Friday, March 27, 2009

Ripoffs and Civil Unrest

I see on the news today that insurance executives have received hairy threats as a result of the publicity surrounding bonuses to them while people invested in their company have lost money.

It appears that civil disobedience stems from lost expectations, cash, opportunities, or from excessive debt and penalties. Pretending that debt is a product will not make it so, but Bernanke and Geithner cannot see another option other than propping up debt derivatives. Just who is benefitting by the continuation of the sale of debt derivatives? Are they or their families in a position of power that influences policy decision making, rather like the Madoff family and the SEC? Debt derivatives produce nothing but brokers fees and insurance obligations. What were the terms of the insurance obligations? 100% of expected profit from the derivative investment? The principal invested in the derivative? What?

Credit card schemes with excessive penalties, automatic interest rate hikes based on other accounts, the punitive attitude taken by these lenders and their predisposition to extend credit to undocumented borrowers has created a mountain of debt. Much of that kind of debt is an obligation plus penalties that are unearned income for lenders and unplanned debt for borrowers on the credit card scene. Bailing out the credit card firms is ridiculous but can turn fraudulent if the bailout funds include unearned lender income projections based on extending credit to anyone. Payday lenders and credit card companies are in the same category, preying on the foolish and desperate in many instances.

Attacks by the ripped off on the wealthy who benefitted by the scam will easily gather steam. Announcement of hearing and indictments would take the edge off, but I can’t help but wonder if returning the principal to the investors might be cheaper than bailing out all these unregulated funds and insurance obligations, particularly foreign entities.

Globalization has turned into a massive fraud perpetuated on the USA taxpayers by domestic and foreign banks and insurance firms who invested in derivative garbage based on fraudulent contracts all the way from the inflated appraisals and undocumented borrowers, the creation of derivatives with unresearched ratings and lax regulation when present at all. Why are USA taxpayers stuck with this tab? Insurance schemes overseas bankrupted a company holding assets obtained through mandatory insurance and retirement accounts in the USA, drained these assets and then demanded more from the US government. Their demands were met at our expense.

I think that insurance is a racket. Legislators have foisted mandatory insurance off on the people and now these insurance firms are using the pool money to gamble and pay themselves huge salaries. They have gambled away retirement funds, IRA accounts and any other money they could get their hands on, even to the point of bankrupting the company and funneling our tax money overseas.

Were members of AIG really brokering these derivatives to banks and then insuring these same derivatives through AIG, receiving a handsome brokers fee in the process? Are the retirement accounts of House and Senate members held by AIG?

Whatever it is, this financial scam and the incredible debt load has created unemployment and anger on the streets of this nation. Were the boomtime profits and the high compensation of irresponsible developers and executives worth the social cost? Are the members of the boards who approved the excessive contract amounts for executives receiving sweetheart loans from the very same companies they represented? How many political figures received cheap loans from these companies? Who sat on the boards of Fannie and Freddie and others when ‘bonus’ schemes were approved? How much were these people paid to rubberstamp any wild scheme the executives deemed a good investment?

And above all, why not review the figures and see if returning the principal might be cheaper than bailing out all these wild schemes? People are angry because their money has been stolen and gambled away, not just the boomlet money but also the principal in many cases.

Civil unrest is not good for the nation.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Design for Stimulus Packages


Design for Stimulus Packages

A definition of proposed projects should include a classification of such projects into categories:

Long term stimulus of the economy
Short term stimulus of the economy
Self sustaining stimulus of the economy

Economy should be defined as local, general or group specific when designing projects.

The categories to be discussed are: energy, healthcare, education


The major focus of the stimulus package should ideally be a self sustaining stimulus of the economy, with short term preparatory activities aimed at energy self sufficiency in the form of limiting use of petroleum products in favor of renewable sources of energy varying on regional levels.

A long term or self sustaining stimulus will be an activity that employs people, retains a monetary benefit long after the initial infusion of cash, continues to employ people in a maintenance/replacement capacity, returns energy production to a local level, and over time provides cheaper, cleaner energy, freeing up cash for other expenditures.

Example: In the SE and SW USA, solar water heaters, solar electric collectors, solar home heaters are feasible as an alternative or augmentation to the all encompassing power grid.

Retrofitting existing homes, schools and commercial properties with solar power items is a business that would employ many. The ultimate value in this is that the utilization of alternative power sources would replace expensive generated electricity with a cheaper, local alternative while providing jobs doing retrofit, new unit construction, maintenance and other associated employment. The monetary value is that the users of the units will have lower electricity costs, the power plants will tie up less of the free cash in the economy and will pollute less. The value in localized energy sources is that some electricity will still be available even if the grid fails.

This same scenario will apply to regional wind utilization, clean coal technology retrofits, nuclear energy, railroad expansion and other unnamed possibilities. These kinds of regional implementation programs should lower energy costs over the long term and will create sustainable businesses and more free cash circulating in the economy.

Electrical production will be as issue as more electric cars come on line. Local solutions to energy production benefit the individual monetarily and for security concerns, local control over some energy needs is desirable (ie: solar generated electricity during the day is better than no electricity at all if the local power grid failed) Create a failsafe for our population. Draining USA cash to pay for petroleum overseas is something that must be lessened. The object is to free up cash to spend elsewhere and lessen critical dependencies on distant power sources.

I reiterate two rules for a successful stimulus device: the ultimate goal will be the lowering of energy costs in order to free up cash to spend elsewhere. Another laudable goal is the localization of energy technology.

The era of limitless cash is over.

Focus on a short term employment solution should be avoided unless civil unrest forces make work projects. Make work projects that contribute nothing or very limited stimulus of the economy should be avoided as dead ends.

An example of a make work project would be building a new road. The local landowners off the new road might benefit financially but the economic stimulus will not be large or long term, particularly when the ultimate goal is another suburb complete with a few service jobs. This creates a strain on the existing infrastructure that must be paid by taxpayers, and now has resulted in widespread fraud, foreclosures and unsold homes. Construction stimulus is short term and cannot be maintained in a finite environment with finite water resources, as in the SW.

A multimillion dollar drainage job in an arid region populated by few people is a good example of a short term limited stimulus that results in no sustainable financial advantage. These kinds of projects should be avoided.

It should be noted that infinite expansion in a finite space is ultimately impossible. We as a species must begin sustainable economic activities in lieu of continuing to locate new cheap resources and exploiting those to our economic advantage. Innovation can be tied to resource availability, which is becoming limited on Earth. Perhaps extraterrestrial sources can be developed.

Thus several things are definitely over: easy cash and credit, cheap resources, cheap land and sparse human populations.

We must adapt to the new conditions.

Health Care

Population growth and immigration has created a need for a more affordable health care system. Note I wrote health care, not health insurance.

The establishment of localized clinics serving Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance and low cost fees for the uninsured must be a priority. Private insurance should be available to all on a regulated fee schedule and should not be mandatory in any form. Employers should not have to provide health insurance for the workers, with the exception of Industrial membership for on the job injuries. It is necessary to take health care benefits out of the workplace and place the money for it in the hands of the private consumer as discretionary funds.

Localized, low cost clinics must be established. These clinics would provide routine illness care, physicals, screening, pregnancy monitoring, well baby checkups etc. and referrals for advanced treatment. Subsidizing this direct health care would provide health care at a reasonable cost and employ people in a sustainable occupation that could become financially self sustaining over time. This approach would be more cost effective than propping up bankrupt insurance companies. We cannot afford the drain on the economy and the huge amount of ready cash these companies absorb.

Key points:

Abolish mandatory insurance for individuals and employers.
Individuals get a raise instead of benefits
Individuals can purchase private insurance if desired
Establish low cost subsidized clinics
Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance and low cost fees qualify at clinics
Clinics would provide sustainable employment
More discretionary cash would circulate in the economy.


Population growth has created a numbers crisis in public education as well as an over saturated job market. We are producing more people than we have employment for in our economy. The economic emphasis on growth comes from historical precedent, the manifest destiny idea to settle the frontier. Growth as an economic solution is outmoded if sustainability issues are taken into account.

As of now, we are still growing the population even though the territory remains the same size, which leaves less per individual than there once was. We also have the unemployment problem. School enrollment can be predicted to rise during economic turmoil, but the question is whether the schools can meet the challenge of economic competition and possible lower wages after graduation.

The traditional liberal arts education derived from state adopted curriculums can be used as a blueprint for teaching basic linguistic and mathematical skills. Mastery learning in reading and mathematics makes sense in a basic education. The learner should develop as much versatility as possible in order to adapt to the sometimes rapidly changing needs of the job market. After a basic education, proficiency in computer based activities should be encouraged.

A charter school or private school that takes public funds should be required to use the state curriculum and the students required to pass state tests.

As far as the schools as a vehicle for an economic stimulus can go without rhetoric about preparing students, the actual physical environment of thee schools should be revealed. In Arizona, charter schools are not required to have the same building standards as the public schools, which raises building costs. I believe that public schools are too large and are too far from the homes of the students. The Gates Foundation is successfully experimenting with smaller schools in New York.

Transportation costs are too high for busing to be a good way to spend the limited funds.
The internet allows for advanced learning with the assistance of an on site teacher, which would allow for the establishment of small, local high schools in the neighborhoods where the students live. Schools should be within walking distance of the students, should foster a sense of community and have good quality equipment and teachers.

Cutting out the transportation costs and mitigating the high mandated costs for school facilities would free up funding for classroom activities instead of buses, insurance, maintenance and other busing costs.

High school sports should be accessible to all students at central locations on public transportation lines, which would eliminate the perceived need for giant high schools for the purposes of champion sports teams. I would favor taking sports out of the schools and putting it under the aegis of the county or city with the eligibility requirements through the schools intact.

At the moment, funding busing through existing public transportation would be cheaper than maintaining a duplication of services through the schools.

The economic stimulus for the schools should be limited to classroom use, not propping up archaic or irresponsible busing of students, not administrative use and certainly not for administrative cars and junketing. The students need new computer equipment and other related equipment, internet hookups for small schools located in commercial buildings, books and teaching materials and lower class sizes. Employ more teachers and aides for one on one working with students.

Key points:

Ease restrictions on public school structures.
Encourage more charter schools
Subsidize the purchase of new computer equipment and teacher training
Use distance learning to augment high school curriculum
Begin phasing out busing
Establish small, local schools K-12
As a long term remedy for excessive population growth, disallow more than two child credits per income tax return, instead of unlimited deductions.

In higher education, the proliferation of specialties requires a broad based curriculum sensitive to the needs of businesses and graduate schools. The community college model is a good one if programs are kept up to date. Subsidizing community college students is a good investment, both as university preparation and job preparation. Stimulate the economy by entering the unemployed in school and keep high school graduates out of the unemployed workforce by keeping them in school.

And of course, subsidize the university students through grants and loans. The universities must cull their own programs and cease the excesses in construction in order to help solve economic problems. We have extensive buildings. Now let’s fill them up with students and invest in the nation’s future. Grant money to the universities and the community colleges to subsidize jobs for graduate students and student aides. Make scholarships available to students and educate!