Entries Tagged as 'Economy'

Ups and Downs

Just as the trucking industry tells us that delivery volume has been steadily increasing since the beginning of the years; retailers tell us that consumers are beginning to spend less.

And the Commerce Department announced that the recession was deeper than previously estimated.

Who’s doing the estimates?

Anyone with any sense knew the economy was in bad shape, and that it would likely take a number of years before there was any real improvement, and potentially a decade before we truly recovered.

You have to ask yourself are the people in Washington DC and on Wall Street stupid — or do they just think the American public are so stupid they will believe anything?

Personally I feel this is a catastrophic event in World history that requires leadership to acknowledge it’s severity and begin making long term plans for recovery while creating short term safety nets to keep society afloat.

Just one more sign that anyone who’s been in office in this country isn’t part of the solution — they’re part of the problem.

INCUMBENTS

Originally posted 2010-08-05 02:00:45.

What taxpayers want

There is a good read on CNN.com by Lou Zickar entitled What taxpayers want (yes, I leveraged the title), it’s very well written and compelling; but I think it fails to be totally upfront and honest about the problem and is overtly politically spun.

You see, taxpayers also happen to be the electorate… so what they want they express by voting in each election and determining who goes to Washington (as well as their local and state seats of government) to make decisions — and since by-far-and-large voters have sent the same people back to Washington in some cases for nearly 60 years, taxpayers need look no further than the nearest mirror to see where the problem is.

If you vote for the same person election after election who has contributed to the problems, then you are getting exactly what you’ve ask for, and thus what you must want… if you want change, start at the ballot box.

But, realistically — I don’t see this happening.

America has become the home of the content, and the land of entitlement… entitlement which starts at the top and stretch to the very roots of society; and no one is willing to give up their “special” dispensations, but expect everyone else to do so.

Change is easy, and every individual is a part of it — all you have to do is send a real message to your elected officials, send them all home (for good).


What taxpayers want by Lou Sickar on CNN.com

Originally posted 2011-08-21 02:00:23.

It’s not our fault we went bankrupt…

I wasn’t sure it it was a new daytime sitcom or a hearing when former Lehman CEO Dick Fuld delivered his 1680 work prepared testimony.

Lehman was a strong company that had corrected it’s problems:

In retrospect, there is no question we made some poorly timed business decisions and investments, but we addressed those mistakes and got ourselves back to a strong equity position … There is nothing about this profile that would indicate a bankrupt company.

The market and the public were wrong to lose confidence in Lehman:

Lehman’s demise was caused by uncontrollable market forces and the incorrect perception and accompanying rumors that Lehman did not have sufficient capital to support its investments.

The government was at fault for not banning naked short selling or allowing Lehman to convert to a bank holding company or let it take deposits:

Each of those requests was denied at the time. Tellingly, though, each measure was later implemented in some form for other investment banks during the days and weeks following Lehman’s bankruptcy filing.

Lehman was the victim:

This loss of confidence, although unjustified and irrational, became a self-fulfilling prophecy and culminated in a classic run on the bank starting on September 10, 2008, that then led Lehman to file for bankruptcy four days later, in the early morning hours of September 15.

For more comedy (without my satire — and please don’t think I’m serious about anything I’ve written in this post) see the links below; and don’t laugh too hard.

Dick Fuld
Repo 105
Lehman bankruptcy attorney
New York Fed general counsel

Originally posted 2010-09-02 02:00:11.

Humankind and Socialism

I’ve often said that the one fundamental human traits that Karl Marx always failed to consider when he talked about socialism was the intense greed that drives most humans.

Greed, the failing of socialism, is largely the driving force that makes capitalism work.

The United States doesn’t have a totally free market economy; the government regulates many aspects of businesses — perhaps it shouldn’t or perhaps it should regulate more — there’s always a good argument on both sides.

Maybe it’s time that the United States government regulated businesses by exactly the same set of laws that it regulates individuals by.

Giving corporations the exact same rights and privileges, and subjecting them to the exact same legal and tax structure.

Powerful corporations have too long tried to manipulate society and government to satisfy their greed, and such manipulation in the long run puts an undo burden on society.

I see few alternatives for our society to grow and flourish.

Since humans will likely never be able to build a Utopian society, socialism (or any system like it) is not an option… since the powerful (and rich) will it seem always try and manipulate society to satisfy their own selfish greed we cannot depend on them “to do what’s right”.

How then do we build a society that will last and continue to grow?

Level the playing field — through insuring that one tenant of socialism lives on: from each according to their ability (where in this case, ability is wealth).

Long ago when I was much more idealistic I felt that the progressive tax system the United States uses was wrong…

Now I believe that a progressive tax system, with no deductions, treating all individuals and all corporations equally might be the absolute best solution.

Corporations will scream that their profits will suffer — but in the end greedy corporations will pass along those costs to individuals… the ones that will suffer will be the very rich… they will start paying their fair share (those who profit from society should bear a much larger portion of the costs of propagating it).

I’d prefer a better solution, but until humankind changes, we have to deal with realistic solutions to real problems.

Originally posted 2010-06-13 02:00:09.

April Fools Day

But this is totally serious…

Today, California’s 1% increase in sales tax goes into effect; the term of the increase won’t be known until after a ballet measure is voted on.

California, like many states, has been spending far more than it’s been taking in — and this is yet another misguided attempt by the Governor and assembly to make up the difference.

In a down economy, let’s raise the sales tax — I’m sure that will jump start retail sales and put the economy on the fast track to recovery… GET A CLUE, it’s not like most people are spending money on luxury items right now, they’re just trying to make ends meet; and those with means to buy expensive items will just purchase them out of state.

It looks to me like the best view of California is in the rear view mirror leaving!

Originally posted 2009-04-01 01:00:49.

Bye-bye, tax breaks?

By Jeanne Sahadi, senior writer CNN
October 26, 2010: 2:05 PM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — Who says there’s no bipartisanship? Democrats and Republicans running for Congress are finding every way possible to assure voters they will keep Americans’ taxes low forever.

But those will be hard promises to keep after the economy recovers. Tax experts almost uniformly say the next Congress should rethink the more than 200 tax breaks in the federal code that cost more than $1 trillion a year. And, yes, that includes even the really, really popular ones.

Lawmakers may be presented with the idea as early as December, when President Obama’s fiscal commission issues its report. There is a possibility the commission may recommend curtailing or eliminating some tax breaks.

Commission co-chairman Erskine Bowles has publicly expressed support for the idea. So has commission member Alice Rivlin, former White House budget director. Another member, Republican Sen. Judd Gregg, who coauthored a bipartisan plan for tax reform, supports curtailing some breaks but only to lower marginal tax rates in the context of broader reform.

The $1 trillion-plus in forgone revenue is close to the amount allocated for defense and discretionary spending in 2010, or the equivalent of nearly a third of the latest federal budget.

Cutting back on tax breaks can be a more efficient way to bring in revenue than raising income tax rates because it would subject more work and business income to taxation. If done right, it also promises to make the tax code fairer and simpler.

For years, leading tax experts and economists from the left and the right have contended that tax breaks are, in reality, a form of spending. The cost of tax breaks is mostly invisible, since there’s no formal accounting of them on Uncle Sam’s books. And once passed into law, they are rarely scrutinized.

“[Tax breaks] are styled as tax savings, but really function as replacements for explicit government spending. Some make sense, but a great many are poorly targeted and would never pass Congress if presented as an outright spending proposal,” tax expert Edward Kleinbard wrote in an article this summer called, “Sacred Cows: It’s Them or Us.”
Popular tax breaks: Dogfight ahead

A disproportionate amount of the lost revenue from tax breaks comes from just five of them.

Not surprisingly, those five are also among the most popular:

  • mortgage interest deduction;
  • tax-free income workers get from employers to pay for health insurance;
  • deduction for state and local taxes;
  • deduction for charitable contributions;
  • and myriad tax breaks for retirement savings.

Many of those breaks are only available to the roughly one-third of taxpayers who itemize deductions on their returns.

There have been a number of proposals over the years for how the biggest breaks might be modified.

Most recently, the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget put out a paper highlighting many possibilities that combined could raise $1.7 trillion in additional revenue over a decade.
Think you’re smart about deficits? Try this

For instance, consider the money that workers receive when their employers contribute to their health insurance costs. That subsidy is currently treated as tax-free income to the worker and is unlimited.

The subsidy could instead be converted to a credit, which is a dollar-for-dollar reduction of one’s tax bill. The credit would be phased out for higher income taxpayers and it would be refundable for low-income workers who don’t make enough income to owe any federal income tax.

“This strategy would reduce the incentive for employers to offer ‘gold-plated’ insurance plans,” the budget watchdog group wrote.

The mortgage interest deduction — currently available on up to $1.1 million of borrowing — could be gradually reduced so that it only applies to loans on up to $500,000. And the option tax filers get to deduct interest on their second homes could be eliminated.

“[Today’s] policy is regressive (providing larger tax breaks to those well off enough to purchase more expensive homes), promotes homeownership over other productive investments and costs the government roughly $100 billion a year in lost revenues,” the committee noted in its paper.

Since everyone in Congress can identify and vilify what they see as “tax breaks for special interests,” curbing tax breaks has a lot of bipartisan support. The problem, of course, is that there’s less agreement on just which tax breaks deserve the ax or at least a haircut.

And, of course, since politicians much prefer to hand out tax breaks to voters and financial backers, it may be hard for them to muster the mettle required to reverse gears.

How hard? Bowles put it plainly at the fiscal commission’s public meeting in September.

“It’s not going to be easy,” he said. “It’s not going to be fun, and in many cases, it’s also not going to be popular. It is going to require sacrifice on the part of all Americans to get there.”

Original Article on CNN.com

Originally posted 2010-11-06 02:00:55.

US Auto Makers

The “Big Three” US automobile manufacturers are quick to tell you they’re not looking for a bail out, they’re looking for bridge loans.

Well… what’s the difference between a bridge loan to a business that’s likely to fail and giving them money for bad assets?

NADA!

It really doesn’t matter what the wording is, bail out, bridge loan, give away… it’s all the same.  The money from hard working American tax payers being given to companies that have made bad decisions and are looking for someone else to pay the price.

And why isn’t part of the $700B we’ve already approved being used?

Why are we gutting a fund that’s been setup to help create automobiles that move us toward energy independence?

Like so many Americans are asking — Where’s my bail out?

It’s great the congress is grilling the auto makers before they hand out more money — but why didn’t they hold Wall Street to the same standards?

This whole thing is very suspect… I mean all the American who are out of work, are we going to extend unemployment benefits for as long as it takes to turn the economy around?  They certainly didn’t contribute to these short sighted decisions… they don’t get $15 million in compensation per year…

I think before any more of the $700B is handed out, or before we approve more money for short sighted businesses we need to lay down a road map that helps us understand how the average American who’s been hit hard by these events is going to survive.

Maybe we need Twisted Sister to sing “We’re not going to take it…” at the opening of ever congressional hearing and session!

Originally posted 2008-12-10 12:00:05.

New Year – Same Down Economy

Retailers started releasing fourth quarter earning reports yesterday.

There’s no surprise here — Target, the number two retailer in the US, announced on Christmas Eve that sales would not meet there expectations; and Master Card also indicated that spending (via credit card) was down.

Wal-Mart, of course, tipped everyone off that they expected a bad retail season when they started their “Black Friday” sales three weeks before Thanksgiving and most retailers followed suit with deep discounts through out the retail season.

While a bad retail season doesn’t by itself mean that the economy will continue to slump, there are certainly enough signs to that effect (personally I’m ignoring the US Department of Labor’s unemployment numbers… they simply don’t make sense, they don’t seem to reflect reality, and they are designed to be misleading).

I certainly don’t have a crystal ball, but the long the economy continues the slide downward the harder it will be to revive.  My instinct tells me that this downturn, like The Great Depression, will not be ended by planning and programs — but by aggression, greed, and exploitation.

Originally posted 2010-01-13 01:00:13.

Economic Recovery

The Fed is telling us that we’re on the road to recovery… that economic activity improved across all 12 regions tracked, and have reminded us that the last time all regions were in a growth mode was prior to December 2007.  Remember, though, the Fed told us all several months ago that economic activity improved in all regions except for St Louis (which was marginal).

The Fed chairman was upbeat in a report to congress that the economy is likely to expand, though slowly – and we needed to be weary of the European debt crisis (and slipped in warnings about high unemployment and a fragile housing market here at home).

But we’re also told by the Labor Department that job openings in April rose to the highest level in 16 month to 3.1 million (from 2.8 million in March).  Remember, these are openings advertised, not necessarily openings filled… and even with those statistics there are 5 unemployed people for each job opening.

I think it’s great to paint a positive picture — but I also think it’s important to keep people well grounded in the reality that the economic down turn is far from over; and while the Fed might like to encourage increased spending to speed a recovery — that’s more of a chicken-and-egg problem than they’re willing to admit… after all nearly 20% of this country is unemployed (though the government clever fuzzy math makes that number out to be much lower), and most of those people aren’t independently wealthy!

Originally posted 2010-06-23 02:00:48.

ROWE

No, not Rowe vs Wade (but I’m sure I’ll have a rant on that if the current court hears a case that could reverse that land mark decision)… but Result Only Work Environment; essentially a version of “Flex Time” that is focused on increasing productivity by avoiding “presenteeism” (where someone is physically in the office, but mentally somewhere else).

You can read about an article on NPR about the Human Services and Public Health Department of Hennepin County (Minneapolis, MN).

The End Of 9-To-5: When Work Time Is Anytime

Originally posted 2010-03-29 02:00:45.