Recently in Economic Depression Category

About My Car

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And so the drama continues. Turns out there is a short in my car's engine, such that the computer and the engine do not talk to each other. Imagine that, a parallel of Democrats and Republicans. Sigh. Anyway, at $85 an hour as they sort through the wiring, I am coming close to achieving that Nirvana of perfection; I am going to be poor.

Oh, I have options. There are always option. Not to mention my imagination runs away with my brain from time to time, leaving me rather shaken. But it always comes back in the end.

Thankfully, I do not have to choose between two brands of caviar. I do not think I could handle the stress of deciding between quality and cost.

No. I get the less stressful choices of a car so I can go to work, a roof over my head, or eating. What a relief.

{Cell phone rings}*

Well, that was the shop. Looks like I will just squeak by to payday, which is Friday. But only just barely. There will be no eating out. It is bag lunches for the rest of the week, sans caviar.

But again, thankfully, I do not have to choose between two brands of caviar. That would be hell.

*Honestly, I received the call just as I finished typing the sentence just above.

Things That Make Me Think*

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I spoke to an honest Republican the other day. He knows I'm a Democrat. He drives a gravel truck. He leaned in and told me in a sort of conspiratorial, just-between-you-and-me manner that he would have been out of work the last two years without stimulus-funded road projects in this county and the three surrounding counties.

Go figure. You just look at these people in absolute wonder. What can they be thinking?

Now, in regards to whether my industry actually benefited from the stimulus, not a chance. There were times during the Clinton prosperity where my field went through serious droughts of low census, followed by periods of over-abundance; where we had waiting lists. Of course, during those years, Arne Carlson was Governor - and he hated the whole concept of addiction and treatment. While there was a state surplus, he was putting a freeze on state funding of people going through treatment. Yes, Arne was a Republican.

Anyway.......

The above, from Balloon Juice, actually got me thinking about the type of people I see during different times of economic stability. I have no fact or figures to support my anecdotal evidence, but I have noticed that during economic downturns I see much more people who are diagnosed as substance abusers, while during economic prosperity, there seems to be more people who are diagnosed as substance dependent. I get the possibility of people abusing drugs and alcohol during economic stress. It just seems intuitively correct. However, I am not so sure why the prevalence of addiction during economic stability.

In any case, I just throw that out there for others to ponder.


*Which really, really hurts.


Just One Big Money Pit

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Well, there goes more of our tax money.

(CNBC) When Congress comes back into session next week, it may consider measures intended to bolster the legal status of a controversial bank owned electronic mortgage registration system that contains three out of every five mortgages in the country.

The system is known as MERS, the acronym for a private company called Mortgage Electronic Registry Systems. Set up by banks in the 1997, MERS is a system for tracking ownership of home loans as they move from mortgage originator through the financial pipeline to the trusts set up when mortgage securities are sold.

The system has come under scrutiny by critics who charge MERS with facilitating slipshod practices. Recently, lawyers have filed lawsuits claiming that banks owe states billions of dollars for mortgage recording fees they avoided by using MERS.
...

Perhaps even more devastatingly, some critics say that sloppiness at MERS--which has just 40 full-time employees--may have botched chain of title for many mortgages. They say that MERS lacks standing to bring foreclosure actions, and the botched chain of title may cast doubts on whether anyone has clear enough ownership of some mortgages to foreclose on a defaulting borrower. The problems with MERS system led JPMorgan Chase [JPM  39.76    -0.26  (-0.65%)   ] CEO Jamie Dimon to stop using MERS for foreclosures in 2008.

Now it appears that Congress may attempt to prevent any MERS meltdown from occurring. MERS is owned by all the biggest banks, and they certainly do not want it to be sunk by huge fines. Investors in mortgage-backed securities also do not want to see the value of their bonds sink because of doubts about the ownership of the underlying mortgages.


Jack Ass Of The Day

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So, Michael Steele has come out and blatantly called Obama's economic policy a failure. Never mind that it is the Republican party's purposeful obstruction that has prevented a more meaningful and powerful financial stimulus package from being crafted. Never mind, as the preceding graph shows, it was 6 years of George W. Bush's economic policies that created the mess we are in, and that under Barack Obama we are slowly, very slowly, crawling out from that mess.

privatejobs_sep10.jpg

Congratulations Mr. Steele, you have earned the coveted "Jackass of the Day Award."

Thank you to Steven Benen of The Washington Monthly for the wonderful graph.

Alan Simpson Should Be Fired

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But not for being a sexist.

Alan Simpson's comment is not in the least bit sexist. But it is derogatory, insulting the majority of American's that have worked hard to support a family.

My father, who is probably one of the hardest working persons I have ever had the privilege know, worked a full-time job at an oil refinery (now Flint Hills Resources, but then simply known as Koch Refinery) while also working an 80 acre farm, mostly by himself. If you have ever known anyone that worked an oil refinery, they often are working 12 to 16 hour days during turn-a-rounds, which could last for weeks. He did this for 4 or 5 years back in the 1970s. All the money he earned was taxed, some of which was paid into Social Security. Meanwhile, my mother, who was taking care of me and my three siblings while dad was either in the fields or at the refinery, was also working part-time as a waitress. Some of her earnings likewise was paid into Social Security. At the end of the 70s, and through the 80s, my parents then ran a restaurant, which in and of itself is almost four full-time jobs. They once again paid into Social Security.

Today, they are enjoying the twilight of their years on the measly benefits that they more than earned. Over the last 30 years, working as a waitress nearly broke my mother's back. My father has had several heart attacks because of the physical demands his work put on his body. And what does Alan Simpson do? He implies they are ne'er-do-wells living off the government's teats.

While many on the right seem content to call Social Security recipients lazy, unproductive members of society, I have the belief that most of them are hard working fathers and mothers who struggled to put food on the table for their family and, having reached the twilight of their years, are simply reaping the benefit of having worked hard and paid Social Security taxes.

You see, not only did I witness my parents work hard, I also witnessed the parents of my friends, the neighbors in my town, and my co-workers struggle to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads, all the while paying Social Security taxes. So, it is unconscionable for Alan Simpson to claim that over 300 million American's are lazy, unproductive members of society. For that he deserves to be fired.
(Kevin Drum) Should we ban businesses from pulling your credit score as part of their hiring process?

If there is a company that wants to know my credit score as part of their hiring decision, then I do not want to work for them. It is obvious that the company is ethically challenged to start with.

Also, it suggests a rather arrogant view of themselves that they would not want to hire people who have been, you know, unemployed due to the decrepit economy for which we can thank 3 decades of conservative rule.

And, in the end, if they need to look at your credit score, then just how pathetic are they at judging people at face value? Also, asking for a credit score means they do not have the ability to appraise the situation as it occurs.

Of course, it could mean that they only want heartless bastards who lack compassion.

'Made in USA': Simple But costly

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StarTribune.com

How much is a noble idea worth? A new state law prohibits cities, counties, the state and other "public employers" from buying uniforms or safety equipment made outside the United States. The idea, said the man behind the measure, Rep. Tom Rukavina, is to send a message about protecting American jobs and revenue. An admirable goal, say city officials and the League of Minnesota Cities, but the problem is that cash-strapped local governments have never been in a worse position to devote scarce resources to a philosophical ideal, even if they agree with it.
A law that should have been passed back when NAFTA was first implemented.

Keeping My Fingers Crossed

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If this really happens, I suspect we will see a restoration of sanity on Wall Street, with an improving economic situation for Main Street. Not immediately, obviously. This is a long-term move that would keep our economy from experiencing the consequences that results from the rash impulsiveness of the investor class.



Dec. 28 (Bloomberg) -- A one-page proposal gaining traction in Congress could turn back the clock on Wall Street 10 years, forcing the breakup of banks, including Citigroup Inc.

Lawmakers in both parties, seeking to prevent future financial crises while soothing public anger over bailouts and bonuses, are turning to an approach that's both simple and transformative: re-imposing sections of the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act that separated commercial and investment banking.

Those walls came down with passage of the Gramm-Leach- Bliley Act of 1999. A proposal to reconstruct them, made by U.S. Senators John McCain and Maria Cantwell on Dec. 16, would prevent deposit-taking banks from underwriting securities, engaging in proprietary trading, selling insurance or owning retail brokerages. The bill could also force the unwinding of deals consummated during the financial crisis, including Bank of America Corp.'s acquisition of Merrill Lynch & Co.

Hat Tip: Susie Madrak via C&L

A Visualization Of How Bad

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Air America supplied this stunning graph of just how bad unemployment got over a two year period. Note, this increase in unemployment started in Bush's term.


(Star-Tribune) Last month, officials attributed the dropping rate partly to a large number of people who gave up looking for work. The state labor force has seen a net reduction recently.
I do not think that people have given up looking for work. I believe that there is just no work to look for. Anyone pull out the employment ads in the papers lately? If they fill half a page, I will eat my hat. Okay, actually, no. I will not eat my hat.

Still, I like the way this article subtly makes it appear as if it is the fault of the ne'er-do-well peasants for giving up; because -- as we all know -- the hapless, powerless, captains of industry and business are completely innocent of any fault in causing the collapse of our economy.

I suspect a more factual statement would be along the lines of people having exhausted their unemployment benefits because of the difficulty in finding work.

Since The Great Depression

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(NYT) With the release of the jobs report on Friday, the broadest measure of unemployment and underemployment tracked by the Labor Department has reached its highest level in decades. If statistics went back so far, the measure would almost certainly be at its highest level since the Great Depression.
And they start out by calling what we are experiencing the Great Recession. Since it was over a year ago that we really were in this recession, and things have not improved, more than likely we are already in a depression. Just because we are not seeing conditions as bleak as experienced during the Great Depression does not mean we are not in one now. It is just not "great." Anyway:

In all, more than one out of every six workers -- 17.5 percent -- were unemployed or underemployed in October. The previous recorded high was 17.1 percent, in December 1982.

This includes the officially unemployed, who have looked for work in the last four weeks. It also includes discouraged workers, who have looked in the past year, as well as millions of part-time workers who want to be working full time.

By the way, I am of the underemployed, while The GirlFriend™ is of the discouraged block.

Oh, and with the passing of the unemployment insurance extension, will those who resume receiving benefits move back into the official unemployed statistic? Or will they remain in the "discouraged" data set?

And, in a totally unrelated note: it is The GirlFriend™'s birthday.

Happy Birthday Love!

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