View From Table 9

October 31, 2008

The Math is not the Point

It’s amazing how quickly a good idea spreads, isn’t it?  Take the We Deserve it Dividend.  What started as a simple post somewhere has spread quite far.  Far enough of course that some have decided to nit-pick the concept – for instance revealing the mathematical error in the OP’s calculations that mean there would be a lot less going to each individual.  OK, but that’s not the point.

See, the problem with the whole bailouts and loans scheme cooked up by the Treasury is that pretty much no one has any idea how the deals proposed would address the problems at hand: namely the fact that the economy’s in the crapper, people are losing their jobs left and right, and now, just for special fun, they’re also losing their houses and even people who didn’t jump on the Happy Free Money Bandwagon are screwed (yes, Virginia, we really are a community and we are all affected at times by the actions of a few).

Unfortunately, they’re not, and of course we’ve been lied to yet again about not only that but how the loans we’re making are actually being used.  For instance, the NY Times did an article on what AIG has done with the $123 Billion they were loaned:

A.I.G. has declined to provide a detailed account of how it has used the Fed’s money. The company said it could not provide more information ahead of its quarterly report, expected next week, the first under new management. The Fed releases a weekly figure, most recently showing that $90 billion of the $123 billion available has been drawn down.

Of the two big Fed loans, the smaller one, the $38 billion supplementary lending facility, was extended solely to prevent further losses in the securities-lending business. So far, $18 billion has been drawn down for that purpose.

An estimated $13 billion of the money was needed to make good on investment accounts that A.I.G. typically offered to municipalities, called guaranteed investment contracts, or G.I.C.’s.

For $59 billion of the $72 billion A.I.G. has used, the company has provided no breakdown. A block of it has been used for day-to-day operations, a broad category that raises eyebrows since the company has been tarnished by reports of expensive trips and bonuses for executives.

Why should we care?  Because it’s our money that’s being loaned.  It’s not only ours, it’s the money of our children and grandchildren and great grandchildren.  We have the right, in fact the obligation, to ensure that the debt we’re incurring is used as we intended it – not so that banks can buy other banks and make more money for themselves (without loaning a dime to anyone or re-negotiating even one mortgage) or so that Executives receive their good-job performance Bonuses that they don’t deserve.

Goldman Sachs, which is getting $10 billion US from Washington’s stunning $850-billion rescue plan to help prop up the battered financial system, is to pay out $6.85 billion in bonuses, according to media reports.

That’s $210,000 per employee. And that’s despite a 47% drop in its profit and 53% drop in its share price.

Goldman Sachs, by the way, also prospers from Washington’s $85 billion rescue of AIG, the world’s largest insurer — since it would lose up to $20 billion if AIG failed.

Morgan Stanley, which is also getting $10 billion from government, is doling out $6.44 billion in bonuses or $138,700 per employee, even though its profits tumbled 41% and its shares are off by 69%. And Merrill Lynch, which the Federal Reserve forced to merge with Bank of America, is paying out $6.7 billion.

Even employees at bankrupt Lehman Brothers are getting bonuses. And employees at Bear Stearns, which was bought by JP Morgan Chase after the Federal Reserve loaned it $29 billion, employees already got bonuses, according to reports.

How is it that the guys who created this mess get to use our tax dollars to give themselves bonuses for good performance?  Is it just me or is that insane?  That the White House is defending all this is just disgusting.  Clearly, they’re missing the real point:  We’d like for that huge debt to mean that things get better for us, not the White Collar Gangsters on Welfare.

Here IS the point:  How about putting that money where it really will make a difference?   Give it to every Citizen Taxpayer directly.   I think we’d all do better than these guys.  We could not do much worse.


October 27, 2008

Fix It! SNL Thursday Rocks!

Filed under: Uncategorized — table9 @ 10:53 am

Overall, I’m a Daily Show fan more than SNL but this one had me laughing so hard I cried. Enjoy.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Saturday Night Live – Update Thursday…“, posted with vodpod

October 26, 2008

Bait and Switch

One of the things I’ve been doing over the past couple of weeks was talking with others about this whole bailout. Talking with the young man driving the hotel shuttle in Charlottesville VA. Talking with my seat mate on a train. Talking with waiters and campaign workers and colleagues and telephone customer service folks and friends and my doctor and the grocery store clerk. My principal question: What the heck are they going to use our $700 billion for and how will that fix the mess we’re in?

The answers I got:

Somehow pay off people’s mortgages so they can keep their houses (no one was really clear on how this would work or who would benefit)

Buy the mortgage loans and keep collecting them

Buy the foreclosed houses from the market

Let people refinance their bad loans through the Government

Give banks money they can lend out to people and businesses

Not one person could describe how any of that above would fix the economy, and nobody was really sure of any of what they said above. Almost universally, the answers started with “I don’t really know, but I think…” We’re talking about $700 Billion (or, in other terms, 75% of the gross national product of Mexico) of our tax dollars, and we couldn’t say how this would work to help us get out of this Second Great Depression. Do you smell a rat too?

Guess what? None of us were right. We’re now starting to see how this great Bailout (which our children and grandchildren and great grandchildren) will save us:

Banks will use the money to buy other banks whom the Treasury believes are ‘weaker’, using Bailout dollars and getting special tax breaks (meaning paying less in taxes) on top of that. Stronger banks will get stronger, and weaker banks will get absorbed, and all at our Federal Government’s behest and direction.

Who says Republicans can’t be Socialists? (Not to mention hypocrites – progressive tax plans are Socialist but direct ownership and control of our banking system is not. Amazing.)

Now, notice, there’s not a word in there that talks about loans – in fact, what’s coming out that despite telling Congress that they’re insisting that banks use the money to make loans, they’re essentially asking really really nicely with sugar on top and hoping that this is what banks will do. These same banks who lied about so much, who cheated and stole, are being asked rather than told what to do with our taxpayer dollars that they insisted they needed to fix things, and then turning around and enriching themselves even further at our now very direct and very equally distributed expense. In other words, they’re still lying, cheating, greedy bastards. Heck, there’s even more of them begging for our money so they can remain, well, rich. White Collar Gangsters on Welfare.

I say we repeal that law that gives Treasury the $700 Billion, recoup the money given out already, and have Really Smart People who don’t have an interest in their post-election private sector big money jobs develop a bailout that really works

Something like the We Deserve it Dividend. Now, when I outlined that fabulous We Deserve it Dividend program (which can be accomplished for a fraction of the Fatcat Bailout), there was also not one person who could not describe exactly how they would use their dividend, and relate how that would help solve the economic conditions for which the ‘bailout’ was designed. People would pay off their mortgages, pay off their cars, buy a new car, invest, put the money in the bank, save for kids’ college, do home improvements, buy a condo or house (if they didn’t own one) and near the very bottom of the list they would take a small vacation. All of these things would fix problems – of debt, infusing capital, distributing wealth, helping businesses survive. What a great idea! Much better than the “We-have-no-idea-how-this-works-bailout”, don’t you think?

Or, and maybe alongside the Dividend, something like Paul Krugman’s idea of taking those dollars (he didn’t say these specifically) and getting people to work fixing our crumbling bridges and roads, infusing dollars into our National Parks and schools and public transportation and developing new industries so we don’t make money only lending to each other so we can buy big screen TVs. Something not totally unlike FDR’s WPA and Civilian Conservation Corps. Both programs worked – giving people jobs, building infrastructure we still use today (many of our National Park buildings were CCC projects). Many regard the programs as lifesavers and sources of great hopes during our First Great Depression.

What is it they say? Those who don’t remember history are condemned to repeat it? Yep. I’d rather say “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

October 15, 2008

How to Feel Happier In Bad Economic Times

Filed under: Uncategorized — table9 @ 11:28 am
Tags: , , , ,

Today is Blog Action Day, and the topic this year is Poverty.  Good timing, eh?  I was originally going to blog about our Military and how so many of our soldiers & sailors resort to food stamps to feed their families.  How a disproportionate number of our ‘volunteer’ service members come from the very poorest families, and how so many of our injured disabled live in poverty despite their service and so many veterans end up homeless.

Then the house of cards fell down.

Then I thought about writing on how even when our 401(K) is now a 101(K) that we’re still way better off than a gizillion people out there and how we should be happy we have running water (a take on my mother’s “Eat your food.  There are starving children in Africa” approach).   That didn’t impact me much though and frankly, after weeks of doom and gloom I’m really just worn out.

Then I thought of this:  When life gives you lemons, break out the tequila and lime juice and call me over.  We may not be able to control much the basket we’re in or where it’s going, but we can control our outlook on life.

Thanks to inspiration from  Gretchen Rubin, here are some of my ideas on ways to make yourself happier.

1. Clean up something. Your yard, your house, your car. If you’re one of those people who are compulsively clean in your personal life, go walk along the beach, in the park, someplace beautiful with a trash bag and pick up garbage.  There’s something catharitic about cleaning up when you find yourself in a mess.

2. Take your clothes that no longer fit or you will never wear, the toys that are no longer played with, the gadgets that may never have been used.  Gather them up.  Donate them. Freecycle them. Have a Really Cheap Garage Sale.   It’s really refreshing to see someone happy to have those things that you dread looking at when you open your closet door.

3. Donate blood. Sign up to be a Bone Marrow Donor.  Be an Organ Donor.  Those really small things you do that take almost  no time may mean the world to someone else you don’t even know.

4. Instead of dining out with friends, have a comfort food themed potluck.  There’s nothing like comfort food, and there’s nothing like friends.   I’ve eaten the very best mac n cheese ever courtesy of a friend.

5. Go visit your grandparents. If you don’t have them any more, go visit somebody else’s. Spend 1/2 hour visiting someone who would love nothing more than time with you.   The gratitude and joy you’ll experience and return are amazing.

Yeah, I realize, most of this involves giving.  And y’all might be thinking “How can I be asked to give when I’ve lost so much?”  Yanno, it’s a funny thing. Hallmark got it right: It really does feel better to give than to receive.   And that in every big ole black cloud, there really are threads of silver.  Go find them!

October 10, 2008

What do Jesus and the Stock Market have in Common?

Filed under: Uncategorized — table9 @ 10:18 am
Tags: , , , , ,

1. Both ask for our (blind) faith and complete trust in them.

2. Both ask us to sacrifice and look at things over the long-haul.

3. Both have promised us salvation and future riches.

4. Both will rise again some day. Whether we’re around when that happens is another story.


October 6, 2008

Pin the Tail on the Other Guy

Probably one of the most interesting side-show phenomenon of this whole Economic Meltdown Mess is the intense scrambling by many to pin the blame on somebody else (particularly someone who is on the ‘other side’). Depending on whom you hear from it’s the fault of:

1. President George W. Bush

2. Former President Bill Clinton

3. Wall Street Brokers

4. Alan Greenspan/Henry Brennacke/Henry Paulson

5. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

6. Congress

7. Banks

8. Countrywide

9. People who borrowed more than they can afford

10. Real Estate Marketers

11. Liberals

12. Conservatives

and so on…

What’s interesting is that there is no one smoking gun – no Ken Lay for Enron as the Bad Guy, no Michael Milikin for Junk Bonds, no Osama Bin Laden for 9/11 or Saddam Hussein for WMDs. No one whom everyone can drag out into the Village Square and throw tomatoes at because ITS THEIR FAULT WE’RE IN THIS MESS.

This would be especially convenient for those who are running for office, as having a scapegoat would conveniently absolve them of any responsibility.

The truth here is that we are all responsible –

from the person who borrowed way more than they knew somewhere in their heart they could not afford but did so because the bank said it was OK to the bank who lent that person money even though they knew in their heart that this loan would not be paid out because hey the computer models said it was OK and besides prices are going up up up

to the reseller who bundled loans and labeled them improperly even though they knew in their hearts that this was not good because hey, history says that most of these loans won’t go bad to the rating entity who labeled these loans without thoroughly checking them to the purchaser who knew in their hearts these were too complex to verify but did so because they didn’t want to be ‘left behind’

to the Wall street Broker who sold these bundles knowing in their heart they were not as good as they were purported to be to the investor who knew in their hearts that the market was way, way, overheated and based on no real wage growth but bought these securities anyway because they couldn’t resist the profits and hey Moodys said it was OK

to Congress and the President who knew in their hearts that this market buildup was not based on real sustainable growth but allowed it anyway, even to the point that they pressured lenders and purchasers of mortgages (that would be the Banks and Fannie/Freddie) to make those loans and buy them to sustain this ‘growth’ because they and their rich constituents were making money and they desperately did not want the house of cards to fall ‘on their watch’ and because ideologically they believed that more regulation was bad and the market corrects itself always.

The truth is we are all to blame, even those who did not gorge themselves on the feast, because we are all part of the system that created this. Failure to act does not absolve oneself of responsibility to act.

You see, we really can’t say we didn’t know what was going on. At least five years ago we knew, in our hearts, that something was wrong with our economy. When banks offered us loans without reason or rationality. When housing prices when insane. When our paychecks stopped getting bigger but we could still ‘afford’ so much thanks to mortgages and equity loans and credit cards.

The truth is that the “average” American trusted our leadership, the Really Smart People Whom We Elected, to take care of us, to protect us, and to help us live better lives. After all, they saved us in the Great Depression, right? They know best so we should let them Do Their Jobs.

Those Really Smart People Whom We Elected took that trust in their large, comforting hands, wrapped it in the American Flag and the rhetoric of good times, God, the American Dream and Patriotism, and then they promptly screwed us all.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

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