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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Invest Versus Spend

What bugs me more than anything else is the people who had the foresight and the funds to invest in a company that was an inexpensive long shot back in the day. Consider the people who had money enough to but what is now ExxonMobile when the stock price was in the $10 range. The current price of $83.00 yields $1.77 per share. With a large enough initial investment, that single stock could be funding several families' incomes. But my family was a late-comer and did not have the resources at the time to take advantage of the opportunities.

Some families had the opportunity to land bank lots of real estate back when land was still going for "a dollar an acre." That was then. Now that type of investment cannot happen. The opportunities that result in massive wealth are few and far between. One is better off lucky than good at discovering those opportunities.

On a larger economic scale, government action is supposed to provide the investments that will pay off in the future for those people who are not yet able to invest for themselves. We depend on the collective wisdom of the elected representatives to do the right thing. Toddlers and those children not yet conceived are the beneficiaries of our good and bad decisions. If we get it right, our children will be able to receive the dividends even if they do not thank us for our insights and financial contributions now that mature into what they will someday inherit. I, for one, would love to have been able to inherit 1000 acres of land outside the 1948 Pittsburgh environs that my father would have bought, if he could have. Some one else did and are very wealthy now.

If we get it wrong, our progeny will have to pay the price of our selfish intents, lack of insights, or lack of funds to invest. If we don't build and staff enough college classrooms, they will go without educations. If we don't now train enough doctors and nurses, it is they who will not be able to see a doctor when they need to. If we don't build entire infrastructures of utilities, roads, rails, and distribution systems, they will be without. We must be willing to spend our generation's money to do these things because they will need their generation's money for their current needs and their investments in the future of their children.

In the American economic system, the government doesn't own the resources. All of it is in private hands. The USDA estimates that 95% of all the land in private hands is owned by less than 3% of the population. That remaining 5% is mostly the small lots that all the suburban subdivisions are built upon. There are a few Federally owned land resources that are leased to business that derive a small revenue for the Treasury. Therefore, the only method of deriving revenues for the workings of the government and all of its obligations is taxes. Borrowing funds is only deferred taxation with interest.

We can leave unpaid debts or we can leave unaddressed needs to our children. It is up to this generation to make the correct decisions now.