February 10, 2011

United, we stand.

Posted in economic recovery, foreclosure crisis, health care, immigration, role of government, soft bigotry, taxes, U.S. Economy tagged , , , , , , , at 11:01 am by realitytax

Miami Herald LogoThe President of the AFL-CIO, Richard Trumka, joined with Gaby Pacheco on an Op-Ed piece in the Wednesday Miami Herald, “DREAM Act – keep trying” intended to reinvigorate the discussion of immigration.

“It is time for President Obama and Congress to take action on meaningful immigration reform, to turn these dreams to reality and to move our country and our economy forward.”

RICHARD TRUMKA AND GABY PACHECO
Wednesday, 02.09.11

Who is Gaby Pacheco? Gaby is an “undocumented, DREAM-Act eligible youth” from Miami, risking a fair bit by stepping into the limelight.

Richard Trumka of the AFL CIO

AFL CIO President Richard Trumka

Like it or not, immigration is the most powerful force in shaping our culture, and has been for centuries. Trumka and Pacheco have it right, asserting that our immigration “system” will not fix itself. So, what should the role of the department of Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the rest of the state and federal agencies dealing with immigration be?

Well, if you believe some, government can’t get anything right, and should just throw in the towel and disband. I’m not one of those. We elect people to work for us in Washington (and in our state governments, too.) The reality is: without government there would be no immigration policy, let alone men and women paid to enforce it; we’d be practicing the model currently used in Somalia. Somalia, where piracy plays a central role in the economy – and thinking people find the means to leave if they possibly can.

It’s misleading for politicians and pundits to talk about reducing the size of government, cutting taxes, cutting the deficit, and lessening “government interference in our lives” while at the same time arguing for more immigration agents, more prisons, building democracies in other nations, and fixing the economy to help the middle class recover from the banking and mortgage crisis that came from deregulating Wall Street. Double talk won’t form a more perfect union, let alone ensure domestic tranquility, ok?

We’ve always believed that the way to make this country great is to ensure that future generations will enjoy a higher standard of living. That won’t happen if they can’t buy homes because they can’t even afford health insurance, while politicians cater to the whims of special interest money funneled to their incredibly expensive campaigns.

I’m not saying every tax dollar is spent wisely – we can’t even account for squandered billions simply “lost” during the abysmal Iraq reconstruction, for instance – but that’s precisely why it’s time to talk about running our government as a whole, and every agency within it, better and more carefully. Planning for the future, financial experts advise, is always about investing strategically and ensuring diversity.

“At a time when business is loudly advocating for importing skilled workers, politicians and corporate CEOs are ignoring the fact that some of our best and brightest are already here, but pushed into an underground economy where they can’t actively participate.”

RICHARD TRUMKA AND GABY PACHECO
Wednesday, 02.09.11

If you believe that government should work for us, that our elected officials should work for us, that partnering with business to ensure our economic viability as a nation is a key to a future where our children can thrive and prosper, then it’s time to stop focusing on the messages that divide us.

That’s why I applaud, and stand with, that third-generation Pennsylvania coal miner Richard Trumka, and Gaby Pacheco, a DREAM Act-eligible youth from Florida, as they talk about jobs, the economy, and immigration — which the Congress seems to lack the courage and vision to address. It’s time for our elected leaders to stop playing politics and do what we sent them to do – create real solutions.

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January 25, 2010

Will the U.S. Constitution save “We the people…”?

Posted in economic recovery, foreclosure crisis, media coverage, U.S. Constitution, U.S. Economy, U.S. Supreme Court tagged , , , , at 5:16 pm by realitytax

“If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.”

Thomas Jefferson

Economic development in the USA is at a critical juncture as we struggle to recover in the wake of the job losses and mortgage foreclosures that are the real, ongoing costs of the crisis that began in 2008 and led to our bailing out Wall Street titans. In doing that, in preserving the institutions on Wall Street from their own unregulated incompetence by borrowing from tax payers on Main Street, we may have eroded more than confidence in banks and our government; we’ve arguably both the weakened the foundation of our democracy and the harmed the engine of our economic growth.

MN State Rep David Bly

MN State Rep David Bly (25-B)


“…we can make saving and rebuilding our middle class society an enduring, unequivocal legislative priority at all levels of government.

We’ve tried the conventional legislative approach long enough without getting where we need to be. It is time to try something new. For me, that ‘something’ is the Middle Class Amendment.”

Minnesota State Representative David Bly

Subsequently to actions that saved bankers from their own risky folly, the U.S. Supreme Court has likened Corporations to citizens, insisting they have the same “right to free speech” that the founding fathers envisioned ensuring for citizens of these United States. Yet Corporations can then use this right to advertise for political agendas as another cost of doing business, further decreasing the likelihood they’ll pay taxes. Unlike citizens, corporations aren’t taxed on income, but only on profits. They hold a special place in our tax structure, they have incentives designed to encourage them to spend money.

In a time when most surveys reveal citizens have reached their saturation point for tolerating political advertising, the U.S. Supreme Court has determined in its split wisdom to provide additional incentives to corporations to spread their profits via media campaigns. The question of how spending by actual media companies would be classified remains to be determined, of course, but let’s talk about corporations.

Are they every altruistic? No, by definition they seek the extinction of their competition. The community doesn’t improve (from a corporate point of view) by adding more who are like me, but rather when all who are like the corporation are either eliminated or assimilated. And now we want to give them the right to express political opinions, as well?

“The jaws of power are always open to devour, and her arm is always stretched out, if possible, to destroy the freedom of thinking, speaking, and writing.”

John Adams

I’m not sure who stands to gain from this recent reversal by the narrowest majority in the Supreme Court, but I know it’s not the average members of our middle class, who work for a living and don’t have the luxury of accountants who work to limit if not obliterate their tax obligations the way wealthy corporations do.

“A free people [claim] their rights as derived from the laws of nature, and not as the gift of their chief magistrate.”

Thomas Jefferson

October 2, 2009

Can the market create prosperity?

Posted in economic recovery, foreclosure crisis, mortgage reform, taxes, U.S. Economy tagged , , , , , , at 8:32 pm by realitytax

Some of our elected representatives in Washington say our big government can’t do anything well.  Ironically, while it’s true the federal government obviously did a slip-shod job of regulating the mortgage and banking industry, those elected officials are in charge of everything from what the government spends to how it runs, and many of them have been there for well over a decade, doing whatever it is they do to make it “better.”

We’ve tried less regulation; we’ve tried lowering taxes; we’ve outsourced to save money including using private contractors instead of the military to fight a war that obviously hasn’t stimulated the economy; we’ve tried everything the politicians could think of except privatizing our social security accounts – and most of us are glad that didn’t fly.

Where have they led us?

The economy will need years to recover from the steep plunge in 2008, unemployment is still rising, mortgage foreclosure rates are problematic while home prices tumble, banks are being closed at a record pace, and institutions “too big to fail” are on the verge of filing bankruptcy despite the former administrations attempts to rescue them by propping up their finances with billions of tax dollars.

On the other hand, gas is back down under $3 a gallon – who would have imagined that was a good price 5 years ago? Still, that’s what the middle class is cheering about today (it sure isn’t the price of education or health insurance.)

When was the last time you say “Made in America” on the label of something you bought? Plants sit idle while manufacturing jobs continue to dwindle. Where have we been investing? In derivatives – financial products so complex that the people who buy and sell them can’t really tell you how they work. Once upon a time we heard about the huge growth of jobs in the service sector, but if you call for service you’re as likely to get a machine answering the call as a person, and when it’s a person they’re often overseas – who knew we could outsource service sector jobs?

The President’s got a real rat’s nest on his hands with the economy. Depending who you listen to he’s either put the foxes in charge of the chicken coop or hired the people who made the mess in the financial markets to clean it up.  The former would be a disaster, obviously, but even the latter is rather daunting (and yes, I know, banks hire former bank robbers, computer security firms hire former hackers, but that doesn’t make me comfortable.) Granted, Obama’s shown a desire to invest in America, to get people back to work, but he’s still a relative newcomer and the entrenched powers that be in both major parties were there – in charge – as all these problems brewed up this ugly mess in the first place. There’s enough blame to go ’round on Capitol Hill when it comes to the economy. One man by himself cannot create – or recapture – our American Dream.

It’s not enough to “stimulate” the private sector and create green jobs; our leaders have to insure that the sorts of abuses which led to this crisis won’t recur. The abuses of the public trust are not confined to Wall Street, they’re also there on K Street, First Street, and South Capitol Street… and consumers are justified in being dubious that the people who left this series of overlapping errors unattended are the proper ones to lead us out of the resulting crisis.  The denizens of the Capitol have shown a propensity for bickering and posturing, but little in the way of solutions has emerged – to the point that the executive branch is now authoring legislative proposals since the two parties can’t agree on how to move forward together.

It’s time to invest in us and our future – in infrastructure and education, and in making sure that anybody who works for a living can afford to stay healthy and enjoy the retirement they’ve earned.  I’m not advocating isolationism, mind you, but multi-national corporations aren’t helping anybody but themselves. Small businesses that put local people to work and keep the profits within our communities are the engine that can power economic recovery. Tax breaks for mega-corporations end up being bonuses for already-rich CEOs – what trickles down is being funneled through lobbyists right back to Congress, apparently.

We pay our taxes so the government can do what is necessary for the common good.  Seems to me all the government’s done for most of the past 10 or more years is grow larger. What have our Senators and Representatives done but watch as the entire system melted down? OK, granted, they did just boost their own budget, and sure, CEOs and lobbyists are still pulling down a good paycheck, with full benefits – but what about the rest of us?

July 21, 2009

Why is Caterpillar in the ERRI?

Posted in economic indicator, economic recovery, ERRI, foreclosure crisis, Obama administration, U.S. Economy tagged , , , , at 5:37 am by realitytax

Caterpillar Inc. (CAT) is more than just machinery (and engines) essential to building projects familiar to anybody who drives past a highway under construction. They also have a financial products segment (which consists primarily of Caterpillar Financial Services Corporation, Caterpillar Insurance Holdings, Caterpillar Power Ventures Corporation and subsidiaries.) As such, this iconic company deals with the design, manufacture, marketing and sales of construction, mining and forestry machinery and engines. In April 2008 Caterpillar let go of market research and customer analytics operations and acquired Lovat Inc., a global manufacturer of tunnel boring machines (think railway, road, sewer, water main,  mine access, high voltage cable, and telecomm tunnels.)

As the economy begins turning around, construction starts either with demolition or heavy equipment digging in and moving dirt. Long before electricians, roofers, and plumbers are called in we start making the ground ready. Smaller enterprises, such as Deere and/or Cummins have weathered the past year more easily in the estimation of market analysts and traders.

CAT was trading under $22/share when much of the market struggled in early March, considerably down from the nearly $76 the stock commanded in July 2008 before the reality of the credit and mortgage crisis took hold of both the public interest and the traders sentiments. The company laid off 2200 workers later that month, mostly in Illinois. Stock price trends reflect “collective opinion” within the investment community, and somewhat surprisingly the news didn’t drive CAT shares even lower. The 50 day Moving Average and the 200 day Moving Average are trending “bearishly” lower, but a lot hinges on earnings reports due out later today. Other technical indicators, such as the Chart pattern, complete a “mixed” outlook – as is true for much of the economy. Here, then, is an equity tied to the most fundamental aspects of recovery – putting American workers back on the job.

With $22.1 billion in market capitalization, CAT, a Mid-Cap stock, represents the challenges facing the Construction and Agricultural Machinery industry. CAT comprises half of the Capital Goods sector of the ERRI fund, and 4.87% of the entire fund.; it’s arguably more key to the public perception of ecomonic recovery than almost any other non-banking stock. (While the other capital goods stock, Honeywell, is also a household name and has been looking relatively solid compared to much of the Defense/Aerospace industry over the past 12-18 months, CAT has been hurting. Even the President sees Caterpillar as something of a bellwether.)


Disclaimer: Readers are advised that the ideas, materials, and opinions contained herein should be used solely for informational purposes. The author does not purport to tell or suggest investment securities that should be bought or sold. Investors should always conduct their own research and due diligence and obtain professional advice before making any investment decision.Neither the author nor realitytax shall be be liable for any loss or damage caused by a reader’s reliance on information obtained in any posts, newsletters, special reports, email correspondence, or comments on the web site. The author is not a registered investment advisor or broker/dealer. The information contained herein does not constitute a representation by the publisher or a solicitation for the purchase (or sale) of securities. Opinions and analyses are based on sources believed to be reliable and are written in good faith, but no representation or warranty is made as to their accuracy or completeness, and we are not liable for errors or omissions. All such information should be independently verified with the companies mentioned. The author(s) receives no compensation of any kind from any companies that may be mentioned on this web site. Any opinions expressed are subject to change without notice. Owners, employees and writers may hold positions in the securities that are discussed; the intent is neither to suggest investment choices/strategies nor to influence market conditions, but rather to divulge methodology for inclusion of equities and sectors in the Economic Recovery Reality Index [ERRI]

July 20, 2009

Why is Fifth Third Bancorp in the ERRI?

Posted in economic indicator, economic recovery, ERRI, foreclosure crisis, U.S. Economy tagged , , , , , at 6:00 pm by realitytax

Fifth Third Bancorp (FITB) is a diversified financial services company in two U.S. regions affected differently by the economic crisis reverberating through the country on the heels of the credit/mortgage crisis of 2008. As of the end of 2008, 5/3 Bancorp operated 1,307 full-service banking centers, including 92 Bank Mart locations through 18 affiliates in the midwest and southeastern regions of the United States. The Bancorp operates through five business segments: Commercial Banking, Branch Banking, Consumer Lending, Fifth Third Processing Solutions (FTPS) and Investment Advisors. (On June 6, 2008, Fifth Third Bancorp completed the acquisition of First Charter Corporation.)

In indexing banking sector recovery on the heels of major intervention in the largest U.S. banks by the government it is difficult to ignore that Large-Cap institutions are influenced by TARP processes – it’s impossible to measure what’s happening without considering these large institutions. Considered against its peers, such as Regions Financial, Huntington, or Marshal & Ilsley, FITB seems solidly positioned.

FITB, which has traded as high as $21 within the last year, was in disfavor with traders before much of the market in early March, bottoming out near $1/share a couple weeks sooner. Stock price trends reflect “collective opinion” within the investment community. The 50 day Moving Average is rising; the 200 day Moving Average is falling which is Bearish. Other indicators are mixed – as is true for much of the sector.

With $4.1 billion in market capitalization, FITB, a Mid-Cap stock, is initially weighted as 3.37% of the whole (the financial sector comprises just slightly over 10% of the ERRI fund, arguably the key component in the index itself) the rest of the sector is represented in the equity compenent of the ERRI by Allied Irish Banks (AIB) and Comerica (CMA).


Disclaimer: Readers are advised that the ideas, materials, and opinions contained herein should be used solely for informational purposes. The author does not purport to tell or suggest investment securities that should be bought or sold. Investors should always conduct their own research and due diligence and obtain professional advice before making any investment decision.Neither the author nor realitytax shall be be liable for any loss or damage caused by a reader’s reliance on information obtained in any posts, newsletters, special reports, email correspondence, or comments on the web site. The author is not a registered investment advisor or broker/dealer.

The information contained herein does not constitute a representation by the publisher or a solicitation for the purchase (or sale) of securities. Opinions and analyses are based on sources believed to be reliable and are written in good faith, but no representation or warranty is made as to their accuracy or completeness, and we are not liable for errors or omissions. All such information should be independently verified with the companies mentioned.

The author(s) receives no compensation of any kind from any companies that may be mentioned on this web site. Any opinions expressed are subject to change without notice. Owners, employees and writers may hold positions in the securities that are discussed; the intent is neither to suggest investment choices/strategies nor to influence market conditions, but rather to divulge methodology for inclusion of equities and sectors in the Economic Recovery Reality Index [ERRI]

March 24, 2009

Information in the open changes the way business was done in DC.

Posted in foreclosure crisis, Obama administration, President Barack H. Obama, taxes, U.S. Economy tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , at 4:09 am by realitytax

President Obama told the National Conference of State Legislatures last week that, “Decisions about how Recovery Act dollars are spent will be based on the merit…” and stressed that maximizing job creation, making health care affordable, rebuilding crumbling infrastructure, and other projects that manifest “enduring benefits” to taxpayers must take priority.

President Barack H. ObamaUnder the recently issued guidance from the Obama administration (which some were hoping wouldn’t appear) lobbyists seeking an administration member’s time to discuss a “Recovery Act” project must submit their requests in writing so that correspondence can be posted online, just as with the topics of meetings between administration officials and lobbyists on stimulus efforts. This is not business as usual for DC lobbyists; this is a refreshing degree of openness at a time when voters are very curious about how their money is parceled out, and echoes his warnings to mayors last month that the President would “will call them out” on wasteful uses of stimulus dollars.

As history shows us, when we let Wall Street and lobbyists handle their own affairs in smoke-filled back rooms and over martinis at the country club, jobs and sustainable wealth fall by the wayside while cash flows to the wealthiest investors. Curiously enough, income disparities shrink while job creation and government revenues increase if, and when, the wealthy are taxed – it causes them to invest rather than hoard their capital.

Economic viability will come only through repudiating the unfounded faith many Republicans have exhibited in trickle-down voodoo and unregulated capitalism, paired with self-serving definitions of sound-bite terms such as educational choice. We need a return to an ethic of service, work, and strong family values such as the first family demonstrates.

We need to restore confidence – both here and abroad – that the United States is a leading force on economic and moral issues, not a duplicitous, arrogant bully guilty of not practicing what we preach. Obama’s walking the walk.

Obama doesn't just talk

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March 4, 2009

We need to invest in our country

Posted in foreclosure crisis, health care, mortgage reform, Obama administration, President Barack H. Obama, taxes, U.S. Economy tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 5:18 am by realitytax

USA flagAs an entrepreneur who has run several small businesses, I think it’s time to return to fundamentals on the economy, starting with investing in America again. It’s small businesses that will put people back to work; that’s how we’re going to get this country back on its feet. It’s entrepreneurs and small business owners who respond with enthusiasm instead of being bound in their decision-making by CFOs and slow-moving Boards of Directors focused on short-term bottom line numbers, (the kind of decision-making that led to the foreclosure and credit crisis, and ultimately the big business bailout using taxpayer dollars.)

To be sure, we need public education, technical schools, and affordable college tuition so young Americans are ready for these new jobs. It’s a global economy, but most of us work in the same city we live in. When we see bulldozersCaterpillar tractor and excavators moving dirt, and trucks hauling instead of sitting idle at auction sites, then we’ll know things are turning around.

The President is intent on stimulating the private sector, but big businesses with names we all know have abused deregulation and the public trust. Credit card companies raise their rates willy-nilly, and hide extra fees in the small print. How much of his economic stimulus can be paid for simply by ending wasteful government spending, and eliminating tax cuts for the super-rich?

Is it a coincidence that the size of the bailout Bush proposed roughly equals the cost of the war in Iraq?

That war has been a burden on our military, and paying the debt is a drag on our economy that will linger for years. The new President is winding that down, but we’ll be paying for it for years and spending is only half of the equation. The money to do these things has to come from somewhere. Government is here to stay: In some way we need to fund the things that make government work for the people. Our elected leaders, in turn, must stop letting our hard-earned tax dollars simply line the pockets of special interests.

The American Dream isn’t about letting lobbyists control who pays taxes and who gets rich, it’s that any child in this country should have a chance at becoming a productive adult who can support and raise a family comfortably.  Working full-time and pulling your weight should mean you don’t have to worry about grocery bills, the price of commuting, or paying to see a good doctor when you or your family needs medical care.

Tax credits for continuing education make it tempting to better yourself.  The tax cuts for the middle and lower class earners proposed by the Obama administration make a start at offsetting the skyrocketing costs of groceries, health care, and college, but we need to go further. One great idea is to give tax incentives to companies that cover increases in health care costs while the President tries to reform that out-of-control system.

Public pressure and increased scrutiny are starting to make companies think twice about  huge salaries and bigger bonuses for wealthy executives while pleading for bailout funds and cutting paychecks and benefits and pensions of the people who do the real work. Let’s take it a step further and tax those who make money by exploiting cheap labor overseas. Our government needs money to operate, Job Growth Aheadno matter if it’s to build roads, insure products made overseas are safe,  or to keep our military strong, and if a company doesn’t want to pay American workers they still have an obligation to contribute and support the system that has made their success possible. We need to reverse the trend of layoffs and plant closures; we need to rebuild the foundation of our economy – and the American Dream – by putting Americans back to work.

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