Entries Tagged as 'Government'

The Difference Between Right and Legal

The corner of Wall Street and Broadway, showin... I hate to say it, but I’m somewhat amused by the whole “Occupy Wall Street” movement. A lot of people are angry because government bailed out big businesses to prevent economic disaster on a national and even global scale. Yet, some taxpayers are miffed (and rightfully so) that there was even a need to do this. I agree with that sentiment.

Here’s the difference though. The whole movement doesn’t make any bit of sense to me. Wall Street has nothing to do with it. Investors, traders, and shareholders all take advantage of the system as best as possible. You always push the envelope of the law, right up to the edge. If you go over, then you end up like Martha Stewart or someone else that tried to make gains by overstepping regulations. But the problem doesn’t lie in Wall Street or the businesses that were bailed out. The problem actually lies in government who both bailed them out and didn’t actually fix the problems when doing so. In my opinion, the solution should have been the easiest reward and punishment type of scenario. You bait companies into those that wanted or needed help to replace their management (whom inadvertently created the problem) and change the entire structure with the money. Instead of just paying for it.

Let’s also not forget that much of the problem actually comes from the deregulation of the markets, again a problem caused by politicians, and not business. It’s the same story with the whole jobs issue. No one is bothering to dangle the whole string with carrot and instead they’re just throwing out the carrot and hoping that it does something. If I were a business, I’d take the contracts, use the same employees, and say, “Hey! Thanks for filling up my coffers!” And who wouldn’t. Same with the tax cuts. To actually move job growth, you have to force a percentage of workers back in by tying the money incentives to actual hiring.

Thus, I chuckled when some people wanted to argue with me on how Wall Street was the reason behind it all. Sorry, but I just don’t buy it. Capitalism and political play has been in play before I was born, and will be way after I die. There will always be people always pushing the envelope to the edge of legality. But the people that hurt us are those that change the laws to support more general bad behavior. The more generic and vague a regulation is, and the worst the enforcement, the more it allows for bad apples to exploit it. It’s the same as any situation. Most people will always choose the easier way to achieve the end if it’s open to them. And who wouldn’t? It’s legal.

Why Mergers Rarely Create Jobs

WASHINGTON - MAY 11:  AT&T President and CEO R... It’s interesting that sometimes you read about politicians trying to sell a sales pitch that is completely false. In this case, five Democrats are pushing the President to push the AT&T merger through without any regards to the DOJ’s decision, and the FCC’s decision. What’s more is that in their letter, something blatantly jumps out.

Job creation.

I have never seen full-time jobs created for a merger. Granted, there are many jobs that are contracted out. These are usually the same jobs that are let go and then contracted back out for the transition period. There is never an actual merger that doesn’t require some heads being chopped. Just look at Sprint and Nextel. Sprint themselves did a study on this, and having been with one of the vendors that was severely hurt by the backlash of the merger, I can say from personal experience that Sprint knows what they’re talking about. What’s worse is that one of the Representatives find themselves at the top of the list…. from my state. Rep. Heath Shuler (D, NC) is one of the leads on the letter above, trying to point out how many jobs it would create.

Has he not seen that the the Wells Fargo buy out of Wachovia meant that Wachovia laid off people along with temp jobs being created for the transition? Does he not know about the 2,000 jobs that are about to be lost due to the Duke Power and Progress Energy merger?

Sometimes, you have to wonder whether people actually do their homework when serving SIGs. If you’re going to push for someone that isn’t hiding their money trail very well, it’s probably a good idea to not be affiliated with them. In this regards, every party that has been rooting for AT&T has actually had cash donations to their causes.

Outside of antitrust, and monopoly ruling, I believe that AT&T chose the worst possible time to try to pull off this merger. When times were better, it would have probably been a no-brainer for the government to push it through unless they had some severe antitrust issues. But in the state of bad economics when unemployment numbers are even skewed lower than the reality (contractors, and P/T people are not counted in those figures), and people are hurting, they try to roll themselves back into Ma Bell of which was the original antitrust suit that broke them up. The irony.

Why Congress Is Not As Good As You Think

So the latest and greatest news right now in politics is that the 2011 budget has yet to be decided. So far, the Republicans are talking like big shots to the public about how there needs to be spending cuts, and how Democrats aren’t willing to step across the line. While this doesn’t make Democrats any better in the whole big picture, I think that there are some things that need to be said.

First, the House always passes bills first and then it’s sent to the Senate. So you technically could write whatever crazy and stupid thing you wanted. Republicans could go for broke here because they know Democrats wouldn’t allow it through into law. Everyone must get $100k a year. Everyone can have free cars for life. Et cetera. Thus, you can be entirely and stupidly nutty and make ridiculous claims and still get away with it as long as the American people buy it hook, line, and sinker. That in general vilifies the Democrats even though it’s complete bullshit by the Republicans.

Historically, there hasn’t been one single party that actually promotes spending cuts that the other side wanted. Democrats have always pushed social programs, and Republicans have pushed business and defense. Neither side ever cut their own stuff much so of course they’re going to talk about how the other parties are evil, and yadda yadda. It was boring when I could first vote, and it’s still boring.

Next, the fiscal year for the government is half over. You’re still deciding on a damn BUDGET? Give me a friggin’ break. And then they’re talking about the 2012 budget before the 2011 one is solved. Seriously? You budget for the year before you get to it, not when it’s half over. Solve the issue at hand, you morons. That’s like trying to drive a automobile before you put on wheels. Brilliant.

The entire government shutdown is a huge joke. You know how to get this done? President should basically tell Congress that none of them get paid until other federal workers get paid. You don’t get to see lobbyists, you don’t get your salaries, you don’t get anything. Amusingly, this is the same deal as any other corporation where the top people make a huge deal about how there are issues, but they’re always the people that are paid first, not last. But if you stick it to them, and tell them that they won’t get paid, then people are less likely to act like complete A-holes.

That’s why I think the entire thing is a complete joke and I get more and more cynical with elected officials. They’re always spouting how they represent their constituents and they’re attacking the problems, but never have you seen one single person step up and say…. hey… I acknowledge this issue, I’m accountable for it, and I won’t take any pay until I get this sucker fixed. Never. They’re all in it for their own agendas. Don’t believe it? Follow the money. Money never lies. The day that some Congressional person steps up to the plate and does the right thing regardless of party lines is the day this country will again move forward instead of being in a stalemate that solves nothing.

How Does TSA Take to “Paperless Boarding Passes”?

Boarding pass
Image by Simon Aughton via Flickr

Interestingly enough, there’s this new fun little thing that the TSA is pushing which really shows that they’re actually with the times.   While most people still use the paper boarding passes, you can now have it sent to your phone.   What it does, is that it actually sends you an image of a QR code I believe, of which is then scanned at the TSA checkpoint.   They use one of the red bar code scanners so it doesn’t really get effected as much by the reflective screens on smart phones.

What’s neat about this technology isn’t just because it’s “green” since there’s no paper, but the fact that the government is finally getting on board the technology train WHILE it’s going.   Not like ten years behind.  Usually you don’t see things like that except in military and advanced research labs.   I find that absolutely fascinating.

While I had the opportunity to use it more recently, I was hesitant mainly because I didn’t want to hassle with it if there were airports that had screeners that were not trained to actually deal with the passes.  Even if the airlines are pushing it, it doesn’t necessarily mean there are untrained staff out there.  So I decided to observe and see for myself.

It happened that there was one lady in front of me at Newark that used this system.  It was actually very quick and easy and definitely put my mind at ease that perhaps this is the next thing I’ll adopt while I travel.  Nothing like getting rid of the abundance of boarding passes that one has to carry these days along with all of the advertisements and the weather and what not.  In all honesty, while it seemed like a pretty good idea, I usually am annoyed that they print all my boarding passes on separate pages with a bunch of junk on them.   Just print them all on one page!

I’m actually pretty happy that so far my observation of the paperless boarding pass has been a great experience.

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When Politicians Don’t Represent Through Conversation

The House Financial Services committee meets. ...
Image via Wikipedia

I have to say that overall with national politicians, there’s a pretty easy litmus test to find out if your particular representation is actually listening and serving your needs.

E-mail them.

In the past, I have had responses to emails from former Senator Edwards, and Senator Burr, but never anything from former Senator Dole. I also have received responses recently from Representative Mel Watts and Senator Burr (kudos here for always generating conversation) but nothing from Senator Hagan’s office.

Call it strange, but Hagan replaced Dole so I wonder what that’s about. In any case, in regards to my email, Senator Burr’s office contacted me directly and had a short but very responsive contact. Representative Watts though sent me a letter that basically said that he’d love to support my needs, but since no legislation was brought up in Congress about it, he’ll keep a look out for it. For the most part, it was a generic form mailer. Which, while I appreciate feedback, it’s one of those… ehh… what? It was almost answering a question like: “Is the sky blue?” with… “I’m sure your color has merit, and when the general consensus talks about a sky color, I’ll support yours.”

You sort of have to laugh at it and wonder exactly what politicians do. You’re either for, or against a certain ideal. Perhaps there is merit to either side and you could be swayed to one end. But without actual conversation, the generic stop letter is just not the way to go. Maybe that’s just me from a personal perspective, but it’s only slightly better than the total constituent ignore only because you’re getting it on Congressional letterhead.

Today, this issue really isn’t about Representative Watts’ letter and I apologize to him for using his letter as an example. But from a state where the general populace has been beaten down to a bloody pulp when it comes to employment and trade, the cynicism starts to grow when you don’t see conversations being started by even the aides of the representation. Call it strange but you would hope those are the individuals that are fighting for you in the big city of politics.

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More Layoffs Means Economy Still Down Toilet

sun Still think that the economy is improving? If the shutdown of the Dell plant around here isn’t enough to scoff at that mindset, let’s look at an even larger one. Sun Microsystems is looking to layoff three thousand more employees. Now, while layoffs are inevitable during mergers and acquisitions (in this case with Oracle), this also represents something a little bit larger.

It says that until corporations or the government gives a nice jab in the arm on hiring, the overall percentage of buying power has been reduced. This hurt can and will be felt through both retail and financial markets since people without jobs cannot pay loans and mortgages. And let’s face it. Saving the financial institutions do not amount to squat if the people that the money is being loaned to can’t get work to actually pay it back. This is not only brings financial players to a grinding halt, but it shows that politicians do not understand the basics of economics. Everything starts with the beginning of the food chain, not the end.

What’s worse is that until someone does actually gain this bright idea, all of the injection of federal funding is for naught. That means that the taxpayers bear the burden of a costly mistake, of which becomes more and more weight per each individual as more and more people cannot find work. And you wonder how Congress can sleep at night with a twenty or so percent approval rating.

Stock Market Doing Well Is Not Economic Recovery

NASDAQ in Times Square, New York City.
Image via Wikipedia

Bleh. CNBC and the rest of the financial world totally is off their rockers.

I mean, think about it. The Dow Jones breaks 10,000 and people think that the economy is turning around. But in all reality, that’s an indicator of shareholder confidence in the corporations after the huge government bailouts. Not only is the dollar weak now against other currencies but it’s not likely to be any better any time soon with all the surmounting debt. But if you don’t watch the financial markets and actually just buy into your mainstream media, let me put it another way… do you think this will survive in the long term? Especially with the holiday season coming?

Think about it. Job loss is at an all time high, and corporations are not producing any more hiring. The jobs that are taking place are the entry level, non-education based while the educated workforce is laid off. On top of this, the government itself doesn’t hire civilians unless you have military discharge papers (go and try to apply and when you finally finish the entire application, you might be surprised at what you need to submit). So with all of this coming and locally, we’re losing 900+ jobs from the Dell plant closing, that means there is less money to pay for … yes, gifts. Less work force also means less taxes, and less potential profits for retail. Retail has a trickle-down effect upon anyone that supplies or transports for that industry.

In essence? Stocks that do well don’t mean jack diddly. If there is anything that it does mean, it means that the senior management is even less likely to hire. Why? Simple supply and demand. If they can squeeze the effort out of the current work force with the threat looming of job loss, and provide greater revenue for their shareholders, there isn’t one single event that could show why they would want to expand status quo unless it’s to squeeze more people with more work. And the way things are going, the stimulus money wasn’t just a wasted effort in my opinion, but it could have lead to more job creation from the government itself. Whatever happened to when we fought wars and provided jobs?

In the end? It seems like the only ones that win in the end are those that are in the upper social stratosphere. Where most want to be, but few ever achieve.

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US Government Needs To Straighten Their Financial Priorities

So I get to reading about a $529 million loan to Fisker Automotive which doesn’t help Americans with jobs due to the vehicle being developed in Finland, nor the fact that the price tag is eighty-nine thousand dollars (not to mention its a sports car) which is outside the realm of any middle class American.

What’s interesting is that these companies are getting these huge loans by the American taxpayers during a time where American job loss is at its highest and there have been many applications for smaller loans to develop vehicles that are less costly and better for American consumer pocketbooks, that have been turned down.

While the DOE spokesperson has said that each application is dealt with fairly, I have to wonder in knowing of practices within the federal government since most things are actually subjective to those that are working on the applications themselves. I also would be curious if there is an appeals process to understand why it was turned down.

Needless to say, the fact that money is being thrown about for a “greener future” without taking into account that the burden to the taxpayers has greatened due to job loss and global economic failure makes one wonder what the heck is going up at the top of the totem pole. Believe me, I get the whole environmental thing and how it’s good. But when you’re throwing some major cash at a foreign manufacturer while people here are screaming for help, a lot of eyebrows raise.

Let’s not forget that we the taxpayers not only pay for these ridiculous price tags, but we also pay your salaries.

The Cost of Universal Healthcare

A bitter pill?
Image by Jo Peattie via Flickr

Are we ready for healthcare reform?

I believe that we are not as far as the United States is concerned. There are several historical things that really go to show that it wouldn’t really work. Not to mention it would cost more than any other government’s implementation due to how our status quo for government hiring and quality stand.

While it probably doesn’t matter since most citizens that speak out really do not get a chance to make a difference in the big picture of things, there are several things that speak against universal healthcare. I do believe this is an ideal and obviously worthwhile if implemented correctly. But I don’t believe the US can do it due to current government spending and past program histories.

Both Medicare and Medicaid are a joke when it comes to cost. Yes, we pay for it, but anyone can tell you that if you have some sort of a condition, it takes a while for granting of the funds. Will we be going for basic medical care that is granted by the second largest agency in the U.S., the Veterans Affairs? Because if so, then might we posture the horror stories that come out of the VA medical? Or the fact that every social program seems to be bloated beyond belief because of red tape to actually function as it should and are not optimized to a point where it would actually not cost billions of dollars just to run the management of it?

So if cost is a factor and you cannot pay for it, and healthcare would suffer due just by viewing how current programs are being managed, we fail to even consider the fact that the burden is carried by the taxpayer. With the majority of middle-class bearing the weight of taxes currently, and with those that have been hit by economic downturn and job loss, the burden is then unfairly increased across the class. Will the government pick up the tab when their paychecks are drawn from these tax collections?

What’s amusing in all of this is that I believe that healthcare reform is an ideal that would greatly benefit this country. But not in its current state due to how it’s managed. Imagine having to create a new division just to manage all of the claims and the management that comes with it. Let’s not forget that DHS was also created less than a decade ago and there are several GAO reports of its mismanagement of funds. Healthcare will be any different in this sense? I think not.

All of this brings me back to the days of high school back in ’94 when the national debate topic was healthcare. Funny that I remember my school being National Champions that year and there wasn’t a time on the debate team that I remember us actually arguing for universal healthcare. It seemed that at the time, anyone that did would lose the arguments due to similar basic analysis as above.

So what’s different now? Haven’t really seen a thing yet. Universal healthcare? Ha. Why not get people jobs first, or you really want to make a difference with national programs, how about changing Social Security so that a person doesn’t pay for the older generations and instead pays for their own future. There are enough headaches to tackle as-is, and bringing one giant problem into the mess just makes you wonder if the entire system will falter at some point. It’s like for years, the foundation of this American house has been bearing more weight than it was designed to handle, and we’re looking to build a new wing on there instead of reinforcing the foundation. Just doesn’t seem like a bright move.

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Where Did the State Deficits Come From?

Deficit Spending
Image by xampl9 via Flickr

Call me crazy, but I just don’t get it.

Why is it that every single state has these huge deficits that didn’t show up last year? Or the year before? I mean, I’m absolutely dumbfounded by why suddenly everyone has a budget shortage and they claim that it has to do with the recession and such. The obvious only reasoning for it is that they come up with silly ideas of budgeting such as taxing digital transactions, alcohol and such and think that what the potential “bring in” is what they can spend.

Like I said, I don’t know anything about politics and state governments but that’s the only reason I can think of where you can suddenly have a huge dropping out of funds. When you spend more than you have because you think you’re collecting revenue on something instead of actually waiting to spend it after you’ve collected it. One of the biggest mistakes of fiscal responsibility that I’ve ever seen if this is the case. And before people start pointing fingers saying that it’s because we have Democrats, or Republicans or whatever XYZ political party, I find that this is the case across the board. Maybe everyone wants a piece of the stimulus bill. Who knows. But anyone that tries to achieve power eventually abuses it in the same fashion.

In the end, I just want someone explain to me where these huge holes are coming from. I mean, as a citizen that doesn’t have time to do the research because I’m too busy trying to put food on the table, the things from the media usually just talk about the doom and gloom instead of seeing where the issues lie and propose fixes. I’m okay with taxes as long as they serve a legitimate purpose and are not paying for someone’s pet project like building another bridge in a place that already has one. Anyone want to take a stab?

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