What a year. We face huge challenges; and yet the whole world is excited about America again and rooting for her – most of the world, anyway – and that’s huge. Those of us who consider Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ the most moving and meaningful speech of our lives know that in 2008, hope won.

So, for all the belt-tightening as we are likely to encounter over the next several years* there is still lots of reason to be hopeful**.

And in that spirit, I offer, yet again, the column I wrote a year ago trying to summarize key points of a three-hour Ray Kurzweil C-SPAN interview . . . (only, use this link rather than the one in that column, because it’s free) . . . those points being, first, that as dazzling as the technological progress of the last 50 years has been, the next 50 years should be 32 times as dazzling . . . and, second, that one manifestation of this will be that – while you can certainly still get hit by a bus – life expectancy on average will soon be rising by more than one year per year. So you’ll be getting a little further from the end each year. So floss.

My overarching point here: What an amazing time to be alive and Internet-enabled. Happy New Year! Here’s wishing you and yours a healthy, fulfilling 2009.

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*By the way, because I should have included this thought Monday: tax cuts are probably the least effective way to fix our problem. Those who have enough income to be subject to tax aren’t the ones hurting worst, and they’d most likely just use a tax cut to pay down debt or build up savings – as they should. And if they did use it to buy another imported flat screen TV or airline ticket, what would they – or we – really have to show for it in 10 years?

No, the resources we throw at our problems should go mainly to putting people without income to work doing things that need doing, as argued Monday, like retro-greening our residential and commercial building stock, digitizing our medical records, modernizing our schools, rebuilding our roads and bridges, deploying windmills and a new electric grid, dredging our waterways.
Not to say the President-elect should go back on his tax-cut pledge – or that it can be this easy and neat. Not every laid-off store clerk and starving real estate agent can be effectively or swiftly employed building a new electric grid. Clearly. But this is the overall theme.

Finally, it should be said, tax cuts are not a good answer (even if the electorate has thus far demanded them), because in our current circumstance they are not really tax cuts at all, they are tax shifts – onto our future selves and our children.

** Indeed, there is reason to fear that hopefulness may even get a little overdone in the excitement of a new year and the promise of the new administration. So I wouldn’t be surprised to see the stock market rise further . . . and thus have sold some more of my RSW. (Roughly speaking, you may recall, we bought it around $85 and sold ‘a third to a half’ around $170 or $200.) Monday I sold more for $120 . . . which was equivalent to $140 because we are about to get a big capital gains distribution.

But if the market does climb much further, I plan to buy some back (only, as noted, switching from RSW to the more liquid SDS), because I think it may not yet fully have sunk in how much worse things are likely to get before they get better. I want to be hedged against that possibility.

 

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