Wednesday, June 30, 2010

It's A Wonderful Life in Reverse

Our "representatives" have decided to focus on the deficit rather than skyrocketing unemployment and dumpster diving. Cut spending and raise taxes, especially regressive taxation like jacking up the cost of cigarettes.

Don't change the fact that private equity and hedge fund managers are taxed at the capital gains rate of 15%, keeping up the pretense that they're investing their own money in ridiculous schemes like buying swamp land in California for CALPERS, instead of taxing their wages at 35%, the ordinary tax rate on earned income.

If there ain't no regular unemployment, up grows an underground employment. Not just talkin' 'bout prostitution, drugs and shoplifting. Also about desperate behavior, like this woman who called me presumably responding to my flyer for academic services rendered.

I should have known something was up when she mysteriously refused to tell me what she wanted to meet about. She only said it was something she had to show me in person. I thought she might be embarrassed to ask me to help her with term papering and I, too, could use the work.

I met her in a neutral place (Starbux, of course). It turned out she wanted to sell me on "Wellness Products" from Melaleuca, some scam pyramid scheme run out of Mormon country in Salt Lake City. She hinted that if I was a good girl, I might even become a salesman myself. She did have some nice shiny marketing materials in a big loose-leaf shaped book featuring lots of product pictures. One "disinfecting" liquid claimed to scrub areas clean of E Coli and the H1N1 virus. I told her to lead with that. At least she bought me a skim latte.

Coming home, I G--gled the company and found out it managed to siphon people's bank account or credit card numbers right off the bat (desperation again) with its promises of riches and a new car. Mary Kay, here I come. Lots of complaints that people checked their accounts and found mysterious withdrawals from the company. When questioned, company responded, "It's in the contract you signed." Whaaa? What contract? No one could remember there being a contract, let alone signing one. Caveat emptor. Don't drink the water.

Let's fight for the crumbs on the bottom, shall we?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Uncle Sam Wants Your Ass!

The math is clear: 2/3ths of US GDP depend on consumer spending and 15 million people are out of work. Can't just depend on the luxury (otherwise known as the "bailed-out") trade to lift all boats. Employment numbers for May 2010 were miserable: 431K new hiring, mostly government census workers, 41,000 private sector workers of which about 31,000 were temporary workers. The private sector hired 10,000 new full-time workers last month! Wooowooo!

Not surprisingly, retail sales fell in May, except in one area: premium toilet paper. According to the New York Times , consumers are chancing two-ply over one ply. Not only that, they're actually splurging on a new product, premium toilet tissue, which consists of 3-ply! Can you spare a square? Or does it show that our economy is actually in the toilet, and that we're right to think that economists are pulling "recovery" numbers out of their asses?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Greater New York Hates Children

The new Greater New York section of the Wall Street Journal, which is part of Rupert Murdoch's master plan to conquer the New York Times, is trying to destroy the education system. So far I have counted 3 articles either decrying extraordinary teacher absenteeism or claiming that school districts are stockpiling cash instead of returning it to property owners.

Perhaps the most egregious example of Murdoch trying to influence policy through the "news" section was the article on M.I.A. Newark teachers coming right before NJ Governor Christie's contract negotiations with the teacher's union.

The teachers' contract, which will expire this month and is currently under negotiation, is one of Gov. Chris Christie's few chances to influence the work rules of a New Jersey school district. Newark's absentee numbers are "completely unacceptable," said Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for Mr. Christie, who would ultimately approve or reject the teachers' contract. "That kind of history certainly doesn't work in favor of the union and its negotiating position unless that problem can be fixed."

I know the phrase "teacher's union" is shorthand for everything that is wrong with education or indeed almost any societal ill: unwed motherhood, baby daddies, high crime, low self-esteem; but making teaching an occupation with absolutely no job security and turning it into a hapless political football won't fill classrooms with highly qualified individuals. Anyone with half a brain will look elsewhere.