Its the economic cycle stupid!

facebook losses

image source: www.clusterflock.org

Everywhere you look there is somebody that’s STUPID. From a rather young age we begin to recognize stupidity. I know my children did, as there were times I needed to shush them in public using the “s” word too loud. They needed to learn sensitivity, right?

What is stupid? Most certainly it is subjective and the words that I continue with are subjective. Back to stupid! We lived through the 2005 banking collapse and the Great Recession that followed (some more successfully than others). What have we learned? This question is what defines stupid for this post. The stock market is racing to new highs seemingly each day. With this friends, co-workers and family expressing glee are thrilled to announce their new-found wealth. Is this financial cycle different from any previous financial cycles? I guess not, making the excitement of new riches part of it I imagine. So why is it stupid? Why am I pointing the finger of stupid at others, heck too some degree myself! Because, nothing has fundamentally changed. 

Attitudes, economics, politics and theory has not been altered. Not moved by the collapse of banks, credit, personal wealth, the housing market. We have had protests and some push back (Occupy, Fight for 15). A few states have increased their minimum-wages, but is that it? The Right-Wing has won far more, reducing the size of government, not spending  just payroll! This has only weakened the LABOR MOVEMENT and the size of organized labor, with the promise of lower taxes? Is your tax bill smaller? Not in New Jersey where the “shrinking” of government took place. Good 99%’s voted in the Republican Christie and bought in to the lies of smaller government! Not once but twice. So that is where the example of stupid is quantified. ( I DID NOT VOTE FOR HIM ON EITHER OCCASION).

Disgust, is that what I am feeling? Is that what you are feeling? Or should we be standing with the vast majority? The people who have embraced the “recovery”. Fully accepted their stock market gains, planning their futures, their retirements as if that money will never go away. We will never experience another downturn, banking collapse or money crisis. Our government has……………………………..done nothing.

Economic reality and unemployment

unemployment

image source: marketmixup.com

The most recent unemployment number, 6.7% nationally, unchanged from the previous month. Among Millennials the number stands above 15%. One of the “news” pieces on Fox this morning was on how those in the 15% who favored President Obama have been failed by him (The Young Vote). Has the President failed the youth of America? Or, has and IS America failing the youth and for that matter everyone?

The Great Recession, does Fox and everyone else remember this devastating economic event? I certainly do and the lasting effects of the GR is seen in these numbers and will continue to affect our economy until economic, monetary and tax policies are reversed. Yes, President Obama has failed the youth and America as Bush II, Clinton and Bush I, all the way back to Reagan. Business in America, the favored group with the all to well-known “trickle down economics. Which despite the rhetoric from President Obama has continued for three decades with little on the horizon to hope for change soon. The tax system, with its low rates on the rich and business (with its tax breaks) would be a great starting point. Changing these breaks to encourage business to build factories and manufacture here and encourage EMPLOYMENT.

Everyone cannot be a professional! College and the youth who have been left behind. College that many of us have encouraged for our children, are there enough jobs for these youth? By the plus 15% unemployment number, one would have to say that answer would be no. With more college graduates each year, one can expect a higher number in the future. But where will they get a job if they don’t go to college? We make less in this country each year, so moving to the “labor” of the labor market a failed choice as well.

Raising the minimum wage, a great idea? Not if it is done on its own. Let me be clear, I favor a minimum wage increase ($15.00). It will immediately impact the lower paid workers and will benefit our consumer economy. Done alone, it will not have a lasting impact. Washington MUST promote investment in America, its manufacturing capabilities along with its infrastructure to move those products.

America’s decline, high unemployment and under-employment. How does President Obama, Washington fix? Politicians must acknowledge first that the 30 plus years of “trickle down economics” has created our current woes. Fixing it, not just one move will change our direction. The economic divide is the largest it has ever been and if allowed to continue we are well on our way to the next depression.

Wages on the rise for women, is this the real story?

facebook losses

image source: www.clusterflock.org

A recent study suggests that wages are on the rise for women in the United States. Women now earn .93 cents to each dollar a man earns. Some may call this an improvement and it is despite the continued disparity. The real question, “is wages really improving for women or are overall wages decreasing?

The consumer economy and the continued high unemployment just might be the factors that affected these results. Taking these numbers in hand and declaring it a victory will lead to future disappointment for women and the rest of the workers in America. How can we achieve wage parity? UNIONIZE of course!

additional reading: http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2013/12/11/on-pay-gap-millennial-women-near-parity-for-now/

 

Walmart costs the American taxpayer, $2.8 billion a year

Wal-Mart_1The cost of doing business with Walmart,  $2,888,100,000 to taxpayers. In May 2013 the Huffington Post put out an article that spoke of the cost to taxpayers at one Walmart Super Center in Wisconsin. According to the article this one location cost the taxpayers $900,000 in Medicaid and Food Stamps and other government aid programs. The information was from a study by Congressional Democrats. How do we get to nearly $3 billion?

Wikipedia.org> As of March 2012 there were 3209 Walmart Super Centers in the United States. Now the simple math problem: 900,000 x 3209= 2,888,100,000

Now shove a $ sign in front of this number it takes on some significant meaning. We often here how our government cannot continue to go on its current path of spending. So how is it that the continued funding of Walmart employees and families can be allowed? Not that Congressional Republicans desire to fund these programs as we have seen recent reductions to food stamps take place. The answer could be found in the discussion of raising the federal minimum wage, but would it be enough? President Obama prefers raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. Republicans do not support any increase.

So if you are a shopper at Walmart and believe you are saving money. You may be at the point of sale but in the end it is coming out of your pocket via your tax bill.

 

New Jersey’s minimum wage increase, an opportunity to collect data

image source: ehow.com

image source: ehow.com

Now that the voters have spoken, raising the minimum wage by one dollar to $8.25 per hour, should the discussion be over? We have the unique opportunity after January 1 to begin gathering data on the impact of the increase. Prior to election day we heard the opponents of raising the minimum wage say, “it’s a job killer, small business will suffer, etc.” The proponents pointed to states with higher minimum wages and lower unemployment. Vermont for example has a higher minimum wage that will increase again January 1 to $8.73 per hour. Very notable, tipped employees minimum wage is $4.23 per hour  (New Jersey $2.13). Unemployment in Vermont as of Aug 2013 stood at 4.6% and has been lower than 6% since January 2011. During this same period New Jersey’s unemployment has been 9% or higher. The opponents of raising the minimum wage were using fear that unemployment would get worse with an increase. “Now is not the time” . The fear tactic obviously was ignored.

Gathering data for possible future fights to increase the minimum wage in other states and the federal standard will begin. This task is an important one and the data will provide others with the tools needed to push the wage up further. New Jersey’s economy is currently not good, making this even more interesting. If unemployment goes down and the economy improves, Governor Christie will be patting himself on the back, not pointing to this modest increase.

As for the tipped-employee and $2.13 an hour? The last attempt by the NJ Legislature to raise to $2.90 was unsuccessful. Fear again the winner. “It will crush Mom and Pops and local small restaurants”  Can we look toward Vermont’s tipped minimum of $4.23 and make the same argument that increasing the wage does not correlate to higher unemployment? We can get some real facts in the coming months and maybe again Legislators will take another shot at an increase.

The decline of union membership, the decline of U.S. pensions

Congress

image source: www.teambuildinginc.com

Coming to the political theater of Washington in the coming month’s, another bout of entitlement reform. Yet again your future Social Security will be on the line with the Republican’s leading the way. If successful in cutting future benefits where do you stand in your future retirement?

We’re #10! Can you imagine anyone at the Olympics chanting this at the opening ceremonies? On the world retirement stage the United States is #10. The Melbourne Mercer Global Index ranking of retirement income gave the U.S. a 58.1 ranking in 2011. In their report they stated that “governments being able to financially support their aging population is becoming more of a reality, and some significant reform must be made now.” In pointing out the deficiencies in the U.S. Arthur Noonan pointed directly at “the decline of employees being covered by Defined Benefit Plans as a major factor. Along with American’s contributing far too little to their 401-k’s and having the ability to withdraw funds http://www.mercer.com

The decline of defined benefit plans and union membership cannot be ignored. The right-wing attacks unions for their “rich pension benefits” and they are rich considering having little to ZERO retirement savings. “Thou protest too much”, this phrase applied to the GOP anti-union message should be raising interest. Pitting workers who have few or no benefits against the few, to eliminate forever defined benefit pensions. In a resurgence of union membership would our country remain ranked #10?

We are not #1 and who is ranked higher?

  1. Netherlands
  2. Australia
  3. Switzerland
  4. Sweden
  5. Canada
  6. United Kingdom
  7. Chile
  8. Poland
  9. Brazil

What will improve the U.S. pension and your future retirement? Some suggestions that were made in the Mercer report and ones we have heard from our government, “increasing the pension age to reflect our life expectancy.” Is working longer what you want to do?

The reliance of 401-k’s and the stock market, a scary prospect if you hope to retire and live modestly. Washington will be taking another swipe at the American worker in the coming month’s. The only way to change our course is to stand together as a people and demand a system that promotes security in our older years. Sounds like a union movement to me.

Happy Birthday America, time to reflect on past to improve our future

we the people

image source: http://www.shelbyvilletnpolice.org/fireworks.htm

Happy Birthday America!  Celebrating birthdays, who doesn’t enjoy a party? Or an extra day-off from the grind? As we prepare for the days festivities, parades, barbeques or a lazy day on the beach, events such as birthdays deserve some reflection. To take a look back will help us look forward and focus on what we need to work at for a better future. The issues that face America today are they much different then they have been in the past? Taking a glance back to when the nation was a mere 200 years old and having the big birthday party, the bicentennial.

Measuring wealth, today we hear plenty about the income divide in the nation. Fewer people holding the majority of wealth or the 1% versus the 99%. Not much cause for celebration, that is if you believe everything you hear. Not that I am saying that this is not a BIG problem facing America because it is and much needs to be done. To improve on America as a whole, the single most important area to begin, poverty. Looking at the numbers on our 200th birthday and looking at them in our recent 2010 census, nothing has changed and it has gotten worse. In 1976, people living below the poverty line was 11.8% of the population. Breaking down the number by race, 31.1% of the nations black population lived below the poverty line. Hispanics accounted for 24.7% and whites 9.1%. In 2010’s census the numbers are not better they are much worse considering the population growth over the last 37 years.

In 2010 the overall percentage of people living below the poverty line is 15.1% with blacks seeing no change in percentage at 31.0. Hispanics seeing a slight increase at 26.6% and whites at 31%, a 22% increase. The Census reported that 46.2 million people in America live in poverty. Poverty as define by the government, $11,490.00 for a single person, a family of four at $23,550. Even to pull these people above the poverty line it is not exactly living large is it? It is though the standard of measurement and it certainly could be viewed a success if we could turn the tables the other way.

Birthday’s are a celebration and also a time for reflection. Reflecting on the past year in the hopes of improving the next. America’s 238 year needs to be the year where all of us work to improve the lives of the 46.2 million who live in poverty. A large task yes, but how can we ignore that since our 200th birthday the nation has left far too many behind.

Sources: http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/13poverty.cfm

http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0104525.html

Understanding the “why” behind anti-Walmart

pic: defenderofthemiddleclass

The buy American campaigns you would believe are self-explanatory. Purchase American products, you are supporting American workers. Much has been written about Walmart’s effect on American jobs, from short pieces to books and even documentaries. Unions have lobbied their members and families to shop elsewhere and despite all of the efforts, Walmart is America’s largest retailer/employer. Is it too late to reverse this course and take back our economy and grow good jobs again? Understanding the “why” is important to building a lasting non-Walmart mentality.

One of the better books on this is The Walmart effect written by Charles Fishman. I read this book quite some time ago, sharing it with others when I was done. The book had many examples of Walmarts cut throat business practices to get the lowest price possible from suppliers. Walmart would basically enter into a business relationship with the supplier of a product and over time become the suppliers largest customer. When the supplier’s existence relied on Walmart as a customer, that was when Walmart would demand a LOWER price from them. To stay in existence the supplier would be forced to lower costs. That supplier’s options would be investment in leaner manufacturing or cutting their expenses. What is the biggest expense of most businesses? LABOR: wages, benefits and its size.

The two most notable examples from The Walmart effect, the Levi Strauss company and Vlasic pickles. Starting with Vlasic, they became a standalone company after Campbell Soup spun them off to focus on their core business. Vlasic, an American company purchased their ingredients from farms in the United States and manufactured here. Walmart being their largest customer, demanded a low price on pickles for the gallon jar size Vlasic supplied them. The price was less-than $3.00 a gallon, leaving Vlasic with minimal profit. Vlasic’s options were none if they wanted their product in Walmart as the price was a demand not a request. The effect of the pricing would spread to the rest of Vlasic’s customers as well. The >$3.00 a gallon for pickles at Walmart driving down prices at the rest of the retailers who carried Vlasic. Other retailers will not carry for $5.00 a gallon when their competitor Walmart sells for under $3.00 and a customer wouldn’t pay $5.00 would they? The obvious and factual result, NO they would not. Walmart got their price from Vlasic and with their profit margins at the bare minimum, Vlasic went bankrupt to be bought by Pinnacle Foods who were later bought out. Lost to the American economy were important jobs along with the investments of the people who bought Vlasic stock when it went to ZERO.

Levi Strauss> the iconic jean maker who closed its last United States manufacturing operation located in San Antonio, Texas in 2003. After a decade of contraction in their sales they entered into a business relationship with Walmart in the hopes of reviving their business. Supplying Walmart with their own label of jeans called Signature. Walmart instantly became Levi’s largest customer and all was well for the San Antonio manufacturing facility with their 800 employees. In what was Walmart’s signature move, when it became time to renew the agreement, Walmart demanded a lower price. The price lower than what Levi’s could produce them for at the Texas plant. In order to continue to sell to their biggest supplier WALMART and stay in business, Levi Strauss closed the Texas plant and shifted their production to countries with cheaper labor, 800 jobs lost.

What these two examples show us is that  looking for the AMERICAN MADE label is not enough. Where you purchase your products from is equally if not more important. The DEMAND side of economics is the driver of all the economy. So while we may be looking for the Made in American label for the cheapest price, shopping at Walmart pretty much makes this a pointless endeavor. The examples of Vlasic and Levi Strauss tell us the true story and they are only two of many. Being a good corporate citizen means protecting the consumer directly and indirectly.

The “W” in Walmart needs to stand for whirlpool! Enter into any relationship with Wal-Mart as a business or consumer, you will be drug down to the bottom. Isn’t that where the middle-class is? Or for a harsher reality, are we not headed to a two-class economy? We as consumers need to look at our purchasing habits not just for immediate gratification (savings) but what it will mean in the future. The bigger Walmart becomes the more they will dictate to other businesses. Prices will be driven lower and with it jobs will be lost to whoever can produce them the cheapest. Walmart is if not already become a monopoly, their power to control the American economy is handed to them by the people who walk through their doors. We control our future economic power, all we need to do is shop elsewhere.

buy the book at www.walmarteffectbook.com

Elections in Greece will result in a stock market move

image source: http://www.freakingnews.com

If we could accurately pick the results of todays elections in Greece, you would make plenty of money. The money to be made would be on the stock market. Your wager, or stock market buys would have been placed already or you would have already sold your positions. Much has been said by the “news networks” on the subject with the Fox network arguing to some degree that Greece’s economic condition has no impact on the American economy. It doesn’t less the stock market that is. Each time bad news comes out of Greece, the market drops and the business news networks are quick to point to the turmoil in Greece. Good news on their austerity deal with European lenders, the market goes up. Being a loser in the market, the little guy who panics on the bad news and sells on the way down. So prior to the markets opening on Monday, we will know the results of the elections in Greece without reading the results, when the powers of the stock market/before market trading has the market headng up or down.

The little guy, who has their retirement savings and maybe some of their investments for other needs in the market cannot panic. Panic is real lost money, that is hitting the sell button. What we all should have learned during the Great Recession is that panic kills the little guy and makes the big guy richer, the market does bounce back. If you are a short-term risk taker, your bets (stock buys) are already in, which might explain Fridays up day on the stock market. Come Monday’s market open the big money will have already been made or lost, our loss/gain will be the collateral effect.

When places like Fox report that Greece does not have any real effect on our economy they are right and wrong. Overall, Greece is a limited trading partner and does not, in the stock market they are wrong, which is still economics.

 

EQUAL PAY??? Not in the United States

Congress

image source: www.teambuildinginc.com

The Paycheck Fairness Act fell 7 votes short in the Senate today, blocking it from the Senate floor. The Republican opposition included Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (Kentucky) who believed a provision in the law would be a boon for trial lawyers. The provision would have allowed women to sue employers for punitive damages if they could show they were treated unfairly. The measure was opposed by business groups and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Fifty Democrats and two Independents supported the legislation.

As we can see from the numbers this was a partisan Republican effort and another clear sign from Republicans, that business comes first. The need for this legislation is obvious if you have listened each and every year how women are paid less than their male counterparts.

The battle for the woman vote or the perceived battle should be over after this Republican effort to keep women underpaid and give them no outlet for recourse. Who should women line up behind on election day? Well the old saying is “you vote your wallet.” With the Republican’s running the show, WOMEN WILL BE GUARANTEED TO BE SECOND-CLASS when it comes to providing for their families.

Facebook IPO, getting rich quick doesn’t happen for the little guy

facebook losses

image source: www.clusterflock.org

Get rich quick playing the stock market. If you were to have ever watched Jim Cramer’s Mad Money program and listened, you would have not got caught up in the Facebook hype. If you understand how the market works, selling on news, is often the general rule of thumb. When the news is not good, such as the Morgan Stanley revision of Facebook’s revenue forecasts the end result is a tanking stock. The stock market, is not much more than educated gambling and when the information put out or prospectus is flawed, we have losers big and small (ex: Citi’s $20 million Facebook loss).

The stock market is not built for “We the People”. Before the market trading and after the market trading, influences the price of a particular stock or fund so when “We the People” want to climb on board a buy or sell the boat has already set sail on the profit or loss. Trading opportunities on individual stocks takes plenty of work and research and if you do not have the time, energy or knowledge you will suffer losses more often than gains. Facebook’s IPO is a perfect example of how the stock market is a GAMBLE. By the time the little people got their shot, the stock was already pumped up. Before lunch, the stock reached $42.00, the rally was over and the DUMP WAS ON!  Jim Cramer had warned of this and he was spot on with his assessment. If you still hold the stock and you hope to recover some of your losses, you will be holding it for a long time, unless the little guy gets lucky in a lawsuit against Morgan Stanley and Facebook. Getting rich quick from the stock market, I like the odds better playing black on the roulette wheel. 

Poverty in New Jersey, record numbers that will get worse under Christie

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What is poverty? The federal guidelines measure poverty as $22,050 for a family of four. For the single person, poverty is $10,830. When you read that New Jersey has 885,000 people living below the poverty line (Legal Services of New Jersey Poverty Research Institute), a record number, you have to wonder what is being done? Nothing, if you base it on the increase in numbers. In New Jersey the poverty rate stood at 8.7% in 2008 and in 2010, it was 10.3%.

The recession certainly has played a part in the increase and future numbers will increase when Governor Christie’s body of work impacts the next study. Under Christie, changes to the state-funded welfare system have denied thousands enrollment and reduced applications. A victory for the budget slashing governor who by reducing spending has been able to provide a tax relief for the millionaires of the state. The next move by Christie is on the table, a 10% across the board tax decrease that will do nothing for the 885,000 who are living in poverty, while lining the pockets for  guess who? His millionaire pals, who according to Christie were going to create jobs with the tax decrease.

In what has become a broken record in analyzing Christie’s performance, we are breaking records, POVERTY RECORDS! In what is clearly obvious by the numbers, unemployment, poverty and income tax receipts, Governor Christie has and continues to fail New Jersey’s people. If Christie is successful putting his weight behind the across the board tax decrease, remember it will come at a cost. The cost will be paid for by the working poor and the unemployed who live in poverty or for a better description, the unrepresented.

source: Philadelphia Inquirer 5/20/2012

Jobs that don’t require college, are they hiring?

unemployment

image source: marketmixup.com

The reality of getting a good job without a college education, MANY WILL BE FIGHTING FOR THE FEW. The economic downturn and the Republican Agenda of cutting secondary education monies, has many looking for jobs that simply do not exist. Looking to the web for ideas on a career path for the high school diploma holder, provides idea’s with little reality.

www.askmen.com has a posted article, 9 Jobs that don’t require a degree. The top three on their list, Firefighter, Police Officer and Mechanic. The article does date back to late 2011 but not much if anything has changed in the job market since this post. To dismiss the first two on the list, you can dismiss largely by geography and political affiliation. If your search has you in New Jersey, you have slim chance of getting hired anywhere in the fields of policing or firefighting. The state, led by Republican Chris Christie, has slashed funding to cities and towns resulting in lost employment. New Jersey is not alone in cutting back the public sector as this can also be seen elsewhere in the country and not limited to just the GOP run states.

The third job on the list mechanic, offers the most opportunity. For starters, it is not impacted by the harsh reality of politics. Secondly, with the economy struggling along, many are keeping their automobiles longer, resulting in more repairs. The on the job training through apprenticeship programs makes this field a winner for the highschool graduate.

Job’s, jobs and jobs, we need them and we need them now. Politics play a huge role in who’s hiring and who is not especially in the public sector. Your job future, if you go to college or not will be impacted by the policies of the people we elect. This statement can be quantified by the list of jobs suggested by the post on www.askmen.com . Taking politics out of the equation, they hit a home run with their suggestions. With politics, “who’s on first?”

 

New Jersey’s Homestead Rebate, don’t qualify? THANKS for the form

executive order

image source: www.nowpublic.com

Governor Christie’s war on wasteful spending or at least what he views as waste, education, workers benefits, property tax rebates, etc, has missed the obvious. Late last week I received the unexpected, a Homestead Rebate application. Why was it unexpected? Because I do not qualify for the rebate and haven’t for quite a few years now. Since the limit for the under sixty-five was reduced to $75,000, I have not been mailed an application.  After receiving this years application, I opened it expecting to see something different. I WAS DISAPPOINTED AND I MUST SAY, THANKS CHUBBY!

In the application, it states the income limits, the same as in previous years, with one difference. The difference being a glimpse of delusion. Stating that even if you do not qualify, fill it out anyway in case something changes in the states 2013 budget. You will be rejected, but fill it out anyway. Does this mean that in 2013 Governor Hamburger will finally live up to his campaign promise of reducing property taxes? Or that he will finally give a crap about someone other than his millionaire pals? I think I know the answers to those questions, so all that is left is he will be leaving New Jersey to become Vice President or all those twinkies he is eating will do him in. Now I AM DELUSIONAL!

What I am left with is the one word question, WHY? Why would you waste the money to send me something that you know I do not qualify for? Why would you waste the time of some state worker to process the NO, that was already disclosed in my state tax return? This is called waste Governor Hamburger! It might not add up to much, but it is waste none-the-less. Couldn’t the state use the information they already have, save the money and put it to better use? Maybe on one of those wasteful programs you cut, like EDUCATION.

Love for Governor Christie?

gov.christie

image source:www.leighvalleylive.com

Governor Christie is not looking to be loved. That was the statement from the Hamburger, when he spoke at the biannual dinner of Washington’s Cato Institute on Friday. The statement was in reference to making the tough choices in cutting New Jersey’s budget. The budget cuts in New Jersey have hit the majority the hardest and the minority the least. Hamburgers cuts, have been to veteran programs, education, public workers benefits, police and pretty much everything that is non-millionaire.

Governor Hamburger has found “LOVE”, in the people that he represents, the millionaire. Which was and continues to be the focus of his administration. The tax-cut of 10% which he has proposed and noted at the Cato dinner, is a continuation of his millionaire trickle down economics that has produced ZERO job creation for the state.

“…our democracy and our markets, work better than any other system” What and who are you referring to Governor? The state has 9% unemployment, less tax collections and we are heading to the second major tax-break for millionaires under your reign. At least we can say, that you are not fickle, you have stayed in bed with the same group from the beginning, the minority millionaire. This could be what makes you qualified to be Vice President. Your record on jobs can’t possibly be an asset.

source: abcnews.com