September 8th, 2009
Those of us who have spent a good part of our lives not being rich – or even middle-middle class – have likely spent quite a bit of our lives without health insurance as well. Or with junk insurance that doesn’t actually cover anything but Big Ticket Items such as major accidents and illnesses. And many of us have unfortunately discovered that junk insurance won’t pay for Big Ticket Items either, if ever those happen to accrue.
Thus we have likely been watching the D.C. Street Theater (recently back from nationwide tour over the August recess at Town Hall meetings in every state) with some amazement. Knowing that the truth is that health care is the third leading cause of death, perhaps wondering if greater access for some of the ~50 million Americans without insurance is actually going to “fix” what’s wrong with health care in this country. Which is #37 on the list of 37 industrialized nations in both access and outcomes.
One of the more “important” results of what is now more honestly being called Health Insurance Reform is the promise of government subsities to enroll as many of those ~50 million uninsured Americans in for-profit health care as possible. This is of course a way to compensate for-profit insurers for new regulations that will prevent them from refusing to insure those with pre-existing conditions, rescinding policies when the person gets sick or injured, and other racketeering practices that have 3 of every 4 of the “medically bankrupt” bankrupt despite HAVING insurance.Bankruptcy, Government Bailouts, Health Care | Comment (0)
August 17th, 2009
…and HCR update
The biggest bank failure of 2009 happened last week when the FDIC moved to shut down Colonial BancGroup of Alabama, along with four other banks, bringing the total thus far this year to more than 70. A quick deal with BB&T to purchase Colonial caused its shares to rise. FDIC will be shouldering much of the losses, of course, which adds billions to the bailout of the banking system while at the same time working to further bank consolidation for the wealthiest banks still standing.
Such situations are a ‘win-lose’ proposition. Win for BB&T and their stockholders, lose for We the Taxpayers. This scheme where the feds cap the buyer’s losses at taxpayer expense is just another outrage to the hard-pressed public at a time when all the glorious pronouncements of economic recovery have yet to even begin to touch the lives of the general public still losing jobs at a high rate while no new jobs seem to be forthcoming.
And on top of the still-dismal economic situation for average people in this country, now we have the extremely contentious health care reform debate ongoing that looks more and more like bad street theater every day. Between the noisy hoards of idle old folks bused around the country to shut down discussion of provisions during Town Hall meetings held by vacationing congresscritters, and the absurd lies being spewed by the usual suspects at FoxNews and right wing radio, it’s looking more and more like the final result will be a significant new tax on the working poor that will be earmarked directly to the health insurance industry by means of mandatory purchase of junk insurance.
The situation is really health insurance reform, though reform isn’t really a good title either considering how much the Death by Spreadsheet crowd will end up getting from the public directly and from the government as subsidies. Yes, they will have to stop excluding anyone with a pre-existing condition, retroactively canceling policies if the insured person gets sick, and simply not paying for covered health care after the fact. But they will more than make up for however much this costs them by the ~40 million new policies the uninsured will have to purchase, and with government subsidies for many of those as well as losses incurred by having to honor their contracts.Bank Failures, Economic Recession, Government Bailouts, Health Care, Joblessness, Taxes | Comment (0)
May 26th, 2009
One of my favorite series bloggers sarahnity has a weekly series at Daily Kos called “Frugal Fridays” that offers different tips and ideas every week, by her and a number of volunteer authors, on how to make your money go farther, how to earn money on the side, and how to hang on to what you’ve got. Last Friday the theme was frauds and scams geared toward those being most harmed by the current economy, entitled Don’t Get Fooled Again.
I’m just going to list the major confidence games going around in recent weeks/months, and the several resources and good advice offered to help people determine if something’s on the up-and-up or just more grifters targeting the weak to make themselves strong. The series is awesome, definitely worth bookmarking by all readers of this blog and checked every Friday afternoon for the latest in resources for the frugal.
The major scams making the rounds these days – particularly via the internet – are sometimes old and sometimes new. There’s the standard Work from Home sting where you have to pay to find out who’s hiring. If someone wants your money before showing you the want ads, it’s likely a scam. Real employers aren’t looking for you to pay them, they’re seeking people to pay for good work.
Then there’s the new-ish trick of Facebook identity theft where a clever grifter assumes an identity from among your networking ‘friends’ (often a relative) to beg for money. Be suspicious if someone on your Facebook page suddenly asks for money. Often the real person knows nothing about it – so check on regular email before sending anything.
There are also property tax scams going around where someone tells you you’re paying too much for property recently devalued. All you have to do is send money and the scammers won’t do anything for you. These can come in the regular mail too, so always do your homework and check with your real property tax officials about what’s what. If you really do pay too much, they’ll let you know for free. In line with this there are also housing and mortgage frauds, where someone offers you a “special rate” to refinance, take your money and disappear. Don’t fall for it.
There are more, of course. Please click on Sarah’s linked diary and check them out, there is good advice on how not to be victimized and who to report suspected scams to in your state and locality.Filed under Debt, Government Bailouts, Housing, Pirates, Taxes | Comment (1)
May 5th, 2009
During the Presidential campaign in the late summer of 2008, a Reuters/Zogby poll returned the finding that most Americans – as in 89% of likely voters – somehow believe that one of the primary responsibilities of the President of the United States is to “manage the economy.” In that poll 49% of likely voters rated John McCain as more able in that department, while 40% said Barack Obama would be better.
Surely that odd finding is another consequence of asking the wrong question the wrong way, so perhaps more than 11% of likely voters are fairly aware that the POTUS doesn’t manage the economy as part of his (or someday maybe, her) job description. but judging from how little (and poorly taught) civics is included in a public school general education these days, maybe this misconception is just that widespread.
As Gene Healy wrote at the time in The Cult of the Presidency…, “Our system, with its unhealthy, unconstitutional concentration of power, feeds on the atavistic tendency to see the chief magistrate as our national father or mother, responsible for our economic well-being, our physical safety, and even our sense of belonging.”Economic Recession, Government Bailouts, Politics | Comment (0)
April 9th, 2009
For a great many regular hard-working, tax-paying American citizens the way money works in the modern world is very much a mystery. This is not surprising, considering that money has always been a mystery shrouded in mythical associations, psychological phobias and religious overtones. And designed to be thus by those who do know how money works. When the US Federal Reserve was established in 1913, it was not actually made a National Bank under the control of the government, it was established by and for the wealthiest bankers and Wall Street barons as an independent entity with only ceremonial ties to the federal government.
In a critique of the ancient psychological “money complex” in his book Life Against Death, Norman O. Brown explored the debt-guilt association in the essay Filthy Lucre. Brown wrote, “Whatever the ultimate explanation of guilt may be, we put forward the hypothesis that the whole money complex is rooted in the psychology of guilt.”
So perhaps it should come as no surprise that a development in late June of 2008 that rocked the American financial world went largely unreported in this country. It appeared in an article of Spiegel Online on June 26, 2008, entitled The Shrinking Influence of the US Federal Reserve.Economic Depression, Economic Recession, Government Bailouts, Inflation | Comment (0)
November 3rd, 2008
We’ve seen a lot of desperation as the world (and US) economy tanks in the wake of the mortgage-loss pyramid scheme crash. We’ve heard a lot of hyperbole and rhetoric from the candidates who want to replace Bush-Cheney as President and Vice-President of the United States. This is The Week That Was, votes will be counted tomorrow night, and we should know sometime in the wee hours of Wednesday which of the contestants gets the erstwhile “prize.”
As Wall Street began its precipitous fall, Republican candidate John McCain was busy informing the nation that the ‘fundamentals’ of our economy are strong. No, they aren’t strong, they’re utter failures after years of massive tax cuts to the wealthy, heavy borrowing to support two wars, and the “Unfettered Free Market” [TM] frenzy allowed by blanket de-regulation of the banking and investment sectors.
To get an idea of just how outrageous things had gotten, consider the so-called “Mortgage Meltdown” that took so many once-staid capitalist houses into ruin. We all know that housing prices had ballooned in most urban areas of the country, a ‘bubble’ sustained by the practice of lending to workers whose incomes haven’t seen even a minimal rise in more than 30 years, for houses that cost easily twice as much as they could hope to afford and three times what they were actually worth. Many of these loans were made with specific criminal intent to skim fees off the top, and saddled with adjustable interest rates that worked just like time bombs to force people into bankruptcy.Bankruptcy, Economic Depression, Economic Recession, Education, Elitism, Government Bailouts, Housing, Income Inequality, Politics, Taxes | Comment (0)
October 24th, 2008
It’s true, and should come as no surprise that modern day pirates are responsible for the current mass chaos in the markets. I mean, this is just the sort of things pirates do, isn’t it? Or, so says Peter Hayes, Senior Lecturer in politics at the University of Sunderland.
In Dr. Hayes’ latest paper, ‘Pirates, Privateers and the contract theories of Hobbes and Locke’, the argument is developed and interesting. Not only did pirates practically invent participatory democracy by electing their captain, voting on major decisions and distributing the booty in fairly equal shares, but they were often backed by financiers in distant countries. Which, according to Hayes, makes your average pirate ship roughly equivalent to a modern corporation.
“Pirates had a democratic structure, and relative equality, but they were doing all this to violate the rights of other people,” Hayes says. “The idea of a social contract is that it protects human rights. But what if you create a social contract to say that we’ll observe rights toward each other, but we won’t observe rights for outsiders?”
Hmmm… Maybe Hayes has a point. Or maybe pirates themselves were an expression of the basic xenophobia that has existed ever since early tribal society. But pirates are a more popular romantic icon these days than simple hunter-gatherers, so Hayes can use them as a selling point. Somehow, the robber barons of today don’t elicit the kind of romantic idol-worship or secret sympathies from the vast amount of us in the out-group they’re busy hijacking day to day.
For the most part, they’re disgusting. Which is why when AIG and other failed brokers and bankers take $70 billion of a trillion-dollar taxpayer bailout to pad the top privateers’ junkets and golden parachutes, the taxpayers aren’t very happy with it. Off with their heads, I say!Filed under Economic Recession, Education, Government Bailouts, Humor, Pirates, Politics | Comment (0)
September 24th, 2008
Roadblocks and Interference
As Congress meets today and tomorrow to grill the principals before Friday’s vote on the $700 billion “emergency” Wall Street bailout plan (which has been in the works for months but strategically dumped on us all as an “emergency”), oil companies have instituted “rolling shortages” all over the Southeast. Some areas have been out of gas for more than a week and a half, and the situation is not expected to ease until Monday at the latest. Some gas – a single tanker at a time – is being delivered to stations along the Interstates and is being strictly rationed unless it’s diesel, one station per county.
State police are managing the gas lines to prevent violence, which did break out last week in the Nashville, Tennessee area when people started cutting in line. Food prices are rising so fast the stock boys at the grocery stores can’t mark up the goods fast enough, and the specter of looming fuel shortages for winter heat – or price increases that will force people to do without – is beginning to look very scary.
Bailout or no bailout – and despite the launch of FBI investigations of Fannie Mae, Freddy Mac, Lehman Brothers and AIG – the United States may well be fully in the clutches of major economic depression before winter even hits. Whether or not that translates to global recession isn’t much of an issue to regular people, as we here in our own homes wonder how we will survive. This post and several following posts in a new series will take a look at the steps citizens should take as soon as possible to ensure their families will make it through the next 6 months. If depression goes on longer than that, additional strategies will be necessary, some already compiled as series in this blog and available under the “Our Most Popular” header on the left side of the page.Alternative economics, Alternatives, Bank Failures, Economic Depression, Energy, Fuel, Government Bailouts, Inflation, Surviving | Comment (1)
September 22nd, 2008
Watching Treasury’s Paulson on Meet the Press Sunday made me sick. That pitiful, pleading look, the bizarre non-logic, the reversion to fear, fear, fear… the guy’s a cheap crook in an expensive suit and no, the whole world isn’t going to self-detonate if we let the greedheads take their lumps for being so damned greedy. Let ‘em fail.
Meanwhile, I’ve a fine plan to salvage the housing market as well as the business and jobs outlook. Instead of giving up to $3 trillion dollars (the price goes up hourly) to the crooks who got us into this mess, why not give every citizen $3,000 dollars? They’ll catch up on their mortgages, then FHA (the receiver for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) can refinance at lower rates and more realistic selling prices. Voila! the mortgage market is no longer “bad debt.” And if we’ve got an extra couple of trillion laying around to spend on these greedheads, why don’t we spend it on something useful – like universal health care?
That price tag is less than a third of the price tag the Fed, Treasury or Wall Street has come up with to bail themselves out of the hole they dug, and it would completely solve the asset valuation problem for regular Americans who don’t earn $5 million a year. And it lets the Wall Street failures fail. They earned it, they deserve it. Screw ‘em. The rest of us will be fine with our dividend.Alternatives, Bank Failures, Economic Depression, Government Bailouts, Housing | Comment (0)
September 8th, 2008
That’s what Angry Bear says about the government bailout of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, announced on Sunday, September 7. It will cost the American taxpayers tens of billions of dollars we don’t have. Why? Because more than 1.3 trillion dollars’ worth of those mortgage bonds are held by foreign countries, primarily China, Japan, the Cayman Islands, Luxembourg and Belgium, and they want to know if their holdings are any good.
Now, you might be struck by some of those listed ‘foreigners’. Cayman Islands? Luxembourg? Belgium? Well known for hosting questionably legal accounts for some questionable characters, I suspect we’d find a lot of Americans on those lists. Americans don’t count as “foreigners.” Unfortunately, we’d also find a lot of Russian front companies and Middle Eastern Sheiks as well.
We’ve once again been robbed blind by wanton corporate and individual greed, and we are expected once again to bail out the wealthy speculators whose greed led to the failures.
Predictions for what happens now aren’t pretty. The dollar will plunge, inflation will zoom, regular Americans will have an even more difficult time keeping up. While the richest 1% will have their taxes cut and get their bad investments paid off so they can go speculate on other nifty things like food and water.
So buckle up, fellow shoestring budget enthusiasts! We’re going to get our chance to put all our alternative survival strategies to work. If we do it right, what will arise from the ashes of the late, once-great American economy might be strong enough to last awhile.
Links:Economic Depression, Government Bailouts, Housing, Income Inequality, Inflation, Surviving | Comment (0)