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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Time Out!

This rant is going dark for awhile.  We are off to explore the Blue Highways and talk to people who don't live in California.

Blue Highways:  A Journey Into America is an absolutely charming book by William LeastHeat-Moon.  In the mid-1990's, William lost his job teaching, lost his wife to divorce and his life just crumbled around him.  He sold everything and outfitted a Ford van for living and went off to explore the Blue Highways, i.e., not the Interstate.  The book is about all the people he met along the way.

It is in paperback and you can get it from Amazon.

Enjoy the book and we will enjoy the ride.

Robert Reich Explains The Obvious, And Does It Beautifully!

Rebuild America’s Infrastructure

Seems like only yes­ter­day con­ser­v­a­tive nabobs of neg­a­tiv­ity pre­dicted Amer­ica’s bal­loon­ing bud­get deficit would gen­er­ate soar­ing in­fla­tion and crip­pling costs of ad­di­tional fed­eral bor­row­ing.
Re­mem­ber Stan­dard & Poor’s down­grade of the United States? Re­call the in­tense worry about in­vestors’ con­fi­dence in gov­ern­ment bonds — Amer­ica’s IOUs?
Article image
Last week ten-year yields on U.S. Trea­suries closed at 1.83 per­cent. In other words, they were wrong.

In fact, it’s cheaper than ever for the United States to bor­row. That’s be­cause global in­vestors des­per­ately want the safety of dol­lars. Al­most every­where else on the globe is riskier. Eu­rope is in a debt cri­sis, many de­vel­op­ing na­tions are gripped by fears the con­ta­gion will spread to them, Japan re­mains in crit­i­cal con­di­tion, China’s growth is slow­ing.

Put this to­gether with two other facts:

Un­em­ploy­ment in Amer­ica re­mains sky-high. 14 mil­lion Amer­i­cans are out of work and 25 mil­lion are look­ing for full-time jobs.

The na­tion’s in­fra­struc­ture is crum­bling. Our roads, bridges, water and sewer sys­tems, sub­ways, gas pipelines, ports, air­ports, and school build­ings are des­per­ately in need of re­pair. De­ferred main­te­nance is tak­ing a huge toll.

Now con­nect the dots. Any­one with half a brain will see this is the ideal time to bor­row money from the rest of the world to put Amer­i­cans to work re­build­ing the na­tion’s in­fra­struc­ture.

Prob­lem is, too many in Wash­ing­ton have less than half a brain.

Hard Numbers About The Two (Three?) Tier Economy

*Median household income has shrunk by 7.1% since 1999.
*In 2010, 46.2 Million Americans lived below the poverty line, i.e., $429 a week for a family of four.
*That is 15.1% of all Americans, but..................
*It is 26.6% among Hispanic households, and.............
*It is 27.4% among black households, but..................
*A staggering 39.1% of black kids under 18 are living in poverty.

Will these people become a permanent Third Tier?  It is a question worth asking.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Let's Get Something Straight (and right for a change)

The idiot economists are running around blathering about a double dip recession.  Here are the facts (in case you don't already know them).  Recession is a technical term invented by economists.  The definition of a recession is two successive quarters of a failure to grow in the GDP (Gross Domestic Product), e.g., what the economy produced for all of us to share.  Here are the real numbers since the fall of 2008 when we bailed Goldman Sachs, et al, out of bankruptcy.

2008     Quarter 3          -3.7%
                          4          -8.9%
2009     Quarter 1          -6.7%
                          2          -0.7%
                          3           1.7%
                          4           3.8%
2010     Quarter 1           3.9%
                          2           3.8%
                          3           2.5%
                          4           2.3%
2011     Quarter 1           0.4%
                          2           1.0%

Now subtract 2% from each of these numbers to account for inflation using the screwing definition that omits the prices of food and gasoline.  (You know it is a lot higher.)

Then remember that the economy must grow by at least 2% to account for all the new citizens.

Now you understand the "recession" never ended and that the economists have lied to you once again.

Elizabeth Warren on the Myth of Class Warfare

I have said repeatedly that Elizabeth Warren is the only person in Washington who you can consistently count on to tell the truth.  You can find a perfect example if you go to YouTube and search for the Title line of this post.  It is fascinating.

Slowly, I Am Beginning To Understand!!

If you have been reading this rant, you know I am deeply disturbed because this administration repeats its mistakes over and over again.  Reading today's New York Times Business Section, I had a revelation.  The problem is that when reality conflicts with economic theory, the economists stick with the theory and discard the reality.  I know that sounds absurd to reasonable people, but when you spend two decades in academe you understand there is no limit to stupidity.

Here is what Christina Romer (remember her?  Obama's first Chief Economist) says about Obama's jobs bill.

"Then there’s the $245 billion in tax cuts. That money doesn’t disappear. It goes to households that can spend it on goods and services, and to businesses that can spend it on research and development and new machines. That added consumption and investment is a benefit, along with the jobs created."

Yes, consumers could spend the money.  But the facts are that they don't.  Three times, starting with the $500 check George W. sent you, economists have said that tax cuts would stimulate the economy.  But they don't.  Sensible people use the money to pay down credit card debt and/or save it for the rainy day coming tomorrow.

Yes, businesses could spend it on R&D.  But the facts are that they don't.  Right now, U.S. businesses have more CASH on hand than at in any time in recorded history.  They are not spending it on R&D because they don't have customers demanding new and improved products.  All they are going to do is add the tax cuts to their cash stash.

Now I don't doubt Christina is nice person.  She is just plain stupid because she refuses to recognize that her theories are all crap.  And that goes for 99.9% of all economists.

I hate to bring this up again, but remember how Einstein defined insanity?  "Repeating the same behavior over and over again and expecting a different outcome."

So there you have it.  Economists are running the government and they are all demonstrably insane.  Ergo, our government is being run by insane people.

Aw geezzzzz................................................

I Am Not The Only One!!!!!

You know how it feels when you go to bed angry about something and lie there wondering if you are the only one that feels that way?  Well, this article from today's New York Times brings some comfort that I am not the only one.

Small Donors Are Slow to Return to the Obama Fold

They were once among President Obama’s most loyal supporters and a potent symbol of his political brand: voters of moderate means who dug deep for the candidate and his message of hope and change, sending him $10 or $25 or $50 every few weeks or months.

But in recent months, the frustration and disillusionment that have dragged down Mr. Obama’s approval ratings have crept into the ranks of his vaunted small-donor army, underscoring the challenges he faces as he seeks to rekindle grass-roots enthusiasm for his re-election bid.

In interviews with dozens of low-dollar contributors in the past two weeks, some said they were unhappy with what they viewed as Mr. Obama’s overly conciliatory approach to Congressional Republicans. Others cited what they saw as a lack of passion in the president, or said the sour economy had drained both their enthusiasm and their pocketbooks.

For still others, high hopes that Mr. Obama would deliver a new kind of politics in his first term have been dashed by the emergence of something that, to them, more resembles politics as usual.

“When I was pro-Obama in 2008, I was thinking of him as a leader who could face the challenges that we were tackling,” said Adnan Alasadi, who works in behavioral health in Mesa, Ariz. Mr. Alasadi contributed repeatedly to Mr. Obama during his first campaign but says he will not give the president — or anyone else — any more money.

“Now I am seeing him as just an opportunistic politician,” Mr. Alasadi said.

Such defections are not merely symbolic. About a quarter of Mr. Obama’s record haul during the 2008 cycle came from donors giving $200 or less, supporters who could be tapped again and again without hitting federal contribution limits. Many of those same people were also volunteers in his campaign, knocking on doors, calling friends and neighbors and helping turn out the voters that fall.

Nadine Kurland, 62, of Falling Waters, W.Va., made over a dozen contributions to Mr. Obama during the 2008 election and also made phone calls on his behalf. But when an e-mail arrived recently inviting her to an Obama-themed get-together, she ignored it.

“I have been very disappointed in the president,” Ms. Kurland said. “He has not stood up to the Republicans.”

Unhappiness with Mr. Obama can be found even among the supporters his team recruited to appear in campaign materials.

When Mr. Obama formally announced his re-election bid in April, his campaign released a video featuring supporters from swing states like Colorado and Michigan. One of them was Edward Blair, a 65-year-old lawyer from North Carolina, who sent a half-dozen checks to Mr. Obama during the last campaign and knocked on doors in his hometown, Lenoir, but has not given him money this year.

“What I said in that video was I didn’t agree with Obama on everything, but I respected him and trusted him,” Mr. Blair said in a recent interview. But Mr. Obama’s decision this month to abandon stricter new smog regulations, Mr. Blair said, had renewed his worries about the president’s ability to lead.

“I certainly respect him, and I trust him,” Mr. Blair said. “But I am disappointed, and I’m bewildered.”
Compared with his Republican rivals, Mr. Obama remains in an enviable position. No Republican candidate for president has built a grass-roots fund-raising machine as formidable or sophisticated as his.
Through June 30, the close of the most recent campaign reporting period, more than 552,000 people had contributed to Mr. Obama’s re-election effort, according to campaign officials. Half of them were new donors, and nearly all of them gave contributions of less than $250.

But those figures obscured another statistic: a vast majority of Mr. Obama’s past donors, who number close to four million, have not yet given him any money at all.

The campaign is still in its early stages, and the president is likely to show far stronger numbers than any Republican when the candidates report their third-quarter fund-raising early next month. But his recent political difficulties — a protracted battle over raising the national debt limit, sagging approval ratings — have raised questions about whether he will be able to sustain his fund-raising momentum.

“He did not articulate either to the Republicans that he was negotiating with or to the American people a strong stance for what we feel the Democrats believe in,” Theodore Weiss, 77, a retired federal employee in Florida, said of the debt negotiations.

While he was impressed with Mr. Obama’s recent jobs speech, Mr. Weiss said, he will not send Mr. Obama any checks this year. Instead, he said, he will use that money to help out his two sons, a teacher and a small-business owner, both of whom are struggling in the economic downturn.

Aides to Mr. Obama said the campaign was well ahead of its 2008 benchmarks. That year, Mr. Obama did not reach one million total donors until February, about a month after he won the Iowa caucuses.
A campaign spokesman said that the number of people who had given more than once to Mr. Obama this year and the number of people who had contributed for the first time were both higher than his total number of donors at the same point in 2007.

Many of the donors interviewed said they were pleased with the president’s performance, or blamed Republicans in Congress for his difficulties.

“I am happy with him,” said Christine Carvajal, 45, a teacher in Pittsburgh who made several small contributions in 2008. “I just feel like the Congress is completely obstructing him.”
Some said they would like to give Mr. Obama money but had not done so simply because they could no longer afford to make political contributions.

“Unfortunately, I’m not going to be able to contribute anything,” said Judyann Allen, a retiree in Covington, Wash., who added that she and her husband were living month to month. “I would if I could. But I can’t afford to give anything to anyone.”

This month, the Obama campaign is staging a “Grass-roots Fund-Raising Challenge,” a contest for Obama supporters who have set up fund-raising Web sites for him, with the goal of raising 20,000 contributions by the end of September.

Mr. Obama has also provided “grass-roots fund-raising tips” on his Twitter feed. “Make a hard ask,” one entry read. “Be clear about what you want and when you need it.”

And Mr. Obama’s campaign is deploying volunteers to contact all his past supporters one by one, in part to ensure that they have a chance to voice any concerns or criticisms they may have. The campaign also plans to roll out an initiative that will provide donors with real-life examples of how the campaign is spending their dollars to build a field operation in critical states.

But some of Mr. Obama’s supporters, echoing concerns expressed by many Democrats in polls, said they were less interested in what he would do with their contributions than in seeing him play tougher.
“There has been less passion than I might have hoped for,” said Andra Bohnet, a musician and professor in Mobile, Ala., who sent Mr. Obama five checks in 2008. “I think that in some ways, they have been too conciliatory.”

Asked whether she would give to him again, Ms. Bohnet paused.
“Now, I think I’ll wait and see,” she said.

Kitty Bennett and Griff Palmer contributed reporting.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

How Come Nobody In Washington Knows This?

Charlie Rose is an interviewer who usually asks people he is interviewing hard ball questions like, “What is your favorite color?”

In any event, he asked Mitt Romney a very pertinent question in this week’s Business Week.  And Mitt’s answer was absolutely perfect.  Here is the exchange.

“Charlie:  Corporate America is sitting on a lot of cash.  Why isn’t it spending it on inventory and entrepreneurial efforts that would create jobs?

Mitt:  That question is asked by the President from time to time.  And anyone in the business world chuckles when they hear it because it points out just how far removed President Obama is from understanding how the economy works.

Businesses don’t build inventory simply because they have cash.  Businesses build inventory because they have customers demanding products. 

Businesses don’t hire people because they have cash.  Businesses hire because they have customers demanding services and products.”

Now if only those clown economists that Obama has surrounded himself understood this simple fact of life we actually might make some progress ending this Contraction and starting a new Expansion.  Anybody have an idea how to get that across?

P.S.  If you have any questions about how the economy works, you can find the answers in The Great Recession Conspiracy.  It is not complicated.

There Truly Is Comfort In Numbers!

Suddenly, it is feeling a little less lonely.  Last week, Bernie Sanders, senator from Vermont, said we should remove the cap from Social Security and a Letters in the Los Angeles Times writer said the same thing.

Now two lawyers from Yale are calling attention to the dangers of a Two Tier Economy.  Read this piece from today's Los Angeles Times.



Why (and how) to tax the super-rich

Extreme wealth concentration threatens democracy, and the U.S. is reaching that point.

By Bruce Ackerman and Anne Alstott
September 20, 2011

The more serious inequality problem facing the United States involves overall wealth, not just income. While the top 1% of Americans earned 21% of the nation's income, they owned a staggering 35% of the wealth in 2006-07, the most recent year for which statistics are available. We should be taxing that wealth directly, and not merely focusing on million-dollar incomes.

We propose a 2% annual wealth tax on households owning more than $7.2 million in net assets. Such a tax would target the 0.5% of Americans at the top of the pyramid, and would yield at least $70 billion a year. This calculation is based on Federal Reserve data that we have updated to take into account the recession's impact on housing and stock prices to 2009. Because we have used very conservative assumptions, the revenue yield could well be higher.

Obama's operational proposal for a "Buffett tax" is vague, so it's hard to predict how much it would raise. But our initiative would generate at least half the $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction that Congress' super-committee is aiming to achieve over the next decade. And the burden would fall on the Americans who have suffered least from the economic downturn.

There is more at stake than fairness. Our proposal would address a deeper issue. There comes a point at which extreme wealth concentration threatens the very existence of democracy, and we are reaching that point.

This is one of the tragic lessons of Latin American history, where democracy has repeatedly bumped up against tight economic oligarchies that feel threatened by majority rule. Though reliable statistics on wealth equality aren't available, we do know that income inequality in the U.S. today far exceeds that in Europe, and it is getting into the Latin American range. Because wealth is generally more concentrated than income, we are clearly in the danger zone.

Remarkably enough, the CIA has investigated the matter, and its website contains some sobering estimates. It reports that income is already more concentrated in the U.S. than in Venezuela, though we still have a way to go to reach the dizzying heights of Brazil and Chile.

A wealth tax is the best way to reduce this classical danger to democracy, and it provides the primary motivation for our proposal — though we also believe that it's more than fair for the super-rich to be paying more as we confront our long-term fiscal problems.

Wealth taxation is no novelty. In 2008, France, Norway, Switzerland and five other members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development imposed the tax, and Italy is considering following suit. Spain, which dropped such a tax several years ago, now plans to reinstate it as part of a deficit-reduction effort."

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Savings Paradox, Or Why Jobs For America Is A Failure Right Out Of The Gate

The Savings Paradox says that in a recession/depression, actions that are in the best interests of households are not in the best interests of the entire economy.  So individuals/households should refrain from spending during hard times.  And that is exactly what they are doing.

Remember just a few years ago when the economy was expanding rapidly?  Savings rates were negative.  Households were spending more than their incomes and making up the difference by borrowing.

 But now savings rates are high and credit card debt is being paid down (a form of savings) because the economy is contracting, or at least not growing.  And that is just what the Savings Paradox predicts.

The best interests of the economy now would be served if everyone stopped saving and went on  a spending spree. Consumer spending drives about 70% of the entire U.S. economy, and small businesses are in a world of hurt now because their businesses don't have enough customers, and therefore cash flow.  Which, of course, is why they aren't hiring new employees.

But this brings us to the dumb ass part of Washington.  Bush sent everyone $500 checks to revive the economy.  84% of those checks went into savings.  Then Obama reduced the amount that is withheld from your paycheck, and that all went into savings.  So here is the dumb ass part.  The new Jobs bill repeats the failure to understand the Savings Paradox.  (Doesn't any of his economic advisers remember the Savings Paradox?)  He is going to reduce your contribution to SS by about $100 a month, a trivial amount.  And if you are among the 15 million without jobs, you don't even get that.  Or if you are among the 15 million under employed, it will be an even more trivial amount.

So the money that small businesses need to grow goes directly into the bank, and does absolutely nothing to revive the economy.  Read what the Los Angeles Times says the banks are doing with that money. Dumb ass may too generous a description.


Bank deposits soar despite rock-bottom interest rates

Consumers worried about the economy are pumping cash into checking, savings and money market accounts. But the banks don't need their money and have slashed interest rates to discourage customers.

By E. Scott Reckard, Los Angeles Times
6:08 PM PDT, September 17, 2011
Click here to find out more!
Americans are pumping money into bank accounts at a blistering pace this year, sending deposits to record levels near $10 trillion on escalating fears that the U.S. economy is on the verge of another implosion.

There's no sign that the flood into checking, savings and money market accounts is slowing down. In the last three months, accounts at U.S. commercial banks have increased $429 billion, or 10%, almost double the increase for all of last year.

There's one big problem: Banks don't want your money.

"Banks and credit unions are doing everything they can to get rid of the cash except make loans," said Mike Moebs, a Lake Bluff, Ill., banking consultant.

He said banks are driving away deposits by refusing to renew CDs at higher rates and by imposing fees on checking accounts for depositors who don't use other, profitable financial services as well."

There is more in today's Business Section if you are interested.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

I Am Confused!!

The Republicans are running around shouting that the reason that small businesses aren't hiring new people is because of all the regulations enforced by the U.S. government.  The Democrats don't say anything about regulations, they just impose them.  Look at the Jobs bill.  Look at the paper work a small business would have to fill out to get a rebate for hiring a vet or long term unemployed person.  More paper work!!  The one thing small businesses hate more than anything else because they don't have anyone to do it.

Jeff Immelt, Obama's jobs czar and CEO of GE, says he wishes the U.S. had the same simple regulation environment as his competitors.  So big businesses sing the same song.

So you can share my amazement when I found this article at

"Businesses in the U.S. face the fifth LIGHTESS regulatory burden among those in 183 nations according to the World Bank.  Hong Kong, New Zealand, Singapore and the U.K. tied for having the lightest regulations.  China placed 79th, Brazil 127th, and India 134th."

Wait a minute!!  The World Bank says there are only FOUR countries in the world with fewer regulations than the U.S. and 178 with more regulations?

You know, it is one thing when politicians shade the truth, but it is entirely different when a) they don't know the truth, or b) they are bald faced liars.

What kind of a future do we have when the government is full of liars and/or idiots???

P.S.  Never forget that the reason small businesses (who everyone agrees create 70% of all new jobs) aren't  hiring because of too much paper work, or too few tax breaks.  They are not hiring because they don't have enough customers, and they don't have enough customers because a record number of Americans are living in poverty and a record number are living on food stamps.

We have a government (Republicans and Democrats) who don't learn from their own mistakes, they don't learn from the mistakes of others, in fact, they don't learn from anything.  Remember what Einstein said about doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome.

We seem to have a government of lunatics!!

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Three Tier Economy In Black & White

The burning question we are going to have to face, and answer, is can we live in a society where the Top Tier (the Richy Riches) can afford anything they want to buy, and do so, and the Bottom Tier that can't afford to buy anything because they are permanently unemployed, and a Middle Tier that can't afford much because they only work part-time.  And this is not a question to kiss off because it doesn't apply to you, because it does.  Having just raised this question with Paul Krugman's thoughts, I came across this piece in the New York Times.

The writer plays it in black and white terms, but if you just erase color from the column, you get the Three Tier Economy working at its best? (Worst? $185 lunches).  Read on.

Steps Away but Worlds Apart

For decades, the intersection of Park Avenue and 96th Street has remained one of the city’s most obvious and despairing emblems of disparity, with East Harlem and its challenges spreading out to the north, and a vast gridlock of extraordinary privilege colonizing the acreage below. It is worth debating whether a visit to this corner ought to be mandated for tourists; few spots so profoundly render the truths of New York’s economic extremism. Liberal parents hoping to foster their own political values in their children might consider pilgrimages. When I stood there, as a teenager, for the first time in the early 1980s, I felt a call to fierce and equalizing justice, ready, suddenly, for Latin American guerrilla work and the Red Brigades.
Park and 96th may have no equal in impact, but years of gentrification have given it many rivals. On Schermerhorn Street between Hoyt and Bond in Brooklyn, the contrasts between those who need and those who want have become so stark they might have been conjured by satirists. On Tuesday afternoon, not far outside No. 225, home to the Addison, a doorman-attended apartment building of recent vintage, an aging African-American man dressed in jeans and a hospital gown was being led into a police car in handcuffs as Fresh Direct boxes were loaded onto the sidewalk, readied for delivery.

Just around the corner at the Linden branch of the city’s Human Resources Administration, Lawanna Warren, 90 days out of prison on a drug sale charge, looked unsuccessfully for work and wished for her previous job cleaning floors at Chelsea Piers. At 253 Schermerhorn there is an office providing food stamps to those subsisting on Social Security. Across the street from it, at No. 200 is Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare, a two-year-old restaurant whose single offering is a prix fixe of 18 to 20 small courses for $185 a person (before tax and gratuity). Reservations are taken six weeks in advance.
Among the echelons of the upper middle class, there is a smug pride often taken in the edgy address, as if poor people existed to lend the better off a veneer of adventurous chic. If this column has an agenda, it is, in part, to actively record the incongruities and hypocrisies that so easily attach to life in this city — to document, substantiate and contextualize them, to observe the lives and mechanisms of New York from their various and discordant vantage points.

It can be easy to focus on the glossy residential towers by name-brand architects and the continued presence of $3,000 pumps at Barneys and imagine that the city has been largely buffered from the economic hardships siphoning the spirit of so much of the country. For most of this year, the unemployment rate for New York has sat below the national average. Tourists have come (close to 49 million of them last year). Economists have evinced surprise at what is considered to be a recession of shorter duration and less penetration here.
But as with so much of the business of interpreting New York, the affluent world of Manhattan and its satellites appear misleadingly to represent the whole. The August unemployment statistics, announced Thursday, put the city’s rate at 8.7 percent — again slightly below the country’s rate. In Manhattan in July, the figure stood at 7.1 percent, but in the Bronx the same month, the number remained in the double digits at 12.3 percent. For every month this year, unemployment in the Bronx has hovered more than three percentage points above the city average. (Bronx County has the highest rate of unemployment in the state.) In Brooklyn, New York’s most populous borough, unemployment has not succeeded in falling below 9 percent this year.
And then there is the pronounced and endlessly dispiriting racial discrepancy in the numbers. For the 12-month period beginning in August 2010 and ending in July, black unemployment rates in New York averaged 12.8 percent, more than five points higher than those of whites, while Hispanic rates were close to four points higher than those of whites. The gap between blacks and whites has narrowed since the earliest days of the recession, but only because white unemployment has jumped; ultimately, the recession has just widened the divide.

In the country, New York ranks third behind Washington and Atlanta as a city with a population over 250,000 with the highest income inequality. Manhattan on its own, however, leaves all of its competitors far behind. At $837,668, the average household income (a 2009 figure) of those Manhattanites in the top 5 percent is 81 times as much as the average income of those in the bottom 20 percent ($10,328). Among the lowest quintile living in the Bronx, the figure was even lower: $6,692.
Bolstering the distorted image of an ever-glistening and prosperous city is a popular culture that has generally not let the recession interfere with its vision of New York as a fantasy place where shopping and mating lucratively would seem to make up the sole purpose of human endeavor. During the recession of the late 1980s and early ’90s, movies like “Working Girl,” “The Bonfire of the Vanities” and “Jungle Fever” took the city’s class and racial tensions as their prevailing themes.
The recent downturn has instead given us “Confessions of a Shopaholic” (recovering retail addict winds up with wealthy businessman), “Bride Wars” (where the goal is to marry at the Plaza), “The Switch” (Jennifer Aniston finds her happily ever after with a friend/sperm donor/financial analyst living on the Promenade in Brooklyn Heights) and, most splashily of all, “Sex and the City 2” and its world of lacquered East Side domesticity. In the film, spending panic sets in only at the threat of a $20,000-a-night hotel-room bill. (“Precious,” though a rare document of poverty, is set during the Reagan era.)
It is worth comparing as well Sinatra’s “New York New York” to Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind,“ the first an anthem of aspiration, the second a flamboyant chronicle of arrival. (“I am Sinatra,” Jay-Z declares in a song that also references Anna Wintour.)

One of the many disheartening aspects of being out of work for any protracted period is the extent to which it can eradicate the ambition this city so feverishly romanticizes. In recent visits to two Workforce1 job-placement centers run by the city, one in the Bronx and the other in Brooklyn, I met a few women who had been laid off and forced onto public assistance, their confidence drained. At the Workforce1 office on East 149th Street, I watched a job counselor, Rhodina Smith, assisting someone in a better but still difficult circumstance. The applicant, Michelle Joseph, had a college degree and had worked for 12 years in the St. Lucia Mission to the United Nations. She spoke Creole and some French and had trained diplomats.
“If I had a magic wand and could give you any job you wanted, what would it be?” Ms. Smith asked.

“Anything,” was the reply.

Finally, The Real Problem Is Out In The Open

Paul Krugman's column in today's New York Times finally lays bare the fundamentally different views of the left and right, and that is what kind of country we want the U.S. to be.  Some people, me included, think that the better of f of us have a responsibility for the least of us.  Some people think that the Devil Take The Hindmost is the best way to organize society.

And this is more than just a philosophical argument.  Remember that this rant continually warns about the developing Two (Three?) Tier Economy in the U.S.  The Devil Take The Hindmost accelerates this division in the population.  The question is of incredible importance.  Can this society survive when there are only the incredibly rich and the desperately poor.  Remember that the primary cause of personal bankruptcy in the U.S. for the last five years has been medical expenses as just one example.

So here is Krugman's take on the problem.

Free to Die

Back in 1980, just as America was making its political turn to the right, Milton Friedman lent his voice to the change with the famous TV series “Free to Choose.” In episode after episode, the genial economist identified laissez-faire economics with personal choice and empowerment, an upbeat vision that would be echoed and amplified by Ronald Reagan.
But that was then. Today, “free to choose” has become “free to die.”
I’m referring, as you might guess, to what happened during Monday’s G.O.P. presidential debate. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Representative Ron Paul what we should do if a 30-year-old man who chose not to purchase health insurance suddenly found himself in need of six months of intensive care. Mr. Paul replied, “That’s what freedom is all about — taking your own risks.” Mr. Blitzer pressed him again, asking whether “society should just let him die.”
And the crowd erupted with cheers and shouts of “Yeah!”
The incident highlighted something that I don’t think most political commentators have fully absorbed: at this point, American politics is fundamentally about different moral visions.
Now, there are two things you should know about the Blitzer-Paul exchange. The first is that after the crowd weighed in, Mr. Paul basically tried to evade the question, asserting that warm-hearted doctors and charitable individuals would always make sure that people received the care they needed — or at least they would if they hadn’t been corrupted by the welfare state. Sorry, but that’s a fantasy. People who can’t afford essential medical care often fail to get it, and always have — and sometimes they die as a result.
The second is that very few of those who die from lack of medical care look like Mr. Blitzer’s hypothetical individual who could and should have bought insurance. In reality, most uninsured Americans either have low incomes and cannot afford insurance, or are rejected by insurers because they have chronic conditions.
So would people on the right be willing to let those who are uninsured through no fault of their own die from lack of care? The answer, based on recent history, is a resounding “Yeah!”
Think, in particular, of the children.
The day after the debate, the Census Bureau released its latest estimates on income, poverty and health insurance. The overall picture was terrible: the weak economy continues to wreak havoc on American lives. One relatively bright spot, however, was health care for children: the percentage of children without health coverage was lower in 2010 than before the recession, largely thanks to the 2009 expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or S-chip.
And the reason S-chip was expanded in 2009 but not earlier was, of course, that former President George W. Bush blocked earlier attempts to cover more children — to the cheers of many on the right. Did I mention that one in six children in Texas lacks health insurance, the second-highest rate in the nation?
So the freedom to die extends, in practice, to children and the unlucky as well as the improvident. And the right’s embrace of that notion signals an important shift in the nature of American politics.
In the past, conservatives accepted the need for a government-provided safety net on humanitarian grounds. Don’t take it from me, take it from Friedrich Hayek, the conservative intellectual hero, who specifically declared in “The Road to Serfdom” his support for “a comprehensive system of social insurance” to protect citizens against “the common hazards of life,” and singled out health in particular.
Given the agreed-upon desirability of protecting citizens against the worst, the question then became one of costs and benefits — and health care was one of those areas where even conservatives used to be willing to accept government intervention in the name of compassion, given the clear evidence that covering the uninsured would not, in fact, cost very much money. As many observers have pointed out, the Obama health care plan was largely based on past Republican plans, and is virtually identical to Mitt Romney’s health reform in Massachusetts.
Now, however, compassion is out of fashion — indeed, lack of compassion has become a matter of principle, at least among the G.O.P.’s base.
And what this means is that modern conservatism is actually a deeply radical movement, one that is hostile to the kind of society we’ve had for the past three generations — that is, a society that, acting through the government, tries to mitigate some of the “common hazards of life” through such programs as Social Security, unemployment insurance, Medicare and Medicaid.
Are voters ready to embrace such a radical rejection of the kind of America we’ve all grown up in? I guess we’ll find out next year.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Washington Is Filled With Fools!

The Republicans say we should create jobs by removing regulations on business.  The Democrats say we should create new jobs by giving businesses tax breaks

They are both full of crap.  The way you create new jobs is to give small businesses customers.

This week’s The Week makes that point as clearly as possible.

Jobs: Businesses say regulation isn’t the problem
Excessive government regulations aren’t preventing small-business owners from hiring, said Kevin G. Hall in In a random sample of “mom-and-pop operations” around the country, “none of the business owners complained about regulation in their particular industries, and most seemed to welcome it.” Business owners said the real barriers to expansion are “a lack of customers” and low access to loans. “It starts with jobs,” said Barry Grant, a California homebuilding executive. “There’s an awful lot of people sitting on the fence.”

Why can’t the fools in Washington understand this simple fact?

The answer is that all of their Economist advisors have absolutely no idea how the U.S. economy works!!

More Foolishness From Washington-The American Jobs Act

If you needed any more evidence that this president simply does not understand how the economy of this country actually works, his Jobs bill should settle the question.

Here are the facts of the situation today.

1) Roughly 30 million Americans are unemployed, underemployed or have given up looking for work.
2) Small businesses create 70% of all new jobs and have done so for well over fifty years.
3) Small businesses are in deep trouble because they do not have enough customers to generate cash to grow.
4) No small business has EVER hired a new employee to get a tax break.

Those are the facts and nobody argues with them.

So here comes the American Jobs Act (see below) with a price tag of $447 Billion.  Best I can find, there is a trivial $135 Billion  that in any way deals with those four facts.

By the way, the American Society of Engineers says that our deteriorating infrastructure needs at Least $1 Trillion to repair and update.  With that in mind, here is the American Jobs Act directly from the U.S. government website.

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary

Fact Sheet: The American Jobs Act

1. Tax Cuts to Help America’s Small Businesses Hire and Grow
  • Cutting the payroll tax in half for 98 percent of businesses: The President’s plan will cut in half the taxes paid by businesses on their first $5 million in payroll, targeting the benefit to the 98 percent of firms that have payroll below this threshold.
  • A complete payroll tax holiday for added workers or increased wages: The President’s plan will completely eliminate payroll taxes for firms that increase their payroll by adding new workers or increasing the wages of their current worker (the benefit is capped at the first $50 million in payroll increases).
  • Extending 100% expensing into 2012: This continues an effective incentive for new investment.
  • Reforms and regulatory reductions to help entrepreneurs and small businesses access capital.
2. Putting Workers Back on the Job While Rebuilding and Modernizing America
  • A “Returning Heroes” hiring tax credit for veterans: This provides tax credits from $5,600 to $9,600 to encourage the hiring of unemployed veterans.
  • Preventing up to 280,000 teacher layoffs,while keeping cops and firefighters on the job.
  • Modernizing at least 35,000 public schools across the country,supporting new science labs, Internet-ready classrooms and renovations at schools across the country, in rural and urban areas.
  • Immediate investments in infrastructure and a bipartisan National Infrastructure Bank, modernizing our roads, rail, airports and waterways while putting hundreds of thousands of workers back on the job.
  • A New “Project Rebuild”, which will put people to work rehabilitating homes, businesses and communities, leveraging private capital and scaling land banks and other public-private collaborations.
  • Expanding access to high-speed wireless as part of a plan for freeing up the nation’s spectrum.
3. Pathways Back to Work for Americans Looking for Jobs.
  • The most innovative reform to the unemployment insurance program in 40 years: As part of an extension of unemployment insurance to prevent 5 million Americans looking for work from losing their benefits, the President’s plan includes innovative work-based reforms to prevent layoffs and give states greater flexibility to use UI funds to best support job-seekers, including:
    • Work-Sharing:  UI for workers whose employers choose work-sharing over layoffs.
    • A new “Bridge to Work” program: The plan builds on and improves innovative state programs where those displacedtake temporary, voluntary work or pursue on-the-job training.
    • Innovative entrepreneurship and wage insurance programs: States will also be empowered to implement wage insurance to help reemploy older workers and programs that make it easier for unemployed workers to start their own businesses.
  • A $4,000 tax credit to employers for hiring long-term unemployed workers.
  • Prohibiting employers from discriminating against unemployed workers when hiring.
  • Expanding job opportunities for low-income youth and adults through a fund for successful approaches for subsidized employment, innovative training programs and summer/year-round jobs for youth.
4. Tax Relief for Every American Worker and Family
  • Cutting payroll taxes in half for 160 million workers next year: The President’s plan will expand the payroll tax cut passed last year to cut workers payroll taxes in half in 2012 – providing a $1,500 tax cut to the typical American family, without negatively impacting the Social Security Trust Fund.
  • Allowing more Americans to refinance their mortgages at today’s near 4 percent interest rates, which can put more than $2,000 a year in a family’s pocket.
5. Fully Paid for as Part of the President’s Long-Term Deficit Reduction Plan.To ensure that the American Jobs Act is fully paid for, the President will call on the Joint Committee to come up with additional deficit reduction necessary to pay for the Act and still meet its deficit target. The President will, in the coming days, release a detailed plan that will show how we can do that while achieving the additional deficit reduction necessary to meet the President’s broader goal of stabilizing our debt as a share of the economy.
The American people understand that the economic crisis and the deep recession weren’t created overnight and won’t be solved overnight. The economic security of the middle class has been under attack for decades. That’s why President Obama believes we need to do more than just recover from this economic crisis – we need to rebuild the economy the American way, based on balance, fairness, and the same set of rules for everyone from Wall Street to Main Street.  We can work together to create the jobs of the future by helping small business entrepreneurs, by investing in education, and by making things the world buys. The President understands that to restore an American economy that’s built to last we cannot afford to outsource American jobs and encourage reckless financial deals that put middle class security at risk.
To create jobs, the President unveiled the American Jobs Act – nearly all of which is made up of ideas that have been supported by both Democrats and Republicans, and that Congress should pass right away to get the economy moving now. The purpose of the American Jobs Act is simple: put more people back to work and put more money in the pockets of working Americans. And it would do so without adding a dime to the deficit.
 Tax Cuts to Help America’s Small Businesses Hire and Grow
 New Tax Cuts to Businesses to Support Hiring and Investment:The President is proposing three tax cuts to provide immediate incentives to hire and invest:
  • Cutting the Payroll Tax Cut in Half for the First $5 Million in Wages:This provision would cut the payroll tax in half to 3.1% for employers on the first $5 million in wages, providing broad tax relief to all businesses but targeting it to the 98 percent of firms with wages below this level.
  • Temporarily Eliminating Employer Payroll Taxes on Wages for New Workers or Raises for Existing Workers:The President is proposing a full holiday on the 6.2% payroll tax firms pay for any growth in their payroll up to $50 million above the prior year, whether driven by new hires, increased wages or both. This is the kind of job creation measure that CBO has called the most effective of all tax cuts in supporting employment.
  • Extending 100% Expensing into 2012:The President is proposing to extend 100 percent expensing, the largest temporary investment incentive in history, allowing all firms – large and small – to take an immediate deduction on investments in new plants and equipment.
  • Helping Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses Access Capital and Grow: The President’s plan includes administrative, regulatory and legislative measures – including those developed and recommended by the President’s Jobs Council – to help small firms start and expand. This includes changing the way the government does business with small firms. The Administration will soon announce a plan to accelerate government payments to small contractors to help put money in their hands faster. The President is also charging his CIO and CTO to, within 90 days, stand up a one-stop, online portal for small businesses to easily access government services. As part of the President’s Startup America initiative, the Administration will work with the SEC to conduct a comprehensive review of securities regulations from the perspective of these small companies to reduce the regulatory burdens on small business capital formation in ways that are consistent with investor protection, including expanding “crowdfunding” opportunities and increasing mini-offerings. Finally, the President’s plan calls for Congress to pass comprehensive patent reform, increase guarantees for bonds to help small businesses compete for infrastructure projects and remove burdensome withholding requirements that keep capital out of the hands of job creators.
 Putting Workers Back on the Job While Rebuilding and Modernizing America 
  • Tax Credits and Career Readiness Efforts to Support Veterans’ Hiring:The President is proposing a Returning Heroes Tax Credit of up to $5,600 for hiring unemployed veterans who have been looking for a job for more than six months, and a Wounded Warriors Tax Credit of up to $9,600 for hiring unemployed workers with service-connected disabilities who have been looking for a job for more than six months, while creating a new task force to maximize career readiness of servicemembers.
  • Preventing Layoffs of Teachers, Cops and Firefighters:The President is proposing to invest $35 billion to prevent layoffs of up to 280,000 teachers, while supporting the hiring of tens of thousands more and keeping cops and firefighters on the job. These funds would help states and localities avoid and reverse layoffs now, requiring that funds be drawn down quickly. Under the President’s proposal, $30 billion be directed towards educators and $5 billion would support the hiring and retention of public safety and first responder personnel.
  • Modernizing Over 35,000 Schools – From Science Labs and Internet-Ready Classrooms to Renovated Facilities:The President is proposing a $25 billion investment in school infrastructure that will modernize at least 35,000 public schools – investments that will create jobs, while improving classrooms and upgrading our schools to meet 21st century needs. This includes a priority for rural schools and dedicated funding for Bureau of Indian Education funded schools. Funds could be used for a range of emergency repair and renovation projects, greening and energy efficiency upgrades, asbestos abatement and removal, and modernization efforts to build new science and computer labs and to upgrade technology in our schools. The President is also proposing a $5 billion investment in modernizing community colleges (including tribal colleges), bolstering their infrastructure in this time of need while ensuring their ability to serve future generations of students and communities.
  • Making an Immediate Investment in Our Roads, Rails and Airports: The President’s plan includes $50 billion in immediate investments for highways, transit, rail and aviation, helping to modernize an infrastructure that now receives a grade of “D” from the American Society of Civil Engineers and putting hundreds of thousands of construction workers back on the job. The President’s plan includes investments to improve our airports, support NextGen Air Traffic Modernization efforts, and resources for the TIGER and TIFIA programs, which target competitive dollars to innovative multi-modal infrastructure programs. It will also take special steps to enhance infrastructure-related job training opportunities for individuals from underrepresented groups and ensure that small businesses can compete for infrastructure contracts.The President will work administratively to speed infrastructure investment through a recently issued Presidential Memorandum developed with his Jobs Council directingdepartments and agencies to identify high impact, job-creating infrastructure projects that can be expedited in a transparent manner through outstanding review and permitting processes. The call for greater infrastructure investment has been joined by leaders from AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka to U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue.
  • Establishing a National Infrastructure Bank:The President is calling for Congress to pass a National Infrastructure Bank capitalized with $10 billion, in order to leverage private and public capital and to invest in a broad range of infrastructure projects of nationaland regional significance, without earmarks or traditional political influence. The Bank would be based on the model Senators Kerry and Hutchison have championed while building on legislation by Senators Rockefeller and Lautenberg and the work of long-time infrastructure bank champions like Rosa DeLauro and the input of the President’s Jobs Council.
  • Project Rebuild: Putting People Back to Work Rehabilitating Homes, Businesses and Communities. The President is proposing to invest $15 billion in a national effort to put construction workers on the job rehabilitating and refurbishing hundreds of thousands of vacant and foreclosed homes and businesses. Building on proven approaches to stabilizing neighborhoods with high concentrations of foreclosures, Project Rebuild will bring in expertise and capital from the private sector, focus on commercial and residential property improvements, and expand innovative property solutions like land banks. This approach will not only create construction jobs but will help reduce blight and crime and stabilize housing prices in areas hardest hit by the housing crisis.
  • Expanding Access to High-Speed Wireless in a Fiscally Responsible Way: The President is calling for a deficit reducing plan to deploy high-speed wireless services to at least 98 percent of Americans, including those in more remote rural communities, while freeing up spectrum through incentive auctions, spurring innovation, and creating a nationwide, interoperable wireless network for public safety.
Pathways Back to Work for Americans Looking for Jobs 
  • Reform Our Unemployment Insurance System to Provide Greater Flexibility, While Ensuring 6 Million People Do Not Lose Benefits: Drawing on the best ideas of both parties and the most innovative states, the President is proposing the most sweeping reforms to the unemployment insurance (UI) system in 40 years help those without jobs transition to the workplace. Alongside these reforms, the President is reiterating his call to extend unemployment insurance, preventing 6 million people looking for work from losing their benefits and extending what the independent Congressional Budget Office has determined is the highest “bang for the buck” option to increase economic activity.
  • Reemployment Assistance: States will be required to design more rigorous reemployment services for the long-term unemployed and to conduct assessments to review the longest-term claimants of UI to assess their eligibility and help them develop a work-search plan.  These reforms are proven to speed up UI beneficiaries’ return to work.
  • Work-sharing:The President will expand “work-sharing” to encourage arrangements using UI that keep employees on the job at reduced hours, rather than laying them off.
  • State Flexibility for Bold Reforms to Put the Long-Term Unemployed Back To Work:The President is proposing to provide additional funds to allow states to introduce new programs aimed at long-term unemployed workers, including:
  • Bridge to Work” Programs:States will be able to put in place reforms that build off what works in programs like Georgia Works or Opportunity North Carolina, while instituting important fixes and reforms that ensure minimum wage and fair labor protections are being enforced.  These approaches permits long-term unemployed workers to continue receiving UI while they take temporary, voluntary work or pursue work-based training. The President’s plan requires compliance with applicable minimum wage and other worker rights laws.
  • Wage Insurance:  States will be able to use UI to encourage older, long-term unemployed Americans to return to work in new industries or occupations.
  • Startup Assistance:  States will have flexibility to help long-term unemployed workers create their own jobs by starting their own small businesses.
  • Other Reemployment Reforms:  States will be able to seek waivers from the Secretary of Labor to implement other innovative reforms to connect the long-term unemployed to work opportunities.
  • Tax Credits for Hiring the Long-Term Unemployed:The President is proposing a tax credit of up to $4,000 for hiring workers who have been looking for a job for over six months.
  • Investing in Low-Income Youth and Adults: The President is proposing a new Pathways Back to Work Fund to provide hundreds of thousands of low-income youth and adults with opportunities to work and to achieve needed training in growth industries. The Initiative will do three things: i) support summer and year-round jobs for youth, building off of successful programs that supported over 370,000 such jobs in 2009 and 2010; ii) support subsidized employment opportunities for low-income individuals who are unemployed, building off the successful TANF Emergency Contingency Fund wage subsidy program that supported 260,000 jobs in 2009 and 2010; and iii) support promising and innovative local work-based job and training initiatives to place low-income adults and youths in jobs quickly.
  • Prohibiting Employers from Discriminating Against Unemployed Workers: The President’s plan calls for legislation that would make it unlawful to refuse to hire applicants solely because they are unemployed or to include in a job posting a provision that unemployed persons will not be considered.  
 More Money in the Pockets of Every American Worker and Family
  •  Cutting Payroll Taxes in Half for 160 Million Workers Next Year: The President’s plan will expand the payroll tax cut passed last December by cutting workers payroll taxes in half next year. This provision will provide a tax cut of $1,500 to the typical family earning $50,000 a year. As with the payroll tax cut passed in December 2010, the American Jobs Act will specify that Social Security will still receive every dollar it would have gotten otherwise, through a transfer from the General Fund into the Social Security Trust Fund.
  • Helping More Americans Refinance Mortgages at Today’s Historically Low Interest Rates: The President has instructed his economic team to work with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, their regulator the FHFA, major lenders and industry leaders to remove the barriers that exist in the current refinancing program (HARP) to help more borrowers benefit from today’s historically low interest rates. This has the potential to not only help these borrowers, but their communities and the American taxpayer, by keeping borrowers in their homes and reducing risk to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Fully Paid for as Part of the President’s Long-Term Deficit Reduction Plan. 
  • To ensure that the American Jobs Act is fully paid for, the President will call on the Joint Committee to come up with additional deficit reduction necessary to pay for the Act and still meet its deficit target. The President will, in the coming days, release a detailed plan that will show how we can do that while achieving the additional deficit reduction necessary to meet the President’s broader goal of stabilizing our debt as a share of the economy.

$, bn
Tax Cuts to Help America’s Small Businesses Hire and Grow

Cut employer payroll taxes in half & bonus payroll cut for new jobs/wages

Extend 100% expensing in 2012
Putting Workers Back on the Job While Rebuilding and Modernizing America

Teacher rehiring and first responders

Modernizing schools

Immediate surface transportation

Infrastructure bank
Rehabilitation/repurposing of vacant property (neighborhood stabilization)
National wireless initiative
Veterans hiring initiative
Pathways Back to Work for Americans Looking for Jobs

UI Reform and Extension

Jobs tax credit for long term unemployed

Pathways back to work fund
More Money in the Pockets of Every American Worker and Family
Cutting employee payroll taxes in half in 2012
* Proposal has a gross cost of $10bn, but a net deficit reducing impact of $18bn because of spectrum auction proceeds.

Sometimes It Is Difficult To See The Changes Around You

Nine things that will disappear in our lifetime. Whether these changes are
good or bad depends in part on how we adapt to them. But, ready or not,
here they come:

1.     The Post Office.  Get ready to imagine a world without the post office. 
They are so deeply in financial trouble that there is probably no way to
sustain it long term.  Email, Fed Ex, and UPS have just about wiped out
the minimum revenue needed to keep the post office alive.  Most of your
mail every day is junk mail and bills.

2.     The Cheque.   Britain is already laying the groundwork to do away with
ques by 2018.  It costs the financial system billions of dollars a year
to process che
ques.  Plastic cards and online transactions will lead to
the eventual demise of the che
que.  This plays right into the death of the
post office.  If you never paid your bills by mail and never received them
by mail, the post office would absolutely go out of business.

3.     The Newspaper.  The younger generation simply doesn't read the
newspaper.  They certainly don't subscribe to a daily delivered print
edition.  That may go the way of the milkman and the laundry man.  As
for reading the paper online, get ready to pay for it.  The rise in mobile
Internet devices and e-readers has caused all the newspaper and
magazine publishers to form an alliance.  They have met with Apple,
Amazon, and the major cell phone companies to develop a model for
paid subscription services.

4.     The Book.  You say you will never give up the physical book that you
hold in your hand and turn the literal pages.  I said the same thing about
downloading music from iTunes.  I wanted my hard copy CD.  But I quickly
changed my mind when I discovered that I could get albums for half the
price without ever leaving home to get the latest music.  The same thing
will happen with books.  You can browse a bookstore online and even read
a preview chapter before you buy.  And the price is less than half that of a
real book.  And think of the convenience!  Once you start flicking your
fingers on the screen instead of the book, you find that you are lost in the
story, can't wait to see what happens next, and you forget that you're
holding a gadget instead of a book.

5.     The Land Line Telephone.  Unless you have a large family and make a lot
of local calls, you don't need it anymore.  Most people keep it simply
because they've always had it.  But you are paying double charges for that
extra service.  All the cell phone companies will let you call customers using
the same cell provider for no charge against your minutes.

6.     Music.  This is one of the saddest parts of the change story.  The music
industry is dying a slow death.  Not just because of illegal downloading. 
It's the lack of innovative new music being given a chance to get to the
people who would like to hear it.  Greed and corruption is the problem. 
The record labels and the radio conglomerates are simply self-destructing. 
Over 40% of the music purchased today is "catalog items," meaning
traditional music that the public is familiar with.  Older established artists. 
This is also true on the live concert circuit.  To explore this fascinating and
disturbing topic further, check out the book, ”Appetite for Self-Destruction"
by Steve Knopper, and the video documentary, "Before the Music Dies."

7.     Television.  Revenues to the networks are down dramatically.  Not just
because of the economy.  People are watching TV and movies streamed
from their computers.  And they're playing games and doing lots of other
things that take up the time that used to be spent watching TV.  Prime time
shows have degenerated down to lower than the lowest common denominator. 
Cable rates are skyrocketing and commercials run about every 4 minutes and
30 seconds.  I say good riddance to most of it.  It's time for the cable companies
to be put out of our misery..  Let the people choose what they want to watch
online and through Netflix.

8.     The "Things" That You Own.  Many of the very possessions that we used to
own are still in our lives, but we may not actually own them in the future. 
They may simply reside in "the cloud."  Today your computer has a hard drive
and you store your pictures, music, movies, and documents.  Your software is
on a CD or DVD, and you can always re-install it if need be.  But all of that is
changing.  Apple, Microsoft, and Google are all finishing up their latest "cloud
services."  That means that when you turn on a computer, the Internet will be
built into the operating system.  So, Windows, Google, and the Mac OS will be
tied straight into the Internet.  If you click an icon, it will open something in the
Internet cloud.  If you save something, it will be saved to the cloud.  And you
may pay a monthly subscription fee to the cloud provider.  In this virtual world,
you can access your music or your books, or your whatever from any laptop or
handheld device.  That's the good news. But, will you actually own any of this
"stuff" or will it all be able to disappear at any moment in a big "Poof?"  Will
most of the things in our lives be disposable and whimsical?  It makes you want
to run to the closet and pull out that photo album, grab a book from the shelf,
or open up a CD case and pull out the insert.
9.     Privacy.  If there ever was a concept that we can look back on nostalgically, it
would be privacy. That's gone.  It's been gone for a long time anyway.  There
are cameras on the street, in most of the buildings, and even built into your
computer and cell phone.  But you can be sure that 24/7, "they" know who
you are and where you are, right down to the GPS coordinates, and the Google
Street View.  If you buy something, your habit is put into a zillion profiles, and
your ads will change to reflect those habits.  And "they" will try to get you to
buy something else.  Again and again.

All we will have that can't be changed are memories.

A Major An Serious Problem!!!!

O.K., here is your second assignment for today.  There is no question that special interests are destroying the country through their increasing distortions in how the wealth of the country is displayed.  And there should be no question that legislators should be well informed about the facts surrounding the laws they are going to pass.  And there is no question that K Street lobbying firms will be more effective if they employ people with experience in how the government works.

This article from today's Washington Post describes the cycle from government to K  Street and, sometimes, back again.  So the question is how do we break the cycle without losing the benefits of experience and knowledge??

Back to previous page

Revolving door of employment between Congress, lobbying firms, study shows

By , Published: September 12

Nearly 5,400 former congressional staffers have left Capitol Hill to become federal lobbyists in the past 10 years, according to a new study that documents the extent of the revolving door between Congress and K Street.
The data published by the online disclosure site LegiStorm found close to 400 former U.S. lawmakers also have made the jump to lobbying.
The report, which tallies a greater number of workers moving between Congress and lobbying than found in previous studies, underscores the symbiotic relationship: Thousands of lobbyists are able to exploit experience and connections gleaned from working inside the legislative process, and lawmakers find in lobbyists a ready pool of experienced talent.
Of the 5,400 lobbyists with recent Hill experience, the study found that 2,900 were registered to lobby on behalf of clients this year. Twenty-five powerhouse firms and organizations employ 10 or more former Hill workers. The largest number are at the Podesta Group, followed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which employs at least 21.
“People who are experienced in Washington tend to be better at doing this kind of work than people who have never worked in the government before,” said Tony Podesta, founder and chairman of the Podesta Group, one of Washington’s most prominent lobbying firms.
The study also documents the reverse movement, finding 605 former lobbyists who have taken jobs working for lawmakers in the past decade.
“For every person the American people have elected to sponsor legislation of public benefit, special interests have more than one former legislative advocate now working on the inside in Congress,” said Jock Friedly, founder of LegiStorm. “That represents a large network of people to influence decisions and to provide valuable intelligence.”
In the House, the study found at least 11 former lobbyists working on the Republican staff of both the Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means committees. Democratic members of those committees together employ five former lobbyists.
That could be the result of a recent hiring spree by Republicans after they took over control of the House in the 2010 elections. After the 2006 elections, when Democrats took control of both the House and the Senate, 207 lobbyists took jobs on the Hill, most of them Democrats.
LegiStorm compiled the figures by matching names in its congressional salary database with lobbying records available from the House and the Senate.
About 14,000 people work on the Hill, and about 11,700 people are registered to lobby this year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
A study last year from the London School of Economics found 1,113 lobbyists who had formerly worked in the personal offices of lawmakers.
Lobbying firms and companies are looking for either connections or policy experience when they hire staffers to sway their old bosses, said Mirko Draca, a research economist at the school and one of the authors of the study.
The data on current and former staffers are part of a new subscription service launched Tuesday by LegiStorm that could reignite a debate from several years ago, when the Web site published public documents with staffers’ home addresses. The new service includes a database of congressional staff, and in some cases, personal information, including work histories, birthdays, spouses’ names, family connections, hobbies, and links to personal pages on social-networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Similar information has been available from other publications and leadership directories, although Legi­Storm is collecting data on a broader array of staffers.
The site previously came under fire from lawmakers and their staffs for posting some public documents that detailed staffers’ personal financial information, which previously had been available only in hard copies. In 2008, LegiStorm agreed to redact portions of the documents, including staffers’ signatures and home addresses, after the House agreed to pay the cost of the work.