Yes I Can!

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Yesterday John Stossel asked me, “But don’t we need a President?” John has long been a hero of mine, particularly since his autobiography came out:  Give Me a Break: How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists

We were doing a pre-taping for his Thursday show. I was feeling a bit uncomfortable. First they asked me to put on makeup three times. I don’t like to wear makeup. Actually, I don’t even like to be touched unless I know you very well. Then right before we were going to start taping they asked me to go into some back room and comb my hair. What’s wrong with just looking like I normally do? Am I going to comb my hair and somehow look more “TV ready”? I couldn’t find an empty room so I was wandering the halls with a brush. I felt embarrassed.

During the segment I asked, “What has a President ever done for you?” and then John asked the above question.

John’s question was reasonable. Every country in the world has a leader. But my question was different: what has a President ever done for you? I was born in 1968. I’m 44. I can’t remember any policy by any President that has changed my life one way or the other. I look at all the big decisions in my life or the things that have affected my life a lot:

  • –          Going to college (and unfortunately waiting until then to lose my virginity. I can’t thank Ronald Reagan for that since she was a Marxist).
  • –          Getting married (twice)
  • –          Having kids (twice)
  • –          Paying a portion of my hard-earned income to the government where a very high percentage of it goes towards policies I never would’ve approved (wars, bad education policies, bad environmental policies, bad legal enforcement (the war on drugs), etc). In fact, most of those policies that I never would’ve approved were approved by a Congress and not a President.
  • –          Starting and selling several businesses. Failing at several others.
  • –          Making both good and bad investments
  • –          Buying, and then losing, two different homes.
  • –          Going to graduate school. Getting thrown out of graduate school (no President could’ve helped me there)
  • –          Moving several times
  • –          Getting a job or two when I was younger

I would say that, physically, these were perhaps the most important things that have happened to me. Oh, throw in at the top of that list: starting this blog. I can’t blame any of my bad decisions on a President. Nor do I attribute any of my meager successes to a President.

So regardless of who was elected President (Clinton or Dole in 1996, Gore and Bush in 2000, Mondale or Reagan in 1984, Obama or McCain in 2008, and the upcoming election). I can’t think of how my life would’ve been different.  I would still have made all of the same decisions, for better or worse.

(one valuable lesson from Mondale: when he was no longer Vice-President he said, “suddenly people stopped laughing at my jokes”. An important statement on celebrity culture.

And yet people argue argue ARGUE over who should win in 2012. People lose friendships and family members over the Presidency. One close family member told me she felt like she was having an orgasm when Obama was elected in 2008. Well, what happened? Where are all the orgasms?

What actually changed in 2008? We kept the same Secretary of Defense, stayed in the same wars, healthcare is just as expensive, with or without Obamacare, my taxes are the same four years later, the economy is roughly the same as it was through most of the Bush administration, we kept open the same prisons – what actually got better for me?

Why do we obsess over this? Is it the culture of celebrity? Or, more likely, the fact that “can’t” is such a pervasive and persuasive word in our consciousness. We “can’t” do something unless the government is different, unless our lives are different, unless a savior comes and helps, unless luck comes down and blesses us. Can’t, can’t, can’t.

Which is why such a powerful political slogan is “Yes we can!” Then for the briefest of moments we are hypnotized into believing it’s true. That anything is possible if we VOTE.

But I don’t care about who is President. Nobody can make my life better. Nobody can rally me to a cause by saying “Yes we can!”.

Only “Yes I can!” will propel me forward, as stupid as that sounds. Only “Yes I Can!” will rewire the impossible into possibility in my head. This is something I’ve only learned after 40 years of “Can’t”. I vote for me. And by doing so, I know I will, I know I should, I know I can. If we all do that, then nothing else matters. No law will stop us. No economy will slow us down, no war will destroy us.

I vaguely remember at some point in the taping I said to John something to the effect, “Well, I guess we’re all going to hell then.” I had the crew laughing. But now I’m wondering if they will air the segment. Looking back on it, I feel like nothing I said made sense. But that’s how I usually feel about things that happened in the distant past.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/jonas.ellison Jonas Ellison

    Holy shit, I am so looking forward to seeing this interview. Thank you for being such a strong voice of reason, James. Stossel and Altucher in the same room. Great stuff.

  • jcslzr

    If Obama has made something memorable is prove that whoever gets elected as President is just a puppet of an elite, that puts up a show every 4 years so we feel “free”

    • http://twitter.com/MainStInvesting Adam Keeling

      You are free… no one stops you from doing anything you wish. It’s about perception. Your liberty and freedom is very personal and has nothing to do with government. I don’t care about regulations and all that crap – it’s just fodder. From the time you were born until now and each day in the future, you are in fact free. Do with it what you wish.

  • Christian

    Amen James!

  • l.e. degerstrom

    This post made me think of these lyrics from the Avett Brother’s song, Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise

    When nothing is owed or deserved or expected
    And your life doesn’t change by the man that’s elected
    If you’re loved by someone, you’re never rejected
    Decide what to be and go be it

    (Also a few years ago my then 7-year old daughter had a small breakdown at Halloween because she couldn’t decide whether to dress up as John Stossel or Lucille Ball. Kid’s weird, is all I’m saying.)

    Great blog. Thanks!

  • http://www.kellyperic.com/ K3llyP3r1c

    I couldn’t agree with you more James. Gosh…we are the X generation aren’t we. ;)

  • Jill

    One time I read the Bible out of curiosity, not a follower but it is a book with wisdom in it. It was in the old testament where I read the people did not have a King but were begging “God” for one and he wisely told them they don’t need one, they didn’t “hear” him and continued begging until he gave them a King, it’s been that way ever since. I say it should change, perhaps not in my lifetime because the collective unconscious has to become un-brainwashed and become conscious of their individual deity to use and old word which may take some time.

    At our birth we are fully equipped to live life on this earth, no need for a King. I am tired of being ruled and oppressed by the elite who only see $$$$ and not the humanity. I agree with the Yes I Can. What you say James makes perfect sense.

    • David

      I’m fairly certain James is saying that you’re not at all being ruled or oppressed by the elite. I think he’s saying that you and you alone rule yourself.

      Of course, that assumes free will to the extent that people who want change can change themselves. People don’t change very much at all, even when they get great advice from a man like James. So even if you were to truly accept the premise of Yes I Can, and that only you rule yourself, it’s most likely that you’ll continue to be tired and oppressed, since that’s what you say is currently happening. Does that sound accurate, or am I incorrect?

      • Jill

        I agree with James but I added my own opinion.

  • TheOfficialJustMe

    Everything you say above has some merit, but you are flat wrong in regards to Obamacare. It’s a revolutionary reform that affects everyone. Whether you love it or hate it, it changes your life since a) it will be mandatory to carry insurance and b) you will no longer get blocked by insurance companies due to pre-existing conditions. Objectively, that’s a huge change in status quo health policy.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      I just saw an example of someone who got accepted for insurance even though she has a “pre-existing condition”. Her pre-existing condition required her to get a $4 a month prescription. Her new insurance now costs her $1300 / month thanks to that pre-existing condition. I’m not sure who really benefits from the fact that the insurance company was “forced” to accept her.

      • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

        Not saying “bad” or “good” – just that nothing in life is for free except for the freedom you find for yourself on the inside. That’s an enormous amount so I’m grateful for it but nothing else comes close.

        • TheOfficialJustMe

          Your point of finding freedom on the inside is a beautiful one, but a challenging one as well. I’m biased because I saw with my own eyes how lack of accessible health insurance completely crushed my close relative’s American Dream. And I’m talking about a butterfly effect here, where the kids got uprooted from the US to a turbulent foreign country and where family ties get tested to the limit.

      • TheOfficialJustMe

        Good point on the issue of costs. All I meant to get across was that this leader did shake the status quo where the individual is affected, to their benefit or detriment. The other guys in office from Vietnam to the end of the millenium have more or less kept from rocking the boat too much, regardless of party.

  • Ed Gallois

    James, I agree with what you’re saying: that to get things done you have to do them yourself, but to say that a President has had no effect on you doesn’t mean he (not she!) hasn’t on many others. If we were back in the 70s, as an American you’d be off to Vietnam and as a Brit I wouldn’t. A succession of US presidents decided (I’m sure with lots of others at the top table) to keep sending US troops to Vietnam, whereas the British PM Harold Wilson, wisely or not, decided not to send British troops over there, even though it hurt his standing and influence with the US. So on a matter of life and death, a politician or group of politicians decided the fate of many young men. To a lesser extent, this happens every day across every democratic state in the world. Most of us may dislike politicians and lawmakers, but they do affect people’s everyday lives. Not to the point that they’re miracle-makers though – on that point you are spot on. Cheers, Ed

  • Paul

    The most poignant commentary I have ever seen on presidential elections is this South Park episode (LOL–but, seriously, watch it):

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/About_Last_Night…_(South_Park)

    Summary: both sides pin all their hopes on the election and grievously over-react to the results…and in the end, both candidates are total crooks, and life as we know it…keeps on being life as we know it.

  • Chris Barcelo

    I was supposed to go to a taping of Stossel the other day and missed it. I’m a new reader to your blog and was glad to see you enjoy his show. I don’t agree with all he says / does but I like what bit of refreshment is allowed to air these days. This post however was awesome and very well put! People forget just as corporations aren’t people societies aren’t either. They rely on the individuals that they consist of.

  • Andrés

    will us be able to see that program? are you going to upload it to your blog? would be nice

  • JA

    Just one of the myriad of reasons why it matters who is president is the appointment of supreme court justices, and if you can’t see why that is important you’re not paying attention. Historically Republicans have been against civil rights in the sixties, women’s rights in the 70’s, etc. Since you are a white male perhaps this hasn’t affected you very much, but its been very important to those groups. (I’m a white woman) Republicans and the social conservatives who support them want to go back to the 19th century. If you want to move forward
    vote for Obama.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      I would agree except…it was Republican appointees who made the difference on both Obamacare and Roe vs Wade. Again, I vote for neither but your comment shows me again how little is actually accomplished by “believing” in one party or person over another.

  • kamalravikant

    This would be worth getting a tv for.

  • kamalravikant

    By the way, love the beginning and end: yesterday…distant past. Love it.

  • Eric

    “I vote for me,” James? You’ve just defined the problem. And it’s why voting is so polarizing, and so stupid. If instead, we had the sense to “vote for us” we would achieve “change we can believe in.” But what we get is purely selfish and dysfunctional — which is why this time I can’t vote for Obama, who promised change but delivered stasis.

    And hey, he put the guys who broke the economy in charge of the henhouse: Summer, Geithner, (and top-cop Holder, who is a Wall Street lawyer who hasn’t arrested a single one of his buds). Nope. I’m voting for a THIRD PARTY by “wasting” my ballot on Gary Johnson, former gov of NM, who is on the ballot in all 50. The two party system has good-cop/bad-copped us long enough! ~eric.

    • http://twitter.com/KyleDavidson Kyle Davidson

      This is a natural extension of everyone owning their life and pursuing the ends that they wish to pursue. The problem arises when we want to affix a “solution” to 49% of people’s “problem” because 51% say so.

      Let’s let the individuals make choices and mistakes, and be responsible for both.

  • souris

    I think what is most important about an American President is that this person directs, to a large extent, the national conversation. Those things that are high priorities for the President become the things that the rest of the government and its citizenry discuss.
    American citizens are notoriously ignorant of almost everything important, from our own national history to how government programs are run to how to read a nutrition information label. So if a President is someone whose interests are very narrow and whose ambitions are to serve personal ego or ideology, the national conversation likewise becomes very narrow, ego-driven, and ideological.
    And unfortunately … the media then exponentially inflates every catchy phrase and never lets anything drop, perhaps especially the things that really need to be dropped, so that peoples’ prejudices and ideologies become the sum total of the conversation.
    Long story short … IMO the choice of President is important because in a real way, he (historically) sets the direction for the national culture.

  • http://736hundred.tumblr.com/ 736hundred

    We will never know what would have been the coarse of history if GWB had not been made President in 2000. However, for all those people who have lost love ones due to the undeclared wars – I believe it made a huge difference.

    Looking at the big picture – and not just asking,”what’s in it for me?” – is where you may find stark differences.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      That’s true – we will never know if it would’ve been different.

    • Mark from Boise

      Different but still deadly. GWB liked waterboarding – OB likes his “kill lists”. To me I see little distinction between D and R politicians. Think of the last line in “Animal Farm”:

      The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.

      • http://736hundred.tumblr.com/ 736hundred

        Try this – Forget the labels of the parties and of all the powerful corporations and/or organization and individuals in the world. And then ask yourself have any of these people/organizations made a difference in the world for good or bad?

        Then you will see that there is a difference,

        I don’t think you can’t say on one hand every individual action has a ripple effect on the world, then turn around and say individuals make no difference.

        -just my thoughts.

        • Mark from Boise

          Can’t tell if we are arguing or in violent agreement…? I said I saw little distinction between D and R politicians and then you told me to forget the labels?

          I see all politicians as bad guys. My example of Bush as the water boarder and Obama with his “Kill Lists” supports that view.

          Corporations are neither good nor bad. They come and go. Remember when GM was the largest corporation in the world? Now they are nothing more than a government entity. Apple and Google will end up the same way.

          I really don’t understand your last sentence since I said neither of those things.

          • http://736hundred.tumblr.com/ 736hundred

            The second part of my comment was to the forum in general. Previous topics cover how everyone and our actions are connected. I should have been more clear.

            Do we agree – not sure because I think individuals do make a difference even if their job is POTUS.

  • Rene

    I can’t wait to see that interview. I hope they don’t edit out too much. Thanks for telling it like it is Mr. Altucher!

  • Mark from Boise

    James – I decided to read your blog everyday for 2012. Thanks for being an inspiration. I particularly like entries like todays.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      That’s a good New Year’s Resolution!

  • http://www.facebook.com/raj.bhakta.9 Raj Bhakta

    Our president is a tool of hope and that’s pretty much it right now. He’s the figurehead and always will be. The role of presidency is to put someone with some knowledge and willingness to “lead” a country and feed people hope. When a company’s in shit it’s the job of the CEO/or whoever is the “main figurehead” to feed hope to its constituents. I don’t think a president can change much—Obama did what he COULD do given the circumstances. It’s not easy being president after all when you have converging attitudes, philosophies, and histories between the parties. I wouldn’t blame the poor guy for everything he’s done but then again it’s also in his job criteria to be the man to take the blame.

    It really won’t matter who’s president for the next term. If everyone around him wants to do something about the situation instead of looking at their differences, this country will go somewhere. If not, then it’ll continue like this.

    Let’s just appreciate that we have infinite freedom inside ourselves.

    • John

      “Our President is a tool of hope”

      think that’s something both sides can agree on. :-)

  • Anmol Sharma

    I just had a fight with my friend over this. I was telling him about how somebody from Inc. magazine copied from Altucher’s posts (gratitude muscle, emotional muscle). He tried giving me a ‘different perspective’ on things by telling me about India’s new president. At that point, basically, I realized 2 things 1) People will give far more credit than due to somebody who is a celebrity (and vice versa) 2) Business schools end up inflating egos and carefully cultivating hubris than imparting knowledge.

    • http://www.sheikhaman.com/ Aman Alam

      I am from the same country, and I second each word that you said!
      Keep it up!

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      I think people are scared to give credit. They want to appear smart and original and they want to succeed in their careers. So they refuse to share. OR, they don’t want to appear crazy. So if an idea comes from a crazy place perhaps they think they can “clean” it by expressing it themselves without credit.

      I never mind when people steal from me in any way or don’t give me credit. My goal is to have a message spread. Too often the only message we are taught from birth is to succeed at all costs. Without any definition of “success” or “costs”. And so we veer in various ways, trying to make it in a world without any guidepost to help us except the artificial institutions of college, job, government, etc.

      If a few people can be happier by taking principles that bring us back to center then I am happy.

      • Anmol Sharma

        That’s extremely humble and great of you James.

      • John

        Yes. Wow. Inspiring.

        I swear, if the Buddha blogged, the result would be a lot like your site.

  • Jay

    You make this point frequently, so I think I have a decent understanding of what you’re trying to say. The most important take away is about not blaming or looking to others as solutions to your life and your problems. Don’t blame the economy for not having a job etc. Furthermore, the practical differences between the presidents elected in the last three decades is generally much less than most people think because we have millions going into ads telling us how and why they are different. In the end, they are usually just moderates.
    However, to say that we don’t need a president is a pretty silly idea. We need a chief executive to execute the ideas that congress votes for. You’re the one who always talks about the importance of execution. Well, that’s what the president does.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Well, what do we need a congress for? What has he executed for me lately?

  • David

    Etiquette rule: Never talk about politics or religion.

    It’s because these are inflammatory subjects. But why? I believe that it’s because all people, in order to even be able to function and communicate in society, possess reason. But they choose to engage in some fantasies, for fun. I think a core part of reason tells each person, for certain, that both politics and religion do not actually affect their lives – I mean, real tangible outcomes. Politics and religion certainly affect our emotions and socialization: both are entertainment. We LOVE to talk about them and argue passionately. But they do not actually make anything real happen. We all know this deep down, so it’s easy to get frustrated when you’re talking about a lie.

    A friend of mine is passionate about politics. In the past election, he spent days cold-calling people, asking for support for Obama. Another politically-charged couple I know were so excited when he got elected that they got engaged on the spot. I’m careful about belittling their efforts, but they know deep down that their lives are no different as a result of Obama’s election. When I gently asked the cold-calling guy whether politics or his own life choices had a bigger impact on his life, he immediately invoked the idea of Hitler and the Nazi regime. I’ve heard that there’s a maxim that once you invoke Hitler in an argument, you’ve already lost.

    A while back I saw a piece of land filled with VOTE FOR SO AND SO yard signs. I thought it’d be a great idea to make a sign that says, “VOTE FOR YOURSELF” and add it to the bunch. Of course I didn’t bother, it was just fun to think. As much as people want to be told what to do, they don’t want to be told what to believe. Besides, I already have the VOTE FOR YOURSELF yard sign planted firmly in my head. With concrete and reinforced rebar steel.

    • Jeffrey

      I’m thinking religion and politics are taboo because people personally associate themselves with their favorite flavor of either. And once you step on the toes of their beliefs, you have, therefore, taken a swing at them. I liken this belief also to sports teams. It hurts when your team loses … and why? Did you personally have something to do with the loss? Unlikely. Bruised pride? Definitely. Again, I ask why?
      I personally gave up watching both the NFL and college football due to the glamorization of thugs, the corruption, the scams, the pervs, the 10-million dollar contracts awarded to players who have done time, the lack of a fair playoff system for big bowl game appearances, and on and on. And I remember how personally I took it when a team I favored, lost. How pitiful. I estimate this to be the same with religion and politics.
      Regardless of which flavor you favor, no political affiliation is going to change or save your life. Unless you are drafted for war; as the one gentleman pointed out earlier. But those are extreme circumstances which we hope to never see again.
      Even with that, figurehead, puppet, talking head, on and on, I think it’s still important to vote. Regardless if it’s just going through the motions; regardless if you are just throwing it away on candidate “who”; exercise the one privilege you do have to make a difference … then keep your choice a secret.

      • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

        The interesting thing about religion is…who is really religious? Many people go to services and do all the community things and even pray, etc. But how many follow deeply the precepts of their religion? If they really believed in their religion then what else could be more important? It would be the oNLY thing they did.

        Religion reminds me of accountants. People always say to me, “oh, you should use my accountant, he’s the best!” They list their reasons: he worked at the IRS, he’s a lawyer, he’s jewish (!), etc. But everyone’s got a great accountant that you HAVE to use. Or obstetrician, or oncologist, or pediatrician, or lawyer, etc.

        And yet, we pay our taxes. Regardless of the accountant. Everyone gets to the same place regardless of how we do it. We have to do it. But we don’t have to use any one accountant to do it.

        Religion is the same. A) most people don’t believe in anything anyway. B) if they did believe they would devote 100% of their lives towards it C) most people are convinced their accountant is the best, although at the end of the day, we all pay roughly the same % to the IRS.

        Few people trust the path inside themselves, where the thoughts calm and die down, where there is nothing left but the “me” that generates those thoughts. That’s not a religion. And it leads nowhere. But it’s the closest evidence we have to something that is deeper than the normal definition of “me”.

  • mikeyhell

    I don’t need a president or a king or a ruler or a constitution because I own me and what I say about me is what goes. Capice? That’s all the argument that’s required to close the question of the need for a president. If you want one then have one. Just leave me out of it.

  • farnetto

    While you’re on politics, isn’t it time some president outlawed guns?

    • http://www.facebook.com/zak.klemmer Zak Arthur Klemmer

      Do you realize how absurd your opinion is farnetto?

  • Srikrishna

    The elections are just another scam ( in James terms), better view it that way. Elections are funded by big corporations and the parties make policies to suit these corporations. End of the day no one cares for any one.

  • AvidConfidentialReader

    Yay John Stosse!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/derekscruggs Derek Scruggs

    On one level, I agree. On another, I think the reason you say “it doesn’t matter” is because you’re insulated from the bad stuff. If you went to MIT, you’re in the 1% regardless of income. (I went to an elite school too.)

    As another commented, back in the 70s folks like us were a) eligible for the draft and b) able to avoid it by staying in school.

    Most of my friends are either wealthy entrepreneurs or upper middle-class professionals. For them, whoever holds the presidency is not that important.

    But I also have friends who did not come from top-20% families and who are struggling to keep their heads above water with limited education and skills. I’m not so certain how they should vote.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      How many of those bottom 20% have been able to move up past the 20% because of who is President. Did Clinton help? Did Carter? Did Obama? Or Bush? The President doesn’t really have a whole lot to do with (constitutionally) domestic policy. So perhaps the only way a President can effect them is by sending them to a war where they get paid and then a free education.

      • John

        I agree w/you 99% (and have been. Dry disappointed in this President) but not having coverage cancelled for pre-existing conditions was not going to happen in any probable alternative universe.

        For those affected, it will matter a whole lot.

        Thank you for a great blog.

        • John

          Dry=desperately

          Odd autocorrect there, and then diqus wouldn’t let me review the comment before posting.

          • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

            the only thing is: insurance costs have astronomically gone up for those with pre-existing conditions and the definition of pre-existing condition has significantly broadened to benefit the insurance companies.

  • http://736hundred.tumblr.com/ 736hundred

    HI James,
    Are you doing Q & A today?

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Yes, Q&A from 330-430 PM EST on Twitter.

  • vishy

    President/Govt has created infrastructure/roads/power/laws which keeps everyone safe/laws governing entities like industries/regulations/exchanges/(FDA / SEC)/courts/police/ etc. They might not have done for a individual, but as a whole, they have certainly influenced the course of country/history/civilisation in a good way as a whole, which inturn influences anyone in a direct way. Ignoring all those things and asking “what has president done for *me*” is not fair.

    • rickvol

      Roads, power, infrastructure would all be created in the free market without government. It’s not that difficult to figure out how to build roads. If there’s a demand, the marketplace will fulfill it, and 99% of the time in a more efficient way than what government does, and most importantly, without the threats of violence that go along with taxation.

      • DaveJ

        Just think for a moment about what you’re saying. To suggest that there are free market solutions to roads or many of the other functions served by government is either remarkably naive, immature or just plain stupid. Infrastructure like roads, utilities, airports, bridges, etc., are by necessity monopolistic. Who is going to build a for-profit road? On what land? How is it coordinated with other for profit roads? How are prices set? What about water, electric and gas utilities? Who is going to run the pipes and infrastructure? What’s a free market solution to the FAA? Use a different air traffic control company if too many planes crash? What’s the free market solution to filthy air and water, security, fire. Just think about it a little bit.

        • kilo

          I have thought about free market solutions to government problems. Usually when I read about these solutions put into action. The union pacific railroad failure is my favorite.

        • mikeyhell

          DaveJ, if you bothered to research these questions for ten minutes you would get your answers. But instead you do what all confused statists do and demonstrate a total loss of creative thinking that is at the heart of dependency on government.

          • DaveJ

            Mikeyhell – please allow me and the many other uninformed readers here to benefit from your extensive research on the topic of free markets by providing some responsive explanation or useful links instead of some vague ad hominem attack.

          • mikeyhell

            DaveJ, If you don’t know how to run the terms “private roads and highways” through google then I can’t help you. It’s not my responsibility to educate lazy people.

          • DaveJ

            So far you’ve called me a confused statist, lacking creative thinking, dependent on government and now lazy, all without anything close to a response. Transference much?

            The idea of privatizing an existing road or building a private road into the existing government built roadway infrastructure is materially different than an environment where a private roadway system is built de novo in some free market fantasy land. If you ever venture outside of your Fox News cocoon, take a look at a city or town that has been built without the benefit of government established zoning laws to see the beauty (read chaos) of the unrestrained free market. And for good measure, look again after an earthquake.

            Ok, so private market solutions to roads as they exist today may subject to some discussion. I’ll ask again, what about the FAA? Would you advocate doing away with it? Would you be comfortable flying while relying on an airlines profit incentive to ensure the planes don’t fall from the sky rather than government mandated maintenance? (Btw, how many plane crashes and deaths are typically required in free market land before the free market can distinguish the good airlines from the bad ones?) Tell me, how does air traffic control work in free market land? I took your sage advice and did some googling – couldn’t seem to find a free market solution. Please enlighten me with your talking points.

          • mikeyhell

            You acknowledge that the market can provide roads but you fail to see how the same theoretical principles can be extended to flying around goddamn airplanes? What is wrong with you?

          • DaveJ

            Impressive mikeyhell, three comments, another personal insult and still nothing responsive to anything I’ve said. And in the process, you’ve managed to convince yourself that the one point you’ve clearly missed and taken out of context, somehow makes your case. I’m sure you will respond to this with more inanity however I am going to continue this conversation with my dog. I am certain the responses will be more thoughtful, even if limited to just licking himself. You on the other hand, should definitely consider running as a republican presidential candidate as your performance here has clearly demonstrated your mastery of all the required skills.

  • edward g murrow

    so as a white, hetero, male, rich (high upper middle class at worst during your bad times), english speaking, non military guy you are unaffected by hate crime act, repeal of DADT, provision of advancement of womens rights in the workplace, provision of healthcare for 33Million previously uninsured americans and this is just Obama’s progressive acts! Way to act entitled bro, i mean seriously. “what’s it in for me?” jesus you are a self absorbed mother, you are standing on the crest of humanity, with better conditions of life than any other time in history, having never been seriously discriminated against, or vilified, or had your country invaded, or wanted for anything really, but you still want more??? honestly, how is that sense of entitlement working out for you?

    All that aside, you display a shockingly naive view to think that no president’s decisions had an effect on the economy and therefore your life/career – you used to be a hedge fund manager ffs! you really think that Bush jnr and Clinton combining bad decisions to provide a situation where the sub-prime collapse was possible had no effect on you?

    i mean i love you man, but this is just ridic.

    • mikeyhell

      James, if this comment here is any indication then you must be getting some pretty shitty emails, eh? Ugh, I’m sorry for you.

      • John

        That wasn’t a shitty message. He just disagrees. Lighten up.

    • Michael Lentz

      Hey Edward, before you praise all the presidents who made life “better” for people, you should consider all the presidents who made life worse for people to begin with, starting with the founding father’s allowance of slavery, up until the present time. If government hadn’t institutionalized inequality (through the use of violence) in the first place, there could never have been these “progressive” reforms, as you mention.

      Think about it for more than 2 seconds, bro.

      • edward g murrow

        No doubt presidents have made shitty decisions bro, that also proves my point. The contention was that no president has ever made a decision that affected your lives one way or the other. QED.

        • Otaddy

          Ok, you win. Their decisions have affected my life–for the worse.

        • Michael Lentz

          So if you agree that presidents can only make your life worse before they make it better, please explain why you would want a president to do anything in the first place? James’ point–that presidents have no effect–is largely true. So is the point that presidents can only make better what they (or their predecessors) have first made worse.

          Either way, the citizenry would be wise to abolish the office of president.

          • edward g murrow

            no, i didn’t say that “presidents can only make your life worse before they make it better” nor do i agree with that statement. My point is that the office of President and the decisions that they make have real and tangible effects on everyday lives, including Mr Altucher – these effects can be both good and bad, but they most certainly exist.

    • Otaddy

      The fallacy is believing that either Bush or Clinton was the better choice–in reality, they are two sides of the same statist coin–and both took care of their friends and punished their enemies.

      It’s all BS. The face changes but the actions are still the same and I despise all of them. It’s a rigged game and Im tired of playing.

  • jeff

    Republican and democrat presidents are bookends, two of a kind. This I believe explains some of what you feel about how little they matter. The best government is the one that governs the least a reason presidents shouldn’t matter so much.

  • life


    I’m 44. I can’t remember any policy by any President that has changed my life one way or the other.”

    Aww man, that white male privilege is sure a beautiful thing.

    • mikeyhell

      racist pig.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Trick question: what president gave more aid to Africa than any other president in history.

      • Ken Matthews

        george w. bush

  • http://www.facebook.com/binder Matt Binder

    James, stay away from politics, because you’re wrong as usual. Bush started the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama ended both of them. He also killed Osama Bin Laden, a man who Bush neglected to stop from blowing up the World Trade Center. Your political ignorance is encyclopedic; try reading a newspaper once in a while.

    Have a nice day.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Well, what will a newspaper tell me. And what war is actually over? Are you really sure that those wars are over? And, I’m not being partisan. Clinton also failed to stop them from blowing up the WTC. None of the presidents are any good.

      • http://www.facebook.com/binder Matt Binder
        • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

          the guy above said both wars were over. Afganistan, 10 years later (started by Bush, continued by Obama) is very much in full force.

          • mikeyhell

            Don’t remind them of those inconvenient facts, James. They want to believe that Their President is different from all the rest. Nevermind that he not only *expanded* the war in Afghanistan but he did the same into Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen and set the dangerous precedent of murdering Americans overseas with his murderous robot planes. The Obamabots should asked themselves this question: if Bush was still in office and had committed these same crimes, what would they say? Would there be howls of dissent or the mews of submissive sheep, or worse, the apologia that we hear now? It’s all apology and partisan hackery. All US presidents are duty-bound to use aggressive force but few will admit this fact that is plainly true to anyone outside of the sphere of pro-US propaganda.

          • Max

            What they all miss as far as this ‘Brit’ can see is the President is just a fall guy for greater interests. Over here we have prime ministers taking the exact same role.
            If voting ever changed anything in politics politicians would ban it!

          • http://www.facebook.com/binder Matt Binder

            You said we stayed in the same wars under Obama. That is factually wrong. We have completely withdrawn our troops from Iraq as of December 18 (see my links). You can argue the semantics of Afghanistan, but Obama has agreed to taper our troops out and give the Afghans full control of security by 2014. So to be precise, he did end the Iraq war, and he agreed to a firm end date for the Afghanistan war. Bush and Cheney wanted both wars to go on indefinitely.

            As DaveJ noted, you are a very insightful guy on most issues, but you seem quite uninformed on political matters. As an avid fan of yours, it is quite disappointing.

        • Bob

          @facebook-1087500494:disqus I’m in Kuwait now, and regularly travel up to Iraq for work…. Trust me, there are plenty of U.S. troops left up there. In addition, there are enough U.S troops in the G.C.C. on stand-by to bring troop-count back to surge levels in Iraq. And Obama didn’t voluntarily end the Iraq campaign – Al-Maliki refused to give U.S. armed forces immunity – forcing our troops to pull out.

      • DaveJ

        James – I agree with Matt. You’re often very insightful on many issues but seem to come across as not particularly informed where political matters are concerned. As others here have pointed out, despite the ups and downs in your life that you generously share to your reader’s benefit, you’ve had pretty “high class” problems for want of a better term. Perhaps you and that hack Stossel would have a different view of what effect a president can have if you lost a loved one in a war that was either based on lies or a colossal mistake. Or how about another right wing ideologue is appointed to the supreme court and someone close to you is forced to carry a rapist’s child to term.

      • http://www.facebook.com/binder Matt Binder

        If you wanted to stay non-partisan, you wouldn’t compare the 1993 truck bombing under Clinton to the September 11, 2001 attacks under Bush. By making such a counter claim, you are exposing your republican biases. One thing you can’t counter is the fact that Obama has kept us safer than Bush. Republicans love to justify their indefensible and illogical positions by pointing the finger at the democrats for some parallel offense; but it never is. George Soros is demonized for putting too much money in politics, while the republicans are completely funded by multi billion dollar corporations, not to mention their billionaire owners. The Koch family has put more money into pushing their right wing agenda than Soros has earned in his life. It’s pretty lame that republicans always resort to finger pointing, but it’s even worse how they falsely equate things. The truck bombing of 1993 that only had 6 casualties being compared to 911 (3000+ casualties) is the worst false equivalence I’ve ever heard. Let alone the fact that Bush had intelligence about 911 that he chose not to act on. I’d think twice before calling yourself non-partisan in the future; closeted republican would be more accurate.

    • http://www.facebook.com/zak.klemmer Zak Arthur Klemmer

      Osama would have been killed regardless of who was POTUS. Your point is absurd.

      • DaveJ

        And you base that remarkably fact free opinion on what exactly? I’m impressed that you must be fully aware of the effort that goes into the intelligence gathering and the president’s role in establishing those priorities. Further, you must have carefully considered the intelligence, the planning and likelihood of success weighed against the potential loss of life, not to mention political fallout from failure and determined that like George Tenet’s view of WMDs in Iraq, it was a such a “slam dunk”, any POTUS would have done it. Your mother must be so proud.

  • http://twitter.com/Blainee Blaine Elliott

    Reminds me of tax advice given to me when I started my first company. I was told by a friend to vote for Bush because it would be better for my companies taxes. I voted against Bush, Bush won (twice) and my business failed(thanks for your help Bush). The success or failure of my company had nothing to do with who was in office. But strangely there’s a segment of voters that believe the president can be relevant in their daily lives.

    With that said it’s a given that presidents differ on specific issues. But I think all presidents work in same broad strokes. Whether it’s Gore, Bush, Clinton, Obama or Romney in office, it doesn’t matter much how they hold office. And when they do make decisions, their decisions are so grand that the impact on my daily life is unmeasurable.

  • Farmer

    I see a federal governmen that spends 10 billion per day 365. 4 billion of the 10 billion is borrowed. I see inflation. 1991 if you made $75,000 you have to make $138,000 to just stay even. QE money printing by the real government the central bankers slowly destroying the middle class. The president is just a puppet.

  • illibral

    James… Love all the work you send us!Thanks.

    to whoever.. so we have a president that has zero grip on
    the concept of shared sacrifice. He prints more money for more government jobs
    that is a de facto instant 1%er or close to it. Who the hell gets a guaranteed annuity for life
    coupled with gold plated medical benefits running up huge bills and almost no
    possibility of job lose for
    incompetence. A multimillion dollar nest
    egg could not amortize the benefits received by the lets say LI teachers making
    in excess of 6 figures, pension, obscene medical benefits and when was the last time you’ve seen a teacher
    fired for lack of production … ie the “rubber room”.

    So the president that thinks the private sector is doing
    fine but the govt… teachers, cops, firemen need more labor effort or reduced
    pay/benefits from the private sector to fund additional teacher bailouts for
    the connected select few government controlled school monopolies that forces
    children in the school they choose. All tax increases in CA are going just to
    fund existing pensions. There are virtually no public schools… the government
    tells you were to go. Try and get into most neighborhoods with better schools..
    good luck unless you have the right “credentials” don’t fool yourself
    .. nothing public about our government controlled schools.

    Think of the massive job creation, innovation, improvement
    in quality of life and services if we were to take the money wasted in
    government schools and instead privative many services, hire real laid off or
    employed workers to work part time to mentor and tutor students, eliminate
    pensions, tenor, require real world achievements as a requirement before
    stepping into a classroom .. not an education major with no real world
    experience to inspire and prepare students for reality not a bubble of government
    time spent.

    Look what Sal Kahn
    did with his prior hedge fund education/experience … teachers are not
    happy with his success and have been critical.

    OMG .. its free and he prepares for many of the video subjects
    with a Google search.

    Politics matters just look what they did with the education,
    medical services.

  • Darrin S.

    What can I do for you, James?

  • PM24

    “John has long been a hero of mine, particularly since his autobiography came out: Give Me a Break: How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists”

    You’re kidding us, right?

  • mikeyhell

    Dammit, I’m breaking my own vow to stop confronting trolls. It is not useful. Grrrrrr.

  • Sooz

    J.A., could you please keep us posted on time of airing as I rarely tune into the tube and would have no idea of future scheduling.
    pssst..if for nothing else, I am curious to see what you look like with tame hair..:))
    It should be a great segment.

  • quietjim

    What a bummer you like John Stossel. He does the thing where you make up your mind first and then do the story only using facts to support your side while slandering the other side. I wish Dr. Death had beat the crap out of him instead of just bitch slapping him. He sued and got paid off like the punk that is.

  • dorrietamespowell

    Your post sent my mind racing on a mental roller coaster. You say, “Only “Yes I can!” will propel me forward, as stupid as that sounds. Only “Yes I Can!” will rewire the impossible into possibility in my head.” This is powerful and absolutely true. We must take personal responsibility to make life better and understand that our own actions do matter. We must in fact vote for ourselves everyday, but I think we should be careful to do this within the framework of the understanding that we are all interconnected and a part of larger systems. The Greeks referred to anyone that was disinterested in participating in democracy and public life as an idiot. An idiot was viewed as selfish, contemptible and stupid because they were more concerned with their daily personal affairs than the good of the society. If our own personal level of happiness and integrity effects everything around us, perhaps just by focusing on making your own life better and choosing happiness for yourself, without harming others, you are doing your part for the good of society. Most spiritual practices tell us that external circumstances (unjust laws that imprison us, food policies that starve us, wars that inflict every sort of violence..) should not dictate our state of being, we should be able to experience love and project that into the world in any situation. (I have a hard time really grasping this when I think of a starving person or someone being tortured etc… but hey I’m a long way from being enlightened!) The thing is that most of us probably fall into my own “not-yet enlightened” category, so external circumstances do matter to us, and many of these circumstances are influenced by our “leaders” including the president. The fact that the president has influence over policy is proven by the millions of dollars poured into the campaign coffers of presidential candidates by so many powerful people and businesses who want to buy their own influence over the “decider.” Stupid, short-sighted, economic, environmental and social policies…and certainly war, can and do destroy people and the planet. This is where I do the loop d loop…. if, like me, you think that policy matters and that politicians have influence over these policies… but at the same time… you believe that most of our politicians, including the president, are idiots…as in, they are largely thinking of themselves, have been bought and sold, and are not making properly informed decisions that promote the well being of society at large, then it you end up in a very disempowered position. Which leads right back to your “Yes I can” idea, and the need to propel ourselves forward and take back our own personal power. I can vote for that. Let’s just not be idiots about it. ;) As a a new reader to your blog, I say give me the express pass…I am loving the stimulating ride! Many thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/soyroberto roberto シ

    Media and in particular = TV has a lot of effect here, people get ballistic in issues like politics, sports, sex, etc,etc. That’s why not watching TV is so useful

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1097683082 Bill Combes

    What is really funny is people always tell me…if you have issues with the government then deal with it with your vote. My vote? My vote has never changed anything. Even if I got all of my friends and their friends and maybe 4 degrees worth of friends to vote the same way it would not make ANY difference. I could go on living my life not paying attention to any political issues ever again and I would not change the way I live my life. I’m not real happy about that, but it is reality.

  • Greg

    That is one of the most naive comments uttered publicly and some of the discussion here moved me to comment even though this is an old post. If some of you were fish, you would claim the water had no effect on you at all. Many people lives would have been dramatically different if we would have had a Gore presidency rather than Bush. The fact you do what you do and are afforded the decisions you have been afforded are to varying degrees influenced by presidential policy and support or lack of support. None of them has been solely responsible the the country we have today but all of them have been responsible for their influence good and bad. To not see that, James, is to be oblivious to history, politics, and economics. Perhaps if you had had the good fortune of being born in the Democratic Republic of Congo you would have made the same decisions with the same results you experienced here in the US?