July 28th, 2008
…er, Housing & Economic Recovery Act
The US Congress, both House and Senate, finally cleared the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 today, after nearly a year’s worth of hemming and hawing and slipping goodies into the legalese in the middle of the night. A regular miracle of modern political tug of war and a bill that’s changed its name and focus so many times nobody’s quite sure what’s in it other than a trillion or two to bail out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Having weathered a total of seven  Senate cloture votes, President Bush is likely to sign it into law.
No one expects a handout from this bill unless they’re 1. a robber baron, or 2. a loan shark, or 3. a speculator and/or house-flipper (buys real estate only to flip it immediately at inflated price), or 4. an fossil fuels dealer. Thus not surprisingly, the stock market opened low this morning [7-28-08], down more than 134 points at noon. Though Fannie and Freddie were on the upswing on that promise of taxpayer trillions.Debt, Economic Recession, Housing | Comment (0)
July 24th, 2008
Awhile back this blog featured a three-part series on Necessary Household Basics for keeping a clean house by concocting your own soaps, scouring powders, metal polishes, starches, fabric fresheners, bug repellants, etc. The list of ingredients were all common, inexpensive substances like salt, vinegar, borax, baking soda and corn starch. Saving serious money on soaps begins with saving the last of the bar soaps (and motel bar-lets) and turning them liquid by dissolving them in water.
Part 2 of that series offered some easy recipes for making the useful products. Like making an excellent metal polish by mixing vinegar and salt into a paste, or a fine scouring powder by mixing borax and soda. And of course, if you haven’t enough liquid soap to produce the laundry detergent or diswashing soap, you can always go ahead and purchase a jug of good ol’ Dr. Bronner’s organic liquid soap for making your mixtures. It’s not the cheapest of ingredients, but it’ll certainly go a long way! The money savings are significant all around.Alternatives, Clothing, Conscious Living, Environmentalism, Health Maintenance, Surviving | Comment (0)
July 21st, 2008
As the economy continues to slide ever deeper into recession – dragging the entire civilized world along with it in one spectacular leap into the great oil scam abyss – we get the mainstream media’s too-cute economic pundits telling us things designed to make us laugh out loud. Which could actually be semi-useful, considering how many neurosciencey-type researchers keep telling us how much humor can help us conquer stress and depression and other unavoidable side-effects of living in interesting times. But only if you actually read their sage advice *as* comedy, meant to lighten your mood.
For instance, the jokers over at CNN Money have some real thigh-slappers on what we regular people should do ‘just in case’ the worst happens (the whole house of cards comes tumbling down). We need to beef up our “emergency funds,” we’re told, as if we had more cash to stash in zip lock bags in the freezer than the two to three weeks’ worth (which we’d still have to scrimp to save up) advised in the post Hold On: The Ride’s Just Starting.
We are told that in the face of bank failures, job losses and investment wipeouts that the “standard advice” is to keep at least three months’ worth of living expenses ‘socked away’ if there are two wage earners in the family, six months’ worth if there’s just one breadwinner. Surely it can’t be that difficult to just take ten or twenty thousand dollars out of your bank or investment portfolio in small bills and find a safe place in the house to hide it from the teenagers, right? Hahahaha. That’s a good one.Alternative economics, Economic Depression, Economic Prognostication, Economic Recession, Humor | Comments (3)
July 14th, 2008
IndyMac Goes Down – Largest Bank Failure EVER
Photo from LA Times
That minor recession that John McCain’s erstwhile economic advisor informed us just last week is “all in our heads” got worse as FDIC moved on Friday to take over Pasadena’s IndyMac Bank. Their audit showed that a surprising number of deposits exceed insurance coverage limits, and when the bank goes down that money is gone… poof, disappeared, “liquidated” by economic reality. According to the Wall Street Journal, this works out to about 10,000 people whose money was in IndyMac – 5% of their total deposit base – who will now have to “learn a lesson” about not putting all their golden eggs in one basket.
The FDIC Quarterly Banking Profile doesn’t look very promising either, so it’s important for people to realize that they are only guaranteed return of $100,000 in regular deposits, or $250,000 in retirement accounts (including accrued interest). Given what has happened in the past as corporations decide unilaterally to loot their portions of retirement accounts in order to try and stay afloat, if things get bad enough the retirement savings of Baby Boomers may well be in jeopardy.
Since 2007 there have been 8 bank/thrift failures, nowhere near the level of failures during either the Great Depression or the notorious S&L ‘crisis’ of the 1980s. But that can change rather quickly, so if you’ve some real money in the bank – particularly in the kind of retirement account we’ve been told for years we’ll need in order to live well in our old age – you may want to divvy it up into more than one institution so the full amount is covered.Bank Failures, Economic Recession, Surviving | Comments (2)
July 7th, 2008
Some years ago while visiting my husband’s then newly widowed and elderly mother, we were moved to intervene on her behalf after some jerks claiming to be collectors for delinquent student loans went on a rampage of gross harassment against her because someone much younger had her same first and last name. They were calling her so often and being so verbally abusive that she changed her phone number, which she’d had for more than 20 years and which all her distant friends and relatives knew by heart. They were sending threatening letters – sometimes 3 a week – telling her they were going to ruin her credit and attach her wages.
After hubby calmly informed them they had the wrong person – do your homework, don’t call, stop writing and there were no wages to attach (she retired long ago) – Mother-in-Law got a call from her banker telling her they were now trying to attach her bank account! Hubby put a stop to that right quick by showing the many threatening extortion letters to that banker right there in his office, explaining the situation, and getting some good advice. Call the state Attorney General immediately, follow up with a formal letter detailing the illegal tactics, and if worst comes to worst, get a lawyer.
Now, I know it sounds weird that a woman who graduated from college in 1947 could be so thoroughly confused with the ~30-something single mother who was actually in arrears on her student loan payments, or that a sweet old lady could be so horribly abused by professional con artists/thugs. But the truth (as best we could figure) was that they figured they could brow-beat Mom into paying someone else’s debts just because she was old and living alone and had some money in the bank.
Luckily we had gone to high school with the AG and he was more than willing to go after these crooks wearing size 1000 pointy cowboy boots. The harassment ended in short order, and Mom now knows to simply let her contact with his debt/fraud task force know whenever she gets targeted in some scam. The shame is that there are so darned many scams out there targeting people like her, and once you get on one scammer’s list (even if they end up in jail), you’ll be sold to every other scammer in the con-club fleecing little old ladies out of their meager life’s savings.
So when I saw CNNMoney’s article entitled Debt collectors on the rampage, I figured it might be a good idea to document a bit about your rights if you happen to end up on the scam list. This article has a list of rights and procedures as well as a run-down on ways that third party collectors violate the rules. Those rules are detailed in the FDIC’s Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and explained in some detail through the links at fair-debt-collection.com.
Even if you really do owe the debt, the collectors are required to abide by rules. For instance, they cannot call you before or after certain times of day, must stop calling if you tell them not to call, and may not demand any payments on debts for which your state’s statute of limitations has expired [a.k.a. "Zombie Debt"]. If you find yourself in a situation of unethical or illegal harassment the best thing you can do is educate yourself about this law and its provisions, and know what steps you can take to defend yourself.
If there’s anything unethical shysters are legitimately frightened of, it’s a mark (target) who knows his/her rights and isn’t reluctant to assert them.
Links:Debt | Comment (0)
July 1st, 2008
Your bank just locked its doors. Should you worry?
Pittsburgh: Forty people wearing red tee shirts and carrying signs marched right into a National City Bank last Friday morning. They chanted “Criminal Offenders, Predatory Lenders!” and blew whistles. They demanded an immediate halt to home foreclosures.
The group dispersed after police were called and nobody got arrested, but no one got any relief from foreclosure either. The demonstration was part of a national effort by the group ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, which provides free counseling to low and moderate income home buyers. As more and more families lose their homes, ACORN hopes protest actions will become more and more visible.
From shelters and coalitions for the homeless all over the country, reports are coming in of overwhelmed facilities and no end in sight as new faces join the ranks of the homeless. The ‘lucky’ ones, about 76% of renters and homeowners displaced by the continuing mortgage crisis, are moving in with relatives and friends. The rest are on the streets, living in their cars, or filling emergency shelters. It’s going to get worse.Bank Failures, Bankruptcy, Economic Depression, Economic Recession | Comment (0)