Archive for the ‘Taxpayer’ 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.

Who’s Stepping on the Printer’s Necks?

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

I don’t know about you, but I feel dispirited when I drive down the street and see yet another small business closed. Yes, there are tough brave souls starting new enterprises. Their offices decorated with optimistic grand opening banners, but most often the signs nowadays are final liquidation, lost our lease, or nothing at all, just an empty shell where a business once thrived. I’m not trying to bring you down here. This is a sad topic and I don’t know else to put it.

I’m not saying anything new when I report that the printing and mailing industries have been hard hit. Earnings have fallen 40% to 50% over the last two years. When a printing company calls it quits, you might think that the remaining shops would benefit by having less competition and the possibility of divvying up some one’s customer base. You’d think that, but it hasn’t been the case.

Unless you are in the printing business, you may not understand why it is happening, nor care. But you should care. No business stands alone. Businesses are about people and small business employs the most people. Those people when paid sufficiently buy the products and/or services of other businesses. We are interdependent.

A  business is NOT the sum total of its assets. Just go to a liquidation auction and see how much those assets are really worth–pennies on the dollar.

Why is this happening? Here are three reasons printers fail in a tight economy:

  1. Printers count heavily on cash flow to pay operating expenses. No one I know has big reserves to tide them over. In fact it is nearly impossible to buildup a reserve when profits average 5% or less.
  2. Printers are usually highly leveraged. To stay, or become more competitive a printer must invest in expensive equipment. The multi-color whiz-bang press they bought when times were better carries a multi-million dollar mortgage. Banks don’t care if business is down, they still demand their due.
  3. Printing isn’t like the corner grocery. You can’t hire an employee for minimum wage and teach them the job in an hour. Press operators, for example, take years to train. Payrolls are relatively high because experienced people are necessary to fill critical positions. Just try to turn an inexperienced pressman loose on your whiz-bang press and at the very least you’ll be doing a lot of reprints. At the worst, who knows what costly damage could be done? I witnessed a press catch on fire one day. It didn’t do that by itself.

We are in a precarious position in the USA. Until we come to grips with the understanding that we are all in the same boat. One industry doesn’t fail to benefit another. When one suffers we all suffer.

I read in the latest AARP Bulletin that top executives especially in the financial sector are still getting increasingly lavish bonuses while at the same time cutting back on the retirement packages of other employees. I ask, who will take care of those employees when they are retired? Not the bonus babies, and not their companies. The burden will fall on all of the rest of us. A small percentage of the mucky-mucks will cruise along on their big retirements funded by extravagant bonuses leaving the worker bees to live on what the government can raise in taxes. Where does the tax money come from? The taxpayers, with the middle class carrying most of the burden.

Then New York Times in a January 9, post written by Louise Story and Eric Dash, entitled Banks Prepare for Big Bonuses, and Public Wrath, discloses the planned amounts of bonuses and  reveals that the bonuses were “earned” during 2009 when the taxpayers were bailing them out. When will we connect the dots and realize that their actions are not a victimless crime. And I think crime is the right word. They have taken away funds that could have made the country more prosperous for their own personal use. They have committed robbery by contract. If you think those zillion dollar bonuses don’t hurt you–think again. They do. Can’t we, for heavens sake, put a stop to this?

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