Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

Wanna Know Who Caused Printers So Much Hurt?

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010
by Bill Ruesch

READ ON

The tag line to Talking Through My Hat is Printing, Publishing, and Observations. This particular post falls more in the category of Observations–or does it? We all know that the printing industry is changing, but did the changes have to be so catastrophic? Printing News Magazine recently posted an article on downsizing that contained these words in the first paragraph, The latest financial crisis seems to have affected our industry like no previous recession. Record numbers of printers have closed or consolidated. Staff, salary and work hour reductions have become common themes.” To read more see, Implementing a Right-size Plan. It is a good article.

WILL THE REAL BOGEYMAN PLEASE STAND UP?

Goldman Sachs is in trouble with the S.E.C. It’s all over the news. Whether they are guilty of the charges against them I don’t really know, but I’m concerned that they are being singled out to take one for the team. You see, diversion is a common ploy used by government to pacify the populace. If they can hold up one bad apple and convince us that the problem will be solved by the censure, restriction, or removal of the perceived enemy all will be made right. Our anger will dissipate and we the people will continue blindly following and believing our leaders who are, after all, just sincerely protecting our interests.

DON’T BELIEVE IT!

The anger of the American people that arose from the financial collapse and bailout is justified. If they try to convince us that it was just because Goldman Sachs went renegade–don’t believe it. The problem is much bigger than one company. The problem was created by the congress in collusion with the financial industry.

I was one who was once convinced that the Free Market would make everything right. Doesn’t the idea of a free market make sense? After all, free people make choices based on what they want and how much they are willing to pay. Industries either find ways to provide the goods and services desired by the consumers or they go out of business. That’s free enterprise, and who could possibly be against free enterprise?

WRONG!

For most of my life I’ve been wrapped up in a warm pink bubble secure in the belief that the Constitution guides our government and protects our interests-wrong! Our elected officials have become masters of illusion. They pledge their hearts, minds, and souls to serving the people and upholding the Constitution and then they and their lobbyist buddies huddle in secret places to find, or create loopholes.

I was convinced that FDR was a socialist and that his policies were the real threat to the American way of life, but Roosevelt put restrictions on the banks that kept them from pulling the shenanigans that led to this deepest recession since the Great Depression and nearly toppled the financial systems of the entire world.

WHAT HAPPENED?

Deregulation is what happened. Deregulation was proposed by Ronald Reagan during his administration. Again, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Then came the Savings and Loan collapses. We slowed deregulation for a time, but over the years culminating with Bill Clinton, one-by-one all of the FDR restrictions were removed. Did deregulation make life better for consumers? At first it did–maybe. Then chaos reigned. Without rules the financial industry went wild. They started offering mortgage loans to people who didn’t have to prove they had the ability to repay those loans. Who thought that was a good idea?

Goldman Sacs executives were, and apparently still are, at the top of the gravy chain. By some miracle they finally got caught by the S.E.C. Like the SEC didn’t know what they were up to long before this–right? They along with other bazillion dollar a year execs plotted to sell derivatives and created other financial vehicles to muddy the waters and obscure the big secret that the nest egg had already been sucked dry. In reality there wasn’t a nest egg at all! A good-faith contract knowingly offered to a party that does not have the means to meet the terms of the agreement is not an asset–duh.

GOVERNMENT TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER

The banking interests have been funding lobbying like they never have before. The LA Times had this to say about lobbying expense,”The biggest spender was JPMorgan Chase & Co., whose lobbying budget rose 12% to $6.2 million, enough for the firm to have more than 30 lobbyists working for it. Among other banks, spending on lobbying rose 27% at Wells Fargo & Co. and 16% at Morgan Stanley.

“I have never seen such a scrum of bank lobbyists as I have in the last year — and I’ve worked on quite a few bank issues over the years,” said Ed Mierzwinski, a lobbyist for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a coalition of state consumer organizations. It seems like everybody is out of work except for bank lobbyists.”

SURPRISE, SURPRISE!

In retrospect, is it any wonder that this foolish behavior would lead to collapse? We were told two years before it happened that there was a housing bubble, but even our personal Realtor was convinced that prices were going to continue to escalate. For awhile he seemed to be right. The home we bought for just over 300 thousand, climbed to 500 thousand+ over the next two years. Lucky for us we bought low and with a mortgage payment we could afford, so we haven’t been in danger of foreclosure.  What is our house worth now? Closer to what we paid for it originally. At least we aren’t upside down. Thank goodness for that.

We have survived, so far, the housing bubble. What we are fighting everyday, however, is the aftershocks of the recession. All the banks are raising interest rates so they can recover, at our expense, the losses sustained from their bad decisions. People have had to cut back on purchases they would have normally made. Because of belt tightening by consumers, business saw decreases in sales and governments local, state, and federal saw resulting decreases in taxes so governments have been trying to recoup their losses by raising rates, fees, and taxes where ever they can.

WHEN WE CAN LEAST AFFORD IT

When we can least afford it, the poor taxpayer/consumer is being squeezed for every dime. Does Goldman Sacs deserve to be on the chopping block? I’m pretty sure that they do, but they aren’t the only ones. The system needs a huge overhaul and needs it now starting with reintroducing all of the FDR era banking restrictions.

For more of my thoughts go to: http://wp.me/pqeFo-qV and http://wp.me/pqeFo-v5


 

What Makes Printers Laugh Maniacally?

Friday, April 9th, 2010

Got that Peter Lorre feeling?

I don’t know about everyone in the graphic arts industry, but I think the nightly national news is the funniest show on television. They call in their economic “experts” who solemnly tell us that the recession is over while the anchor sits and nods wisely in agreement. I can’t help but wonder what they do “off camera.” Do they high five each other and joke about how they are pulling the wool over our eyes? Maybe they think we can’t see the truth, but we can, all we have to do is look at our bank statements. The truth is there in the bottom line. The truth shows up in 1% or less passbook interest and 25% credit card interest. Wouldn’t printers love to have those margins?

I know of no printer who believes that the recession is over. Oh sure, we have moments when the market seems to be coming alive and we experience busy times here and there, but overall–overall there is trouble. Printers who haven’t gone out of business are largely hanging on by the skin of their teeth.

So if the recession is really over and the printers aren’t feeling it, maybe every other business is benefiting. Right? Wrong, everywhere I go I hear the same story of cutbacks, slow sales, and low expectations of recovery. Oh sure, the hope is there. We are, after all, Americans and Americans never say die, but aren’t you tired of the beatings we are taking? You go to work day-after-day hoping that the newscaster was right and things are going to pick up and they don’t–what do you do?

I read the other day that four mutual fund managers each got billion dollar bonuses. The recession is over for them, that’s for sure.  AARP magazine said that Corporate Executives are funding their bonuses by reducing health care and other benefits on the rank and file, so I guess the recession isn’t affecting them either. The insurance companies got congress to pass a health care law forcing everyone to buy private insurance. Happy days are here for them too.

So if you get blue and can’t pull yourself out of the fogs of gloom,  just shout with all the enthusiasm you can muster, “The recession is over!” If that doesn’t make you laugh, nothing will.


 

Note: The latest blog entry in Chicken Scratchings is “To e-Book, or Not to e-Book, That is the Question.” Just click on the underlined to take you there.

Will Offing the Middle Class Kill Small Business Too?

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

80% living on 20% leftover’s

Déjà vu?

Déjà vu?

I learned just this year that the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) publishes a report (link) on the Internet about the United States. I was reviewing the section on the economy that was updated on August 13, 2009. In the middle of the report is this statement, “Since 1975, practically all the gains in household income have gone to the top 20% of households.” Furthermore, “The onrush of technology largely explains the gradual development of a ‘two-tier labor market’ in which those at the bottom lack the education, and the professional/technical skills of those at the top and more and more, fail to get comparable pay raises, health insurance coverage, and other benefits.”

No middle class–no small business

For 34 years the American middle class has been steadily shrinking. Where will we be when the middle class is gone? Will we be safer, healthier, or wealthier? When you think about it, small business, the backbone of the American economy is in serious danger. As the split widens between the haves and the have nots, who will buy the products and services of small business? It won’t be the big corporations, that’s for sure. What will this country be like when the splitting stops and 20% of the population control 80% of the wealth, and 80% have to live on what’s left?

Americans slipping slowly down the drain

The CIA report also says, “Long-term problems include inadequate investment in economic infrastructure, rapidly rising medical and pension costs of an aging population, sizable trade a budget deficits, and stagnation of family income in the lower economic groups.”

Printers probably the first to go

Why do I bring this up? My career has been spent in the printing business. Most printing firms in the United States are small businesses. When the middle class is gone, and small business owners disappear, what will happen to printing? The answer is obvious.

How can government help turn the tide?

  • Educational Needs. Provide educational opportunities to all citizens who want it. A college education shouldn’t create a lifetime burden of student loans. Free education would benefit us all.
  • Health Care. Make sure all citizens have access to good health care. We have the most expensive health care in the world and some of the most unhealthy citizens. One reason is because care is delayed until the need is critical.
  • Ban Lobbyists. Cut access of  corporate lobbyists and make sure they have only the same access to lawmakers as any other citizen. Our survival as a nation depends on fairness for all. Special interests cannot be allowed to rule. When special interests rule, the public loses.
  • Regulate Compensation Packages. Create an Executive compensation commission to review and regulate public corporations. Companies who are vital to the national interest and deemed too big to fail have to be subjected to intense scrutiny. Just as the SEC requires annual reports, compensation must be examined and regulated if necessary, to protect our common interest.
  • Recover Pension Funds. Create a collection mechanism to recover money from executives of corporations who raided or otherwise harmed vested pension programs. It is unconscionable that an employee be left penniless after working a lifetime for benefits, while the upper echelon retires comfortably.
  • Banking Transparency. Make sure publicly held corporate executives cannot secrete their fortunes in secret accounts. Transparency in banking is necessary only for those who have the power to wreak havoc on the economy and cause recessions.

I know, some of these suggestions will strike some as being un-American. Maybe you are right, but when any sector has the power to harm the whole, it has to be considered a public threat. The demise of the middle class is a public threat and must be treated as such.

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