Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Real Estate: Elements of the Storm

I was thinking about the whole continuing real estate problem...

One thing I think has changed over, say, 30 years ago is that we are practically a society of transient workers now. Fewer people work in stable jobs that linger for 20 years. Far more people work in jobs that last, say, 2-8 years before requiring them to move on. Maybe the old job went to India. Maybe it got bought by a bigger company. Maybe the facilities simply moved to another state. Maybe they found a better offer somewhere else. Whatever the reason, they're moving and moving and moving again.

This alone creates a strong feeding ground for a real estate disaster. Short term purchases are far more likely to run into some type of recession that causes house prices to drop, and now you're screwed. Your job went away. You need or strongly want to move. You can't because you owe more than the house is worth.

I also think ARMs are going to play a big factor, especially as interest rates start going back up. You lose your job, you need to sell but you can't because your loan is underwater. So you stay on, maybe take a lower paying job, squeak by with your mortgage, but then interest rates go up and your ARM starts costing more. Now your job didn't change, but you can't afford your house anymore and you can't sell it because the loan is underwater.

And I was thinking about "specialization". America produces a lot of specialized stuff. The problem with specialized stuff is it takes specialized skills, which is why people have to move so much. When your job manufacturing printing presses goes away, you can't just find another printing press manufacturing job in your area. There aren't any. Everything in your area is another specialized job for which you do not have the skill. To find another job for your skillset, you need to move. If you can't move because your mortgage is underwater, you're screwed.

I'm wondering if these are the elements of the "perfect storm".

1) Americans stopped producing mundane, non-specialized goods. We only produce specialized goods.
2) When your specialized job goes away (which it will eventually, because this is the nature of specialized work), you have to move.
3) If the housing market takes any sort of tumble, your mortgage may be underwater and you can't move.
4) You are boned and the economy starts to buckle when enough people land in this situation. Too many people find themselves applying to Home Depot for work because their skill sets are too specialized and they can't reach the work for their specialization.

For the coup de grĂ¢ce, let's think about tax write-offs for mortgage interest.

Let's say you want to buy a $200,000 home and you have $40,000 in the bank.
Do you:
a) Put $10,000 down (5%) and spend the other $30,000 elsewhere
b) Put $40,000 down (20%)

With no tax incentive for mortgage interest, you would do "b". This would lower your interest payments and save you a lot of money. In fact, you may be encouraged to pay off your premium as fast and as early as possible just to get out from under your interest payments.

A tax incentive allowing you to write off mortgage interest wipes out that advantage, though. Doing "b" saves you nothing. You will instead do "a", use the government tax incentive to write off what would have been the savings of "b" and then spend the rest of your money somewhere else.

So we have created the perfect storm:
  • Specialized workforces move a lot and therefore tend to have newer home loans.
  • Tax incentives encourage new home loans to be as close to the cost of the house as possible.
  • Any drop in housing prices, therefore, will very quickly put our loans underwater, potentially inflicting personal financial ruin.
  • Enough people in personal financial ruin becomes national financial ruin.

If my theory is true, then this entire economic disaster can be attributed to government interference:
  • Tax incentives for home loans are a government intrusion into personal finances which has encouraged reckless behavior by individual home buyers.
  • High government taxes impacting basic manufacturing jobs have encouraged those jobs to move out of the country, necessitating that our work force become more specialized and therefore more transitory.
Transitory workers + incentives for dangerous financial situations = the perfect storm.

If my theory is correct, we haven't heard the last of this current recession because we haven't done anything to improve the two factors that fed it: government meddling in personal finance and government taxes making basic American manufacturing uncompetitive in the global market.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Health Care

Article title: "Majority of Americans Believe Health Care Reform Myths"


How many of those are actually "myths"?

For example, the "myth" of government funded abortions. The story behind it is that by the wording in the bill, what will and will not get funded will be determined after the bill goes live by some executive in charge of the system. Abortion is neither on nor off the list, but it's certainly doable given the current language of the bill. The person in charge would simple have to say, "Yes, we are funding abortions" and there you'd have it.

Some Republicans have tried to insert language specifically prohibiting abortion funding but it got struck down.

Obviously "abortion" is a hot button item but they could have just as easily said "breast implants" or "penis extensions". The bottom line is that the bill doesn't enumerate what will or will not be funded and efforts to limit what CAN be funded have been struck down by the Democrats, which I find to be rather mysterious. Setting a handful of definitions on what the government health care plan must or must not cover would do a lot to ease the unpopularity.

And stuff like this:
"Five out of 10 think cuts will be made to Medicare in order to cover more Americans (66 percent of Republicans, 37 percent of Democrats, 44 percent of Independents)."

Is that a "myth"? It sounds more like a prediction of the future and the real question is whether you're optimistic about it or not. Can Democrats guarantee that Medicare cuts will NOT be made? Of course they can't guarantee that. Medicare itself ended up costing vastly more than anticipated, didn't it? So really nobody has any idea what this health care reform will cost or what financial sacrifices might have to be made to keep it on the road.

I would call the article, "Americans Easily Duped By Disingenuous Left-Wing MSM Articles".

For my 2 cents, the problem here isn't "health care reform". I think many conservatives would agree that health care has problems which need to be addressed.

However, this bill is going about it in completely the wrong way. It does nothing to address medical costs and the language of the bill itself is very difficult to read and understand. They need to burn the thing and start over from scratch with something simpler and more focused on individual problems rather than simply creating a massive bill for the sake of saying "we have government health care now".

The currently proposed plan from the Democrats is simply a non-solution, as I see it. Conservatives aren't opposed to health care reform; they're just opposed to this particular legislative abomination.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

I've been seeing all these town hall meetings about the health bill. I got to wondering when my representative, Christopher Van Hollen, was going to hold one.

Here was his version of a town hall meeting, I guess:

Dear Friend,

After decades of struggle, we are now closer than at any other time in history to providing quality, affordable, and accessible health care for every American.

Grassroots Democrats like you are the reason we've gotten this far. Through your generous financial support and your tireless activism, you've created a force for progressive change on behalf of President Obama.

With all the fast-breaking developments this week, I wanted to gather our most dedicated supporters like you to provide an update on where we stand, answer your questions, and discuss our plan for action on health care reform.

Join me for the DCCC's Health Care Reform Tele-Town Hall Meeting this Friday, July 31 at 2:30 PM EDT. Sign-up today to participate from wherever you are.

Thank you for putting us on the verge of making history with health care reform. Let's keep up the fight against the Republican attacks and help President Obama finish the job.

Please join me on Friday.


Rep. Chris Van Hollen
DCCC Chairman

So. His town hall was a "tele town hall".

Addressed specifically to Democrats. Not all constituents. Just the Democrats.

I guess that's why I never heard about it.

Yyyeaah. Somehow I don't think he's getting my vote next election either.

I doubt he cares. Here in Maryland, conservatives are accustomed to just not having representation. The interesting thing is I think there's actually a lot of us, it's just that not enough of us think it's worth showing up for an election because the liberals always win (I hear people say that. Me: "You voting?" Them: "Nah. Democrats always carry Maryland. There's no point.")

Well, I voted last time. Voted against him. I'll do the same next election. We need more conservatives to do this. At least then we can say "we tried". Maybe we'll surprise these buzzards and make them realize they need to start representing their entire district and compromising between the sides rather than simply ignoring conservatives entirely. Better to lose with 42% of the vote and make him a little concerned than to let him win by a landslide and think he's got it in the bag for years to come.

Thursday, July 2, 2009



"Those ridiculous contracts with pages of fine print that no one can figure out—those things will be a thing of the past," the president said in a statement accompanying the 152-page draft bill. "And enforcement will be the rule, not the exception."

Hopefully they'll start enforcing it in Congress first. Government would probably run a lot smoother if they had to make bills small enough that everyone would actually read and understand it before voting on it.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Quote of the [Time]

Person A: "When small government and personal responsibility are considered radical or extreme ideas you know we're fucked."
Person B: "We're fucked."

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Conservative

(what? I was bored... With apologies to Dr. Suess...)

At the far end of town, where the grickle-grass grows,
and the wind smells slow and sour when it blows,
and no birds ever sing there, excepting old crows,
is the street of the Lifted Conservative.

And deep in the grickle-grass, some people say,
if you look deep enough you can still see today
where the Conservative once stood, just as long as he could,
'till somebody lifted the Conservative away.

What was the Conservative and why was it there,
and why was it lifted and taken somewhere,
from the far end of town where the grickle-grass grows?
The old Liberal still lives here: ask him, he knows.

You won't see the Liberal - don't knock on his door.
He stays in his lurkem on top of his store.
He lurks in his lurkem, cold under the roof,
where he makes his own clothes out of miff muffered moof.

And on special dank midnights in August he peeks
out of the shutters, and sometimes he speaks,
and tells how the Conservative was lifted away.
He'll tell you, perhaps, if you're willing to stay.

The Liberal grunts, "I will call you by whisper-ma-phone,
for the secrets I tell are for your ears alone."
Down slupps the whisper-ma-phone to your ear,
and the old Liberal's words are not very clear,
since they have to come down through a snergally hose
and he sounds as if he had smallish bees up his nose.

"Now I'll tell you," he says, with his teeth sounding gray,
"how the Conservative was lifted and taken away.
It all started way back,
such a long, long way back..."

“Way back in the days when the government was small,
and proper power plants in the winter would give warmth to us all,
and we thought global warming was the worst we could fear,
One morning I came across a place of good cheer!

“And I first saw the church! The magnificent church!
The bright colored stained glass of the magnificent church!
Filled with people, together, all singing in mirth!

“And next to the church I saw an elementary school,
Where they were conducting an election, (electing some fool)
The people stood in line waiting to cast in their vote,
To have their voice heard, no matter how remote!

But those churches, those churches, those magnificent churches!
All my life I'd been searching for a cause such as this!
Those people were happy in their ignorant bliss,
And I knew right away I had to put an end to all this.

I felt a great leaping of joy in my heart.
I knew just what I'd do! I unloaded my cart.
In no time at all I had made up a sign.
Then I wrote a few words on it, it was such a great line.
And with great skillful skill and with great speedy speed,
I took the great line – and planted a seed!

Not a seed for growing flowers or trees that bore fruit,
Not a seed for the birds or the grasses underfoot,
But a seed that would grow in the heart and the mind,
A seed that could take root in whomever I could find.

The instant I'd finished I heard a great SLAM!
I looked. I saw someone walking over. A man.
It was sort of a man. Describe him? That's hard.

He was shortish. And oldish. And brownish, and mossy.
And he spoke with a voice that was sharpish and bossy:
"Mister," he said, with a sawdusty sneeze,
"I am the Conservative. I speak for the free.

"I speak for the free, as anyone can
and I'm asking you sir, to think on your plan”
he was very upset as he shouted and puffed,
“What's on that sign there? It's just lies and fluff!”

"Look, Conservative," I said, "there's no cause for alarm.
I just made up a sign – I am doing no harm.
I'm being quite useful: I also am free.
And I'm free to stand here and say what I mean.

“Your church: I don't like it. It's fooling the people.
Full of lies. I don't trust it, from front step to steeple.
And the voting that's going on in the school over there?
Votes driven by lies and by lots of hot air.”

The Conservative said, "Sir, you are crazy and naive.
There's no one on Earth who would buy your fool's creed!"
But the very next minute I proved he was wrong.
For just at that minute a chap came along,
and he thought that the sign I had made was quite good!
And when he asked to join me I said that he should.

I laughed at the Conservative, "You poor stupid man!
Your old fashioned ways are no match for my plan!"
"I repeat!" cried the Conservative, "I speak for the free!"
"I'm busy," I told him, "shut up, if you please."

I rushed 'cross the road and in no time at all,
built a radiophone and then I put in a quick call.
I called all my cousins and uncles and aunts,
and I said, "Listen here! Here's a wonderful chance
for all of the Liberals to join in on my cause!
Get Soros and Buffett and MoveOn and Kos!”

And in no time at all, in the website we built,
the whole Liberal family was working full tilt.
We were all making blogs, just as busy as bees,
And we knew that we could bring Conservatives to their knees.

Then oh, baby oh! How our website did grow!
Now corrupting the media was going too slow!
So I quickly enlisted some poor college students,
They begin rushing stages, silencing Conservative stooges!
We were converting the people four times fast as before.
And that Conservative? HE didn't show up any more.
But the next week he knocked on my new office door.

He said, "I'm the Conservative, who speaks for the free,
who you seem to be deceiving as much as you please.
But I'm also in charge of the nearby election,
Which relies on accuracy and integrity, from every section.

“NOW thanks to your website and your ACORN deceit
Our ballot boxes are stuffed with votes of the deceased.
And our speakers have been run off of stages around the nation
And even Miss California can barely hold onto her station.

They loved living here but I can't let them stay.
They'll have to find freedom, and I hope that they may.
“Good luck, folks!” he cried, as he sent them away.
I, the Liberal, was sad as I watched them all go.
But now this was my government and it was time for it to grow!
Regardless of freedoms and churches, you know.

I meant no harm, I most truly did not.
But government had to get bigger, so bigger it got.
We biggered the welfare, we biggered the taxes,
We bought up the factories, which employed all the masses,
We wrote up a budget that sent money forth
to the south! To the east! To the west! To the north!
We sent everyone money (we just printed more)
Now that silencing Conservatives was no longer a chore.

Then AGAIN he came back. I was cleaning some pipes,
when that old nuisance Conservative came back with MORE gripes.
"I am the Conservative." he seemed very sad
He dabbed at his eyes with an old worn out rag
He sighed and he coughed, to clear out his throat
"Liberal!" he cried with a cruffulous croak,
"Liberal, you're making such a terrible mess!
You've defeated the church but replaced it with less!

"And so," said the Conservative
"Churchgoers can't live here, so I'm sending them off.
Where will they go? I don't hopefully know.
They may have to walk for a month or a year,
to escape from the persecution you've created around here!

"What's more," snapped the Conservative (his dander was up,)
"let me say a few words about ACORN and stuff.
Your methods and websites seem very fine
And your abolishment of guns even took away mine

You've left your own people without a place to go
When their lives are troubled and they have nothing to show
And what do you do with the liberties you had?
I'll show you, you dirty old Liberal! You'll see that it's bad!

“You're stuffing the ballot boxes for candidates you favor
You're taxing the product, then taxing the labor!
You're taxing the gas that gets you to work
You've run off the corporations, you're a serious jerk!
You think that the world outside your borders doesn't matter
And when you find out you're wrong, you'll be all the sadder.”

And then I got mad. I got terribly mad.
And I yelled at the Conservative, "Now listen here, dad!
All you do is yap-yap and say bad,bad,bad,bad!
Well I have my rights sir, and I'm telling you
I intend to go on doing just what I do!
And for your information, you Conservative, I'm figuring
on biggering, and biggering, and biggering, and BIGGERING.
Turning MORE work into taxes
So that we have even more money, all for the masses!

Then at that very instant we heard a loud cheer!
And I looked at the Conservative and gave him a sneer.
For I knew what it meant, that cheer from them all
Nuclear power had just been made fully against the law

But then a funny thing happened. The lights started to flicker
And soon it grew quiet, even the clatter of the stock ticker
We had done what we wanted, we had beaten the system
We had outdone the churches, we had silenced opposition
But now there was no work to be done, no corporations to pay
And the taxes had taxed all the taxpayers away

Enemies were at our borders, for we had shrunk the military
I asked my general how bad it was and he just said, “Very”
Our defenses were down, our economy was a wreck
It seems that our foes wanted more than respect.

The Conservative said nothing - just gave me a glance.
Just gave me a sad, sad backward glance
as he lifted himself by the seat of the pants.
And I'll never forget the grim look on his face
as he heisted himself and took leave of this place
through a hole in the fog without leaving a trace.

And all that the Conservative left here in this mess
was a small piece of paper, with the one word, "unless."
Whatever THAT meant, well, I just couldn't guess.
That was long, long ago, and each day since that day,
I've worried and worried and worried away.
Through the years as my buildings have fallen apart,
I've worried about it with all of my heart.

"BUT," says the Liberal, "now that you're here,
the word of the Conservative seems perfectly clear!
UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better - it's not.
So...CATCH!" cries the Liberal. He lets something fall.
“It's a copy of the Constitution. It's the last one of all!”

"You're in charge of the Constitution and the freedom it holds
And freedom can last, if you're good and you're bold
Take it with you and start up a new country near here,
And be wary of the Liberals, watch out for them, dear.
They mean well. They do. And they talk quite a lot
But think back on what we had here, and how we let it rot.
Grow a Republic that's free and that's safe from attack,
Then the Conservative and all of his friends just might come back!”

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Someone asked me today if I would support a cut of government social programs: social security, welfare, medicare and medicaid.

I say we take whatever is in these funds, turn them into a private charity and cease all government funding.

They will then sink or swim based on charitable contributions and the charity's ability to balance the objectives of the charity with people's willingness to give to it. I might well give $1000/year to a Social Security charity. This is considerably less than I am forced to pay into it now.

It's always been my goal to work my finances such that I can one day retire without government aid. I could have a nicer car, a nicer house and better stuff but I don't because I want to retire one day and owning a really nice BMW today would impede my ability to one day retire and be independent.

If I could have all of my social security payments in my bank account, that would amount to a nice little raise that would help me retire that much earlier.

My parents would either be living with me or I'd be helping them out financially to live somewhere on their own, but at least that's a decision we can come to on our own.

There may be certain minimums I would be willing to see the government do. But we are talking bare minimums. A roof over your head, food to eat and a place to sleep. Anything beyond that should be left in the hands of private charities and volunteer programs.

We're too dependent on the government.

People aren't willing to go out and volunteer or give money for programs they believe in, because they expect the government to do it for them. It's horseshit. Someone wants to help old people? Volunteer. Donate. Ring a bell in front of a bucket in front of the local shopping mall. But don't mug me every April 15th for an amount of money you think is appropriate to steal from me in order to support your charity.

Monday, May 11, 2009

You can't make this stuff up.

The New York Times loves this video:

Ms. Leonard put the video on the Internet in December 2007. Word quickly spread among teachers, who recommended it to one another as a brief, provocative way of drawing students into a dialogue about how buying a cellphone or jeans could contribute to environmental devastation.
More than 7,000 schools, churches and others have ordered a DVD version, and hundreds of teachers have written Ms. Leonard to say they have assigned students to view it on the Web.

It has also won support from independent groups that advise teachers on curriculum choices. Facing the Future, a curriculum developer for schools in all 50 states, is drafting lesson plans based on the video.

So your kids might be getting to see this propaganda in school.

I'll just address a few things as I watch the video.

She claims the US military takes up 50% of our budget. That's either misleading or "a lie" depending on how generous you want to be. DOD is 50% of the budget only if you don't count social security, medicare, medicaid, welfare and interest on our debt -- the so-called "mandatory" budget items. If you do count those, it's about 16% (social security is 21%).

Almost a breath later:
"It's the government's job to watch out for us, to take care of us; that's their JOB."

I don't think Ben Franklin or Jefferson would have quite agreed with that. But that's the modern day liberal viewpoint, isn't it? (Or as Mark Levin calls them, "Statists" instead of "liberals" -- people who seek the growth of the state rather than individual independence from the state.)

"The corporation is bigger than the government."
She says it like it's a bad thing. The animation is of the government shining the shoes of the corporation. Although if it comes down to it, is there any corporation in America who makes more money per year than the government? From Wikipedia:
"Estimated [tax] receipts for fiscal year 2008 were $2.66 trillion."

Does any corporation bring in $2.66 trillion? If I'm reading it right, the #1 corporation in the world is Wal-Mart, which brought in about $379 billion in revenue.

So no, the government appears to be much, much, MUCH bigger than Wal-Mart, and Wal-Mart is the #1 corporation. (Exxon-Mobile is #2 at about $373 billion.)

"[America has] 5% of the world's population but we use 30% of the resources."
Yeah, being technologically advanced sure is a bitch. If only we could go back to living in grass huts and hunting fish with a spear, we'd be in line with a lot of the rest of the world.

"We mix toxic materials in with the natural materials to make toxic, contaminated products."

Okay, I'm not even 5 minutes in and I give up on this video.

I would be pretty furious if my kid was shown this propaganda video in school without some serious discussion about the truth of the "facts" given and whether it's a fair assessment and what parts of the video have merit and what parts are a fine example of liberal extremism gone awry. I would use it as an educational video to show the kids how emotions can sometimes cause adults to lie to children, and that they should always be on guard against this.

Although this does remind me of some of the crap we were shown as kids when I was in school: oversimplified, inaccurate garbage meant to drive your opinion in a particular direction.