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.

Keep Wall Street Occupied

A friend of mine put this together; and I think it’s very good advice…

I’ll add a couple points:

  • Mail over 13 oz requires you drop it off in person
  • Mail over 5mm thick is charged a higher postage rate (regardless of weight).
  • I’d discourage you from spending a penny on sending anything to a bank (not just because of the cost, but because of the environmental impact to produce and distribute anything); find your non-recyclable items around your house and use those to send a message — just be careful, some items are prohibited from sending via the US Postal Service — A Customer’s Guide to Mailing.
  • You may want to include in your note to remove your name and address from their mailing list (they already have all that information, they got the mail to you right — so you don’t really have to worry).
  • Don’t do business with banks — especially “big banks”.  Choose a credit union or a local bank for your needs.  If you have credit card services from a “big bank” make sure they are paying you back to use their card (they still make money, but at least you get something), never pay a membership fee or yearly fee for credit cards, and never carry a balance on a credit card at a “big bank”.

Originally posted 2011-10-30 02:00:24.

Tax on the super rich.

There is a good read in The Fiscal Times, an article by Bruce Bartlett that looks at the argument over Warren Buffet’s statement about raising taxes on the super rich.

It’s a one-dimensional argument; but it does bring into question the pillar of the argument has been used to support lowering the tax rate on the super rich.

One thing I will note before sending you off to read this — it’s not the tax rate so much we should be thinking of, but the effective tax rate.  When large corporations and wealthy individuals pay their taxes they often take advantage of numerous deductions that ordinary people cannot (so called loop-holes)… so their effective tax rate ends up being near zero.

I personally think that a tiered flat tax (with no deductions/exemptions), or a value added tax (assessed at each point a good or service is transferred) are the better solutions to creating a tax system that is far less expensive to implement/enforce, and much fairer overall to everyone.

If the current system is kept, not only do the tax brackets need to be changed (as well as the way they work), but the entire tax code needs to be overhauled to remove the loop-holes (and simplify it).

Buffet May Be Right, but the Top Tax Rate is Wrong by Bruce Bartlett, The Fiscal Times

Originally posted 2011-08-20 02:00:28.

LA Auto Show

The auto show might be a no show…

With the big three US auto makers in dire financial shape, and most Americans finding themselves worrying more about how to put food on the table than considering a new vehicle… but the show must go on!

Some high lights:

  • The Mini Cooper Electric, the Mini E
  • The new Honda Insight [Concept] – redesigned to be more like the Toyota Prius, alledgedly with better fuel economy, and less expensive.
  • The new Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan hybrid sedans ($1000 more than the Toyota Camry hybrid)
  • The all-new Nissan Cube (similar to, but smaller than the Scion xB)

Several auto makers with drew plans to launch vehicles at the auto show.

Originally posted 2008-11-20 18:00:12.

Banks spend big to sell credit cards to students

By Amy Haimerl, personal finance editor CNN
October 26, 2010: 4:27 PM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — The U.S. Marines recruit college students to become one of the few, one of the proud.

Bank of America just wants their financial future.

The Charlotte, N.C.-based bank spends exponentially more money than any other bank to recruit students for credit cards.

In 2009, Bank of America unit FIA Card Services paid colleges and alumni associations $62 million for the rights to market cards to students and members, according to a report from the Federal Reserve.

The second biggest spender, Chase, dropped $13.8 million to recruit new borrowers, while U.S. Bank forked over $2.5 million.

When the Credit Card Accountability and Responsibility and Disclosure Act — better known as the CARD Act — went into effect in February, it required credit card companies to disclose how much they pay colleges for the right to set up on campuses — plus how many new borrowers it racked up. On Monday, the Federal Reserve made its first report.
College degrees that don’t pay

In total, the report showed that credit card companies spent $82.4 million to net 53,164 new student accounts.

The University of Notre Dame got the biggest payment of any school: Chase paid the school $1.8 million and in the end got 77 new borrowers. The school used the funds exclusively for financial aid, according to university spokesman Dennis Brown.

Meanwhile, Bank of America spent $1.5 million on the University of Southern California campus to sell 659 new accounts.

“If you look at how much is being paid per account, the numbers vary wildly,” says Josh Frank, senior researcher at the Center for Responsible Lending.

In pre-CARD Act year, Frank estimates that 200,000 to 600,000 new accounts were opened on college campuses and through alumni and other organizations.

“But even in a normal year,” he said, “this seems like a lot of money to pay per account. But it’s possible that they just value those accounts more highly and that they’re more profitable for them.”

One major change from the CARD Act is that students under 21 can no longer obtain a credit card without a co-signer — something that could severely limit new accounts. Credit card companies also can’t entice new borrowers through T-shirts and other giveaways — unless they are 1,000 feet (about three football fields) away from the campus.

“Anecdotally, it does seem to be a different environment on college campuses,” Frank said. “Banks are still on campus, but their presence is lower.

Chase paid the University of Notre Dame $1.8 million for the right to market credit cards on the Indiana campus.

Original article on CNN.com

Originally posted 2010-11-08 02:00:40.

This is a mistake that we will pay for for years to come!

Yes, today is Pearl Harbor day, but the title isn’t what Japan’s Admiral Yamamoto said after the attack (that was in fact, “I fear we have awakened a sleeping tiger and filled it with a great resolve”) — it’s actually what Richard Gephardt (of Missouri), then Democratic House Leader, said about the $1.6 trillion in tax cuts that then President George W Bush singed into effect after stepping into the presidency in January 2001.

Georgie and his buddies the conservatives taunted that the huge surplus amassed under the eight years of prosperity of President Bill Clinton was the result of the American government overcharging the average person in taxes.  So they concocted a tax cut (40% of which was targeted at the wealthiest 1% of Americans) which would reverse the projected $5.6 trillion surplus over the next ten years.

Well, ten years later this country is in the worst economic condition since the great depression — unemployment (even by government figures) is in double digits, and there’s really no sign of substantial improvement on the horizon and there’s a debate about renewing those tax cuts…

For the average American the tax cuts makes no difference; even for fairly wealthy Americans they don’t make much difference — it’s really only for the wealthiest of the wealthy that they tax cuts make a substantial difference; or put plainly, it benefits those who are doing fine — and in the long run may harm those who are barely hanging on.

We don’t have a budget surplus any longer (in fact, I’d argue we never had a budget surplus — we had a debt that we could have, and should have, paid down).

President Obama has proposed a tax plan that will give most Americans the same tax savings that the old Bush plan did, but it will remove the tax cuts that the richest Americans got… but I’m not sure we shouldn’t be finding a more equitable way to tax rather than continuing to convolute the tax laws so that those with wealth and power can twist the law to serve their needs.

Originally posted 2010-09-07 02:00:43.

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.

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.

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.

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.