Archive for February, 2011

money madness
February 17, 2011

News today that the US Government could be “out of money” in two weeks is more than a little alarming. Should Congress fail to pass the 2011 budget, the US Government could be forced to “shut down”.

Today, the US Debt is – and you might wanna sit down for this – $14,159,640,000 – and it went up about a million dollars in the time it took me to type out that 12 digit number. Fourteen trillion, 159 billion, 640 million dollars. OMG. That’s a lot of dough. $45,000 worth of dough, in fact, for each of our american neighbours.

On our side of the border, it’s not great. But it’s not that bad. Our debt is a mere half a trillion dollar – or approximately $17,000 per person.

So why is national debt so terrible? Can’t we just print more money? We have our own mints afterall.  Sure we can. Run that press. Trouble is, it’s an invitation to inflation. And I’m sure you’re not the only one who’s noticed that the price of food is going up. If we print too much money, as can easily be done, it looses value. If it looses value, things just cost more. You can hold the line on inflation but then interest rates go up. Which means the money holds more value, but the price of borrowing and debt goes up. Oh la la. Cercle vicieux, n’est ce pas?

But to whom do we owe this money? Most of it is owed to ourselves. No biggie, right?(I’ve borrowed from my own future from time to time, I’m afraid to say). But some of it is owned by and owed to foreign countries. And they might not take too kindly to late payments. Or they could find more interesting things to do with their cash.

So how do we fix it? By electing the right people. And who are the right people? The ones who would cut spending? But who wants to vote for less? Isn’t more better? And in this country, our minority governments, far from ensuring a more cooperative approach to running a country, have instead led parties to compete for our votes by spending and or promising to spend, are you ready for this, even more of our money. Money we haven’t even earned yet.

Unlike the United States, failure to pass a budget in Canada leads directly to an election for if the government  loses the confidence of the House (and a budget is a confidence motion) then they are forced dissolve parliament and call an election.

So the next few weeks will be mighty interesting. Maybe all the US federal employees can follow our election campaign while they wait for their government to re-open. At least we’ll get to know each other a little better in the meantime.

Case in point, Jon Stewart’s comments from December 08 comparing our political plight to their own with President Bush as recounted by the morning crew at Canada AM.

the NOT knot
February 15, 2011

Oh the power of the written word. In an era where publishers, booksellers and book distributors are going bankrupt left right and centre, one teeny tiny written word inserted into a government document – by hand – has put a giant black mark on our elected officials. Who says the written word is out of fashion? Seems more powerful than ever, if you ask me.

^ NOT!

While the perilous plight of the publisher is one that is of great personal concern to me as I recently started a publishing company, it’s not the main focus of this post.

What is the main focus of this post is accountability for you and me. And I probably would have overlooked the whole thing had our Right Honourable Prime Minister not stood in the House of Commons today to state this:

Those are decisions that ministers have to make, that they have to be responsible for,” he said. “It is not the decision of appointed officials and it is not the entitlement of outside organizations.”

You mean to tell me that our PM honestly believes that appointed officials and outside organizations DON’T make the decisions on how to spend our tax dollars. I beg to differ. I really do. And the fact that it’s so vehemently denied, makes me even more suspicious.

The longer I’m in business, the more I realize that appointed officials and outside organization DO make those decisions. And I’m ever mindful of their ability to do so without, what I would call, the proper accountability. Maybe it’s just because it’s tax season or maybe I’m just getting a grip on reality but lately I’ve been paying attention to things that I wouldn’t normally pay attention to. Not to worry, I won’t be joining the Tea Party or donating money to the Fraser Institute anytime soon but I feel, as citizens and taxpayers, we’re far too complacent on how, exactly, our money is spent.

In my own defense, I will say this. I am happy to pay my fair share. It’s just that my share is getting a fair schwak bigger that I ever expected. We need education, health care, infrastructure and safety (but I will stop short of full blown defense) among other things. And I won’t be shy to put in a plug for a national publishing strategy or a micro business strategy. What’s a country without culture? What’s an economy without small business?

I can’t logically think in numbers that are outside my real life realm such as millions, billions, or in the case of the US budget, trillions, so I’ll reserve my comments for numbers I understand, hundreds, thousands and tens of thousands. Heck I’ll even go as far as hundreds of thousands – but after that, the mind boggles. At least it does for me.

Case in point. I recently paid my business license to the City of Salmon Arm. $200. Simple enough, yes? Not so much. I decided I’d like to know exactly what it was for. While the answers to my e-mails were polite and forthcoming and they were clear on why they spent it, it wasn’t terribly obvious on what they spent it on.  So more digging led me to learn that approximately $250,000 is collected on an annual basis from business licenses. Seems a bit hefty compared to the 100,000 ten year phased development agreement for the Smart Centres development, but I digress. The business license monies are disbursed to various groups, though again, the specifics are not terribly clear. The City’s annual report is available here:

Take a look for yourselves. I’m not judging if it’s money well spent because in some cases it is. Very well spent indeed. I’m just asking if you wonder, as I do, if it is well accounted for and transparent. Did you know this is how your taxpayers dollars are spent? I didn’t. And I was in for a few surprises. Especially in light of my PMs assertion that appointed officials and outside organizations aren’t making decisions on how to spend our money. Because like it or not, it is our money.

It’s becoming ever more clear to me that as taxpayers, we too have a big black X to make but it’s only our ballots. But I’m beginning to wonder if it’s enough. I’d sure like the chance to edit a document and add the NOT knot. I really would. I hope you would to.



Superbowl of advertising
February 3, 2011

Come Sunday, it won’t just be football players vying for victory. It’ll be advertisers too. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a football game as much as the next middle-aged mom. Really I do. Though I’m sure my husband and his friends could do without my constant questions and comments such as “ouch. I bet that hurt” or “how many downs in American football again” or “how many more time outs.” But I mostly enjoy the minute long intermissions – the commercials.

It’s the advertising event of the year! And I don’t even have to worry about what outfit to wear. Just me, my friends, some chips, some dips and a few bevies.

So what have we got to look forward to. Well, for starters, the Bud commercials – which don’t do much for me. Though I love the fact that the upside down beer cap makes them the king of beers. Genius. This is why an award winning ad agency is only award winning if it really lives the brand. Touches it. Tries it. Lives it. Trust me, that iconic gesture only came as a result of real hands on experience. In the words of Edward R. Murrow, “The obscure we see eventually. The completely obvious, it seems, takes longer.”

Go Daddy will go the route of debauchery – again, not for me. But it must work for them. Keeping in mind that advertisers will $2.8 million to $3 million for each 30 seconds of  time,  or as much as $100,000 per second – it’s go time for these agencies. And that’s just the air time. That price doesn’t even begin to pay a film a crew, develop a single concept or execute a mere second of a campaign. It boggles the mind.

Volkswagen can always be counted on for clever creativity:

My money’s on the E-trade baby commercials – some of which can be seen here (I can’t seem to post it from youtube – must be a reason…)

And while it’s true that we buy beer and cars and junk food, fizzy pop, financial services and the like, come Sunday, what we’ll really appreciate is a good laugh. You might not remember who told you the joke but you’ll always remember the punch line. After all, they say that he who laughs last, laughs loudest.

So have a good giggle and enjoy the game. At least you’ll get your monies worth.