Credit Crunch

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Have noticed more people paying with cash for their purchases here lately, could it be the American Love Affair with the Credit Card is over?  Aggressive rate increases on credit cards are threatening to pushing struggling consumers into financial ruin, accelerating home foreclosures and the nations’ decent into recession.

Keeping up with the Jones’es isn’t as easy as it used to be.

Routinely I see people open up their wallets and there will be anywhere from 4 to 8 credit cards clearly visible and I just cannot for the life of me see how they can justify that.  With interest rates where they are and payments on just the minimum balance regularly exceeding a thousand dollars a month, how does one do it?

Let’s run this one up the flagpole and see if we can find someone to salute it.  Where else could you enter into a business agreement with someone and then as you get into it, the rules are suddenly tossed out the window, and you are operating in a system that is vastly different from the system you started out with.

Credit Card issuers do it all the time.

It is done everyday in this country, the credit card folks just take and they take and it appears there is nothing the consumer can do but pay.  Now it has reached a point where if you owe too much money they raise your rate, if you don’t owe a lot of money, then they lower your credit score, there is no way you can win, it all goes to them.

Stopping excess spending and borrowing, and then standing in the middle of the road will not work either.  You are going to get run over by either one or both sides on this issue.  The credit card people and the government are putting the screws to you simultaneously.

They beat you down.  And the government helps them do it, the people you elected to protect you, are now giving the banks/credit card issuers over a year and one-half to clean up their act.  Seeing absolutely no way to hide it any more, they have been forced to do something about it, simply because of its egregious nature.  The politicians cannot sweep it under the rug anymore.  So they issue new standards for these robbing thieves, and give them a couple of years to keep on robbing you.

It is tantamount to a license to steal, and it was issued on you, by YOUR government.  Think about that one the next time you decide to sit it out and not vote.  Maybe we will all get lucky and they will decide, one by one, to take a long walk in the snow and do the rest of us a favor.

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The bankers took our money and then refused to tell us what they did with it, and now they want us to believe they are our new friends.  America’s banks have a totally new image.  Now you have “a friend in the banking industry.”  If the banks are so friendly, how come they still chain down the pens?

Why is it that all of this happens?

Simple.

We have a lot of friends in low places that’s why.

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“The cartoon courtesy of Center for American Progress” (online)

You Get What You Pay For

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Man, the news was so bad tonight, that I just turned it off and went outside in the backyard to scream!  Which really doesn’t do me a whole lot of good, but I just love watching the neighbor’s dog run to the end of his chain and then pow!

This evening I am thinking about that old gag, where the Senator is filibustering and he says to the body, “My esteemed colleague from Alabama wants $22 million for a road, and this Senator wants $65 million for a wind tunnel project, and my brother from Utah, is asking for $85 million to build a dam in his home state.  The first thing y’know, we are going to be talking about some REAL money here.”

The time is right for a set of federal policies designed to provide stabilization, stimulus, recovery, and growth. Without action, there is too great a risk of further collapse and an ever-worsening spiral of job loss and economic decline. In addition to action aimed at stabilizing the extremely shaky auto industry and financial and housing markets, Congress should act quickly to pass measures to stimulate the broad economy and commence the road to recovery.

Which is what they did with quickly moving with Secretary of the Treasury Paulson, and he has changed the playbook three times that I know of, and seems to be flying the Treasury by the seat of his pants.  Meanwhile, Congress sits back and in their usual fashion, does nothing about it.

In broad categories, the $350 billion package outlined here includes approximately:

■$55 billion to spur demand and assist those most in need.
■$70 billion in aid for states and localities.
■$50 billion for tax cut stimulus.
■$175 billion for infrastructure investments in stimulus and recovery, including $100 billion in green job creation.

And that is the “good news” what we are not seeing or being told, is what is going to happen in the future.  When all of these federally slopped hogs come back to the trough next year for even more money.

Today, after investing almost half of the $700 billion appropriated by Congress to buttress the capital reserves of the banking system, the evidence suggests that the Treasury and the Federal Reserve have not achieved their goal of easing the cost or availability of capital. Instead, the major banks are cutting back credit, increasing fees and looking for ways to further solidify their balance sheets. In other words, “the people who promised to have your best interests at heart, have already reneged on the deal.”

The lesson for the major commercial banks in the wake of AIG’s collapse was simple: Do everything in your power to rebuild your financial strength and stabilize your credit ratings. Cut back lending, reduce outstanding credit facilities, increase fees, conserve capital, and rebuild your balance sheets. In sum, the lesson for the commercial banks is that if you want to survive — if you don’t want to be the next AIG — you should not do any of the things — such as increase lending — that the Treasury is trying to get you to do.  Now you might think that all of this is new thinking, but it isn’t.

I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.

Thomas Jefferson

Does President-Elect Obama represent the change we need? His mainstream appointments — largely veterans of the Clinton administration — have sparked a clamor from worried supporters. A full 31 of his 42 picks so far, are Ex-Clinton pro’s or in other words, it’s the same old circus.  But in one of the critical challenges facing the country — how to get the country out of what will be the worst downturn since the Great Depression — Obama is calling for dramatic and long overdue change.

While President Bush continues to oppose any major plan for Main Street, Obama has been calling for a substantial recovery program, focused on public investments rather than tax cuts.

And Congress must do all this by NOT giving GM, Ford and Chrysler the $34 billion they are asking for in “loans” (a few days ago they only wanted $25 billion; that’s how stupid they are — they don’t even know how much they really need to make this month’s payroll. If you or I tried to get a loan from the bank this way, not only would we be thrown out on our ear, the bank would place us on some sort of credit rating blacklist).  Like a freshly pulled bathroom drain plug, our way of life seems to be shooting down the pipe, and no one appears to be listening.  What was our sturdiest generation seasoned by World War II, is gradually fading and now that we are in charge, we are failing miserably.  They left us in fairly good shape, and now that we are running the ship of state, everything seems to be out of control.

Let’s call a spade a spade here.

GM’s outstanding stock is worth about $3 billion on the current market, why doesn’t the government just outright purchase the company, throw the current managers out, and hire new people to run the company (that would be change).  This is a bargain, considering the $18 billion they want now, and who knows what they will want in the future?  They are going to default on the note in the end, and we are going to own it outright anyway.  Why not get it for the bargain price, instead of the inflated bloated overpriced pig they are offering for market share now.  I change the channel … no help there either.

Then the media moved onto Foreign Policy.

It’s too early to tell what changes Hillary Clinton will bring to Barack Obama’s foreign policy, but she’s already had an enormous effect on his brand. Her addition to his team has turned “No Drama Obama” into “Mo’ Drama Obama.” Hillary’s appointment isn’t even official, but the Obama/Clinton narrative has already left the realm of politics. Its twists, turns, shadings, and complex emotions are the stuff of literature (When Hillary Met Barack. Sleepless in Chappaqua. You’ve Got Fundraising Email).

Late into the day and I find myself in an old familiar surrounding, the backyard, staring up at the sky and there are never any answers in the sky.  Some of us seek anesthesia of escape in strange forms, some of us seek the validation of everyone-thinks-alike media tailored to one ideological or political mindset.  We separate into our niches, shredding the fabric of our common future.

You get what you pay for … At least “you used to get what you paid for.”

Nowadays, I don’t know what it is we are getting, and it is hard to see the results, when you find yourself “constantly bending over and taking it in the shorts.”  I hope Mr. Obama understands that “if you are not the lead horse, then the view is always going to be the same.”

I am driving a 12 year old truck, that passes every thing but a gas station, and on most days, the best of days, “it might start on a cold Oklahoma morning.”

I sure wish someone would be kind enough to bail me out of it.

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Nobody Cares About Your Dreams

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Coffee is good this morning, a little bite to it, but that is okay, it is cold here and uncomfortable.  Americans drink about 400 million cups of coffee per day, that is a lot of coffee, that is an ocean of coffee.  Which is kind of strange, when you stop to think about it.  Coffee has no nutritional value that I know of, why we drink it is truly somewhat of a mystery.

Four out of five adults in the U.S. drink coffee every day.  I know one person who doesn’t, his favorite quote about coffee is this.  “How can something that smells so dog-gone good when it is perculating in the pot, taste so rotten afterwards.” He is not a caffeine junky like the rest of us.

We average about two cups per day in this country, per consumer, that would be about 1/3 of the worlds’ supply of the elixir.  I understand that coffee contains 100 milligrams of caffeine; a cup of espresso has 200.

No More Free Toasters

You can now add Credit Unions to the list of people signing up for the bailout money, they applied for and received $40 billion worth this week to bolster against mortgage losses.  You know the other day I was sitting at the beanery waiting for them to bring me my order and I was staring out the window.  And I got that glazed over look in my eye and the wife said to me, “I know I shouldn’t but I am gonna anyway.  What are you thinking about”?”

And I said, “Oh, I was thinking back a long time ago, when we were young and stupid and we invested in that Ponzi scheme.  You remember that?” and she said, “Oh Lord, whatever made you think of that?”

For all of you that are not aware, a Ponzi scheme is a get rich deal, most of the time called a “Pyramid Scheme” and the people, who get in early, make tons of money, the others, well they don’t do so well.  They mainly lose their investment.  We were in the later group, we lost, about $1,000 and interest, and I made every stinking payment on it, 36 of them suckers.  (I told you we were young and stupid, we didn’t even have the money to lose, we borrowed our entry level amount … Now that was really d-u-m-b.)

So here is the deal.

I am thinking about how it is that I did something really dumb, really stupid, and I lost what I considered a large amount of money.  AND NO ONE … NOT ONE SOLITARY SOUL CAME FORWARD TO BAIL ME OUT … I HAD TO PAY EVERY DAMN DIME OF IT … AND I HAD TO TAKE MY KNOCKS THE HARD WAY. Since then, several lucrative offers have presented themselves, and we always say “no thank you.”  Our official position is that we have had so many good deals in the past, we cannot afford any more of them now.

When do WE get bailed out … Who is going to help us out … those of us that are struggling.

Business has gotten so bad here lately, even the people who were not planning on paying for it anyway, are not buying. I asked my neighbor about it and he said, “The bible says cast thy bread upon the waters and it will be returned to you 100 fold.”  Which is fine, but what are you supposed to do with 100 soggy wet loaves of bread?  When I was young, my paycheck would burn a hole in my pocket, these days it isn’t enough to keep my pocket warm.  It is truly a shame that at this point in life, you have only one regret.  And that would be that you have not accumulated enough cash to be able to fly on a moment’s notice to Japan to bid on Paul’s Sergeant Peppers uniform.

The Governor will see you now … Please have your checkbook handy

Corruption has tainted politics in Chicago (Illinois in general) since the prohibition days and Albert Scarface Capone, but the arrest Tuesday of Illinois Governor Brad Blagojevich revealed alleged conspiracy and bribery schemes so brazen that the veteran investigators and prosecutors could barely hold their revulsion.  Government for sale .. to the highest bidder, the American Way, kind of makes you proud doesn’t it?  Shades of Bill Clinton when he was governor of Arkansas.  When the highway patrol stopped you there, they would say, “Have your wife get out of the car, so the governor can frisk her.”

Here is another one out of Illinois for you. In Springfield, Zachary Holloway, 20, and a pal were arrested and charged with breaking into one car and stealing, among other things, a motorcycle helmet, then attempting to break into another car.

To try to get into the second car, Holloway put on the helmet, stood back from the car, and charged into it, head-butting a window, unsuccessfully, twice.  They were arrested and booked that day.

Finally coming clean

Some 20 years after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, plaintiffs in the case are getting what’s left of the money they were originally awarded, the Anchorage Daily News reports.  Some plaintiffs will get amounts ranging from several hundred dollars to $100K or more.  Most had just about given up hope of getting anything from it at all.

Now lets see, you take an amount of money, put it in the bank and allow it to sit, for say …. Oh let’s just say “twenty years” … that might accumulate enough in interest where you end up never paying a fine at all.  Just thinking outside the box.  Naw, “our friends in the oil and gas industry” wouldn’t do that to us … would they?

Oh well it could be worse (how could it possibly be worse?) you could be in your car, stranded on an Alaskan highway and the only human within 200 miles is a Cro-Magnon Woman wearing a torn parka who communicates through a series of bizarre grunts, winks and gesticulations and she not only comes to your rescue, but you have to “talk to her” all the way back to town.

Lying crooks what is this world coming to?

In the city that launched the national crime-stopper movement, Albuquerque, New Mexico, which pays informants for tips that help police solve local crimes there could be a possible snag.  It appears now the highly successful program designed for, “people that hang out with crooks to do part time work” might be providing the cops with “less than truthful information” for the rewards.

It appears that even in hard times, the low life’s will resort to less than honest approaches at generating funds.  Police are now saying that they are going to have to be more careful because they “might be playing games with us” in order to get the money.  Geeze, do you think so?  Bad cop, bad cop, no donut.

Man, I would like a shot at that myself.

Barre, Vermont. A man who hit Governor Douglas in the face with a pie during an Independence Day parade will spend five days on a work crew for the prank.  Matthew Manning, 23, pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and apologized.  Manning, dressed as Santa Claus ran up to Douglas during the Montpelier parade and threw the pie before being tackled by the mayor and being detained.  I would like to pay this man’s fine, if there is one, but I am curious.  “Santa Claus at an Independence Day celebration, what were you thinking?”

Time to wrap this one up.

If you attend the job fair/money seminar at the Holiday Inn this weekend?  When the speaker begins the seminar by saying, “By a show of hands, how many of you don’t know the difference between a stock and a bond?” and you are the only one with your hand in the air?

Go immediately to the Lobby … American Xpress or Bank Of America are looking for you.  You might have a new job Monday morning.

Who says things aren’t looking up.

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Saturday Wowser

I am sitting at the bank, and the banker says to me, “Do you have our new VISA with the photo ID yet?” and I say “No.” So then he says to me, “Why not?” And I reply, “You charge for your VISA and have all these fee’s, I am not into that.”

So then he inquires, “Where is yours located, which was kind of stupid, I mean I am a guy after all?  What kind of question is that?” But we were talking about banking and I missed the point.

So I said, “It is out of Boston or maybe Delaware, I believe, I am not sure, back east.” So he says, “You ought to be doing business in YOUR COMMUNITY and showing some loyalty to the folks who live with you.” So I say, “Okay, they gave me 15.9% annual PCR and no annual fee.” You want 25.5% and $25 per year fee, so why should I do business with you?  You give me the same deal, and I will switch it over.”

Then he smiles and says, “What else can I do for you today Mr. Smith?” and I smile and think “Well for a start you can pucker up and kiss …… Oh well, you know the rest dont’cha?”

By the way, “these folks are on the bail out train too.  My bank is on the list.”

Cover Me I Am Reloading

Awhile back we reported that the Interior Department was fixing to overturn regulation concerning guns in National Parks.  It appears that they have done just that.  Yesterday, the Department of Interior overturned a Reagan-era regulation, permitting loaded firearms at 388 of 391 national park sites. The decision allows guns in parks in “any states with concealed carry laws, not just those that allow guns in their state parks as originally proposed.” While the Department cited safety concerns as a factor, the National Park Conservation Association notes:

According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, there were 1.65 violent crimes per 100,000 national park visitors in 2006-making national parks some of the safest places in the United States. The new regulation could increase the risk for impulse shootings of wildlife, and risk the safety of visitors and rangers.

Despite the potential affect on national park wildlife and resources, the Administration did not conduct an environmental review as required by law. One more just for the fun of it.  The text of the rule notes that earlier, Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) wrote to the Interior Dept. supporting the rule change. If you want more, check out ThinkProgress’s updated report on Bush’s 11th hour regulations and rule changes.

Here is some more “bad government for you” we in America don’t have the market cornered on bad politics (although it often seems as if we are the leaders in bad policy) in Britain they have it too.

In Worcester, England, they ordered a man to take down a 3 ft high barbed-wire fence that he had installed to deter the thieves who had broken into his storage building at least three times in the past four months.  According to the Daily Mail, the council said it was feared would be sued by a wounded trespasser.

Which brings up the age old question, “when was it that they changed it where the CRIMINAL has more rights than the VICTIM?”  Please enlighten me if you will?

The terror attacks in India this week certainly were horrible, I sure hope this is not some kind of prophetic new system of religious fanatical attacks and a new wave of terror for the future in our world.  I thought it was especially comforting how the United Nations promptly took charge and blamed Israel for it all.

Count Your Blessings

I know that Thanksgiving is over and all that stuff is behind us now, but if you want a fresh outlook on life, and something to be thankful for, trot over here and read this, it is an eye opener, a good piece of work.

Sign Of The Times

What is this “Office of the President Elect” signage going on?  I sure wish we could get all of this “locked down and in place” it sure looks like someone has a bad case of premature-inauguration to me.”  Barbara Wa-Wa was on last night, and had her top ten people in the entire world you should know show last night on ABC.  Does anyone know if Sarah Palin made the cut?  I was overhauling a ceiling fan and I missed it.

People Unlike Us

OJ got sentenced yesterday, looks like he will be an old codger when he gets out of the slammer, which is okay with most of us.  We tired of him and his act, a long time ago.  Bush is now scheduled on ABC and around the dial to give even more “farewell speeches” in which he denies any culpable knowledge of ever been elected or even visiting Washington DC in the past ten years.

Bush, Cheney and Rumsfield all meet up in Hell.  Cheney looks around and then snarls out of the side of his mouth, “I should have shot two lawyers, this isn’t right.”  Rumsfield said, “I missed the memo on this, I should have paid more attention.”  Bush sulks over in the corner, curled up in a fetal position mumbling …. “It’s not that hot and I am not here, it’s not that hot and I am not here.”

Self Inflicted Wounds

Rosie O’Donnell effectively murdered her career this week on NBC but it was okay, and I understand it “there were NO witnesses to the crime.”  I also understand that Paris Hilton and Paul Rubens are all set to star in a new movie to be released in 2009.

What are they going to call this.

Pee Wee gets an infection?

I read in USA Today that “unhappy people watch more television than happy people.”  Which figures, all the Happy People are over here on the Internet reading Creative Endeavors.

Bad Cop … No Donut.

A Beaumont, Texas police officer has been suspended from the force for crossing the line during an undercover prostitution sting (that is, he actually had sex) and defended himself in an August hearing.  He sated, “It was a job, sir.  I did not have any pleasure in doing it.  It was something that I was doing for the City.”

Yeah, like that dog is gonna hunt, I wouldn’t look for any back pay on this one Sparky.

One more and then “I am outta here!” (there you go Bill)  Police in Covington, Kentucky arrested a 19 year old kid during a suspected drug deal at a local market.  Although several people were booked that night, he was the one wearing the T-Shirt that read, “It’s Not Illegal Unless You Get Caught.”

Have A Good Weekend, see you all on Monday.  Don’t miss Monday for sure, “Ladies Underwear” a real under 500 word eye popper …

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