Friday, February 27, 2009

Pulling Out of Iraq: Difficult Position

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's plan to pull U.S. combat troops out by Aug 31, 2010 may avoid plunging Iraq back into chaos, but Washington will need to use adroit diplomacy to quell fresh conflict between rival Iraqi groups.

Although I really never supported the invasion of Iraq, I, however, do not support just pulling out for fear that we would plunge Iraq into civil war and destabilize the region. I do support a draw down of forces and then finally a complete withdrawal of forces provided that the Iraqi government and all of the factions inside of Iraq are willing to work together to begin the nation together.

The main problems I see are the various factions inside of the country, the increase of the Taliban activity in Afghanistan and Iran. It is a very delicate situation and I certainly do not envy President Obama for making a decision on this. The Iraqi government needs to step up and take control of its destiny. Unfortunately, the factions do not want to work together. Right now, for most of the factions, the United States is a common enemy for most of the factions. I honestly believe that once the United States pulls out of Iraq, the factions will begin to fight with themselves and the country will be plunged into civil war. The United States will return to Iraq to try to stabilize the country and to prevent Iran from overturning the weak government.

This is definitely a very difficult decision. I would like for our soldiers to return home, but I am also very nervous about turning over control to a weak government with warring factions and Iran just waiting to support factions that will align themselves with Iranian government and their goals.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

$1.75 Trillion Dollar Debt!

As President Obama had said during his address to Congress and the American people, he would submit his budget shortly. Well, he is doing that today. President Obama is forecasting $1.75 trillion deficit in his budget proposal. The budget sets goals to overhaul the health care system and strengthen the economy. This huge budget will represent 12.5% of our gross domestic product. The largest percentage since World War II.

I'm not exactly happy with this, but I do see the reasoning behind it. Health care is driving up the cost of everything we buy. As I had mentioned earlier, it costs us about $8,000 per person per year. Heath care has been climbing steadily and there is no end to its climb.

Yesterday, I went to see my doctor to talk about my health. After the appointment, Dr. Molina had some time to talk with me about health care and share with me some of the problems he sees. For example, my health care discount program takes about four to six weeks to pay him. I think that is way too long for him to wait. He has staff, rent and equipment to pay for. Why does he have to wait for his money? He has to submit form after form after form to the insurance company in order to get paid. Sometimes, they reject the claim and he has to resubmit. Guess what? The clock starts over again. If he were to offer me a discount program, I would be more than happy to pay him directly.

I read an article a couple of weeks ago stating that more and more people are going without insurance but are able to negotiate discounts on their bills. If doctors and hospitals are willing to offer discounts to their patients, we could end up cutting out the insurance companies altogether. Or, the insurance companies would only be there when there is major health issues like open heart surgery or cancer. If I were to get discounts on my doctor's visit and prescriptions and know that an insurance company would be there to help with the major surgery bills, I would be content.

Take a look at the past. I don't recall a lot of employers offering health care to their employees. Employees were responsible for their own health care. Things worked out fine. They paid their bills to the doctors and there was no paperwork to file. Unfortunately, times have changed. We have grown dependent on health care insurance to pay for everything especially when you consider the costs of medications.

I take a couple of medications for my diabetes. Janumet is the big one for me. Even with a discount, the medication costs me about $170 a month. That's a lot of money. Most of the cost goes to three things: Development cost, Marketing and Product Liability. If I had my choice, I wouldn't take the medicine. I have talked to my doctor about generics and he wants me to stay on this one for a while. When I get my weight down, he would consider generics. Yes, my health care is back in my hands.

Health care will always be in our hands and we need to work hard by telling people to support reform and modernization of the health care system.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

My Thoughts on the President's Address

For a text of his speech, click here.

My wife and I listened to his speech from start to finish. He said a lot of good things. Accountability, responsibility and leadership were the themes inside of his speech. His positive message, I believe, helped address the lack of confidence by the American people.

One of the things that I have mentioned repeatedly in my blogs is the lack of confidence. Employers who are fearful of the future have been laying people off. They are not building for the future and refuse to look beyond the next quarter or two to make plans. I have seen it in the businesses that I have worked for.

The country needs to be told that things will get better and that the government will work to make it better. After the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor, the President, Franklin Roosevelt, led the nation in prayer. After talking with people who listened and participated in the prayer, they told me that they knew that things would be fine. It wasn't his speeches or this words. It was a prayer. Something inside of each American clicked and they knew that they would be fine.

I think that people need those words. They need to know that everyone is working together to solve problems. I heard a President who is dedicated to the task at hand. Although I'm a Republican, I feel that President Obama has been acting more like a Republican than the Republicans I voted for in November. I'm not happy with the all of the government spending and I disagree with the bailout programs. However, I do agree with him that we need to work together to move forward.

He talked about health care, energy and education. With health care costing about $8,000 per person per year, it is a lot of money for the average family. I had to give up my COBRA just to stretch my dollars a little longer to find a job. I postpone going to the doctor just so I can save some money. According to the President, every 30 seconds a family goes bankrupt over medical bills. This is very sad. I am certainly not recommending socialized medicine, but something has to be done to lower the costs on the American people. Why does it cost me $8 for water pitcher and $12 for a pill? Liability insurance? Possible.

Another point I would like to make is about energy. The US should be leading the way in creating renewable forms of energy. We should not be dependent on foreign oil. Take a look at OPEC's response when oil prices dropped like a rock? They cut back on production immediately. They are trying to push up oil prices. If the US, the world's largest supplier of food, were to do things like that, all of the nations of the world who depend on our food would be up in arms and pushing us to stop inflating food prices. Once again, we can do something about this. One of the interesting things that the President pointed out in his speech was the creation of batteries for storing energy. We have the idea, but have them built in Korea. More jobs going overseas. I know that labor is cheaper over there, but we are laying people off to save a few dollars. But, when you consider the money were are spending on unemployment, I honestly believe we are spending way more than we are making in profit. No one seems to think about the total cost. We all suffer when we send jobs overseas. I used the word, "WE".

The President reached across the aisle to the Republicans to help. I hope that my fellow Republicans can put aside their differences to help rebuild our economy. Let us resolve to work together.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Investor Talks about Disintegration of the World Financial System

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Renowned investor George Soros said on Friday the world financial system has effectively disintegrated, adding that there is yet no prospect of a near-term resolution to the crisis.

As I had mentioned in earlier blogs, very few economists are willing to say that we are out of the woods and still fewer are willing to say we will see the light at the end of the tunnel by the end of the year. I have also read of individuals who have said that it will get a lot worse. George Soros is one of those individuals.

Our entire financial system is being stressed and I honestly believe that we are far from seeing a positive change. After giving a lot of thought to this, I have a theory. I'm not an economist or a financial guru like Soros; however, I have my own theory about the collapse.

It started as a perfect storm. The first problem was the building boom. Everybody was getting into the house and real estate business. You had programs on all of the channels showing you how to flip houses and people went crazy. They saw a perfect opportunity to buy houses, fix them up and then dump them for a profit. Buyers could get financed just by fogging a mirror. Everything was sweet. At least, we thought things were sweet. As long as everyone could make their bills and pay their mortgages, things would work. Plus, there were so many different finance options for people to make minimum or below minimum mortgage payments.

The second problem, the price of fuel and its impact to food and the rest of the economy, pushed everyone over the edge. When people are faced with buying food or going to the doctor, they are going to skip the mortgage payment for that month. Americans were already having difficulties making their mortgage and credit card payments. Now, the price of gas and then food went up almost overnight. People were now pushed over the edge. People started cutting back on buying televisions, computers, etc. When you have to buy gas or food and try to make a mortgage payment, buying a computer or television just isn't going to be in the cards. For example, I watched a box of instant oatmeal at Wal-Mart go from $1.50 a box to $1.84 a box. Even though the price of fuel has dropped, the new price of $1.84 remains unchanged.

Now, you see the perfect storm and how it started. Once people cut back on buying luxury items, then they start working on budget and start cutting back on eating out. I have seen a lot of restaurants in Cedar Park, TX closing their doors. For example, the Village Inn restaurants in my areas are now closed. As people cut back, the companies that manufacture computers and televisions start laying off people. Look at companies like Dell, Panasonic, etc. They are laying off people by the thousands.

This is where I come into the storm. Like a tornado or hurricane, my life was impacted. I, too, joined the ranks of the millions of people who are unemployed. During an average week, I submit 15 resumes. In order to stretch my budget, I had to find cheaper health care for my family. We have had to cut back on luxury items. I worked for a high-tech company for 8.5 years and was shown the door on December 5, 2008.

My manager tried to help me locate a job inside the company. However, when no one is hiring and waiting until the first fiscal quarter before considering headcount, it is very difficult to find something. I was given until the Friday morning at 11AM to find something. At 10:30AM, I received a phone call. No one could help. So, a skilled and highly experienced individual with 20 years of supervisory experience, 16 years of program and project management experience and 8 years of vendor contract and relationship management experience was moved from his cube to the curb.

As I had mentioned in my other blog,, millions of good people are now facing all of the problems of being unemployed. I am one of those individuals. Am I bitter? No. Am I disappointed? A little. Am I hopeful? Yes. If I am going to make it through this, I have to remain hopeful. To those who are reading this and are unemployed, keep the faith and remain hopeful.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Congress and Its $4700 Pay Raise!

While blasting the CEOs of large corporation for their spending, salaries and perks, Congress is just waiting to receive its $4700 pay raise for the year. Yes, while Americans all across the nation are tightening their belts and living on tight budgets, Congress may receive a pay raise.

In 1989, Congress passed an amendment allowing for the automatic raises, unless lawmakers specifically voted to reject it. Which Congress did, until 2000.

Congress has now voted itself a total of $16,700 in raises over the last six years. Since 1990, congressional pay has increased from $98,400 to $154,700 in 2003. The current Congressional salary is, according to a memo from the Congressional Research Service, $169,300.

There is a House Bill, H.R. 156, that would prevent Congress’ automatic pay hike from taking effect through the end of 2010. If you would like to check on its progress, you can click here. There are several Congressmen who are supporting this bill. (Ron Paul, Harry Mitchell (who is the sponsor of the Bill, Betsy Markey, John Salazar, Mike Coffman just to name a few).

Support the Congressmen who are pushing this bill. Let your Senators know and have them support it as well. If we are to survive the economic downturn, we all (including Congress) need to do our part.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Glenn Beck Makes an Excellent Point about Our Economy

I highly recommend that you view this video and pass it along to your friends. This will definitely put things into perspective regarding the spending of the billions of dollars. Remember, there are financial analysts already predicting that the President and Congress will be creating another stimulus package in a couple of months. Look at what we have spenting thus far. $700 billion for the bank bailout, $787 billions for the stimulus package, billions for the auto industry, $75 billion for mortgage bailouts and the list just keeps going on and on. Kansas and California don't have any money and a lot of other states will soon be in the same place.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not predicting Armageddon and telling people to buy canned food, bullets and weapons. However, we really need to consider what we are doing. There is a very small group of analyst that believe that we are just postponing the inevitable collapse of the global economy.

Have You Seen This Man?

He is billionaire Texas banker Allen Stanford, charged with a "massive" $8 billion international financial fraud. His whereabouts are unknown at this time. His assets are frozen as well, but a smart guy like that has a nice secret bank account for just such an emergency.

Once again, our greed has gotten the better of us. People gladly handed this guy thousands of dollars in order to have that lifestyle of the rich and famous. They weren't happy with the returns they were getting so that took a chance and invested.

My dad always said, "Nothing comes without a price." He told people that they would get unprecedented returns on their investments. You wonder whether or not these people asked themselves a simple question. Is this too good to be true? I always ask that question when I'm considering investing money in anything. Do your homework and wake up?

The U.S. Federal Reserve cut its 2009 economic forecast sharply and discussed setting a target for inflation at its previous meeting as a deepening recession heightened fears of a dangerous decline in prices. So, there are going to be a lot of people out there ready to fleece you. Be careful. Tough times in the economy breed desperate people. Desperate people will just jump at any chance to save themselves.

Congressmen Fly to Europe on our Dime!

Once again, the Congress manages to spend our money on perks for themselves called congressional delegations, or "CoDels."

A bipartisan group of members of Congress and their spouses went on an official trip to Europe during Valentine's Day week, traveling through Brussels, Vienna, Paris -- where they spent Valentine's Day -- and the Bavarian Alps.

Don't you just love this? We are having to cut back on gas and entertainment as the economy gets worse. Yet, Congressmen and their spouses take a trip to Europe for a "relationship-building" tour. Isn't that just wonderful? I bet by the end of this year Congress will vote themselves a pay raise for all of the hard work they did on the stimulus package.

Rep. John Tanner, D-Tenn defended the trip and said that it was important. If he had his choice, he would have rather visited his grandchildren. Next time, you have a trip to Europe and you don't want to go, send me instead.

Click here for the full article.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Show Me the Note!

I read this article just a few minutes ago and had to share it with you.

ZEPHYRHILLS, Fla. (AP) -- Kathy Lovelace lost her job and was about to lose her house, too. But then she made a seemingly simple request of the bank: Show me the original mortgage paperwork.
And just like that, the foreclosure proceedings came to a standstill.
Lovelace and other homeowners around the country are managing to stave off foreclosure by employing a strategy that goes to the heart of the whole nationwide mess.
During the real estate frenzy of the past decade, mortgages were sold and resold, bundled into securities and peddled to investors. In many cases, the original note signed by the homeowner was lost, stored away in a distant warehouse or destroyed.

With the paperwork lost, some mortgage companies can't prove that they own the loan and can't do anything about it until the paperwork is found. I applaud Ms. Lovelace for her request and keeping the mortgage company busy looking for paper.

If they can't find the original signed documents, then the mortgage company has to renegotiated the terms of the loan.

Obama Signs the Stimulus Package

Well, it is official. The President has signed the stimulus package which consists of $787 billion mix of tax cuts and one of the biggest public spending programs since World War II. According reports, an estimated 20,000 people lose their jobs each day. I linked a message from the President to my blog so that you can hear what he has to say about the package and how it will benefit the average American.

With all of the money that will be pouring out, some feel that it won't be enough to prevent the inevitable failure of the economy.

With Chrysler LLC telling the U.S. government it needs even more taxpayer money to survive than originally thought and General Motors Corp. expecting to do the same, we do not have any idea where all of this will take us. More and more money will need to be poured into this problem and it will just get worse.

For example, my wife and I were out driving and noticed a sign for a 0% down mortgage. I called the number and asked about it. It turns out that people haven't learned from their mistakes. I asked, "Suppose I lose my job, what will happen?" The voice over the phone laughed and said, "Don't worry. The government is spending $50 billion to cover homes in foreclosure. You'll be fine."

Again, we are going down the same path. Instead of being told that real estate values never decline, we are now being told that the government will catch everything and prevent failure. I guess we don't have anything to worry about.

Friday, February 13, 2009

5 Million Americans are now Collecting Unemployment

Here is a snippet of an article from MSNBC.

WASHINGTON - Almost 5 million Americans continued to draw jobless benefits late last month, and new requests again exceeded 600,00 as companies lay off scores of workers and the unemployed find it harder to get a job amid a deepening recession.
The Labor Department said Thursday that the number of initial jobless benefit claims dropped to a seasonally-adjusted 623,000, from an upwardly revised figure of 631,000 the previous week. The latest tally still was above analysts' expectations of 610,000 claims.
And in a sign that laid-off workers are having difficulty finding new work, the number of people claiming benefits for more than one week rose to 4.81 million from 4.78 million, the highest total since records began in 1967. The continuing claims data lag new claims by a week.

Is this the sign of our times? More people collecting unemployment. I can tell you from my experiences that finding a job is tough. I have been unemployed for 2.5 months. I send out on an average about 10 job applications or resumes weekly. The jobs I'm looking at don't even come close to the salary I had at my old job. I'm willing to take a pay cut in order to get my foot in the door at a business.

I feel sorry for those who will soon be joining the ranks of the unemployed. I have heard of rumors regarding companies and what their employees are being told. In conversations with recruiters, they have seen a major increase in the number of resumes that come into their businesses. Competition for a job is extremely high while salaries are decreasing.

What is there left to do? Wait for the government to fix it? Corporations need to start listening to the conservative analysts. Some are stating that the economy will start picking up in the second half of this year or very early next year. They are cutting back on talent rather than weathering the storm. I don't think that is very intelligent. I have talked with colleagues of mine in the high-tech industry. They do not understand why their own companies are willing to lay off employees when there is product to develop and move out the door. It doesn't make much sense. If you are a finance person, I guess it does.

I'm more customer-oriented and I would rather prepare for the future rather than be coward in the present.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Some Good News for a Change: Foreclosure Rate Down

According to RealtyTrac, US foreclosure rate fell 10% from December. I am hoping that the efforts that are being taken are helping. The foreclosure rate is still 18% over last year's rate.

When I got my haircut yesterday, I listened to people talk about the bailout package, the stimulus package and the jobs that the government is supposed to create. Each person was still skeptical about the government's involvement in the private sector. Some felt that the government shouldn't be meddling in the business. Their thinking was that if the government can't control itself, how do they expect to control business. Good point.

Although I tend to write negatively about the government and other issues, I am, for the most part, optimistic. I guess the better way of saying it would be "cautiously optimistic". I hate to be a doubting Thomas, but given the past track record of our congress and administrations as well as the CEOs of the banking and auto manufacturers, I'm still very nervous about the future. I still think we are lacking one big thing, confidence.

I feel that all of the experts are just shooting in the dark at times and hoping that a miracle occurs. That's not a great way to run things, but if you got nothing, it's, at least, something. For the sake of our nation, I hope the experts are right.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

8 Bank CEOs Walk into a Congressional Hearing

It almost sounds like a joke, but it happened today. 8 bank CEOs were asked to appear before the House Financial Services Committee to discuss their use of the bailout money and why all of this is happening.

My favorites are the ones that are unapologetic (Ken Lewis of Bank of America, Vikram Pandit of Citigroup and Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan). Each had a good excuse. Here are the responses.

Vikram Pandit: "I inherited this mess." I really love this defense. It happened before I got here and I had to live with it.

Jamie Dimon: We really didn't want the bailout money and were forced to take it. I got an idea, Mr. Dimon. GIVE IT BACK! This defense was used by Bank of New York Mellon's Robert Kelly and Wells Fargo's John Stumpf. Why don't all of you just give back the money if you don't need it?

One of the CEOs, Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein, said that he understands why Americans are upset and that we are justified in our anger. I am proud of you, Mr. Blankfein. Thanks for, at least, acknowledging our anger and why we are upset.

Morgan Stanley's John Mack admitted to having made mistakes and took responsibility for the firm's performance. Mr. Mack, thank you for your honesty and accepting responsibility for the mistakes.

Most of the CEOs don't even understand why we are upset. Guys, if you are reading my blog, here's a good story to help you understand the anger. Imagine if I came into your mansion of a home with a big can of gasoline and just trashed your house and poured gasoline all over everything. Then, I came back to you and asked for a match. Don't you think you would be a little upset with me? The same thing happened here. You trashed our economy by making a lot of bad loans and invested money in order to get bonuses. Then, you have the nerve to ask for or take money to cover you losses and get a bonus out of it.

$3 Trillion in Aid! I Can't Even Count that High

WASHINGTON (AP) -- On a single day filled with staggering sums, the Obama administration, Federal Reserve and Senate attacked the deepening economic crisis Tuesday with actions that could throw as much as $3 trillion more in government and private funds into the fight against frozen credit markets and rising joblessness.

In response to all of the this, the Dow Jones Industrials dropped 382 points. OUCH! With more and more money being thrown at the problem, it doesn't look good for future generations. There will be a mountain of debt to deal with and another major problem for the government to deal with as well.

You ask, "Jesse, what is the next problem?" If you add this much debt to our already soaring national debt, there goes any hope for a balanced budget without cutting more and more programs or raising taxes to keep everything working. Think about it. Between payments on the national debt and federal spending, we will probably never see another tax break. Our hopes for no new taxes will also die.

To paraphrase Bette Davis from the movie, "All about Eve", fasten your seat belts. It's going to be a long, bumpy ride.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

What 8 Bailout CEOs Need to Explain

I was reading an article on Yahoo! Finance by Rick Newman and I, too, wanted some answers to some questions. After giving banks $350 billion as part of the $700 billion financial bailout, Congress is finally asking the big question that is on the minds of most Americans. "Where did it all go?"

Congress is calling CEOs of the banks and financial institutions to answer that very question. The money was given to them with no stipulations or restrictions. So, we let them use the money any way they wanted to. That's just great. The guys who got us into this mess were also the same guys given government bailout money.

I really suggest that you read this article. It is very good and brings up some excellent points. Here is the link.

As an American taxpayer, I have grown to expect waste by the government and spending money on foolish programs. But, to give money to a bunch of guys who managed to lose billions and then expect them to do the right thing is crazy. You know the old adage. The definition of crazy is doing the exact thing over and over and expecting a different result each time. That's our government.

With another $350 billion just ready to go out the door, we need to be a LOT more careful with it and put some stipulations on this. I'm not for putting a lot of government regulation and bureaucracy in place. I'm a capitalist and very proud of it, but we have to do something to keep the CEOs from spending the money like a bunch of drunken sailors on shoreleave.

Monday, February 9, 2009

President Obama and His Speech: My Thoughts

I listened to the President's speech regarding the stimulus package, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and the other items. I was impressed that he is meeting the critics of the economic package head on. Needless to say, I count myself as a critic of the package due to all of the spending in it.

According to the President, the stimulus package, by its very nature, is a spending package. Yes, I agree with that. However, the amount of earmarks and special projects that have added to the bill are killing our budget. Each special project is a wolf in sheep's clothing. Congressmen have disguised them as projects that will create a lot of new jobs.

In previous blogs, I have detailed some of those special projects and added the link to the special report from the US Mayors. Some of these large projects are only producing a very small number of jobs. Needless to say, I'm not happy by this.

The stimulus package should be aimed at the real employers, small to medium size businesses. They need relief and help. I have a friend who owns a plumbing business. Due to a possible increase in his liability insurance rates, he may need to stop offering health insurance to his employees. These businesses need relief, Mr. President. It is the Mom and Pop stores that hire more people and they are struggling not to lay off people if they can. Help them, Mr. President.

Where did $350 Billion Go?

Last night, my wife and I were watching the NBC news program, Dateline. The segment we were most interested in was the spending of the $350 billion of the $700 billion financial bailout. You remember that one. The one that Congress and President Bush passed back in October, 2008, when it was clear that almost everyone in the US didn't want.

As taxpayers, we were told that this would free up money and provide business with loans they need to get the economy started again. What happened? The money never got pushed into the economy. CEOs got massive bonuses for running their companies into the ground. As for me, I got laid off. So, it didn't work.

According to the program, the government is about to release the second half of the $700 billion to the banks. This time stipulations and restrictions are being considered. The first release of money to the banks had no restrictions. The government relied on the honesty and integrity of the banks and the management to to the right thing.

As Ben Stein said in the segment, "It is putting a child in the room alone with a big dish filled with candy." Yes, sir. It certainly was. Citigroup canceled their ordered for a $50 million private jet, but still continued to spend $400 million on a 20-year contract to pay the New York Mets for the naming rights to the team's new stadium in Queens — "Citi Field." Citigroup will also stop dividend payments for the next three years and curb certain executive compensation, but they will continue with the spending of the $400 million. I guess some of the $350 billion went there.

John Thain at Merrill Lynch spent a $1 million to spruce up his office. I guess we know where more of the money went. I should be fair. It takes a lot out of CEOs to swing a golf club while holding a martini glass and watching the employees walked out of the building. They should get every perk possible and then some. Needless to say, it will be at the expense of the employees and shareholders.

Where are the Boards of Directors? They are supposed to be watching over the companies and controlling the spending? I guess they are too easy on the CEOs. The board of directors at my company weren't easy on me. They had no problem ordering someone else to kick me to the curb.

In the course of the segment, one analyst said that some of the CEOs are wondering how they will make ends meet at home when their salaries drop to $8 million a year. How will they survive? I guess you will have to cut back on the "fluff and fold" services and only have 1 maid and 1 nanny. Ouch, that will smart. No more shopping at Tiffany's. It will be strictly Macy's from now on. I feel so bad for them. I guess you will have to trade in your LandRover for a Lexus. How shocking? I don't know how they will hold their heads up in pubic at the country club.

I guess the CEOs will get a very, very small glimpse into my world of cutting back.

Nissan forecasts annual loss, to cut 20,000 jobs

TOKYO (Reuters) - Nissan Motor Co said it would cut 20,000 jobs and joined a growing list of automakers warning of red ink this year in what would mark its first loss since Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn took the reins a decade ago.

Well, more and more people are being kicked from the cube to the curb. This time it is Nissan. With plummeting sales and excess headcount and capacity, Nissan is having to lay off employees. Even with 12,000 employees lost through attrition, Nissan is having to release 20,000 by March, 2010.

I share in their employee's pain.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Corporate CEOs Paying for Sex Using their Corporate Cards

I saw this video on ABC News. The segment is called "The Best Little Whorehouse on Wall Street". Click here for the video link.

According to the segment a lot of bankers and investment brokers were charging their bills to their corporate cards. Some would receive bills from DAVIS INVESTMENTS for "consulting fees" so that they could get them through the accounting department for payment. Ms. Davis told the network she disguised the charges in various ways so they would appear to be legitimate business expenses when accountants sifted through credit card statements. One CEO, she said, ordered her to send him invoices for "roof repair on a warehouse" to disguise the charge for prostitutes from corporate funds.

The owner, Kristin Davis, after having been laid off from a hedge fund, opened up a prostitution business and charged Wall Street CEOs, lawyers, bankers and media executives about $2000 per hour to "consult" with some of her girls. She had a custom database that recorded the names, credit card information and notes about each of her client. Here is some of the things that Ms. Davis' database included. ABC provided it and it is further reported by
  • a vice president of NBC Universal (owned by General Electric)
  • the part owner of a Major League Baseball team who "loves Kelsey"
  • the CEO of one of the country's largest private equity firms who met "Cameron" at the Peninsula Hotel
  • a major New York real estate developer who, according to the list, "will come to the door wearing women's panties"
  • a partner at the Wall Street law firm Cravath Swaine Moore "looking for a party girl to come fully equipped" and spent a total of $20,000
  • an investment banker from Lehman Brothers who saw "Kelsey and Keely together" and later saw "Aria and Skyler at the same time"
  • an investment banker at JP Morgan Securities who "loves Brooke" and spent $41,600
  • an investment banker at Goldman Sachs who "only wanted all-American girls" and spent $27,000
  • a managing director from Merrill Lynch who saw "Lana" using the name "Nataly"
  • a managing director from Deutsche Bank "who called about seeing Nataly again"
Additionally, she wanted to turn all of the evidence over to the New York District Attorney's office, but they refused to follow up on her allegations. Now, the office is denying Ms. Davis' claim.

Do you believe this? I wonder if the banks and corporations seeking bailout money will use it to pay the bills.

$937 Billion Stimulus Package

WASHINGTON - The Senate struggled Friday to craft a huge stimulus package to revive the battered economy, with moderates trying to trim the $937 billion price tag to attract Republican senators who say it is too costly.
The cost has ratcheted up during five days of Senate debate, and a bipartisan group of senators tried to cut the package by up to $100 billion.

The Senate has managed to add everything to this package and then some. Do you believe this? President Obama calls the delays in working out a deal "inexcusable."

Both sides of the aisle have added pork to this package and no one wants to do the right thing.

Senate Could Vote on Stimulus Package Today

We shall see if the stimulus package will have the votes necessary in the Senate to be passed. The House has already approved an $815 billion measure. The current Senate bill weighs in at more than $900 billion after several amendments were approved, including a provision that would give every home buyer up to $15,000.

One comment I read asked, "How could this be a stimulus package? We are just passing on more debt on to the next generation." That is a very good point. I have never been in favor of the package myself. I think it will not help the economy at all and we will continue to spiral downward even after it is passed.

I honestly believe the economy is doomed to failure at this point. No amount of money is going to stop it. All we are doing is postponing the inevitable. I hate to be pessimistic about this, but until we regain confidence in the economy as a whole, things won't get any better. We look at the unemployment numbers and wonder why. I will tell you why. Most employers have frozen their hiring and are waiting for the economy to straighten itself out. It is going to happen until we all have confidence.

Take a look at Ben and Jerry's. They are completely transparent about their business. Everything is out on the table. Click here for the company information. You have to admire a company that is honest and open about what it does. It is this kind of honesty that will get us out of this.

Moving from the Cube to the Curb: U.S. January job losses worst in 34 years

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. employers slashed 598,000 jobs in January, the deepest cut in payrolls in 34 years as the national unemployment rate shot up to 7.6 percent, according to a Labor Department report on Friday that underlined a deepening recession.

This is painful to read. More and more Americans are being tossed out of their jobs. Nothing like moving from the cube to the curb. As I had mentioned, as of yesterday, I have been out of work for 2 months now. I have never been out of work for this long of a period of time. Needless to say, I do not enjoy filing for my unemployment every two weeks.

One week I filled out 17 applications and the another was 21 applications. I'm not even looking for jobs that fit my skills anymore. I'm looking for work and have received a few leads and a couple of contract offers. Needless to say, I'm hoping that those come through for me. Am I bitter? No, but I'm disappointed in the whole system.

I have always taught my daughter that if you work hard, you will be rewarded and have opportunities. Not anymore. No one has any confidence. Consumers aren't confident about their jobs and so they don't buy. When consumers don't buy, the companies lose confidence in the market and start laying people off. When people get laid off, they don't buy. When more and more people don't buy, the companies lay off more and more people. See how this works.

It all starts with confidence. As I had discussed in an earlier blog about the mortgage debacle, confidence was lost simply because people got greedy and starting driving the prices of houses up and those loans were sold as investments with the idea that nothing could go wrong with the housing industry. Boy, were we wrong about that! Things continued to go downhill from there.

According to some economists, they see it getting worse. At this rate, most of us will be bankrupt and living in a cardboard house like others in the rest of the world. The days of wine and roses are over and we need to work to get things moving again.

First, we need to stop the Stimulus package. With the amount of pork in it, we are just passing along to our children a mountain of debt. If I can't run my household budget using deficit spending, the government should be able to do it either. Instead of looking at the stimulus package as a "money grab", we need to work with corporations to get the economy moving again. There are several industries that will be growing by leaps and bounds in the next couple of years. Look at the alternative energy industry. Mr. T. Boone Pickens is right about getting away from foreign oil. Every time I read about the worsening economy, I see another article about the price of oil. Sooner or later, they will begin raising the price of oil. Look at the prices now, ladies and gentlemen. Creeping back up, because OPEC decreased their daily production.

Americans are the most innovative people in the world. We are problem solvers and movers and shakers in the world. If we started to invest in other industries, we would be back on top of the world. We have the opportunity to tell OPEC, "Thanks, but no thanks."

The other industry is health care. With the Boomers getting up in years, the health care industry and data management industry will be booming. There will be a need for doctors, nurses, hospitals, etc. and people who support them.

Needless to say, I have been sending my resume to wind companies, hospitals, retirement communities, etc. I see the future and want a job. If the government would just stop throwing good money after bad, we may get out of this. If we don't curb our greed and continue down the path, forget it. We are doomed to failure.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

City of Austin and Its 36 Hole Disc Golf Course

I downloaded the report, The United States Conference of Mayors' Main Street Economic Recovery report, from the USMAYORS.ORG website and found the listing for Austin and its disc golf course.

Water Raul Alvarez Disc Golf Course: This project will develop a 36‐hole disc golf course that will be environmentally and financially sustainable. Funding required: $886,000 and Number of jobs created: 4. Austin is asking for $886,000 to build this course and only creating 4 new jobs out of it.

Here are some more projects.
Shreveport, La.
Project: Purchase of eight police-equipped Harley-Davidson motorcycles
Funding Required: $150,000
Number of Jobs Created: 1

Chula Vista, Calif.
Project: Construction of a dog park
Funding Required: $500,000
Number of Jobs Created: 7

And the list of projects creating only a few jobs goes on and on and on. If you would like to look at the report for yourself to see what we as taxpayers are funding, you can click here to see the actual report. Be afraid. Be VERY afraid.

Austin, TX asks for $886,000 of the Stimulus Package for a Frisbee Golf Course

In the $920 billion stimulus package, there is $149 billion in items listed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors seeking stimulus money. The 18,750 individual projects were supposed to be "shovel ready" and create jobs around the country. Most of these projects are for roads and infrastructure repair; however, some cities have decided to dip their bread in the government gravy while it is still hot and flowing.

Austin is asking for $886,000 build a frisbee golf course. With roads with potholes and the infrastructure in a state of disrepair, Austin has the nerve to ask for a frisbee golf course. I guess I can always play frisbee golf until I find a job. Can someone tell me how this will improve the roads, the infrastructure or anything else for that matter? It will employ people to build it and people will have to pay fees to play. Ok. How much will the city get back in revenue from this project?

This is just another open hand to get some government money. Here's the link to the story.

$150 Million in Stimulus Package for Honeybee Insurance

Yes, boys and girls, there is a line item in the stimulus package for honeybee insurance for $150 million. The stimulus package, at this point, is now sitting at a whopping $920 billion.

Don't get me wrong. I understand the need for the honeybee and that 1/3 of our food depends on the honeybee to pollinate our crops. My morning breakfast of oatmeal is sweetened with clover honey which I enjoy. However, I don't see the need to stuff yet another line item in the stimulus package for some special interest segment.

President Obama took on corporations and said that executives need to have their salaries capped at $500,000 and that the money given to them in loans cannot and will not be spent on executive bonuses. I agree with you, President Obama. There needs to be oversight on the money. Banks are using it to pay their executives and stockholders money while they refuse to lend money to businesses.

The porn industry has asked for $5 billion dollars in loans to prop up their businesses due to people cutting back on their porn spending. It seems like every industry has their hands out for the free money from the government. Since I can't find a job, I think I should apply for part of the stimulus package. I need only a couple of million dollars that's all. I should probably call my senators, Kay and John, and ask them about my check. They will probably tell me, "It's in the mail."

I included a link to the news segment on the honeybee insurance so you can see what's all the buzz about.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Panasonic to Cut 15,000 Jobs!

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's Panasonic Corp, the world's No.1 plasma TV maker, warned it would post an annual loss of $4.2 billion and said it would cut about 15,000 jobs as it grapples with a stronger yen and slowing demand.

OUCH! I guess we didn't buy enough televisions during the Christmas holidays. People are spending their money on more important things like food, shelter and clothing. I think the days of the leisure spending are coming to an end.

I was chatting with a friend of mine about his leisure spending. He started to cut back on buying video games. When you consider how much we spend on things and how much we spend, it boggles the mind. I look at our own budget and was able to cut it back a lot. I have given a nickname to the frivolous items in our budget, "fluff and fold". I used this term after finding out that one of my friends was spending $800 a month to have someone wash, dry and fold the laundry. I think I'm in the wrong business. I need to open up a "fluff and fold" business.

Don't get me wrong. I, too, had items in my household budget that needed to go. Once they went, I felt better. I could actually look at jobs that paid less and still kept us afloat. Be prepared for more lay-offs.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

CEOs Feel "Entitled" to Their Bonuses and Perks

I was watching a video on Reuters about CEOs and how they feel that they are entitled to their bonuses and all of their corporate perks. In the course of the news segment, a psychiatrist said that CEOs actually believe that they deserve their huge salaries, bonuses and perks by rationalizing it in their heads. Corporations say that they need to keep their talented CEOs by playing to their egos and greed.

No matter how you slice it, CEOs are getting larger and larger salaries while most Americans go without jobs. I wish I could say that I'm entitled to my job, but it didn't happen. I guess entitlement is something that belongs to the CEOs as a perk.

If you would like to view the video from Reuters, click here.

Bird Flu Research and the Stimulus Package

Did you also know that the stimulus package that Congress is working is about $885 billion and that we are spending $870 million on bird flu research. I know I sleep a lot sounder knowing that we are reseaching bird flu. Did you hear about the mass bird flu epedimic of 2009? According to the US government's own website on avian and pandemic flu information, China has reported its 6th case of bird flu this year. Oh, no! Last year, there were 44 cases of bird flu and 33 deaths globally. Nothing reported in the US. Do you realize that more people are killed in auto accidents on a daily basis than all of the bird flu deaths in one year?

Once again, thank your Congressman. You maybe unemployed with no medical insurance or hope for a new job, but you can rest assured that our government is throwing money at really big problems and cannot be worried about the little problems like its people.

Squash Anyone?

American Express and JPMorgan Chase, after having received, $28.4 billion in taxpayer bailout money sponsored a week-long squash tournament in New York. According to sources close to each company, JPMorgan Chase put up $100,000 and American Express put up $25,000.

During the same week the tournament was going on, Congress was denouncing Wall Street's wasteful spending of taxpayer bailout money.

I know I didn't get an invitation to the squash tournament. I would have enjoyed hobnobbing with the rich and famous and a rousing game of squash while wondering what the poor folk were doing. I am truly glad to see our taxpayer dollars are being used to sponsor squash games.

EBay Winners Tell Struggling Atlanta Family: Take the $20G, Keep Your Stuff

Hope for mankind! Yes, once again, I have found a story that tells me that we need to come together as neighbors helping neighbors.

A family in Altanta, Georgia struggling with medical bills and two disabled sons put up all of their belongings in their house for sale on Ebay. A couple, Donnia and Keith Blair of Texas, won the auction for $20,000. They said that they would honor the terms of the auction with only one change to the stipulation. The family in Atlanta had to agree to keep their belongings.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the couple in Texas proves to me that we are all capable of helping one another. You should read the whole story for yourself and find ways to help those in need. You don't have to go far in your communities. Just put down that $4 cup of coffee and look around. I have attached a link to the complete article on the Fox News website.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Congress Has Sold Us a Crock and We are Dancing to the Bailhouse Rock

I was watching Mike Huckabee's program on Fox News Network. He had a parody song that summed up the way Americans feel about the bailout program. I would like to share that video with you.

Mike and the Little Rockers simply rock! Thanks, Mike! My wife and I supported your bid for the Presidency.