Entries Tagged as 'Economy'

US Poverty

The Census Bureau released new numbers on the US poverty rate yesterday — 14.3% last year; the highest since 1994.

Largely due to the rising unemployment amount working age individuals in this country (even the US government admits unemployment to be in double digits — and we can all be sure that they minimize the numbers as much as they can through their creative accounting and adjustments).

13.9%, or 39.8 million people in 2008 to 14.3%, or 43.6 million people in 2009… and you can be sure that number will be even higher in 2010.

The report also showed the number of Americans without health coverage rose form 15.4% to 16.7% (or 50.7 million people); mainly because of the loss of employment and employer-provided health insurance.  And the new health care provisions were passed; the main provisions won’t take effect until 2014.

Because of the Recovery Act and many other programs providing tax relief and income support to a majority of working families — and especially those most in need — millions of Americans were kept out of poverty last year.
· President Barrack Obama

The really incredible thing is that the numbers were expected to be much worse — and in fact it’s likely that increases in Social Security payments and expansion of unemployment insurance through federal extensions helped keep the numbers in check.

Clearly those earning over $250,000 need to have their tax cuts renewed!

Originally posted 2010-09-17 02:00:40.

Economic Stimulus

It amazes me how the United States Government can make simple things so complicated… and that it always seems that laws to benefit the greater good cannot be passed without benefiting special interests.

I say this is a very simple thing to handle.

The House and Senate need to approve an appropriation bill which allocates a given amount of money to an economic stimulus effort.  With that they can define the types of spending (broadly) that are acceptable.  Further, they can designate that government entities (federal, state, local, etc) can submit a request to a panel composed of four Representatives (two Republican, two Democrat), two Senators (one Republican, one Democrat), and the Vice President to review and approve.

Further, they could specify that each and very request must be for a single project; well specified with goals and measurable objectives.  That each and every proposal submitted must be acted on within ninety days, and that all actions and meeting of the committee must be open to the public (and news media, complete with cameras and microphones).

Congress could allocate more funding to the program as needed, or elect to stop funding it at any point in the future (but couldn’t pull back funds once granted).

Additional there should be a requirement on any entity that receives funds that they will abide by the letter of Federal law in allocating work which is wholly or partially paid for by the funds, and that any failure to use the funds as specified will require repayment with interest.

Look here, in a few hundred words I’ve outlined a framework that is totally transparent, highly adaptable, and fully accountable…

The whole problem is that we’ve changed nothing in Washington.  While I believe that Barrack Obama wants to change the way government governs, most of the individuals in Washington only wish to benefit themselves.

We gave Barrack Obama an overwhelming charter to change America for the better, and if each and everyone of us doesn’t stand up now and tell our Representatives and Senators that they are either part of the solution, or they are part of the problem and will be dealt with severely.

One thing is for sure, things will change — we will either choose to make the changes, or the changes will be the result of social and economic upheaval.  But if we’re going to have the choice, it has to be soon.

Originally posted 2009-02-08 01:00:01.

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.


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

CEO Pay Cut

I don’t think any of them need to worry about landing in the poor house, but here’s a list of the twenty largest pay cuts this year.  I guess the economy must be down — perhaps we can take up a collection to help them all out.

  1. Lloyd C. Blankfein, -$40.1 million
    Company: Goldman Sachs Group (GS)
    2009 salary: $600,000 (same as 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $262,657 (down $40.1 million from 2008)
    Lloyd C. Blankfein
  2. Vikram S. Pandit, -$38.1 million
    Company: Citigroup (C)
    2009 salary: $125,001 (down $833,332 from 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $3,750 (down $37.3 million from 2008)
    Vikram S. Pandit
  3. James Dimon, -$34.5 million
    Company: JPMorgan Chase (JPM)
    2009 salary: $1,000,000 (same as 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $265,708 (down $34.5 million from 2008)
    James Dimon
  4. Robert A. Iger, -$29.5 million
    Company: Walt Disney (DIS)
    2009 salary: $2,038,462* (up $38,462 from 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $19.5 million (down $29.5 million from 2008)
    Robert A. Iger
  5. David M. Cote, -$15.9 million
    Company: Honeywell International (HON)
    2009 salary: $1,800,000 (down $25,962 from 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $11 million (down $15.9 million from 2008)
    David M. Cote
  6. Richard H. Anderson, -$15.7 million
    Company: Delta Airlines (DAL)
    2009 salary: $600,000 (same as 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $1.2 million (down $15.7 million from 2008)
    Richard H. Anderson
  7. Louis C. Camilleri, -$12.4 million
    Company: Philip Morris International (PM)
    2009 salary: $1,500,000 (down $67,308 from 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $23 million (down $12.3 million from 2008)
    Louis C. Camilleri
  8. Rupert Murdoch, -$12.1 million
    Company: News Corp. (NWSA)
    2009 salary: $8,100,000* (same as 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $9.8 million (down $12.1 million from 2008)
    Rupert Murdoch
  9. Kenneth I. Chenault, -$11.3 million
    Company: American Express (AXP)
    2009 salary: $1,201,923 (down $48,077 from 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $15.4 million (down $11.2 million from 2008)
    Kenneth I. Chenault
  10. Mark V. Hurd, -$9.8 million
    Company: Hewlett-Packard (HPQ)
    2009 salary: $1,268,750* (down $181,250 from 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $22.9 million (down $9.6 million from 2008)
    Mark V. Hurd
  11. Kenneth D. Lewis, -9.0 million
    Company: Bank of America (BAC)
    2009 salary: 0* (down $1.5 million from 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $32,171 (down $9.0 million from 2008)
    Kenneth D. Lewis
  12. Stephen A. Roell, -$8.4 million
    Company: Johnson Controls (JCI)
    2009 salary: $1,371,500* (up $46,500 from 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $5.1 million (down $8.5 million from 2008)
    Stephen A. Roell
  13. James W. Owens, -$7.9 million
    Company: Caterpillar (CAT)
    2009 salary: $1,550,004* (same as 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $5.2 million (down $7.9 million from 2008)
    James W. Owens
  14. John B. Hess, -$7.8 million
    Company: Hess (HES)
    2009 salary: $1,500,000 (same as 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $12.1 million (down $7.8 million from 2008)
    John B. Hess
  15. John T. Chambers, -$6.0 million
    Company: Cisco Systems (CSCO)
    2009 salary: $375,000* (same as 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $12.4 million (down $6.0 million from 2008)
    John T. Chambers
  16. Miles D. White, -$3.2 million
    Company: Abbott Laboratories (ABT)
    2009 salary: $1,852,319 (up $56,848 from 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $20.1 million (down $3.2 million from 2008)
    Miles D. White
  17. Daniel R. Hesse, -$3.1 million
    Company: Sprint Nextel (S)
    2009 salary: $1,200,000 (same as 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $11.1 million (down $3.1 million from 2008)
    Daniel R. Hesse
  18. Thomas M. Ryan, -$3.0 million
    Company: CVS Caremark (CVS)
    2009 salary: $1,400,000 (same as 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $14.8 million (down $3.0 million from 2008)
    Thomas M. Ryan
  19. Ivan G. Seidenberg, -$2.9 million
    Company: Verizon Communications (VZ)
    2009 salary: $2,100,000 (same as 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $14.9 million (down $2.9 million from 2008)
    Ivan G. Seidenberg
  20. Frederick W. Smith, -$2.7 million
    Company: FedEx (FDX)
    2009 salary: $1,355,028* (down $75,438 from 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $6.4 million (down $2.6 million from 2008)
    Frederick W. Smith

Source: Equilar Inc.

Originally posted 2010-08-22 02:00:27.

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.

Senators Oppose DoD Reduction Plan

Defense Secretary Roberts Gates announced plans for reigning in the better than half trillion dollar budget of the Department of Defense, and immediately Senators from Virgina publicly opposed part of the plan.

Sen. Jim Webb released a statement saying getting rid of the Joint Forces Command “would be a step backward and could be harmful” to the military

Sen. Mark Warner said: “I can see no rational basis for dismantling” the Joint Forces Command.

You see, Gates plan included cutting nearly 3000 jobs in Virginia; so the Senators naturally wanted to protect their turf without any though of the impact to the nation… if everyone thinks like these senators, we’ll make no progress in reducing the huge deficit that defense spending is contributing to (and has been for a very long time).

Once again the solution is — vote out the incumbents — they’re clearly not part of the solution, they’re the problem.

In addition to the cut of the Joint Forces Command (which could save as much as $240 million), the plan also includes:

  • Eliminating some of the 65 military boards and commissions to cut the budget for them by 25 percent in fiscal year 2011;
  • A review of all Defense Department intelligence to eliminate needless duplication;
  • Eliminating the Defense Department’s Business Transformation Agency, which has day-to-day oversight of acquisition programs that would be handled by others in the department;
  • Reducing funding for service support contractors by 10 percent a year for each of the next three years;
  • Freezing the number of jobs in the Officer of the Secretary of Defense, the Defense Agencies and Combatant Commands at current levels;
  • Seeking to stop “brass creep,” a term former Sen. John Glenn used for situations when higher-ranking officers were doing jobs that lower ranking officers could handle. To address that problem, Gates is ordering a freeze on the number of generals, admirals and senior civilian officials at current levels.

Gates was adamant that the Pentagon must change it’s way of thinking about money, and stated:

The culture of endless money that has taken hold must be replaced by a culture of savings and restraint. Toward this end, I am directing that any new proposal or initiatives, large or small, be it policy, program or ceremony, come with a cost estimate. That price tag will help us determine whether what we are gaining or hope to gain is really worth the cost.

Whether the plan by Gates is the best way to reduce military spending or not is hard to say; but certainly I don’t think any senator could study and evaluate the plan as quickly as the the ones from Virginia did and make an informed recommendation.

Gates proposes cutting Joint Forces command from defense budget on CNN.com


Originally posted 2010-08-23 02:00:21.

The End of an Error

Today marks the end of an error and tomorrow the beginning of a new era in America… or at least that’s our hopes.


Today is George W Bush’s last full day as President of the United States; and tomorrow we will have a new president, a president who takes office at a time when the American economy and the very foundation of America is crumbling, a president who talks of a new direction and a sustainable future.

My personal belief is that FDR put us on this path, and years of patch work laws creating a welfare capitalistic state combined with heavily regulated practices in some sectors and virtually no regulation in others.

I’m hopeful for the future, but change will not come quickly, nor will it come for free… we as Americans need to decide where we want out future to take us, and commit to having a better world for future generations.

Originally posted 2009-01-19 12:00:13.


President Obama is now asking Congress for at least $50 billion in long-term investments in the nation’s roads, railways, and runways.

Whether the timing is just a political ploy for the election or not doesn’t matter — this country needs to put people to work, and this country needs to improve the crumbling infrastructure that hasn’t been a focus since the 1960’s.

The specifics of his plan include rebuilding 150,000 miles of roads, constructing and maintaining 4,000 miles of railways, building high-speed rail systems, and repairing 150 miles of airport runways (while also upgrading the nation’s air traffic system).

The plan also creates a permanent infrastructure fund that would focus on national and regional infrastructure projects to keep momentum behind continuous infrastructure improvements.

This spending package is very different from the initial stimulus package; where as the stimulus package focused on spending to prop up the sagging economy in the short term, these infrastructure projects are long term investments in the country and the economy and likely would not show substantial job increases for several months.

In short, President Obama’s Labor Day announcement is intended to get American labor back to work — permanently.

Originally posted 2010-09-08 02:00:19.

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.

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.