Greed Incorprated

Bank Fees Gone Wild

Seems that bank fees are going up. Prompted by a new federal regulation starting October 1st  limiting the cut banks can take from merchants at the point of sale. To offset this many of the country’s largest banks will be sticking it to the average Joe more and more.

The Greedy Gets Greedier

Bank of America will increase it’s monthly checking rate around 25 percent to $12. And they will impose a five dollar monthly fee for using debit cards to make purchases. Starting next year they will roll out a new program that has monthly charges mandated even if they maintain a minimum balance amount or by using direct deposits. A work colleague of who used BoA tells me that they impose a monthly saving charge on him. A savings fee? They are charging customers for the privilege of using their money as investment capital. You want to talk to a real live teller? That’s going to run you 9 dollars more a month.

Chase Bank will start charging their new customers 100 percent more in monthly checking account fees. They are also testing a five dollar ATM fee for non customers. Citigroup announced earlier this month that it would  charge customers a $10 monthly fee if their account drops below $1500.

What to Do?

You can do what I’ve always done. Move your money to smaller community based banks and credit unions.  These banks (and credit unions) draw the majority of their proceeds from the individual customer. Credit unions especially are member owned and members decide what fees are fair. Not some faceless board of directors a thousand miles away. All through the financial crisis of 2008 my credit union remained fiscally sound. They are investing local member money and cannot take risky chances. In fact a few years ago, I noticed  my 5 dollar monthly checking fee wasn’t being withdrawn anymore. When I inquired about it, yeah I know a real person free of charge, they told me once I turned 50 the account was free. I begged them to charge me the fee but they were having none of it. They called me sir, offered me a lollipop and sent me on my way.

Several years ago during one of my PCS moves I ran out of checks due to several check issuing Snafu’s. My bank was a thousand miles away. I was getting paid through direct deposit but couldn’t access any of it. I vowed then I was always going to be able to walk up to a teller and lay hands on my funds right there. During the savings and loan fiasco of the early 80s, I being a brand new military member with less than a year of employment, could not secure a car loan anywhere. It was a local credit union in my hometown that came through. The VP of the credit union talked to me face to face. Being a retired GI he understood the relative low pay. He also understood that room and board wasn’t a issue either. ( Barracks and chow hall). That’s something a big national corporate bank would never have done.

The Dollar Vote

It’s All About the Benjamins

Amid the fervor around the debt and economy, Democratic donors are expressing their displeasure with their pocketbooks, or lack of it. The national committees are the central contribution-gathering bodies for the parties, and the funds are used to win close-fought seats in the House and Senate as well as purchase advertising and pay staffers.

* The DNC took in $12 millions in June, 8 million in July, but only 5.4 million in August. With $9 million in August expenses. Leaving $3 million left in the bank.

* The RNC took in $8 Million in August. $6.5 million in expenditures. Leaving $8 million.

* The GOP is seeking to rebuild its reputation as an effective fiscal steward under the leadership of Reince Priebus. Under previous chairman Michael Steele longtime supporters abandoned the committee for inefficient spending and a series of scandals.

* In the upcoming months the Republican party will spend most of it’s capital with candidates fighting each other for the presidential nomination. While the Democrats can use the time and money to rally around an incumbent president.

~ Disclaimer- Your humble pundent is a card carrying member of the Republican National Committee. . Yes  I have a card.

Netfraks

No Sir I Don’t Like It

Monday I received an Email from Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix. He announced that Netflix was going to split into two separate companies. Netflix being the streaming company and “Qwikster” being the DVD company. While he says the price will be the same, there will be two separate bills. And this includes two separate websites. Good god man, leave it alone. What about the needs of the customer? That’s what is missing here. Two separate lists? Many, many films that are not available to stream have to be on your DVD list. I don’t want to have two separate lists on distinct sites to update and cross-reference. Streaming and DVD service may be two different services for Netflix but for the customer, they are largely one in the same — access to films. If I can stream it, great, but if not, send me the DVD. Until all the films are available to stream , this doesn’t make sense. The new pricing structure was dumb, this is dumber. At last count on the Netflix blog there are about 25,000 negative posts. Maybe Netflix will see how they pissed off/on their customers and do a 180. I don’t need a DVD company or a streaming company. I need a movie company. With so much of the internet and companies touting integration this move seems like Netflix is taking a giant step backwards. This is like if Amazon removed the 1-click buying button.

FromReedHastings

Explanation

 

Cloudy With a Chance of Rain

cloudyI read what has to be the dumbest thing today. Apparently last year the White House released a policy called Cloud First. Requiring government agencies to move their services to the cloud. Concerns arise security is taking a back seat.

Clouds?

“Cloud” is another term for the Internet. Cloud computing means having every piece of data you need for every aspect of your life at your fingertips and ready for use. Cloud computing gives IT departments a way to increase capacity or add capabilities on the fly without investing in new infrastructure, training new personnel, or licensing new software. Cloud computing encompasses any subscription-based or pay-per-use service that, in real time over the Internet. The Obama administration set a target to spend roughly $20 billion, more than a quarter of the total estimated federal information technology budget, to move systems across the government into the cloud.

I’ll Take Some of That

Realize that somewhere someone actually has servers that store information. It’s just that the government wants to farm this out to third party sources. I can’t think of anything riskier than letting Google, Microsoft, Dell or HP store sensitive government information. But that’s exactly some of the companies that are lining up to get a chunk of the money pie. In fact Google has already sued the Government Services Administration because they claim the bidding process favors Microsoft. Salesforce.com, a California company, boasts it now sells cloud-computing services to half of all Cabinet-level agencies. Amazon, that’s right the same people that you buy MP3s and Android apps, has a D.C. services division for it’s Web Services. And last year the GSA migrated its email to Google. That’s right, Gmail is storing all the government buying processes.

Now Hold On There

Some agencies, like Defense, State and National Institutes of Health, are showing hesitation. They worry about ever growing cyber attacks. It seems ridiculous to move sensitive military data to servers not under their direct control. What’s the accountability when sensitive systems get hacked? Loss of contract? Gee that’s harsh, we’ll let you rebid next fiscal year. And did the Social Security Administration ask you for your permission to store your personal data off site? I think this needs to be rethought a bit. I can see the cloud companies sell or lease equipment and infrastructure, but accountability needs to remain with the agencies at hand.

What the Heck is a Cloud?

High Stakes

Worries

Rough Week

It’s TGIF for President Obama. This has been a particularly nasty week for him. It’s been nothing but bad news served with a topping of more bad news. Some of the bad tidings are the following.

 

 

Unemployment

Unemployment remained steady at 9.1 percent. Obama keeps diverting attention with an array of distractions but this is the one thing that will derail his second term

Afghanistan

Last Wednesday the Taliban launched a 20 hour attack against American and British special forces at the US Embassy and International Security Assistance Force headquarters in Kabul. U.S. officials are looking for direct evidence between the insurgents and Pakistan’s intelligent agency.

Solyndra

Now emails have surfaced that show the Bush administration rejected a government loan to Solyndra. Bush officials stated that the loan application needed further study before it moved forward with tax payer assistance. In fact the Department of Energy’s committee unanimous rejected the loan. So how did flat out rejection morph into a presidential endorsement? Seems like the white house had it’s thumb on the decision scale.

GOP Victories

Two key Democratic districts were won by Republicans. The first was in New York. Anthony Weiner’s old seat was won by Republican Bob Turner. This is the first time a Republican has held this seat in over a century. Also in a landslide victory, a key U.S. House position was won by  Republican Mark Amodei. This is a clear message to Obama and other democrats on the economy.

Poverty Afluent

The Rate is Up

The U.S. Census Bureau announced on Tuesday that in 2010, median household income declined, the poverty rate increased and the percentage without health insurance coverage was not statistically different from the previous year.

The poverty rate in 2010 was the highest since 1993 For a family of four, the census set the poverty line at a combined annual income of $22,314. For a single person, the level is set at $11,139.

Real median household income in the United States in 2010 was $49,445, a 2.3 percent decline from the 2009 median.

The nation’s official poverty rate in 2010 was 15.1 percent, up from 14.3 percent in 2009 ─ the third consecutive annual increase in the poverty rate. That’s one in every six people. There were 46.2 million people in poverty in 2010, up from 43.6 million in 2009 ─ the fourth consecutive annual increase and the largest number in the 52 years for which poverty estimates have been published.

Census Stats

For What’s It’s Worth

The following are facts about persons defined as “poor” by the Census Bureau, taken from various government reports:

Forty-three percent of all poor households actually own their own homes. The average home owned by persons classified as poor by the Census Bureau is a three-bedroom house with one-and-a-half baths, a garage, and a porch or patio.

Eighty percent of poor households have air conditioning. By contrast, in 1970, only 36 percent of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.

Only 6 percent of poor households are overcrowded. More than two-thirds have more than two rooms per person.

The average poor American has more living space than the average individual living in Paris, London, Vienna, Athens, and other cities throughout Europe.

Nearly three-quarters of poor households own a car; 31 percent own two or more cars.

Ninety-seven percent of poor households have a color television; over half own two or more color televisions.  If there were children, especially boys, in the home, the family had a game system, such as an Xbox or a PlayStation

Seventy-eight percent have a VCR or DVD player; 62 percent have cable or satellite TV reception.

Poor children actually consume more meat than do higher-income children and have average protein intakes 100 percent above recommended levels.

Eighty-nine percent own microwave ovens, more than half have a stereo, and more than a third have an automatic dishwasher.

Shamelessly Stolen From Heritage.org

What Does This Mean?

As I look at this list, I guess I was raised as a child in poverty.Funny I didn’t think we were poor. I thought I was firmly middle class. A lot of my early pictures were of me shirtless and shoeless.

For about half my childhood we only had one vehicle. One TV. I think I was ten before we got a color set, heck everybody had one at that point. Even my sixty something grandpa. I had only three TV channels.

Hell yeah my housing conditions were over crowded. Just ask my brother. We had to share a room. We didn’t have a dishwasher. Oh they were out but that’s what kids are for. We had an air conditioner. A single swamp cooler blowing in a single air duct in the hallway.

Data from the American Housing Survey indicates, “severe physical problems”, the most common are repeated heating breakdowns and multiple upkeep problems. Yup I must be poor. My POS heater / AC unit crapped out twice this year.

Some poor households fare better than the average household described above. Others are worse off. I don’t intend to be mean spirited, I know there are plenty of people that are in dire needs, but most impoverished people are are rather comfortable. Maybe that’s what keeps them there. With no real reason to improve the situation, many languish at the fringe of society. I know we’re in the middle of a real doosey of a recession but I also have known of people that was also in that fringe in boom times also. I personally have worked ten hour days, only to face another three or four hours of class time. That allows me the right to put a degree down on a resume and beat out the guy who found it too inconvenient to commit to anything. I know someone who  was almost 35 before he paid off student loans. Such is the sacrifice made to better one self. Even now as I work in a job that requires much shift work, evenings and nights, that’s the price I pay for the life I want.

What to do?

As I’ve said before. If you have children, get married and stay married. If poor mothers married the fathers of their children, almost three-quarters would immediately be lifted out of poverty. Stay in school. If out, then get back in. Strive for education. College doesn’t mean Harvard only. There are thousand of community colleges or trade schools out there. If you have a job, do everything you can to keep it. Go to church. Hey you can cry freedom of religion, but if you’re poor give it a try first. Don’t commit crimes stay out of jail.That limits your chances. And we have to accept personal responsibility. Forget what the other guy is doing, become responsible for your own acts.

Race to the Bottom

Smiley

As I was watching Hannity on Fox News last night on one of his segments featured Tavis Smiley. Tavis Smiley is a talk show host, author, liberal political commentator. He currently hosts the PBS talk show Tavis Smiley. He was brining to light how he has become disenfranchised with President Obama. He and fellow Poverty Tour speaker Cornell West have been critical of his hands off approach to the poor, mostly inner city and Native American reservation poor. Cornell West teaches African American studies as a Professor at Princeton University, and is a member of the Democratic Socialists of American. The fact of the matter is while Obama’s approval rating dropped 5% among blacks, he still enjoys 85% support. He also dropped 5 points in the Hispanic community, from 59% to 54%. There will always be some support in these camps despite the fact that their lives are steadily getting worst. But he is losing numbers.Obama has kept unemployment in the nine percent bracket, has focused on deficit instead of jobs and panders to the rich and elite. As more and more of his poor supporters witness more $2500 a plate diners they will one by one move away from supporting him.  The problem is that he was seen as one of them. They expected more from him just because he was black. There I said it. A lot of the last liberal voters that turned out last election never had voted before. Having never studied politics they couldn’t understand that he would have never one if he had focused on one particular faction. I read somewhere, and if I could remember where, I would credit them. In order for a minority political to win locally, say, a city councilman, he focused on his constituents. Mostly made up of an ethnic or race group. But as he expanded out to city, state or national seats he had to broaden his constituency to everyone, abandoning the singular original core.

 And Justice from All

More than six in 10 now disapprove of Obama’s work on jobs and the economy. This is everybody. Obama needs to shore up the same base that put him in office in 2008. But he can’t. He has always ran on the “One America” platform. If he placates his base he risks further losses from the rest of the majority. Already more and more independents are starting to look at GOP policies on the economy and job creation. He has an uphill battle. Frankly one I can’t see him winning, considering he basically has one year to do what he couldn’t in two and a half.

Pass That Bill

Jobs Bill

President in his address to a joint congress last night was desperate to get his a job bill passed. The main job he should be worried about is his. He now once again called for an end to bi partisan bickering and called for a truce that could derail his American Jobs bill. I think I heard that two years ago. How’s that been working so far? Would that be the same bi partisan support that was used in Obama care? With his approval rating at an all time low of 38% this was his Hail Mary pass.  Obama’s proposed package includes a payroll tax cut for all workers, a payroll tax cuts for most business, and billions in extra spending on infrastructure improvements. Infrastructure by the way is the new term for stimulus. Nancy, the minority harpy in charge has banned the word stimulus. President Obama said 16 times in his speech, to “Pass this Bill”.  Sounds a mite desperate. He even threatened to take it to the people if congress didn’t propose the bill. I guess that would be the new spirit of cooperation.

Magic Money

It will cost 450 billion dollars. Will that be more China loans? How is he going pay for this? He wants to tax again wealthy Americans. I got news for you. At some point they move themselves and their businesses to another country. He claims that every US working family will see a tax cut of $1,500. Each employer that hires a person that’s been out of work longer than six months would receive a $4000 credit. Obama never could promise how many jobs would be created. He promised to give details, later. He essentially want to give tax cuts to people that don’t pay taxes anyway and increase the taxes on the very persons that are in the position to create new jobs.  Last I heard the national debt was $44,000 for each American. Given that the top five percent pay over half the taxes and only 47 percent of people pay any taxes isn’t it time to spread the burden out evenly? I know there are people at the lower end of the economic scale. But percentage wise they should not pay as much as those that make more. And I especially hate that tax filers that reach a zero taxable income can get a “refund”. That is not a refund, that’s welfare.

I Can’t Get No Satisfaction

I was watching Frank Luntz, a political pollster, after the speech last night. He specializes in analyzing groups reactions during speeches. He had a focus group that was comprised of Democrat and Republican voters.  Both showed less than enthusiastic response to the speech. When queried, almost all voiced disappointment in the way the economy has been handled so far. Most thought Obama’s proposals were more of the same old tired rhetoric. Obama isn’t proposing this now because he magically thought of a revolutionary process to miraculously fix the economy overnight. He is pure and simple on the campaign trail to save his own neck. It’s too late for that. It has been two years in his presidency and no president has ever been reelected with a 9.1 percent unemployment rate.

Foxnews

Washington Post

To Boldly Go

The Beginnings

I guess I could talk about Obama’s boring, pointless speech today like every other blogger is. I feel that much like Robert Mitchum’s death was over shadowed by Princess Di’s death, Current political events is towering about the 45th birthday of Star Trek. On September 8, 1966  NBC aired the first episode. The show’s creator Gene Roddenberry pitched the show as a Wagon Train to the Stars. But more importantly he secretly used the show to address social events of the day. He tackled war, interracial dealing, to the moral questions technology raised. Despite two fan based letter writing campaigns, the show was canceled after it’s third season.

Rebirth

After cancellation, Paramount studio sent the show into reruns in the fall of 1969, and by the late 1970s had been sold in over 150 domestic and 60 international markets. The reruns helped the show to develop a cult following greater than its popularity during its original run. In 1987 the show Star Trek: The Next Generation aired. It was set 100 years in the future and introduced a new cast, a newer Starship Enterprise, and a whole new set of aliens. I at first, being an old fuddy duddy, didn’t like it. But after the first season I came to like it just as good if not better than the original one. This was followed by Start Trek: deep space Nine (pretty good). Star Trek: Voyager (meh). And Star Trek: Enterprise (let it die already). There where also eleven feature films in the original Star Trek franchise.

Reboot

In May 2009 producer J.J. Abrams and Paramount released the reboot titled Star Trek. It introduced the original characters in a universe that implores the viewer to forget all other versions and accpept the show as a new beginning. The film has earned considerable critical and financial success, grossing in inflation-adjusted dollars the most box office sales of any other Star Trek film. It also won the first Academy award for the Star trek franchise, for makeup. Paramount is planning to release a sequel to the reboot on June 29, 2012.

Seek Out New Civilizations

Labor Day

History

Today is labor day. What does that mean other than BBQ and a free day off? It became a federal holiday in 1894, following the deaths of a number of workers at the hands of the U.S. military and U.S. Marshals during the Pullman Strike, President Grover Cleveland reconciled with the labor movement. Legislation making Labor Day a national holiday was rushed through Congress unanimously and signed into law a mere six days after the end of the strike. This was done out of fear or further conflicts.

Modern Time

Labor Day is celebrated by most Americans as the symbolic end of the summer.
In high society, Labor Day is (or was) considered the last day of the year when it is fashionable for women to wear white.
Labor Day marks the beginning of the NFL and NCAA football seasons.
At Indianapolis, the National Hot Rod Association hold their finals to the U.S. Nationals drag race.

Ironic

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in August, United States employers added no net new jobs, and the unemployment rate stayed the same at 9.1 percent. This is because Congress is hindering private sector job creation. This is a time when the government should be incentivising job creation through tax breaks for new investments. Instead it is hindering jobs by increased taxation fears bringing an atmosphere of uncertainty to businesses.