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Friday, March 20, 2009

Friday Perigrinations

 I remain convinced that this idea of retroactive tax retribution is not only bogus but also potentially damaging to US taxpayers. Bogus because both parties are operating in their special interests rather than calmly calculating what potential failures could arise from this retroactive tax. The demorats jumped quickly, I think, to pretend that they are responsive to the populist outrage. The repuklicans seemed to have voluntarily sacrificed some of their own, but their main thrust is a partisan maneuver to NOT let the demorats claim a fix for the bonus problem and to keep Geithner in focus as an embarrassment to the President. This silly tax will prove damaging to the tax payers because the owners of the contracts may well challenge the tax in courts, and if they win, the court expenses will have to be picked up by the government, your grandkids and mine. I think Geithner chose wisely in assuming the negative legal ramifications of denying the contracts outweighed the downside to paying them. Of course it seems greedy, is greedy, to claim those bonuses; however, they were not performance bonuses, the contracts being drafted to retain knowledgeable employees until their assigned “mess” at AIG could be successfully solved. Who better to unwind the credit default mess than the very folks who designed them? Once their assigned unraveling was done, the employees could leave and were due the bonus for their work. (This idea was lost on the house committee chair, Jankorski who was under the impression that the bonuses were performance based. When Mr. Liddy informed the panel he had communicated his plans to pay the retention bonuses to the Federal Reserve well before they were paid, Jankorski, seeking more mouth time, appeared miffed that Liddy had not communicated with treasury or Jankorski’s office. Liddy was going to get the wrath from congressional mouths no matter how he had run his job. If more citizens were able to observe the utter incompetence and complete stupidity of our national leaders, there would be a public outrage for a return of congressional salaries. Maybe those clown conventions called hearings should, by law, take place after 6 PM when most are home from work and in a foul mood.) By focusing on .00001 percent of the problems we face, we lose, as congress wants, focus on the real culprits, congress and the treasury who failed in their responsibility to make sure the investment and banking industries did not create spurious investment vehicles. Our government failed us; they should pay back the millions in bonuses by taking wage reductions or putting the tax on themselves.
 BTW, axing Mr. Liddy would be a horrendous mistake since he is performing the unwinding of AIG for us. He made a tough call and the media, congress, and we second guessed him all the way to a hearing that few watched. We can’t treat in sordid ways folks who step up patriotically to help,or we face the possibility that no one will step up at all.
 I have absolutely no problem with President Obama appearing on Leno. Of course, some think he should have stayed home and worried about the economy. I have no problem with that opinion either. I do have a problem with the republican mouth who said the President should have stayed in DC to stay on top of the problem but who said McCain should not have come to DC during the campaign when the candidate wanted to head “hone” to help work on the TARP. Obviously that republican hasn’t heard of telephones, lap tops, Blackberries, or staff. I would guess Obama was “out of touch” physically for only the time he sat on that couch next to Leno. I wish everyone would just quit picking at minutia and fix the problems we have. Hell, fix something instead of breaking it. Fix it now, congress, and then go away.
 I had several emails from Delawareans yesterday concerning Markell’s cuts in state wages and benefits. One friend noted that Markell proved that he was a business man in that he applied the cuts at 8 and 2 percents across the board, a classic first solution of business to fix financial problems. I do agree that cutting payrolls is a tough call and necessary. I disagree with a flat 8 percent because I think it will hurt the folks at the bottom of the payrolls more than it will the ones who are making the highest salaries. Additionally, a potential danger in cutting teacher pay is that Delaware might see an exodus of teachers to NJ and PA which pay more anyway. The teachers who are vested deeply in the pension plan will of course be stuck with the cuts and may not have a choice but to hang in there, not good for morale in a business bankrupt of morale already. Furthermore, Markell’s parade around the state to seek advice was a charade; he had planned a cut in wages and his forums were an expense and a political pretense. I am a proponent of a DE sales tax, minimal to keep it considerably below competing states’ sales’ taxes. I think a 3 percent sales tax on non-food and medical products would benefit more than an 8 percent cut that may well disproportionately affect DE workers. I am sure there are more good ideas out there for reducing Delaware’s budget.
 I await an announcement that the federal government is slicing its payroll and increasing its benefit-cost to the federal employees. Can’t wait to see congress do the same. I also hang around waiting for the hinges to the gates of Hell to cool off.
 You know who is absolutely wetting his pants in gleeful bliss? Christopher Cox, former SEC chair who got paid while Wall Street and banks stole the country. Can we get him back or tax, retroactively, him for failing to do his job?
 A tip of my hat to former President Bush refusing to criticize the sitting President’s plans. In this he is much classier than Dick Cheney, the former invisible vice president. Can we do a retroactive, invisibility tax.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Congress at its Worster

March 18, 2009
I am beyond glad that I will avoid the temptation to tune into AIG’s, Edward Liddy’s, testimony before Congress today; if all goes well I should be on the golf course while that public flaying plays out. While the excoriation of Liddy seems rational, I have a different take on this than most of the nation which seems to have focused the scope of hate on the bonus issue.
First, the folks receiving the bonuses had contracts to receive them. No one has disclosed the language of the contracts, but I would imagine that they were created to give the employees a firm degree of security that the bonuses would be paid. Thus drafted and signed, the contracts created a liability to AIG, just as much a liability as its electric bills or Blue Cross Blue Shield payments. The nation loaned AIG 160 billion dollars to pay its bills and now everyone is mad that it did. Second, I have not read or heard what the legal fees to AIG would have been if Liddy had reneged on the contracts. Let’s suppose some of the employees used the contracts as security against loans and when the contracts were not paid they suffered financial and emotional damages: the awards and legal fees could really exceed, by far, the amount of the bonuses. As CEO, Liddy faced paying the bonuses to employees or paying possibly twice as much in legal fees; which solution made more sense? It seems to me that in this case Liddy was certainly in the classic lose-lose situation, more than I would want to face for a buck in salary.
Where these employees greedy and should they apologize to the country as some in Congress are requesting? I don’t know but it seems to me that people are considered suckers in our culture if they don’t grab as much as they can at every opportunity. Why are we so angry at a few folks getting a couple of million to a few thousand for working, when we don’t seem to get made when others make 25 million for playing a game well, win or lose? Has anyone demanded that Bonds, Canseco, or McGwire give back their salaries because they were greedy enough to use dope to hit a ball very far and consequently get paid millions? I imagine some have but no national outrage and no boycott of professional arenas took place. Why is one form of greed ok and another not?
Another bit of foolishness is being perpetuated by the most foolish of all commentators, Pat Buchannan, who is incensed that AIG paid money to foreign banks. We are in a global market, Pat, global means around the world, Pat, and if AIG owes money to hedge funds or banks from around the world, those debts are as equally payable to them as they are to American companies. A company cannot regain confidence if it arbitrarily pays its debts based on nationality. Buchannan should simply go away to some bone yard where he can mutter about how good looking Sara Palin is and avoid pontificating about matters of business to those who have at least a clue.
The national outrage should be direct at the people who are hollering the hardest right now: the moving lips on cable news like the foremost idiot, Joe Scarborough and the lying lips of every Congressperson who wants to perform a public crucifixion of AIG’s leadership. The failure of leadership is really in Congress for not constructing guidelines and conditions for the money which was lent to the businesses in trouble. It is most easy to sit now in judgment, and they will do it well in their five minutes of mouth time during the coverage of the hearing. Liddy will become another method for Congress’ deflecting the blame that should rightfully fall into its laps. Congress has failed once again to do its job.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St. Patrick’s Day (Stimulating the alcohol industry for a day)

Amid all the stimulus noise, bailouts, loans, bonuses and all the other dilemmas that occur when a gaggle of gangsters gather to give out gifts to grifters ( ok I quit but at least you can decide which side fits the bankers and politicians in my alliteration), I have still the following puzzlements that are making my noggin itch:
1. Has anyone noticed that there is some stimulus going to clean coal technology (Duke Energy has a plan in the works with some stimulus monies) while at the same time Appalachian coal mines are trashing the streams and rivers in direct violation of the Clean Water Act? Wouldn’t it have been stimulating to put shovels in the ground to clean up that mess and at the same time to put some regulators on site to collect the fines from the coal mines who have been allowed to spoil the areas in which they create profits? Does it make sense, that if we want to use coal, we have to pay for the price of coal which includes the costs of preventing massive damage to aquifers and for the costs of cleaning the exhausts at plants that burn it?
2. What has the nuclear energy business done or not done at the political level that it has been totally ignored in the stimulus plans? Wouldn’t bucks dedicated to safer technology for and the start up of nuclear plants be good for this country in many ways?
3. While I am no fan of Boone Pickens, I am constantly digging at my scalp over why we are not seeing stimulus money going to or a mandate developed for requiring Pickens’ idea of shifting to natural gas powered transportation. According to Pickens (he has a company which converts and supplies natural gas to urban centers for powering buses and taxis), we have an abundance of natural gas, it burns cleaner than gasoline, and it would be an industry that would spur new business. If all this is true, why is none of the Big Three planning autos and trucks that burn this fuel? How come Exxon, Conoco Phillips, or any other mega-oil companies are not developing fuel stations and infrastructures to deliver natural gas to the consumers? How come no states are supporting expansion of natural gas lines to rural developments where it could be used for fuel?
4. How come the Big Three are not retooling to build cars that will get 50 plus miles per gallon? Is that standard so far out of possibility that it could not be a condition of loans to help the automakers out of their present dilemma? Are folks not buying autos because they are waiting for a vehicle that will provide sensible, safe transportation and yield high miles per gallon of gasoline?
5. Why is there nothing in the stimulus plans to promote or require use of plants other than corn and soybeans as bio-fuels? Doesn’t it make sense to find and promote alternative sources other than major food grains? (Actually, they have been found: switch grass, sugar cane bio-mass and hemp are sources.)
6. Why are the Feds or state governments not requiring a shift to electric-powered vehicles where they could be used despite their limitations in miles per charge ratios? For example, how many postal vehicles travel less than 30 miles per day and could be charged in the parking lots of all the post offices across the country? How many state vehicles are provided as perks for school superintendents, prison wardens, superintendents or whatevers that could be switched to electric powered vehicles?
7. Wouldn’t it be fabulous and stimulating to put money in R and D for conversion kits or motors to replace the gas guzzling SUVs to which the American consumer became addicted? Ain’t that possible at all? Just a little?

I claim no originality in these ideas for they have all been discussed for decades; I do claim a degree of disgust that we have not demanded an investment of our tax dollars in directions that would encourage invention and or improvement in technologies that would create jobs. We have no jobs and are doing nothing to develop sustainable ones in the present bailout plans. Maybe none of these ideas would work, but I sure would like to know why? And I surely would like to see any other ideas for improving our economy and for creating jobs at the same time.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Conservatives and chimpanzes

March 16, 2009
WTF? (What tomfoolery)
The photo of the skull here is borrowed from AP and is of “16th-century remains of a woman with a brick stuck between her jaws — evidence, experts say, that she was believed to be a vampire.” While I could not dig up any rationale for exhuming some poor old gal and ramming adobe in her mouth, the photo does inspire the first and second “Brick in the Mouth Award” (BITMA) which I cheerfully present to former V.P. Dick Cheney who “called his former chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby "an innocent man" who deserved a pardon from Bush. Cheney also remarked, “We left Scooter hanging in the wind.” Bush commuted Libby’s sentence for perjury and obstructing justice, saving him from serving prison time.
Cheney’s recent decision to “come to life” to promote more ill-will, divisiveness, and political gout is, in my memory, unprecedented in former V.P.s. No other former vice president has played such a negative role after his term expired. As a matter of fact, Cheney is more available now to the public than he was when he was working for us. What a CREEP.
And since I am absolutely mirthful about finding this photo of woman with brick, I am going to present the BITMA to Ed Donath for the following comment in his “Conservative Blog” on Delmarva.com about President Obama’s frequent talks to the nation:
Well yes, Mr. O, but that's because of how you have it set up. Instead of taking the advice of predecessors -- asking not what the country can do for you, keeping a low profile while carrying a big stick and proving by your actions (not your words) that the buck stops at your desk -- you have chosen you have chosen to be the "object" of just about everything as a result of making those daily speeches.

The conservative Mr. Donath mixes metaphors, avoids historical parallelism in his construction, and makes absolutely no sense, none, nada, and deserves a Brick in the Mouth.

Beyond the silly blogging of Donath and vile mutterings by Cheney, it was a fabulous week in that researchers proved that fat women had fat in their ovaries; who would have guessed? Additionally, anthropologists in Stockholm concluded that a “canny chimpanzee calmly collected a stash of rocks and then hurled them at zoo visitors in fits of rage, confirming that apes can plan ahead just like humans.” So, maybe we all should start saving up rocks to chunk at the politicians and bankers who are making our world so unpalatable and scary. Then we would be right up there on the evolutionary chain with that chimpanzee.
An ostentatious doffing of my cap to AIG for having the absolute balls to stick it in the face of the American taxpayer once again. I see chimps in their future.
Finally, what do you call a lawyer gone bad? A Congressman. Ok, Congressperson, ick.

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