Posted in Barack Obama, C-Haze, Conservative, Economy, Liberal, News, Policy, Politics, President, Recession, Socialism, Wall Street

Pete Sessions, Socialism and Barack Obama

As big a political junkie as I am, one would think I’d be past the point of being shocked when a politician says something stupid.

I’m not.

Representative Pete Sessions (R-TX) believes Obama is both driving the stock market down and unemployment up on purpose.

He’s quoted in today’s NY Times as saying that Obama “intended to inflict damage and hardship on the free enterprise system, if not to kill it.”

Lord have mercy.

Have we been taken over by a power-crazed maniac whose sole purpose is to wipe out all that America holds dear, so that he can take over the entire world, reigning from Capitol Hill as…

… Gasp…

A socialist dictator?!?!

I suppose the fact that Sessions believes Obama to be some sort of socialist terrorist, hell-bent on thoroughly demolishing Capitalism and the free market as we know it is nothing to be surprised at.

Sessions is, after all, someone who likes to use terrorism- specifically the Taliban– as an example when speaking.

What’s surprising is his deviation from the norm

Typically, he’s the one advocating terrorist behavior…

… At least where his own party is concerned.

It was a mere 3 months ago- in February- that he suggested, during an interview with the National Journal, that perhaps the GOP needed a “Taliban-like” insurgency.

His remarks, he claimed, were the result of what he had determined to be a lack of bi-partisan politics in the House of Representatives.

So clearly, strange terror-esque statements are nothing new.

Not from this guy, anyway.

So let me get this straight.

He wants the Republican Party to act in a non-American fashion… actually going as far as to suggest the party adapt the strategy of one of the worst terrorist, anti-American groups in the entire world to survive… and then condemns Obama for non-American behavior… behavior that he not only condoned within his own party, but completely imagined and fabricated where our President is concerned.

Ok, got it.

Truly, this nonsense would be absolutely hilarious if there weren’t several actual, bona-fide yahoos out there taking him seriously.

People do believe President Obama is a closet Socialist.

People do believe that our President hates our country, its governmental structure, its free market economy, our constitution- and all the rights and freedoms we all hold both near and dear.

Never mind that he has yet to take a single fundamental right away from any of us, and in fact has spent his adult life advocating for equal rights- for minorities, women and homosexuals, to name a few.

Never mind that he inherited a real live nightmare of a mess to clean up- and has done more for the average Joe in this country in his first 100 days in office than his predecessor ever did in 8 years.

What is it about him that draws such ire?

Is it jealousy?

Is it the color of his skin?

Is it the fact that he actually cares about people other than the top wealthiest individuals and organizations, and we just don’t know how to accept that kind of compassion?

It’s funny to me how a man who has lived his life trying to protect the dignity of the impoverished and preserve the little things the middle class holds dear, can be painted as the evil villain.

It’s ok, haters.

He hears you…

… And despite your ugliness, he still wants to serve you.

You certainly don’t deserve it.

Posted in C-Haze, Children, Current Events, Economy, News, Parenting, Policy, Politics, Recession, Single Mom, Single Parent, Wall Street

Recession: Are We Working Too Much, Or Not Enough?

By now, there are few of us that haven’t been affected by the recession in some way.

Personally speaking, while I have managed to remain employed by a company that still offers great benefits and good pay…

… Even I am feeling the burn.

Most recently my company froze our salaries, offered a “voluntary” reduced work schedule, reduced our medical coverage, and slashed our 401K match.

Everyone, world-wide it seems, is being forced to make do with less.

We need to be more productive than ever, even as our resources are diminishing.

If we slip up… we could lose our jobs… and with unemployment hovering around 8.5%, we know there are many workers that will be happy to take our places.

At home, we have to figure out a way to continue supporting our families with a smaller number of resources- be it finances, time or energy.

I have a friend, for example, who is a single mother with 2 sons.

She never got much in the way of child support from her ex, so she’s accustomed to having to get creative, figuring things out on her own.

Most recently, my friend, who already works full-time for a large company, had to get a 2nd job.

She has a bachelor’s degree in Finance from a very prestigious university…

… And now finds herself working part-time at Blockbuster Video.

That (small) additional income is buying her groceries every month.

She doesn’t get to spend as much time with her kids as she used to able to…  and now their grades are slipping… they’re developing major attitude problems… their teachers are complaining… she barely recognizes them… but dammit, the mortgage is paid.

I know this problem isn’t a new one.

For generations- well before this particular recession, people- single parents, low income families- have been struggling to learn how to get more out of less.

How do you mandate your children’s behavior, or whether they’re outside playing with friends when they’re supposed to be inside doing homework, when you have 3 jobs- all 3 of which are necessary simply to put food on the table and have gas and electricity?

So many of us are having to choose between that all-important family time and working, so that our rent is paid.

I remember trying to comfort my sobbing friend after her son’s teacher called to let her know he’d been caught stealing another child’s homework… she was also surprised to learn he was failing his classes.

“We’ve talked to your son, and he says you’re never around anymore- that you’re too busy to help him with his studies. You really need to take a more active role in your son’s life”, snarled the teacher.

“Sir, with all due respect, I love my children, and I am doing the very best I can”.

“It’s not good enough”, she was told.

They’re both right.

She is definitely doing the best she can…

… And, as evidenced by her son’s behavior, it isn’t good enough.

So what is it that we’re to do, when the very best we have, simply doesn’t cut it?

Posted in Barack Obama, C-Haze, Current Events, Economy, News, Policy, Politics, President, Wall Street

Bonuses, Bailouts and Buttheads

Like many of us, I was pretty upset to learn about AIG’s decision to pay out more than $165 million in executive bonuses.

Much of the funds are retention bonuses for employees that are no longer with the company. All of it is going to reward AIG’s top decision-makers for decisions that were…

Well…

… Shitty.

The recipients of this money are the same people who ran the company into the ground to begin with, resulting in four federal bailouts to-date.

AIG claims they had no choice, that they were obligated by contract to distribute the bonuses.

The federal government has considered forcing AIG to stop the pay-outs, voiding the employer/employee contracts but wisely decided against such a move. I’m as ill as the next person over AIG’s nonsense, but I don’t like the idea of my government involving itself- potentially nullifying- legal contracts.

I wouldn’t mind the fallout in the case of AIG, but I cringe at the precedent such a move would set.

The Senate is currently mulling legislation that would allow the government to recoup the bonuses, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s effort to pass the legislation by unanimous consent was blocked by Representative Jon Kyl, from Arizona.

I think blocking the legislation is the right move.

AIG has made some terrible business decisions… and has definitely shown that they haven’t learned their lesson, as evidenced by the greedy, nonsensical method in which they have spent their billions in bailout funding.

However, horrible business decisions do not equate to illegal activity.

Currently, as far as I know, it is still legal in this country to be both stupid and greedy.

Simultaneously, no less.

Next we learn that the House, no doubt knowing Congress doesn’t have a leg to stand on with regards to pulling AIG’s bonuses, yesterday passed a bill that would instead tax the bejesus out of the funds.

The bill stipulates that any employee who works for a company that has received more than $5 billion in federal bailout funds and makes more than $250,000 a year will be heavily taxed on their bonuses- and by heavily, I mean 90%.

Huh.

Now that’s what I call a bonus tax!

If this crap didn’t so drastically effect my loved ones- their day to day lives, and their hopes for financial security during their later years- it would be downright humorous.

Unfortunately, because the stakes are so high, and so many little people are paying the price for these shenanigans, the situation falls less in the “ha ha funny” category and more in the maddening “OMG how can people fuck up this damn badly?!?!” category instead.

Many of us were against the idea of a federal bailout to begin with.

Some of us were against it because of our belief in a free-market economy… a notion that is decidedly in jeopardy once the government gets to intervene any time it chooses.

Most of us simply don’t trust Uncle Sam- not to the extent of handling our investments, anyway. We knew, instinctively that if the government started runnin’ this particular show, mass chaos and huge amounts of dumb-assery were sure to follow.

True to form, the government has managed to make a huge clusterfuck out of an already distasteful situation.

Does anyone else remember, for example, back when the bailout was orignally being mulled by congress, that Senator Dodd (Chair of the Treasury Committee) was busy messing with the law to make sure that once the bill passed, the bonuses would be legal?

Seems to me, had he not done that, perhaps we could have already had a bill in place- one that is part of the original bailout legislation- that would have stopped AIG (and others) from even considering such wasteful spending as bonuses for irresponsible executives who have made deplorable financial decisions… and special spa retreats… and million dollar office renovations.

So, am I pissed off that it has come to this?

You bet.

Do I think AIG is comprised of a bunch of greedy bastards?

Yep.

More importantly though, I am even more pissed off at our own government and its hasty, poorly thought-out involvement in this mess.

Hindsight is 20/20, but had our congressional representatives heeded the wishes of their constituents- the little people like you and me- and not jumped headfirst into this stinky hole to begin with, perhaps we wouldn’t be dealing with this bullshit today.

The vast majority of us were against the bailout to begin with. We knew Congress was going to figure out a way to make a jacked up situation even worse.

Will they ever listen?

Not if the currently pending legislation is any indication of lessons learned (or not learned, in this case).

Oh well.

I don’t know about you, but at this point, I’m just going to sit back, grab some popcorn and watch the show.

I hear there’s gonna be fireworks towards the end.

Posted in Barack Obama, C-Haze, Change, Children, Conservative, Current Events, Economy, Elections, Governor Mark Sanford, Hope, News, Policy, Politics, President, Race, Wall Street

Stimulus, Schools and Sanford

A few weeks ago (on February 24, 2009), Obama addressed the nation in front of a joint session of Congress.

It was a moving speech, focusing primarily on the economy, and the challenges faced by America today.

There were a couple of attendees at the event that are not politicians, but rather, people whose personal stories touched the President and First Lady personally.

One was a banker by the name of Leonard Abess Jr.

Located in Miami, Mr. Abess was recognized for his generosity- he received a $60 million bonus from the proceeds of the sale of his bank’s shares- and rather than keep it for himself, he split it up among his 399 current employees- and more than 70 previous ones.

Another guest of the Obamas was Ty’Sheoma Bethea, an 8th grader from South Carolina.

Once President Obama told her story, we all fell in love with her.

Ty’Sheoma is from a tiny town in South Carolina. Her school is dilapidated- in fact it isn’t even up to code. Classes are interrupted several times a day to allow for the noisy trains that roll through the area.

Desperate for a decent school- a building that isn’t falling apart around her- a place where learning can be uninterrupted, Ty’Sheoma wrote to Barack Obama.

She requested some of the stimulus money for her school.

Her letter read, in part, “We are just students trying to become lawyers, doctors, congressmen like yourself and one day president, so we can make a change to not just the state of South Carolina but also the world. We are not quitters.”

Our President was so moved by her words that he invited Ms. Bethea to attend his speech, sitting with his wife in a place of honor.

We all had warm fuzzies at the close of the speech, knowing there were hundreds of millions of dollars in that stimulus package- set aside just for South Carolina- money that the state’s governor could use for education.

Ty’Sheoma, her fellow students and their teachers can now attend a school that stands on its own and isn’t interrupted by the constant din of passing trains.

Right?

Ha.

Not so much.

Now comes news that South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford will not accept the more than $700 million in stimulus funding that is available for his state.

Money that will patch holes in the roofs of public school buildings… money that will go to purchase school books and teaching supplies- replacing outdated and inaccurate materials… money that will save teachers’ jobs… money that will pay the salaries for qualified educators to join the ranks of the South Carolina Public School System.

Is Governor Sanford really so arrogant as to think we aren’t watching him? Does he believe that we have forgotten Ty’Sheoma Bethea? Does he assume we don’t care about her, her fellow classmates, her teachers and their administrators?

If so, he is sadly mistaken.

Sanford only wants to accept the stimulus money if he gets to choose how to spend it- and has stated if that were the case, he would focus on paying down South Carolina’s other debts- not on extending unemployment benefits and education.

Oh.

In that case, I’m sure Ty’Sheoma will understand.

I mean, let’s face it.

She wasn’t going to be a doctor, lawyer or anything else, right?

Posted in Barack Obama, C-Haze, Change, Current Events, Economy, News, Policy, Politics, President, Wall Street

Stock Options, Politics and Bully Pulpits

Alright, we need to talk about this bailout stuff.

Again.

In speaking to someone whose political views I greatly respect (ok, ok- it was my daddy), I learned that perhaps President Obama knew exactly what he was doing  when he recently announced that the regulations he plans to put in place on what’s left of the $700 billion bailout funds would not apply to executive salaries.

When I originally heard that Obama had no plans to restrict the irresponsible spending of the executive recipients of the bailout money, I blew a gasket, as evidenced here.

Now I’m beginning to wonder… things are not always as they seem, right?

Perhaps Obama knew exactly what he was doing… maybe it’s all part of  a plan, something entirely different than what I originally assumed.

The more I think about this situation (and keep in mind that I am no financial analyst), the more I wonder if it would even be possible to truly restrict- through legislation- the reckless spending on Wall Street.

On its surface, it seems that yes, this would be more than possible… simple, even… to accomplish…

… But then I look back on all those finance and accounting classes from college and begin to wonder if doing so would actually be downright impossible.

Yes, one can legislate things like salary increases and salary caps- say, for example, that no employee of any recipient of government bailouts can make more than (fill in the blank) dollars per year.

Unfortunately, however, that would only restrict a tiny portion of what actually goes into these folks’ pockets. How do you legislate such things as stock options, warrants (similar to stock options, warrants give a person the option- but does not obligate them- to buy an underlying security at a certain price and quantity at a future time), and countless other perks?

A good accountant- any CPA worth their salt- could easily find loopholes around the legislation… therefore allowing these bigwigs to continue taking home millions upon millions of dollars- while never once breaking the law.

I am reminded of the Big 3 auto makers, and their offer to congress last year to accept a salary of $1 per year in exchange for bailout funds for their companies. What they didn’t tell us was that they would still make 90% of the money they always made because stock options and bonuses are not part of one’s flat salary… but they do often comprise the bulk of an executive’s take-home pay.

Next, I began thinking about Missouri Representative Claire McCaskill, and her recent- very public- comments, directed at the irresponsible jackasses on Wall Street.

For those who don’t recall, McCaskill went on record calling them all a bunch of idiots.

Were those comments merely the spur-of-the-moment rantings of a politician losing her temper?

Or were they very orchestrated comments, planned meticulously by the Obama administration, as a means to fully utilize the bully pulpit?

A bully pulpit, for those unaware, was originally perfected by Theodore Roosevelt, and simply means that high-ranking officials can use the platform of the White House as a means to advance one’s agenda. Simply put, politicians make use of a bully pulpit to put a bug in the public’s ear… it’s a great way to put an idea in the general public’s mind without having to go through a bunch of b.s. redtape in the process.

The way I see it, Obama knows he cannot successfully reign in the spending of Wall Street bigwigs by simply using a political platform. He can’t sign an executive order, or pass a bill in Congress to accomplish this goal because there are too many loopholes that people would be able use to continue their fatcat ways.

So he is instead turning the entire issue over to the court of public opinion- the little people like you and me- knowing full well that as the reality of the financial sector’s shenanigans begin to really sink in, we are going to get PISSED.

I know I got mad as hell… as did millions of others…

It was all part of the plan.

We, as consumers, as regular ol’ citizens of this country, possess way more power in this situation than Congress ever had.

Not only can we take such action as boycotting Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, CitiGroup and all the others… but we can make it known to these CEOs that we are watching them, and we are not happy about what we’re seeing.

With that in mind, these bigwig jerks, knowing we are paying extremely close attention to their every move, will have no choice but to watch their step and curb their behavior… if they want to stay in business, that is.

Obama, I have learned, does nothing by accident.

I believe he knows damn good and well what he’s doing here, and quite frankly, the more I think about it, the more I realize…

This man is a genius.

Posted in Barack Obama, C-Haze, Change, Current Events, Economy, Elections, Hope, News, Policy, Politics, President, Wall Street

Barack Obama, Executive Pay and a Whole Lot of B.S.

President Obama said in his recent weekly radio address that he will be presenting a new bailout spending plan soon.

Sounds good to me, though I was never really one to support these ridiculous bailouts to begin with.

What I am shocked- and quite frankly, a little pissed- to hear is that this new spending plan contains no added restrictions on executive pay.

Apparently officials are concerned that new restrictions on executive salaries could discourage other companies from asking for government aid in the future.

What the hell?

I didn’t realize the point of the bailout package was to encourage anybody to put their hands out and beg for money. And even if that was part of the point of this bullshit package to begin with, so what? How the heck is it a bad thing to require executives looking for our assistance to first commit to cutting spending- including their own astronomically sized salary packages?

Otherwise, by my estimation, they shouldn’t be getting a damn dime from us or anybody else for that matter.

Can we please back up and review for a moment?

In recent months we have AIG taking employees on luxury spa trips after receiving funds from the government bailout… we have CitiGroup attempting to purchase a new $50 million luxury corporate jet… we have some schmuck CEO over at Bank of America spending over a million bucks to redecorate his damn office… we learn that more than $18 billion of the original bailout went to executive bonuses…

… And no one seems to think we need to add a few provisions to this new proposal?

Seriously.

Obviously we’ve learned absolutely nothing from our past mistakes.

These asshole bigwigs are living high on the hog on taxpayer dollars- OUR money- while the rest of us are scraping by.

Actually, if we’re lucky we’re scraping by… and luck these days, unfortunately, is hard as hell to come by.

People are losing their jobs, their cars and their homes, dammit, in record numbers.

The few little pennies we do make seem to be going to help the rich get richer… and from way down here where I’m sitting, isn’t going to help me or my fellow middle-class Americans at all.

The stock market is still in the shitter, wall street is still acting like a bunch of complete and total retards where fiscal responsibility is concerned… Congress is either steadfastly refusing to pass the one stinkin’ package that could actually help our broke asses to survive- or are insisting on beefing the damn thing up with so much pork that it’s becoming a useless peice of legislation altogether.

These punk ass politicians need to get this shit together and get to the responsibility of actually standing up for the people they were sworn into office to represent…

… Or they need to get the hell off the stage.

Cuz I’m sick of it.