Friday, October 31, 2008

Leadership to Inspire Northern New York?

Jefferson Community College held a Leadership Day on October 28th. On this day, students got an opportunity to talk to national, local and student leaders about developing their leadership skills. The keynote speaker was Jack Lengyel, former head coach of the Marshall University football team. The movie "We Are Marshall" is based on his story: how he helped a grieving community come together after a 1970 plane crash that killed 75 people, including most of the Marshall University's football team.

I commend JCC for having a Leadership Day. And having Mr. Lengyel speak is quite a coup. However, was Mr. Lengyel their best choice for inspiring leadership in Northern New York? I have an immense amount of respect for Mr. Lengyel, and hope he visits Northern New York again and often. But Northern New York has unique needs: unique economic needs and unique development needs. And for those particular needs, JCC's Leadership Day keynote speaker should have been someone keenly adept at addressing those needs.

Mr. Lengyels's leadership speech has universal ties to every community, this I understand, yet Northern New York is suffering "brain drain," with college graduates looking elsewhere for work, and very few young people interested in civic leadership. Couldn't JCC have chosen a keynote speaker that inspired JCC students to become entrepreneurs in Northern New York? Couldn't the speaker have been an elected official or community leader from Northern New York whose leadership rejuvenated a community? Couldn't they have found a leader that brought the community together to resolve its economic and development needs? Did the speaker have to be someone portrayed by Matthew McConaughey in a recent Hollywood film?

Imagine a speaker from Northern New York who not only provided JCC students with the inspiration and tools to make a positive difference in their hometown, but also was someone "from the area" they could regularly communicate with as they put their leadership plans to action.

I wonder if the student attendees of JCC's Leadership Day felt Mr. Lengyel's keynote speech equipped them with the necessary tools and direction to become positive leaders in their community. Or were they simply awed to be in the presence of someone with two degrees separation from Hollywood's Matthew McConaughey?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Trickle Down Anti-Socialism

With the current state of our economy, it’s become indisputable that Reagonomics is a failure. There are now substantially fewer subscribers to the belief that unfettered free market and cutting taxes on the super-rich will keep our economy buoyant and wealth will trickle down.

To me, Reagonomics never made sense. We depend on the super-rich to spend their millions on goods and services, and the money is supposed to “trickle down” to middle-class Americans? What if the super-rich decide to hoard their money in Swiss bank accounts? What if the super-rich invest in overseas properties, and spend 90% their time and money overseas? How would these money choices by the super-rich cause wealth to trickle down to middle-class Americans?

Plus, I find it unethical to put so much dependence on any section of the American population to be as materialistic as possible. It’s unethical to put into people’s minds that buying lots of stuff is patriotic or that buying stuff, while increasing wastefulness, is required for America to prosper.

But all you have to do is look at the ever increasing squeeze of middle-class to see the failure of trickle down economics. The only thing that has trickled down is the anti-socialism of the super-rich.

Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh – both millionaires, both born into wealthy families, both never had to work manual labor job – complain about socialism because, if there’s even the slightest curbing of the unfettered capitalism they’ve always been accustom to, they may not be able to buy that fourth mansion in the Caribbean.

The problem is, younger low-income conservatives, weaned on the sensationalistic invective of Hannity, Limbaugh, etc. persist in believing they are on the cusp of being millionaires too, but it’s the "socialistic policies of the Democrats" that prevent them from achieving this American Dream.

And retired conservatives weaned on the Hannity, Limbaugh, etc. believe the reason they never became millionaires was because of the "socialistic policies of the Democrats."

It makes sense for the super-rich to hate socialism. It makes sense the super-rich spend their days working to indoctrinate the electorate to vote for anti-socialist policy-makers. But for a lower income person to hate socialism, shows an entrenched misunderstanding of socialism.

Though Obama is no socialist, the McCain campaign is hoping all the anti-socialism that has trickled down to frustrated conservatives, like Joe the Plumber, will inspire them to vote againt any Democrat.

So Joe the Plumber wants to know why he should get taxed more for making over $250,000. In thoughtfully answering Joe, Obama brought up a good point – it’s ridiculous for business owners to whine about more taxes when their customers are less taxed, and therefore more willing to spend money at Joe's business.

Think about it: Usually the super-rich are not the ones shopping at your small town mom and pop store. If the middle-class have more disposable income, and the tax dollars from the rich are going toward better roads and public transportation (instead of that fourth mansion in the Carribbean), then maybe small businesses will thrive from repeat business.