Wednesday, August 03, 2011

I'm Still B-a-a-a-ck!

Hello everyone!

Look, another post! Yay me!

If you're one of the very few people who peruse this blog on a semi-regular basis, you may have noticed some changes recently. Aside from the fact that there have actually been new posts recently, I've also changed/updated the links to the right of your screen. But the biggest change is I'm now featuring ads. Yes, I've become a capitalist pig.

Actually, that's not true. I simply prefer eating to starving, so since the book I'm working on is nowhere near being ready for publishing at this time, well, like I said, I prefer eating to starving. But for those of you who really hate those ads, I'd be glad to remove them if you're willing to just send me money instead. And by send money, I mean real money, not some Nigerian bogus email scam, either.

The ad thing is interesting, though. It's one of those things where the more times people click on them, the more chance of me getting paid by them. The thing is, I'm prohibited from encouraging you to do such a thing, which totally makes sense because that would be fraud. So under no circumstances am I encouraging you to click on those ads, okay?

Moving on.

Personal

Part of the reason I'm writing is that I'm leaving tomorrow for Portland, and the Willamette Writer's Conference. I'm not sure what my schedule will be like (most likely, very full) and what sort of internet options I'll have, but it's likely I won't post again until, at the earliest, Monday evening when I get back. I point this out so that anyone who's reading this won't get it in their head I've already given up on blogging again. No way! I'm here to stay, whether you like it or not, because this is fun!

On a side note, to any tweakers who might be reading this and considering stealing our stuff while I'm gone, Cathy will still be here watching the house. And if that's not enough, our cute little guard dog, Tucker (pictured to the left) will be here, and if you get out of line, he'll bark and maybe lick you to death. So stay away!

Tucker came to live with us last December, and it seems like he's been a part of our household forever. Dogs rule!

Anyway, I'm looking forward to the conference. It should be really informative and lots of fun.

Politics

The more I read about the "debt ceiling" deal, the more disappointed I am, though I can't say I'm surprised. If you haven't been following it, this Mother Jones article spells it out way better than I could or would care to do, even if I had all the free time in the world. But it basically boils down to this: our government requires a certain amount of money for all the things it does, and it gets that money through revenue, usually in the form of taxes. The taxes are paid by individuals who make a profit when they work (or if they own "investments" that pay off dividends, or if they sell them for a profit, etc.), as well as by corporations when they make profit from sales. The thing is, about 90% of all the revenue comes from individual taxes from working: either income or payroll, and about only 4% comes from businesses (the remaining 6% is ad valorem, which can be either personal or business). The reason why so little comes from businesses is because there are so many tax loopholes available to corporations.

The point is that the vast majority of money the government takes in to run itself comes from people working. And guess what? The unemployment rate has been the highest it has been since the Great Depression. Why is that? Well, let's take a history trip, shall we?

There was a time, not too long ago, when banks used to just lend people money to buy things, such as houses. The bank would hold the deed on the house until it was paid off, and that's how they made profit. It was a decent deal: the bank made money, and people were able to buy things without having to come up with a bunch of cash up front. But at some point the banks decided that wasn't enough anymore. So they lobbied Congress for deregulation, and soon they were able to keep merging until they were bigger and bigger, and there were fewer and fewer of them. But that still wasn't enough. So they decided they'd rather just sell their mortgages to investment firms, which paid off less, but gave them cash much sooner. This meant that they could lend to more often, and they would make more and more profit. They even wanted to loan to people who really couldn't afford to buy houses, so they created a scam program called a sub-prime mortgage, where at first the payments would be significantly lower, but then after a couple years the payments would go up, and this usually happened after the bank had sold the mortgage to some sucker investor down the line. The banks and mortgage companies became really good at hiding the higher payment amount in a bunch of legalese on the mortgage forms, and they often trained their mortgage officers to focus on the lower payment amount and downplay the later higher amount, sometimes to the point of engaging in fraud.

It used to be that banks didn't want to make loans that people might not be able to pay them off, because they'd lose money. But now that they were passing the mortgages on to someone else, it wasn't their problem, right?

But that became a problem as well because people generally aren't big on investing in risky mortgages. So some dipshits on Wall Street created a scam program that used a lot of fancy numbers and was really complicated, and it basically allowed them to take a bunch of those risky investments and slice them and dice them and bundle them with a few token good ones, and then give the whole thing a safe rating. Then they were able to sell the risky mortgages to people and to organizations as a "can't miss investment." Guess what pensions for cops, firefighters, and teachers all over the country ended up tied up in?

When the bottom inevitably fell out, as it did in 2007, the market crashed, and the banks supposedly had no more money to lend businesses. This meant rampant unemployment.

But don't worry! Congress gave those same scam artists hundreds of billions of our tax dollars after they extorted asked for it, and now Wall Street and the banks are doing just fine! Granted, unemployment is still rampant, and people are getting foreclosed on like crazy, even people who don't owe money on their homes? Not Wall Street or the banks' problem!

Anyway, because of all this tons of people aren't working, and this means less people are paying taxes, which means the government is taking in less money and has to borrow more to keep things running as they are. Congress every so often votes on the "debt ceiling," or how much the government is allowed to borrow.

Well, so recently it was time to vote on another increase. But some of the bipartisan morons geniuses in Washington wanted to make some changes to ensure they wouldn't have to vote on this again. So what did they decide to do?
  1. Raise taxes on millionaires and the Wall Street fraudsters who were responsible for the mess we're in?
  2. Make cuts to the military and/or insist we end the endless, pointless wars we're fighting (what are we up to, now, 5 countries? 6?)?
  3. Do away with subsidies to corporations such as oil companies and go after corporate tax cheats?
  4. Some combination of the above?
  5. Cut funding for graduate school financial aid and form a super-secret committee to chop away at popular programs designed to help poor people?
If you answered 1, 2, 3, or 4, congratulations on being reasonable, but you're wrong. In fact, our government's so-called "spending crisis" was so out of control, Congress decided to remedy this by increasing military spending by $50 billion.

See, it's only a "spending crisis" if it goes toward programs designed to help poor people.

If you've been paying attention recently, you shouldn't be surprised about any of this. But you should be pissed off.

In Closing

As I noted earlier, I likely won't be blogging until sometime next week. See you then!

Rob

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3 Comments:

Anonymous Summer said...

Hey, Rob! Nice to see you back. And don't worry...we still love you, even as a sellout. In fact, the ad that showed up on your blog when I visited was for a major competitor of my new company. Imagine my delight in knowing that when I clicked it (of my own volition and with no encouragement from you, of course), not only did I make YOU some money, I also COST them money! Bwah ha ha ha! This paid advertising thing rocks! Maybe I should get a blog! Anyway, have fun in Portland and we'll see you in a couple of weeks!

9:37 AM, August 04, 2011  
Blogger jessica said...

YAY - glad the blog is back - sorry it took me so damn long to find it.

Great post too - I think you have a really good ability to clearly explain complex (or just plain screwy) issues and of course, I always value your opinion.

Lastly - Tucker is SO CUTE!!!

11:49 AM, August 09, 2011  
Blogger Rob said...

Thanks Summer. Looking forward to it.

Thanks Jess. I'd pass along your words to Tucker, but he already knows he's cute.

11:59 AM, August 09, 2011  

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