Entries Tagged as 'Finance'

Gas Prices

So have you filled up your tank lately?

Gas is now less than two dollars a gallon in much of the country again; including California and the Northeast (NY/CT).

Less two months ago gas had hit five dollars a gallon, and had taken three years to rise to that price from it’s current level.  Actually it took one year to go up a dollar, and then the next year it went up two (and most of that in just a few months).

Why?

How?

Oh… right — who was in charge of the US Petroleum Reserves… and who are his friends and business associates?

My feeling is this begs for a congressional investigation and some punitive action against those responsible.

My rational is simple.  Many American’s that were hardest hit this Summer by gasoline prices had their budgets totally destroyed by the price gouging… and some of them likely lost their houses or had to dip into their retirement saving because of it.  So once again, the middle class Americans pay for big business (read that as big oil) to make even more money.

Greed… pure adulterated greed!

I certainly have no issues with capitalism and fair market economies; but we don’t have a totally open economy, the government exercises control over many facets of it, and that requires that the government keep a watchful eye over all of it.

Originally posted 2008-11-17 12:00:11.

PayPal

The world’s most-loved way to pay and get paid.

What a crock… everyone I know loathes PayPal… the only reason anyone uses it is critical mass; pretty much the same reason people use eBay — that’s like saying people love the phone and cable company just because they use their services.

It’s laughable that a brand that’s synonymous with poor service and screwing people over every time they have a chance would have a slogan like that…

Of course, I broke into hysterical laughter the first time a Pacific Bell customer (dis)service person answered the phone with:

How may I provide you with excellent service today.

My reply was transfer me to a company that actually cares about it’s customers if you can find one.

Remember, it’s the worst companies that find it necessary to try and convince you that they’re loved…

Originally posted 2011-01-20 02:00:53.

Report Fraud

Each and every time you encounter someone trying to defraud you make sure you report it.

Phishing scams, money scams, premium SMS message, suspicious phone calls, un-authorized phone charges, un-authorized credit card charges, etc — go ahead and visit the IC3 (Internet Crime Complaint Center; a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI], the National White Collar Crime Center [NW3C], and the Bureau of Justice Assistance [BJA]) and file a report.

Take action and let the law enforcement community decide what’s a threat and what’s not – but DO NOT remain silent or these problems will continue.

http://www.ic3.gov/

 

NOTE:  If you have an un-authorized charge on any of your bills you will also want to contact your billing company and dispute the charge with them; the IC3 will not do this for you.

Originally posted 2008-10-24 13:00:38.

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.

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.

Connect for the Cause

I’m a huge fan of credit unions; be they state or federal chartered; and I hate banks (all banks).  There’s a huge difference between what motivates a credit union and what motivates a bank, and dealing with even a bad credit union is generally much more satisfying than dealing with the best bank!

Personally I use credit unions when I can; and soak banks for their “give mes” on credit cards… I never pay a bank a penny further if they don’t pay me — I don’t make money for them, and my credit unions never charge me a penny (seems like a good arrangement to me) .

The quote below is from a web site that’s designed to keep you informed about legislation that might effect the services credit unions can provide to you; below it are two links to (California) organizations that support credit unions — while all of whats on those sites might not be important to you, certainly any of the federal changes proposed will likely effect you.

Support your credit unions in every way you can — and fight back against the greedy banks that feel you as a tax-payer (and a customer) should pay for their mistakes while they continue to pay the executive staff (who made the mistakes) huge bonuses.

Take back America… take it back from the greed that destroys the very foundation of our society!

 


As a credit union supporter, you are aware of the need for grassroots action and mobilization efforts to inform our elected officials about credit union issues. Thank you for your active support, and please visit this network frequently to stay informed about legislative issues that are important to your credit union.

Connect for the Cause

California Credit Union League

Originally posted 2009-11-28 01:00:29.

Identity Theft

Identity theft is a real problem, and credit bureaus make it all to easy for individuals who get a little bit of information about you to get your entire life’s story — and use your name (and credit) to make their life better and your life a living hell.

While there’s been improvements in legal recourse for identity theft, your best bet is to guard against it.

To make yourself a harder target, try some simple things like:

  • Elect on-line delivery of banking and credit card statements; utility bills; and anything else you can.  It’s safe, it’s good for the environment, and it reduces the likelihood of mail theft.
  • Use on-line bill payment or pay bills with your credit card; it’s safe, convenient, and it reduces the likelihood of mail theft.  Using your credit card may give you additional rights, and cash back.
  • Destroy paper items that have any personal information on them; cross-cut or confettie shreaders are the best, a fire place, or just mark it over and tear it by hand.
  • Destroy old credit cards, drivers licenses, passports, etc — make sure nothing with personal and confidential information on it goes in the trash.
  • Don’t give out your name or address to any one or on any site or on any phone call unless you know who you’re dealing with and there’s some advantage for you to do so.
  • Remove your name from mailing lists, refuse delivery of mail you didn’t request (that will cost the sender money generally and is more likely to get your name expunged from the list they use).
  • Put a “freeze” on your credit report.  Click here for info
  • Report scammers, spammers, and phishers to law enforcement. Click here for info

 

There are lots of great sites online that are free (free of advertising), and full of information… here’s one of them:

          http://www.consumersunion.org/

Originally posted 2008-11-08 08:00:50.

conglomeration

con·glom·er·a·tion (kn-glm-rshn)
n.

    1. The act or process of conglomerating.
    2. The state of being conglomerated.
  1. An accumulation of miscellaneous things.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.


conglomeration [kənˌglɒməˈreɪʃən] n

  1. a conglomerate mass
  2. a mass of miscellaneous things
  3. the act of conglomerating or the state of being conglomerated

Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003


conglomeration a cluster; things joined into a compact body, coil, or ball.

Examples: conglomeration of buildings, 1858; of chances; of Christian names, 1842; of men, 1866; of sounds, 1626; of threads of silk worms, 1659; of vessels, 1697; of words.

Dictionary of Collective Nouns and Group Terms. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


The SCO infringement lawsuit over the Unix trademark is over… the Supreme Court has ruled that Novell owns the Unix trademark and copyright, and SCO has no grounds for it’s litigation against.  Just as Microsoft owned and retained the Xenix copyright while SCO distributed that operating system, so Novell retained the Unix copyright while SCO distributed that operating system.

While means, Novell now has a prime asset — and could be ripe for harvesting (that’s a poetic way to say merger, take-over, buy-out).

Which will likely be bad for Linux.

WHAT?

Yep, take a look at what happened when Oracle purchased Sun (one of the largest companies supporting Open Source innovation in Linux, virtualization, etc) there’s definitely movement in Oracle to retract from the Open Source and free (free – like free beer) software efforts that Sun was firmly behind.

Consider what happens if a company acquires Novell and uses the SystemV license from Novell to market a closed source operating system, and discontinues work on Suse; or at minimum decides it doesn’t distributed Suse for free (free – like free beer).

“Live free or die” might become a fading memory.

Originally posted 2010-06-05 02:00:18.

Protecting Your Rewards

Many financial institutions that issue “cash back” or “rewards” debit cards and credit cards are in poor financial shape at the moment.

As a precaution you may want to cash in your points now in order to insure that the institutions don’t make a change to the program that greatly diminishes your value.  In addition you might want to find another financial institution that isn’t in precarious financial condition with a rewards program to use in the interim until your current institution stabilizes.

The two largest banking institutions that have liberal rewards programs that are in financial trouble are Citi Group and Bank of America.

The largest banking institution that has a liberal rewards program that isn’t in financial trouble is Chase.

Originally posted 2009-01-29 01:00:04.

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.