Saturday, January 31, 2009

Congress Votes to Increase Member's Petty Cash Account by $93,000!

After shaming the CEO and Presidents of the Big 3 auto manufacturers for taking private jets to Washington to attend hearings, blasting the oil companies for huge profits while Americans suffer unders high gas prices and berating executives for taking large bonuses, the Congress has the nerve to vote themselves a $93,000 increase in their petty cash accounts.

According to Congress, they need the money in order to stay in contact with their constituency. I have added the video from Fox News that broke the news for your convenience. Currently, they receive $1.3 to $1.6 million already and Senators receive almost twice as much.

I guess we should be happy that it was only a $93,000 increase in the petty cash. All Americans are cutting back on spending and reducing their household budgets. Congress is once again proving to the American people that they have a separate standard. "Do as I say, not as I do" is their motto.

My wife works for a private Christian school and some of the families have had to leave due lay-offs and the downturn in the economy. These parents wanted a Christian-based education for their children and now they are forced to take them out of school and place them in public school.

So, we all need to tighten our belts more so that Congress can have more money to increase petty cash and spend more money on pet projects and pork.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

With no job and 5 kids, 'better to end our lives,' man wrote

Once again, unemployment takes its toll on the American family. This time the toll was quite costly. A man killed his wife, 5 children and then himself. Ervin Antonio Lupoe faxed a letter to a Los Angeles television station, KABC, detailing his problems and hopelessness. Mr. Lupoe concludes his letter by saying the following:

"Is there no hope for a widow's son?"

Is there no hope for anyone during these tough times? The government says that they are working on it. Companies are showing no confidence in the economy and laying off more and more people. This week alone companies announced 70,000 more job cuts with more on the way. No one has any confidence in our system and things are looking like they are getting worse.

Gas prices are on the rise again. People are facing uncertainty at every turn and no one really seems to care. In a few weeks, we will forget about Mr. Lupoe and his family and go about our merry way as if nothing happened until we see another tradegy occur.

When will this end? When will we as a nation come to the aid of other people? This should not have happened. We all are to blame for this man's actions. According to counselors at a Los Angeles suicide call-in center, they say many of the calls they're getting these days are about lapsed health insurance, foreclosures, bank problems and unemployment benefits.

I, too, face the same things as well. Since I'm a type 2 diabetic, no, and I do mean NO, insurance company is willing to even touch me. They push me back to the state to the high risk pool with premiums so high I can't even consider paying. My COBRA benefits are a joke. They will only cover me for 60 days and after that, I will continue to pay until the money runs out.

We all are waiting for relief, but it looks like it will never come. I'm not talking about government relief. I'm talking about everyone, business and individuals, coming together and working this out. Hospitals and medical programs working together to get people the coverage they need. I guess I'm expecting way too much from people.

Did we forget about how things were? People worked together and solved problems rather than sitting around waiting for the government to move. I guess bought into the lie that the government is here to help us. All I know is that the government has no problem helping itself to the cash in my wallet.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

More Lay-Offs Ahead

According to an article by Reuters, 70,000 people in the United States and Europe will have their lives turned upside down. After having the employment rug pulled out from under me, I am finding it more and more difficult to find a job in this market.

I have seen a number of job postings frozen or removed. Some employers are no longer hiring and they all say the same thing, "We don't know what the future is going to hold for us." Corporations lack confidence in the economy. I, too, lack confidence in the economy not because the outlook is bleak. My confidence is weak due to the fact that we are making the same mistakes over and over.

The governments around the world want to help, but throwing good money after bad does not make any sense whatsoever. Think about it. In most cases, we are enabling companies to continue to pay high salaries to their executives and provide them with bonuses. Companies are paying executives bonuses to lay people off in order to save the company.

In Sunday school a couple of weeks ago, a friend and member of my class, Dean, made an observation and it makes a lot of sense. When a company first gets started, they spend money to get talent and produce new products. I see the balance sheets of some companies and I am sickened by their cash reserves. I'm not asking them to spend everything, but employees and employers need to work together to keep the company moving forward. Too many people have been thrown to the curb like waste and left to fend for themselves.

As I look at the faces of individuals who show up to job fairs, I see the despair in their eyes. It is the same despair I saw in the eyes of the men photographed during the Great Depression standing in job or bread lines. There are times when I hear the song, "Buddy, Can You Spare a Dime?"

Monday, January 26, 2009

Woman Auctioning Off Virginity

I was reading a CNN article about a 22 year old woman in San Diego, California who is auctioning off her virginity to the highest bidder. According to the woman who goes by the name of "Natalie Dylan", she has received a bid of $3.8 million from a 39 year old man in Australia.

"Dylan" has a MySpace page and advertises herself to the world. She started the auctioning off of her virtue in September after hearing about an Italian model reportedly planning to sell her virginity for more than $1 million in September. Dylan said she was inspired by a report of a Peruvian woman who put her virginity up for sale.

She is looking at this as a good "business opportunity" and hopes to cash in big on her virtue. Dylan points out that she is pro-choice and women have a right to do whatever they want with their bodies. She admits that this is prostitution and that's the reason is using a brothel in Nevada to handle the details of this auctions. Prostitution is legal in parts of Nevada.

What has become of our society when women can auction off their virginity as a trophy to men who prize the taking of a virgin? It is a very sad commentary on how low we have sunk. I guess I live in a fool's paradise and believe that there are certain things that are sacred. But, times have changed and we see the further erosion of our society. We treat people like cattle and wonder about our inhumanity. Don't you see the irony? We barely know our next door neighbors yet we know more about the people halfway around the world who are suffering. Our neighbors could be suffering from the loss of a loved one or from cancer. We just don't take time for them. But, we have all of the time to look overseas to find out about them.

I believe we need to start at home first. Get to know your neighbor. Reach out to him. It is a simple start. If we cared more about others, then they would care more for themselves. Didn't Christ say something about that? Yes, He did. Look at Matthew 22:37-40. Here it is for your convenience.

37Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

In verse 40, Christ points out that if we follow the two laws that he has given us, everything falls into place for us and everything must hang on these. Think about it today.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Ethics in America: What Happend?

I was reading an article about the ethics crisis in America reported by by Carey Gillam in Kansas City with additional reporting by Ed Stoddard in Dallas and editing by Eddie Evans.

The article discussed the two many things that has caused our economy to fall and our lives to just fall apart. I think you already know the first one. I keep mentioning it over and over in my blog entries. Yes, greed. According to the article, "greed and lack of accountability are blamed for the suffocating personal debt borne by millions of Americans and the toxic financial products that led to the decline of several U.S. banks and brokerages."

We have gone too far, ladies and gentlemen. Our entire economy has one basis and that is trust. Trust in our banks. Trust in our reserve system. Trust in our mortgages. Each one of these things requires trust. When you abuse that trust, the economy begins to fall apart. We can no longer trust our relationships with banks and the like. What has happened?

President Obama said it best during his inauguration address. He said, "Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age."

What new age is he talking about? As I write my blog entry, I have a stock ticker running on my PC to watch what the market is doing. If someone says the wrong thing or a scandal is announced, the market reacts with lightning speed. I have seen stocks drop a large part of its value with hours due to issues. If we have no trust in our economy, do you honestly believe that it will rebound? If we continue to be greedy, do you honestly believe that it will rebound? I think we all know the answers to these two questions.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Stock Market Below 8000

The Dow Jones dropped 332 points and closed below 8,000 points today due to the losses reported by the banks. The Royal Bank of Scotland's forecast that its losses for 2008 could top $41.3 billion. OUCH!

Normally, when a new President takes his oath of office, there is much rejoicing. The stock markets usually rebound a bit and there is optimism in the air. Not today for President Obama. I think one article that I read summed it up best, "Stocks, Bonds Greet Obama with Bronx Cheer".

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that President Obama is not going to dedicate himself to working on this problem. I'm saying that it is going to be a hard journey for all of us. The economic downturn has been extremely painful for a lot of people. I feel for each person that I meet. I have talked with a lot of people who have lost their jobs or have problems making their bills. It tears my heart apart when I hear the stories of people who have lost so much and had so little in the first place.

As I keep saying, we got ourselves into this mess and we need to work together to get ourselves of it. It will take the efforts of each of us to make it through this tough time. If generations before us can do it, then we can do it.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Bush commutes border patrol agents' sentences

President George W. Bush, in a final act of clemency, commuted the prison sentences of two U.S. Border Patrol agents but steered clear of any high-profile pardons for former vice presidential aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby and others.

Bush commuted the 11-year prison sentence of Ignacio Ramos and the 12-year sentence of Jose Alonso Compean, who were tried for shooting an unarmed Mexican drug smuggler in the buttocks in a case in Texas that drew widespread attention.
Click here for the complete story.

I am glad that the President granted clemency to these 2 border agents. They were tried and convicted for doing their job. I completely disagreed with the prosecuting attorney's position on this case.

Are we to simply allow people to flood across our borders and not even try to stop them? The agents got 11 and 12 years for trying to stop a known drug smuggler from coming into our country. They didn't kill him. He refused to stop and they stopped him.

President Bush, thank you for granting clemency to these two agents.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Changing of the Guard in Washington

In a few short days, a new President will take the Oath of Office and will be the next President of the United States. President-Elect Obama has a lot of problems to face and he will need our help as a nation to work through these problems. I am, by all accounts, a conservative Republican and I did not vote for Obama during the election. To be quite honest, I would have voted for Mike Huckabee for his values and what he stood for. But, all of that is water under the bridge.

As a nation we need to come together and work together to help the President forge a plan to get our nation back on its feet. While we do that, we need to remember the lessons of the past year and heed the warnings of the past. Our avarice got the best of us and we forgot what means to look out for the other guy. We became so self-absorbed with our own lives and closed our eyes to the plight of our neighbors.

Well, we can't do that any longer. We have to work together and pull in the same direction. I see Congress adding pork to bills with good intentions. I see corporations laying off more and more people to save a few pennies and line the pockets of CEOs and the top 10% of the company's management. This is a sad state of affairs for all of us.

As we watching President-Elect Obama become President Obama, let us dedicate ourselves to the work ahead of us. We can't allow our politic differences to further separate us. I ask each of you to be in prayer for President-Elect Obama and for our nation.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Americans Are Pushing Off Their Retirement Due to Economic Problems

Americans have lost about $2.8 trillion, or 32% in value of their retirement accounts, as of December 2, 2008, compared with September 30, 2007, according to the Urban Institute, a Washington think tank. I can tell you from my own experience that I have lost 33% of the value of my account. I guess I'll be waiting longer to retire.

For some folks, it will take them a lifetime to get back what they lost due to the greed of the economy. Yes, I'm back to that word again. I honestly do not believe we will ever learn our lesson when it comes to the economy. With a global economy, it doesn't take much for the dominoes to start falling as well as our retirement accounts. The crash of our retirement accounts is the only sound we hear.

Why did this happen? We trusted our money to people who just wanted big bonuses. What do they care? In most cases, if the fund manager messes up, he gets to leave with a massive severance package and the people who have to deal with the losses of their accounts get to pay for the problems. Mistakes happen, but when it is a result of just plain greed, I have a serious problem with that as should we all.

What can we do? It's easy. Take control of your money and do your homework. I have noticed that more and more us just simply and blindly turn our money over to someone we just met. We look at charts and graphs and listen to the pitch about how much money we could make. He glosses over the risk while visions of dollar signs dance in our minds. We think about the old television program with Robin Leach, "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous". We have those "champagne wishes and caviar dreams". So, we turn our money over to them and we think we will be retire in five years and we will be on a beach in Maui or skiing in Colorado and wondering what the poor folk are doing.

Come on, pilgrim! Wake up. It isn't going to happen. The fund managers in most cases do not have a vested interested in our future. They get their salaries and bonuses. When things turn south, they are out the door and in their car before the last bell of the stock market. Take a look at Bernard Lawrence Madoff. He admitted to his senior executives at the firm, which included his sons, that the asset management and advisory segment of the business was, "basically, a giant Ponzi scheme." According to FBI documents, the company has $50 billion worth of liabilities. People and banks have admitted that they may have lost millions of dollars due to Madoff's Ponzi scheme.

I guess we don't have to worry too much. I'm sure the government will bail us out.

Click here for the full article at Reuters.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

House to seek $825 billion in economic stimulus

Just when you thought Congress was finished with spending money. The House is pushing a $825 billion economic stimulas package. This is crazy. More money. Where is it coming from? I guess we are just printing more money.

I got a better idea. Why does not Congress have the treasury department provide each America with perfect photos of ten and twenty dollar bills. We could print the money ourselves. We would be saving government time and money by allowing us to print the money and spend it. We cut out the middle man.

I am certainly not advocating counterfeiting. However, the government is spending money we do not have. Sooner or later, we will need to pay this money back. Does this really make sense?

Maybe the government should consider a different model. How about the trickle up theory? The government would issues checks to every taxpayer for $200,000 and they can use it to buy off bills or their mortgages. The money would go to the corporations and they in turn would pay taxes on their income. This plan seems as reasonable as the government's current plan of borrowing more money and spending it like a drunken sailor on shoreleave.

Congress, where are your heads? Has reason hopped on the last train out of Washington?

IBM to create up to 1,300 jobs in Dubuque facility

There are times when I become so negative in my blog entries and I sometimes miss the silver linings in the news. Well, I found a silver lining with IBM. Big Blue is opening up a new support center in Dubuque, Iowa, and will be employing 1,300 people.

I salute IBM for its efforts to create jobs for the America workforce. I'm sure they could have saved some money by sending the jobs overseas. But, they chose to keep them here in the US and take a stand. GOOD FOR YOU, IBM!

If more companies would do the same, we can get out of this economic mess and forge a brighter future for our children. It will take the efforts of all, companies and individuals, pulling together.

Click here for the news story.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Whoopee Cushions, Fake Vomit and Rubber Dog Turds

I recently got a novelty catalogue in the mail. In it, there were whoppie cushions and fake vomit as well as rubber dog turds. The one thing that amazed me is that the prices for these items remained the same from last year and the year before.

My wife read me an article last night that stated that the price of wheat has skyrocketed and 40 million more people are going hungry due to speculative buying. Is it just me, but shouldn't we be asking ourselves why people go hungry while we purchase rubber dog turds. Is there that big of a market for rubber dog turds? People are starving and we are content to continue to buy garbage products for no apparent reason other than we think it is funny.

Is it really that funny? If you purchase a rubber dog turd, you find that it is made in China. We are actually employing people in China to make rubber dog doodie. We are also paying to have these essential items for living shipped over via cargo ships. I honestly can't see why we are spending so much on manufacturing, shipping, marketing, distributing, selling and shipping of rubber dog turds, fake vomit and whoopee cushions.

Has the America free market and capitalism sunk so low to outsource these novelty items out to China? Is it possible that Americans are unwilling to work in factory to make rubber dog turds for our enjoyment? Instead of wasting our money and resources on rubber dog turds, we could do something else like make plates that can be used to feed homeless individuals or something along those lines.

It amazes me that we will spend money on a rubber dog turd for a few seconds of laughter and not even a single penny to ease human suffering. Sad.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Why am I writing this blog?

I have witnessed over the past year actions that have been made that have upset me as well as my friends and colleagues. I have seen companies including the one I used to work for lay people off in order to move the job to a cheaper country. The acronym that is now used in my former employer's company is LCC. It stands for "Low Cost Country."

Don't you find it amazing that companies can't do anything without making sure we have a cute acronym so that it looks great on a Powerpoint slide. When my former employer's company decided to ask its employees to take unpaid time off, management created another acronym, VUTO. It stood for "Voluntary Unpaid Time Off". I guess the executives and managers have nothing better to do in their corporate lives than to come up with acronyms. I got an idea. Instead of spending countless hours and emails on what acronym to use, you can spend the time fixing your companies and providing jobs rather exporting them to Low Cost Countries.

Why is corporate America exporting our jobs to other countries? Greed! If you take a look at everything that has happened over the past year regarding the mortgage, housing, banking, lending and investment industries, you will see rampant greed running through corporate America. CEOs receiving massive bonuses for doing nothing more than laying people off to save money so that they will look good for the stockholders. Do you really need to have a MBA to come up with the plan to lay people off? Come on, guys.

Take a look at the different companies that are closing plant around the world. Dell is in the process of laying off 1900 people in Ireland to move their manufacturing plant to Poland. To read the full Reuter's article, click here. While you are looking at that article, you should read the other Reuter's article about the European Union opening investigations regarding the Polish government and their funding of the Dell manufacturing facility. Click here for that link.

This is only one example of the greed. The list of companies that do things like this everyday is going longer and longer. Stockholders are screaming at corporate executives about their poor performance. The stockholders want to make more and more money for doing nothing and to retire to some island in the Caribbean and play golf all day long.

What has our society become? I'm not saying that we give up on money and become socialists. The free market system and capitalism is a good system. However, when it goes unchecked, it cannot help but become greedy. Someone once said that capitalism is its own worst enemy and I believe it. When we believe the profit is more important than people and we treat each other as fodder or grist for our mills to just grind down to nothing, then we have gone too far.

Some executives would say what they are doing is right-sizing a company. Those watching the company and doing nothing to stop it will call it downsizing. After having been laid off, I call it capsizing.