Friday, January 31, 2014

How Is Your State Of The Union?

Last Tuesday evening, the President delivered the annual State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress. To many, it seemed a fairly easy to take list of modest goals with few sharp edges and nothing too inflammatory to offend the loyal opposition. Yes, I know, I know, Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) was so mortified at the President's willful and brazen shredding of the Constitution that he was compelled to walk out during the address. Stockman is a professional boob who has mounted one of the most ridiculous and certain to fail campaigns we've seen in a long time. Stockman is an outlier, in more than one way. Soon, Stockman will be out of a job, too.

I've been thinking about my State of the Union. It compares in many ways to President Obama's remarks earlier this week. Generally speaking, my family and I seem to be heading in the right direction, although not as fast as we'd like. There are things we've accomplished, like seeing our kids move into their college years with a desire to further their education. We've paid down our debt, to the lowest amount its been in years. We've addressed some infrastructure issues on our property. For the most part, everything works as its supposed to here at the Corfield household. Sure, there's a list of things we'd still like to do. My wife wants me to replace a ceiling fan in one of the kids rooms, I'd like to install an exhaust fan on the roof, and replace the rear entrance completely. We'll need a few tons of gravel by Springtime and there's some plumbing issues we need to address after the weather breaks related to our well. Emotionally, I think I continue to grow and absorb all sorts of things around me I failed to notice when I was younger. Relationship wise, my marriage seems to be as strong as ever, our bonds have deepened over time and we genuinely enjoy each other's company, even after 23 years.

Financially, we're considered slightly better off than the typical middle-class family is. Both my wife and I have two college degrees and have put them to good use. She works in largest hospital in our area and has put her Masters degree in nursing to good use. I've parlayed my degree in Marketing and 15+ years of retail management experience into my own small business, which is very healthy as I head into my 18th year of providing and performing music for Seniors in Southwest Ohio. We enjoy a fairly high level of satisfaction professional speaking. We're pretty darn happy.

The dictionary definition of the word union, as it applies to this blogpost, says the following:

Union (noun)

a) An act or instance of uniting or joining two or more things into one.
b) A unified condition.

Like our politics, families all too often fall into the trap of distorted viewpoints or perspective. Its very easy to dwell or focus on the things that aren't working, the things we want to change rather than find a happy balance by recognizing the things that are going well. Life isn't just the bad stuff and its not just the good stuff. Its all that stuff. Every day, every week every year.


The Republicans and especially Speaker of the House John Boehner love to say "The American people want to know where are the jobs, Mister President?" Would we like more jobs to be created? Of course we would. In the first few months of 2009, after Barack Obama took office, the economy was losing jobs by numbers that can only be described as staggering and terrifying. Eight-hundred thousand jobs lost a month as Obama brought his Administration on the job. The economy contracting (getting smaller) by 8.9% in the 4th quarter of 2008.

Where are we now? 46 straight months of job growth, an impressive streak for sure. The unemployment rate, clearly an imperfect metric but the standard nonetheless, which peaked at slightly above 10% in late 2009, sat at 6.7% in December 2013. Clearly better? Yes, What we want? No. Keep in mind, the average unemployment rate from 1948 through 2013 was 5.83%. The average. For every hundred people looking for work, roughly 94 were working through that time period of over 60 years. Right now, roughly 1 more person of those hundred people I just mentioned is still looking for work. 93 people are employed.

This as we continue to recover, albeit slowly, from the second worst economic collapse in the United States of the two hundred years. Only the Great Depression outranks it.

My point? Its the job, I suppose of the loyal opposition to find fault with the sitting president and his party on any number of things, including unemployment. But keep in mind, we're pretty close to what the average has been for the last 60+ years, so when you hear the suggestion that the economy is dying, unemployment is at crushing levels, well, its just talk. Its just politics. Its up to you how you choose to look at things.

Fortunately, we don't usually face the same obstruction in our personal lives. If we do, its much easier to address the issue directly and find a way to resolve it. Perspective is critical in our personal lives. If we become too transfixed on making money, we tend to do so at the expense of other valuable things. Sure, not a single reader of this column has too much money, I'll bet. We all would like more. I would.

I've found thinking of the word "union" over the past few days, its a little easier to think in broader way. Money and financial worth is only a part of our lives and I'd caution everyone to not lose your minds over it. Things happen damn fast in this life. A tender moment with your spouse, a teaching moment with a child, a moment of true friendship with a friend, are special things that, as the old saying goes, money can't buy.

I'm not saying don't attack your goals aggressively. Go after what you want and work as hard and as smart as you can. Just leave time to tune into the other frequencies broadcast around you. Its not impossible to work it all in. A balance in life or a successful "union of your state" will have a pretty neat benefit on your pursuit of a more impressive balance sheet over time.


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