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A Little of This, A Little of That
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I usually try to focus on one topic for my monthly editorial in PaperMoney. It’s not always easy to narrow the choices when many events and issues affect us personally and as an industry.

In April, for example, I receive quarterly earning stements for my investment funds. April also brings us tax day and Earth Day.

All of the funds I’ve invested in lost money this quarter, dropping roughly 4% to 8% in three months. I should probably take comfort in that. Had the money been invested in Bear Stearns, the loss would be much more dramatic. Even so, the dips, drops, and dives that occur from week-to-week are still hard to stomach. For now, I try to remain relatively optimistic and heed the advice of investment brokers who say to focus on the long-term. To help reinforce the notion of that being reasonable advice, I took a look at the trend lines for the Dow Jones Industrial Average Index. Year-to-date, the index is down. Compared with five years ago, the index has climbed considerably; it looks particularly “healthy” when viewed against declines in 1998 and 2002, although that could be a false impression.

In the United States, income taxes are due April 15. Some years I owe the government money, some years I get a refund. Especially in years that I owe money, I starting thinking about how the government is spending my money. A large chunk of money is allotted to Social Security, of which I hope to benefit some day. Another large chunk goes to Medicare and Medicaid. I can appreciate the need for healthcare coverage, so I try to take an altruistic view of that, for now. Another considerable portion of the budget is allocated to defense, though a more honest term to cover the last five years would be offense. In this case, from a business perspective, the return on investment has been highly disappointing and the long-term costs, including the costs of diverted funds, lost goodwill, lost human resources, and lost productivity, seem to be growing.

On a greener note, I remember the initial Earth Day celebrations and the widespread sense of activism connected with those. As the 1970s transitioned into the 1980s, the concern for being green shifted to making green. It would seem that growing concerns about global warming would have increased the sense of activism and the significance of Earth Day, but I have yet to see much evidence of that. Teachers continue to mark the occasion with lessons for children about recycling and saving energy and water, but the rising price of gas now seems to be having more influence on adults than the lessons of Earth Days they should have heeded many years ago. And Americans are becoming more environmentally conscious in their shopping habits and daily habits. One recent study reported that 71% of us are recycling paper now. That may be a slight exageration, but not too far from the truth: the American Forest and Paper Association reports American now recycle 56% of paper consumed.

So you can see, those are three topics that each could have been the focus of an editorial, not to mention topics such as the G7 meeting last week, the influence of the U.S. deficit on the value of the dollar and the effect in other parts of the world, the long-term effects of the housing market slump on the forest products industries, financial institutions, unemployment, etc.

We’ll talk more next month.

















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