Everybody Loves Reagan

Ronald_Reagan_televised_address_from_the_Oval_Office,_outlining_plan_for_Tax_Reduction_Legislation_July_1981

We studied Reaganomics last semester and it was quite interesting. Reagan’s plan tried to fix several huge economic problems. The economy was terrible when Reagan took office. Unemployment and inflation were high, and the country was deeply in debt. Here are some highlights to impress your friends with:

One thing that was destroying the economy was inflation. Reagan wanted to reduce inflation rates, so he restricted access to money. The Federal Reserve made interest rates so high that people couldn’t take out loans for cars or homes, and businesses could not expand. The idea was that if people couldn’t afford things, then the cost of those things would have to go down. It was incredibly painful to the economy early on. However, the plan worked. In 1983, when they finally lowered interest rates, the economy rocketed back up.

Reagan believed that deficit spending—spending money the government didn’t actually have—caused the country’s economic problems. His administration decided that best way to solve this problem was to reduce the amount of money the government spent. He cut or reduced several programs, but increased the military budget and canceled out much of the cuts. He did not manage to reduce government spending enough to offset the rest of his ideas.

The cornerstone of his presidential legacy, known as supply-side economics, was a reduction in the federal income tax and capital gains tax. The idea was that by taxing companies lessand, therefore, increasing their supply of money, they would put that money back into their businesses via expansion that added more jobs as well as improvements to production and service so that products were cheaper to purchase. By not taking as much money from individuals, the assumption was that they would able to spend more and contribute to economic growth.  Individuals would earn more, and pay taxes on that extra money, thereby replacing the government’s loss from lowering taxes. This is a controversial idea and opinions on the results are mixed. The general consensus is that any tax cuts need to also be reciprocated by reduced government spending in order to be completely effective.

Reagan also reduced government regulation. The goal was for thegovernment to take a backseat. He deregulated phone, gas and cable companies with the goal being “healthy competition”. Under his Presidency, the government also backed off from overseeing Savings and Loans companies. This gave those companies much more leeway in what loans they gave and what interest they could charge, savings and loan businesses could make incredibly risky investments. Many see this as what set the stage for the recent real estate crisis.

His policies were drastic and in some ways very effective at getting the economy headed in the right direction. Many herald him as a great economist who made the tough choices to get this country out of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

I find it incredibly interesting that some of his policies were not nearly as effective as he wanted them to be, had what could be considered a questionable lasting impact, and yet there are people who completely swear by his presidency.

A Perfect Night

A night out on a date is a much-needed break from studying and you need them as often as you can. Economics can be absorbing and intense on its own. I welcome any opportunity to get away from the books and the theories and enjoy a nice meal by candlelight. Students don’t always have the luxury of romantic interludes—who has time?—so they can be few and far between such that an occasional dinner out becomes a major treat.

It is unusual enough to become the subject of a blog, in fact. I have to report a recent experience that was extra special to me, and it came at just the right time. I had been writing papers and reading new material that was difficult to absorb, and my brain was pretty overloaded. I also had been neglecting regular meals and exercise. When asked out for a restaurant dinner, I jumped at the chance. I actually put on some decent clothing, sparse in my wardrobe to be sure, and added a touch of makeup to the mix.

I was taken to a local French bistro known for its ambience. I had not been and was relishing the menu choices. This would be a far cry from my usual fare, and anticipation reigned supreme. Upon arrival, I noticed that the main dining room had a wonderful wood stove strategically placed for most guests. I gave my date that knowing gesture. I wanted to be seated right in front.

The maître d’ accommodated us to my great joy. The flames beckoned with all their enticing glory. It was cold outside and the warmth wrapped around me like a cozy cape. It was not too hot; but just right. Eating here was going to be the highlight of the year. It was going to be a night to remember, but for reasons other than the usual suspects.

I was not disappointed. The hearth added a lot to an already fine dinner. We had a divine coq au vin, a green salad served after the entrée in true French style, and a wonderful pasty dessert. I wanted to linger and ordered café at the end of the meal. My date was happy as a clam, but not as much as I was seated before a blazing fire.

What is it exactly that is so magical about a fireplace and a few logs? Since most students don’t have one in a rented apartment, it becomes a symbol of sorts. It stands for extravagance, comfort, ease, and contentment, among other things. Sure it provides warmth, but it is so much more than that. A fire is a breath of warm air, a provider of sustenance not akin to food. It is a focal point when it exists and a beacon of light. In short, it is just right for what ails you at most any time.

You can even have a gas log, mighty convenient, and still feel the fine effects of a fire. Your unit can be large and elegant or small and compact. As long as you get to sit entranced once in a while, it doesn’t matter the size.

Drip, Drip, Drip!

I am trying to focus and concentrate. Studying is not easy when there are distractions around. I like a quiet environment conducive to contemplation and thought. I don’t always get this in my apartment. It’s not the noisy neighbors or the traffic outside. It is not a distant lawn mower or a baking dog. Neither is it children playing in the street or the sound of music in the unit below. It is constant drip, drip, drip of the kitchen faucet, and I need a plumber to fix it right now. It’s not one of those cheap ones either – it certainly appears to be one of the Finest Faucets that money can buy.

A leaky sink is annoying, and you don’t need aggravation when a mid-term text is looming on the horizon. There is enough pressure involved. At his point in the semester, I am too busy to even call for repair. I try twisting the knobs tightly and hoping for a reprieve. Not going to happen. I put a bowl under the faucet, but the sound is even worse. I am going to have to resort to earplugs to continue my reading.

This is also not a viable solution as I cannot talk on the phone nor hear the doorbell. Sometimes the landlord comes calling or the postman needs a signature. You can’t anticipate, so you don’t want to take drastic measures that will interfere with daily life.

Drip, drip, drip. The drone goes on. I am going to go mad! I try putting on some music, first with my earbuds and then in the entire apartment. It should camouflage the recurrent sounds. It does, but in point of fact, I still know it is there—like Chinese water torture, it inflicts its damage. Now it is psychological and well beyond the annoying stage. It is taking its toll on my mind!

Drip, drip, drip. I can hear it laughing at me insidiously. It tells me that I won’t pass that test or get that essay in on time. It tells me to get up and call the plumber, but I won’t succumb. I would just have to wait hours for him and not return to the task at hand until the job was done. No, there must be a way out of this water nightmare, and I have to think fast.

I plug up the faucet opening with a bit of cheese cloth I found in a kitchen drawer, but it acts like a sieve to no avail. I move myself to the living room in spite of the loss of my worktable of choice. I am not comfortable there. The light is better in the kitchen and much needed for concentration.

So what next? I have a small bedroom, not conducive to study. If I work while in bed, I always fall asleep. The bathroom is out of the question. I go back to the kitchen and start to look around. I find a small wrench too small for the faucet. I find a plastic bowl that may muffle the water-dropping sounds. I do a million things in my mind until I finally call the landlord. He kindly offers to call the plumber himself, and adds, “what took you so long?”

What do You Wear?

College students have their noses buried in the books most of the time, sometimes at the expense of their health. They stay up all hours of the night and forget to eat. They don’t know when to quit, thinking more is better when it comes to studying. They don’t sleep enough or even get a modicum of exercise. For me, a few extra pounds was the slap in the face I needed to wake up and start a new program. Was it those chips I loved to munch on in the wee hours of the morning when the stomach starts grumbling?

I now wear a fitness tracker that links to my bathroom scale, also new. It is a marvelous technical innovation that I have welcomed into my life. It is a symbol of my new commitment to self-improvement and a way to take mandatory breaks from intense study. The tracker will monitor my fitness level over a given period of time and will also record weight gain or loss most accurately. I can think of no better motivator when you are on a schedule and beginning a new regimen.

Most any exercise works for young people, even long power walks. Their muscles tone up fast and their metabolisms are already fast in most cases. Being overweight is not the norm. My program was modest but effective in intention and results. It combined a bit of the treadmill, weight circuit training, and aerobics. It let in some swimming (indoor pool of course) and diving. I didn’t need a huge weight loss as much as I needed something to help clear my brain and focus better on economics.

Tracking your workout makes you accountable, no matter what else it does in providing data to assess. It helps you stay on your selected program as you will want to beat the numbers and come out ahead. It is a test of wills. A poor set of readings means you are apparently not applying yourself. Ultimately, the digital bathroom scale is the benchmark of progress. Even a half pound can make you cringe. This is the nature of a regimen. When you commit to it, and really embrace it, it starts to become a bit of an obsession and will spur you on.

As a student, I have designated time for walks and workouts. They have to fit into my schedule. Since there is precious little time, and exercise is very compact, my tracking device is my companion and guide. It is there on my wrist as a reminder of my goals and purpose. It tells me if and when I have done enough. While I am in the zone, it does its job of informing me of my progress or lack thereof. When back to studying, it takes a back seat to the books.

I heartily advice any fellow students to buy this device or ask for one as a gift. It is not something you would have put on your wish list a while ago, but take it from me, it belongs there along with a new smart phone and tablet.