Despite all its mishaps in 2011, Netflix is still the best value for video rental. Many brick-and-mortar stores are gone. Blockbuster’s Total Access and On Demand services are moderately priced between Redbox and iTunes, but these options don’t give people the subscription model that has grown successfully for the past decade. The “Qwikster blunder” actually brought the company back down to a realistic price, as it was heavily overvalued last summer. This stock certainly should not be shorted below $100
If America’s infrastructure is crumbling, we need more than a tax on gas to support the Highway Trust Fund and state departments of transportation. With fuel efficient vehicles making a larger presence on the road and in the showroom, we need to look at new fundraising models to finance transportation projects. Last year in Oregon, we saw discussion of charging EV owners on a per-mile rate since they avoid the federal and state gas taxes. Other states were watching the debate and considering flat annual registration fees to help make up the growing financial shortfall.
My first reaction to this idea was that along with decreasing subsidies, a mileage fee will not promote or encourage people to by an electric vehicle. Of course there are many transportation alternatives to choose from, but they all require public investment and maintenance financing. Some leaders in the EV community support ideas aimed at ensuring everyone using a road pays for its upkeep, however, any successful legislation should carefully consider pricing strategies. Smart consumers look at the total cost of ownership when purchasing vehicles. With this knowledge, I feel the effects of imposing fair rate fees on EVs would not be detrimental for adoption of new electric models, but the proposed bills as they were written did not pass in 2011.
Automakers are improving efficiency due to the demand of consumers and the force of government. These car companies have big investments and marketing budgets and will push for sales in creative ways. As the national Highway Trust Fund continues to experience deficits of billions of dollars and states battle over financing methods, something will have to change. Ultimately, we need to make smarter decisions about which transportation infrastructure projects are most critical to our future needs and cancel funding of non-essential ones.
A New York Times article published today written by Mike McIntire and Michael Luo brings to light some very interesting facts about Republican candidate Rick Santorum. The story, “After Santorum Left Senate, Familiar Hands Reached Out”, explains multiple ways in which Santorum personally benefited from the decisions he made as a Pennsylvania senator. From keynotes to consulting gigs, the former senator seems to have been quite successful during the past few years. As his career hummed along with several job offers from private companies which benefited from his political moves, Santorum did what any smart American would do; he went after the money.
We can each have our own opinion regarding Santorum’s financial gains as a benefactor of his own votes. While he was supposed to be representing a state of citizens, it appears Santorum’s time as senator was spent networking for his own future. Perhaps it was merely good fortune that these “familiar hands reached out” after his days as a senator where over. Maybe Santorum is a regular American (a wealthy one at that) who received business offers because people liked his resume. I have not decided whether this makes him a bad guy, but can a senator who frequently looks out for himself find the time to represent those who elect him? My former ethics professor would likely have a snappy statement for this situation. I think it’s as if a tech columnist were to suddenly take a job with Apple, then later join Google. You loose your credibility and people begin to question your intentions.
It is a new year and that means people are making resolutions. Some may only last a few weeks, while others might survive into the spring season and beyond. One major trend over the past couple years has been a shift away from too-big-to-fail corporations toward smaller, more local business. Consumers are resolving to shop small. Independent merchants are being embraced by many people who would rather see their dollar support a neighborhood business than end up in an executives 401(k). Small business owners have a unique opportunity to expand their markets through ecommerce, while continuing to cater to the locals who love them.
As the holiday season kicked off in November, American Express ran a campaign encouraging people to “Shop Small” and promoted “Small Business Saturday“. Of course, the giant credit card company was promoting shopping in general, and hoping you’d pay with plastic, but the campaign was a smart idea. People are finding pleasure in seeing a favorite restaurant down the street succeed. They want the little boutique on the corner to do well, and love chatting with the barista who asks about their life while starting their drink as soon as they walk in the door. A key strength of small businesses is that they know their customers and can easily make decisions to provide greater service.
Throughout 2012, I expect people to continue gravitating toward ideas of community. Companies such as Zipcar and city bike-sharing programs will grow as consumers seek sustainable alternatives. Local farms produce will be in high demand, credit unions will open more accounts, and people will increasingly consider shopping local; even if it means paying more money. For those seeking more feel-good vibes, a new startup called Lucky Ant gives anyone the opportunity to contribute money to neighborhood business projects. As a thank you for helping them reach their goals, companies can offer rewards and special perks to their “investors”. While you might not become a co-owner or shareholder, the idea behind Lucky Ant is that you will enjoy contributing to the local economy and gaining VIP status at the shops you love.
*Inspiration source: http://www.good.is
The week leading up to Thanksgiving presented the very best character of Oregonians. I speak of the faculty, alumni, students, and other supporters of University of Oregon President Richard Lariviere, who joined together for a cause they believed was important. Did emotions cloud our judgement? Perhaps we who petitioned, blogged, and attended public meetings felt as though a member of our family was being attacked. Whether you were just a student who listened to Lariviere speak, or had more enriching interactions with him, the university community’s outrage and swift actions were justified by the inadequate handling of a painful termination of an educational leader.
Even as the State Board of Higher Education appointed interim president Robert Berdahl, he presented a message stating he personally disagreed with the Board’s decision to terminate Lariviere’s contract.
I am saddened by the circumstances that have led to my assuming this position. I believe that the UO has made important progress on all fronts under the leadership of Richard Lariviere and I have made it clear that, whatever its reasons, I believe the Board of Higher Education made a serious and damaging mistake in terminating his presidency at the UO.
As an alumni of a wonderful university, I joined my former professors, classmates, and colleagues in an effort to communicate a message to an unreceptive collection of public figures. The states twelve board members ultimately sided with the Governor and appeared to ignore the individuals who took a great amount of time to attend a public meeting (the decision was final before the meeting began). One can hope that the coming year will be full of great progress, yet it will start with a dedicated leader removed from office on December 28th, 2011.
- There is much room for improvement in the politics of education.
- With great leadership, comes great respect.
- Do not tick off the Governor of your state.
The problem with our proposed jobs bill is that it attempts to reduce unemployment by essentially spreading the cost of another stimulus over ten years, while providing businesses immediate savings. It is important to note many companies have survived the past several years floating on large cash assets, so money doesn’t seem to be the issue. All that cash is mostly sitting idle because supply is not a problem either. Large businesses have excess capacity, more than enough property, and continue to reduce payrolls. Small businesses would love take advantage of low-interest rates and make investments, but without increased customer demand, they cannot find a financial benefit to doing so.
Some business owners say they would use any payroll tax breaks to increase existing employee’s salaries. While this strategy does not immediately solve an unemployment crisis, it could provide a desperately needed boost to the confidence of the 91% of Americans currently working. Perhaps if the jobs bill focused on bringing the underpaid work force up to a better living wage, consumer demand might start to rise. Only once that happens will a greater portion of small companies look to hire.
We’ve been stuck in a rut for a very long time, but with the right long-term strategy we can find a way to get ourselves out of it. Times will continue to be tough for many, however, political wrestling and the costly, temporary fixes that result won’t solve our current issues or get us back to prosperity.
For more on this topic see Portland Business Journal writer Kent Hoover’s article,”Business: Demand, not tax cuts, will boost hiring“.
Two weeks ago I posted about some financial details to watch while attending college. I also hinted at some ways to find savings and reduce your overall expenses. I thought it would be neat to create a colorful graphic about paying for college using some real numbers from my years at the University of Oregon.
The short & sweet for graduating students and alumni:
- Including living expenses, even an in-state education is pricey. Expenses are increasing faster than inflation, so do your best to save where you can.
- Federal loan repayment plans are typically 10 years. If you can afford higher monthly payments, you’ll cut thousands of interest dollars from your total cost of education.
- Hopefully you took advantage of scholarships. Its likely the most you’ll ever earn for writing an essay.
- Use your banks portfolio tools for a glimpse at how you spend and try free online tools to manage your money and discover opportunities to save more.
- Make payments toward accumulated interest while still in school. Once your repayment begins, any unpaid interest will be added to your principle balance, increasing the minimum monthly payment amount.
- Now is actually a great time to pay down debt. My bank pays 0% interest while loan payments allow me to effectively gain 6.8%
Although financial expert Susan Orman has argued against graduates returning home rent free, I’d say it is a good option to keep open. Sure the thought of going broke might force you to find a job and save money, but with current grads spending months unemployed, it makes sense to join the millions moving back in with parents.