Thank you

Over the past 30 months, Wideanglethinking (WAT) has tried to challenge conventional thinking regarding the source of societal problems and the most effective way to resolve them. We leave it to the reader to determine whether we have achieved our goal.

Having covered many of today’s hot-button topics at least once, it is time to take a break. As events move us, we will make posts on WAT on an irregular basis. I encourage the many subscribers to WAT to take a look at my other blog which is found on the Times of India’s “SpeakingTree” (ST) website. The Times of India requested I become a regular contributor to their website and I have honored their request by making monthly posts to ST for the past 18 months. I intend to continue posting on their website on a frequent basis. I invite you to sign up and “follow me” on this multicultural website that has drawn hundreds of thousands of readers from around the world.

Some of the topics I have posted on the ST blog are quite a bit different from those on WAT, some quite similar. I think most WAT readers will find the posts informative and occasionally a bit challenging. Nonetheless, I strive to make everything I write as practical as possible.

Thanks for your interest and feedback; working together we can surely make the world a better place. As Margaret Mead so eloquently stated, thank-you“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”


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Four Wise Men

What do two billionaire capitalists and two Nobel Prize-winning economists have in common? All four see a problem that few want to acknowledge or tackle. Recent comments from these four should alert us to the challenge we face and the need to take our heads out of the sand before it is too late.

Bill Gross, mutual fund founder and multi-billionaire, wrote in Pimco’s November 2013 Investment Outlook, “Developed economies work best when inequality of incomes are at a minimum.” grossRight now the U.S. ranks barely ahead of Greece and Spain in the Gini index which measures level of inequality in a country…. “Having gotten rich at the expense of labor, the guilt sets in and I begin to feel sorry for the less well-off.”…. “The era of taxing “capital” at lower rates than “labor” should now end. “Ordinary folks, the 99%, don’t have money anymore. The rich 1% and corporations do.” Until inequality is rebalanced, Gross believes the prospects for markets – regardless the asset class – is far from golden.

Recent winner of the Noble prize in economics, Robert Shiller, is equally concerned about the rising trend of inequality throughout the world.shiller “It’s not the financial crisis per se, but the most important problem we are facing now, today, I think, is rising inequality in the United States and elsewhere in the world.”…. “We should be thinking about this now,” he continued,” calling for higher taxes on the wealthy if the gap between rich and poor continues to widen. “I think there’s a lot more we can do and it will help make a better society,” Shiller said.

Warren Buffet, capitalist extraordinaire and the world’s second richest person, has many of the same sentiments.buffett“We don’t need to have the extremes of inequality that we have. The people at the bottom end should be doing better. I think it behooves this very rich country to have less inequality than we have.” “The rich are always going to say that, you know, just give us more money and we’ll go out and spend more and then it will all trickle down to the rest of you. But that has not worked the last 10 years, and I hope the American public is catching on.”

Another noble prize winner in economics, Joseph Stiglitz, echoes the views cited above. “Some people look at income inequality and shrug their shoulders. So what if this person gains and that person loses? stiglitzWhat matters, they argue, is not how the pie is divided but the size of the pie. That argument is fundamentally wrong. An economy in which most citizens are doing worse year after year—an economy like America’s—is not likely to do well over the long haul…. The top 1 percent have the best houses, the best educations, the best doctors, and the best lifestyles, but there is one thing that money doesn’t seem to have bought: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live. Throughout history, this is something that the top 1 percent eventually do learn. Too late.”

The widening gap between the rich and poor is a worldwide phenomenon. It is critical that we tell those in power that the situation is not only unfair but unsustainable. For those still unconvinced check out “Mind the Gap: Danger Lurks as Income Disparity Widens” at




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An Attitude of Graditude

Surveying world events – economic, political, environmental – can become depressing. It is easy to overlook the good things happening and the countless reasons for being grateful. imagesCAWBY400At this time of year many cultures and spiritual traditions remind us of the importance of appreciating life’s blessings. Research has shown that feeling gratitude lowers stress, enhances physical and emotional well-being and leads to greater life satisfaction. Positive thoughts are uplifting and lead us to recognize the abundance and benevolence around us. The natural inclination, for many, is to focus on problems and take good things for granted.

Yet even our problems can be viewed in a different light if we take a different view. People who annoy us, for example, are often a true gift. They teach us things we might otherwise disregard by mirroring back unflattering traits we need to see in our selves. We attract people who vibrate at the same frequency and who often have similar traits we might prefer to ignore. Someone who irritates us may simply be highlighting where our real work lies. In Carlos Castaneda’s books “petty tyrants” are considered to be our greatest teachers. It behooves us to see every encounter and experience as a gift.

To change negative thoughts to life affirming ones, try the following:

Maintain a gratitude journal; what are you grateful for today

Appreciate what you have rather than focusing on what is lacking

Be generous with your praise and affection for others; what goes around comes around

Go easy on yourself; no one is perfect

View all circumstances and events as learning experiences

Think of all the things you are grateful for before you go to bed and upon arising in the morning.

Give thanks for your family and friends and acquaintences; you are connected for a reason

Give thanks for the abundance in your life – both mundane and sacred

Give thanks for the natural beauty that surrounds us

Give thanks for those who mentor us and serve as role models

Give thanks to those who forgive our mistakes

Give thanks for the opportunity to contribute to life

Give thanks for the chance to learn, grow and evolve

Give thanks for the opportunity to make mistakes so learning is accelerated

Give thanks for those who watch over and guide us

“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” – Meister Eckhart

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It doesn’t make any sense (IX)

dear mastercard

The Philadelphia Inquirer October 20, 2013

This is a perfect analogy! Wouldn’t it be great if we could design budgets in which we only plan to spend what we take in?

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BTR Interview

Please follow this link to a recent BTR interview podcast interviewin which David discusses some of the latest hot button topics as well as possible solutions to our most vexing problems. Interlaced with music that you can choose to enjoy or skip, you’ll find the interview lively and informative. All comments and feedback are welcome.


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For our Planet and Soul


Want to cut taxes, decrease the deficit, reduce regulations and improve the environment? A carbon tax would accomplish all that, but it has surprisingly few supporters. In fact, policy makers are running the other way.

Economists have long argued that a carbon tax is the simplest, most effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.carbon tax It is a broad, market-based tax that would force carbon emitters to cover costs now borne by the rest of us. Polluters would be encouraged to clean up their act without the necessity of new EPA regulations. The opposition counters that such a tax would raise energy costs and hurt the fossil fuel industry.

According to the non-partisan Center for Climate and Electricity Policy,  a tax of $25 per ton of CO2 emitted in the production of electricity, heating and transportation fuels would raise about $125 billion annually. Such a tax would add about 21 cents to a gallon of gasoline and 1.2 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity. On the positive side, it would provide money for tax cuts (some of which could used to help the poor pay for higher gas and electricity costs) and deficit reduction. A carbon tax would also inspire greater innovation and energy efficiency

It would undoubtedly be opposed by lobbyists from the fossil fuel, auto and power utilities who are big contributors to political campaigns. Many citizens have become spoiled by energy prices that don’t adequately reflect the cost of removing and replacing the energy consumed or the cost of repairing environmental damage incurred in the extraction process. While they are also likely to decry higher prices, it’s time to face reality!

Despite the hurdles, a number of principled parties trudge on. South Carolina Republican Bob Inglis who may have lost his job in Congress by supporting a carbon tax, is dedicating his post-congressional career just such a tax. Says Inglis, “Losing an election is not the worst thing that can happen to you. Losing your soul is considerably worse.” 


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It doesn’t make any sense (VIII)

Cities do it; states and provinces do it; even countries do it. So “it” must be good. Or maybe not!

What these political entities do is lure businesses, through direct payments and subsidies, to their territory. corporate subsidyPoliticians can then commend themselves for the jobs “created” and tax revenue “generated.” Since the jobs merely move from one location to another, nothing new is created; nonetheless, officials are quick to claim the credit. In some cases, incentives are given to retain businesses that have threatened to leave if no largess is forthcoming. Under these circumstances, money for programs that would benefit all citizens is unavailable. The practice is wasteful and unfair; a slush fund for the well-connected.

Once one political entity engages in this beggar-thy-neighbor process others feel compelled to do likewise, creating a veritable zero sum game. Even supporters of such incentives admit the difficulty in gauging their effectiveness. In fact, a study by Angelou Economics found that job growth is tied primarily to a skilled, entrepreneurial work force, reasonable regulations and strong logistical support. The amount of the incentives offered carries little weight. In addition, a Minnesota study found that 80% of jobs created by firms receiving subsidies would have developed without the giveaways. To put job subsidy programs in perspective, it is estimated that government entities spent an average of $456,000 per job created. Does that make any sense?

It would be wiser and more efficient if governments used their revenue to upgrade education and training programs and create better transportation and communication networks. The entire region would benefit and the jobs generated would be higher paying and have greater staying power. Now that’s a plan that makes dollars and sense!


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How Taxing Is It? III

Budgets need balancing; roads need repairing and CO2 needs to be reduced. All governments face these challenges. Is there anything that can address all three problems simultaneously?

How about raising the gas tax? In the U.S., the federal tax on gasoline is 18.4 cents and hasn’t been raised since 1993. In inflation-adjusted terms that is 40% lower than 20 years ago. Gas Tax Increase PillCountries in Europe have a gas tax that is many times higher than the U.S. and their citizens have adjusted by reducing driving, purchasing fuel-efficient cars and increasing carpooling. Higher gas taxes would produce revenue to bolster highway trust funds that are projected to run a $9 billion deficit within a few years. Increased revenue from gas taxes could also be used to bolster carbon reduction efforts thereby mitigating weather related disasters and escalating health care expenditures.

Not politically possible, you say? State governments in the U.S., including those with tax-shy, conservative governors, are leading the charge for higher gas taxes. Michigan’s Republican Governor, Rick Synder, is advocating a 73% hike in gas taxes. Says Synder, “This is common sense . . . we need to make the investment.”

One way to soften the political fallout is to change the tax to a percentage of motor fuel prices. That would allow revenues to rise with fuel prices and keep highway funding adjusted for inflation. Because changes would be automatic, the politically-delicate chore of asking for future tax hikes would be avoided. Finally, higher gas taxes should shrink oil imports and make consuming countries less vulnerable to the vagaries of the market. .

Doesn’t a policy that improves lives: physically, economically and strategically sound appealing? All we need are a few courageous politicians. Let’s hope we find some before conditions deteriorate and costs skyrocket.


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A is for Apple: C is for Chutzpah

Earlier this month Apple Corporation (AC), the darling of businesses and consumers alike, sold $17 billion worth of bonds. Thanks to the U.S. Federal Reserve’s policy of quantitative easing (printing money to keep interest rates artificially low) Apple’s new 3 year bonds pay a measly 0.45%. Why would a company with $145 billion in cash and no debt need to borrow so much money? Apple’s answer: they intend to buy back $60 billion in stock over three years (the largest corporate stock buyback in history) and raise their dividend by 15%. But that’s not the whole story. apple logoAccording to Barron’s, Apple is avoiding as much as $9.2 billion dollars in U.S. taxes by borrowing in the bond market instead of repatriating the hoard of cash it has stashed overseas. A handsome subsidy for stockholders of one of the world’s wealthiest companies courtesy of retirees dependent on their investment income, underfunded pension plans and the American taxpayer. And then – to add insult to injury – Apple defends its policies when called to testify at a Senate hearing about using overseas subsidiaries to avoid paying taxes in the U.S.

While the Federal Reserve’s loose (some say misguided) money policy is handsomely rewarding stockholders, Apple is laying off 5% of its retail store staff. In the recent past, Apple has also been cited for condoning poor working conditions for employees of its suppliers.

The often asked, but seldom answered, question: does a business have a responsibility to share its success with its employees? In part because of maintaining a lean workforce and keeping wages low (the share of money going to labor has fallen to a multi-decade low), U.S. corporate profits recently hit an all-time high as a share of the nation’s GDP. By some estimates corporate profit margins are 70% above their historic levels. Meanwhile, owners and senior executives make sure their bonuses are both substantial and continuous (even when executives make serious mistakes which cause their companies to falter).

While compensation is partially determined by supply and demand, astute management will realize it’s in their self-interest to share the bounty with employees. Generous compensation attracts and retains talent, reduces turnover and boosts motivation and productivity. A company’s self-interest is also served by decreasing the widening gap between the rich and the poor; social unrest is a problem for every business. So is the inevitable backlash when a company doesn’t pay its fair share of taxes. Henry Ford, a staunch capitalist, paid his workers above average wages so they could afford to buy the cars they were building. Can Apple, or any other prosperous company, afford to do any less?


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It’s Not so Taxing II

Last month marked the 10th anniversary of the start of the Iraq war. Many commentators used the occasion to discuss the lessons that we should have learned from this ill- conceived foray that cost tens of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars. cost of warFew mention the most striking failing; the one thing that may keep leaders with macho personalities and little common sense from repeating the same mistake. Whenever military action is contemplated, the government should be required to raise taxes to cover the full cost of the war it wishes to wage. If the initial estimate of the war’s cost is exceeded, our leaders would have to convince the bill-paying public that further spending is warranted and raise taxes accordingly. Such a sound fiscal policy would prevent the government putting war costs on a credit card so that the country can have both guns and butter – the proverbial free lunch. It would also avoid encumbering future generations with huge debts.

The commander-in-chief would be forced to persuade all citizens, not just the military, why they should sacrifice their hard-earned money to prosecute the war. Had this process been instituted during the Iraqi war, as well as other incursions, it is unlikely the war would have lasted as long as it did. Some wars may not have even been started. It was patently obvious to many objective observers that the post WWII offenses would require sacrifices that were likely to be much greater than benefits obtained.

If military action is thought necessary, politicians should be able to explain the need to sacrifice both the lives of its troops and the treasure of its citizens. If they can’t war plans should be shelved. War seldom accomplishes anything of lasting value. Not going to war may indeed be the ultimate victory.


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