving down River Drive in Davenport. Since it was going the opposite direction, I didn’t have a chance to check out exactly what brand it was, but it appeared to be like the one below, a 3 wheeled Electric Condor II.

Incidentally, the Condor II does look way more economically interesting than the Smart car. It’s 100% electric costs about as much as the Smart Car and gets up to 80 miles on a single charge.

I think this is going to be a huge trend (as long as credit for new cars is easy to come by). It’s not so much that people want to do what’s economical (especially in the case of the “smart car”). Let’s face it a new car, even a ‘smart one’, isn’t economical. How long does it take you to recoup your outlay. Financing, depreciation, etc. etc. Especially since the “Smart Car” gets only 32 MPG!

Also, It’s not so much that the environment is the priority, rather it’s that Green is cool. And people always want to be cool. Being seen in your Smart car is like being seen in a Porsche. It strokes the ego in exactly the same way, but for different reasons. It’s always nice to show how much better you are than those around you. Green is the new cool brand.

A Firetruck, Spiderman, Coca-cola and a Rooster.

We spent much of the day driving from Salta to Cafayate Argentina. About lunch time we stopped at a teeny tiny town called La Vina. It’s difficult to imagine even 100 people call this place home. We all shared a not-too-bad pizza at the only cafe.

Total cost about $3.

In the back of the cafe there were a bunch of kids playing and Max quickly made some friends. It’s funny how kids are pretty much the same every where you go partially due to the influence of US consumerism. Notice the boy holding the rooster which ran to show it to Maxim. He’s wearing a Spiderman shirt. The girl holding the coke bottle (wearing the winnie the pooh shirt) and max holding a firetruck. The firetruck belonged to the boy holding the rooster.

A Firetruck, Spiderman, Coca-cola, Pooh and a Rooster.

Inflation is our friend!

If you don’t subscribe to http://dailyreckoning.com/, you should. It’s free, funny and a much needed bit of financial common sense. Today, Bill Bonner republished a portion of an old SNL skit.

Dan Akroyd pretending to be President Jimmy Carter on Saturday Night Live and 30 years ahead of his time:

“President Jimmy Carter: Good evening. On Tuesday, we Americans will have the opportunity to exercise our role as citizens in a free democracy. Yet, only a third of the eligible voters will actually cast ballots. The other two-thirds are, in a sense, very lucky. Because they do not know what’s going on.

“Last week, I delivered a message on inflation. Since then, the dollar has dropped in value, the stock market has sustained record losses, and the whole Dow price index increased 0.9%. In other words, our economic system is screwed, blued and tatooed! We just have to face the fact that there is simply no way to fight inflation in a capitally-intensive, highly-technological, conflict-riddled, anything-for-a-thrill world of today. That’s why, tonight, I want you to try to look at inflation in an entirely new way: Inflation is our friend.

“For example, consider this: in the year 2000, if current trends continue, the average blue-collar annual wage in this country will be $568,000. Think what this inflated world of the future will mean – most Americans will be millionaires. Everyone will feel like a bigshot. Wouldn’t you like to own a $4,000 suit, and smoke a $75 cigar, drive a $600,000 car? I know I would! But what about people on fixed incomes? They have always been the true victims of inflation. That’s why I will present to Congress the ‘Inflation Maintenance Program’, whereby the U.S. Treasury will make up any inflation-caused losses to direct tax rebates to the public in cash. Then you may say, ‘Won’t that cost a lot of money? Won’t that increase the deficit?’ Sure it will! But so what? We’ll just print more money! We have the papers, we have the mints. I can just call up the Bureau of Engraving and say, ‘Hi! This is Jimmy. Roll out some of them twenties! Print up a couple thousand sheets of those Century Notes!’ Sure, all these dollars will cause even more inflation, but who cares? Everyone will be a millionaire!

“In my speech last week, I said that America would have to undergo an austerity program, but since this revolutionary new approach welcomes inflation, our economy will be free to grow, and we can spend, spend, spend! I believe the watchwords for the ’80s should be ‘Let’s Party!’ And in that spirit, I’d like to say, ‘Live, from New York, it’s Saturday Night!’”

Foreclosures….who’s to blame?

I just finished watching a CNN special on the foreclosure problems in the US.   More than a million homes went into foreclosure last year and they’re expecting another 2.2million over the next couple of years.   You can view some of the current foreclosure listings from around the country.   Or view Texas Foreclosure Listings.  Odds are you’ll find some in your neighborhood.

I admit the whole situation is pretty bad, but who’s fault is it?  Throughout the special they consistently glossed over the bad decisions made by the homeowners.   I agree that there are a lot of bad, opportunistic, unethical real estate “professionals” who prey on people who make bad decisions, but rather than addressing any personal responsibility there seems to be a huge tendency to shift any and all blame from the homeowners.

Personal responsibility is out of fashion.   Dealing with the consequences of bad decisions seems no longer to be the American way.  Instead, we want to protect people from being dumb.   We want to keep people from having to experience any setback or repercussion of their bad decisions.

How are we, as a society, suppose to learn from our mistakes if our very real individual contribution to the mistake is never acknowledged?

How are we suppose to make better future decisions….like taking the time to read and understand the documents before we sign them?

How are we going to learn that maybe we shouldn’t take out all the “equity” in our homes to temporarily erase our credit card debt?

Without penalty from bad decisions how will we ever understand the value of the unimaginable… possibly forgo the new car, vacation, or other unnecessary consumption or maybe just delaying for a while…at least until we can actually PAY for it… not “make the payments” on it?

There are specific examples of individuals that are heartbreaking, but this issue is a big issue and extends well beyond anecdotal stories.   There are a lot of bad guys in this situation (my personal favorite target is appraisers… maybe I’ll talk about that another time).   At the end of the day, though, not only do we need to accept responsibility for our actions but we need to work bring back the expectation of personal responsibility to our culture.