April 30, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Half a decade into the deepest U.S. housing crisis since the 1930s, many Americans are hoping the crisis is finally nearing its end. House sales are picking up across most of the country, the plunge in prices is slowing and attempts by lenders to claim back properties from struggling borrowers dropped by more than a third in 2011, hitting a four-year low.
But a painful part two of the slump looks set to unfold: Many more U.S. homeowners face the prospect of losing their homes this year as banks pick up the pace of foreclosures.
“We are right back where we were two years ago. I would put money on 2012 being a bigger year for foreclosures than 2010,” said Mark Seifert, executive director of Empowering & Strengthening Ohio’s People (ESOP), a counseling group with 10 offices in Ohio.
“Last year was an anomaly, and not in a good way,” he said.
In 2011, the “robo-signing” scandal, in which foreclosure documents were signed without properly reviewing individual cases, prompted banks to hold back on new foreclosures pending a settlement.
Five major banks eventually struck that settlement with 49 U.S. states in February. Signs are growing the pace of foreclosures is picking up again, something housing experts predict will again weigh on home prices before any sustained recovery can occur.
Mortgage servicing provider Lender Processing Services reported in early March that U.S. foreclosure starts jumped 28 percent in January.
The main stream media is telling us it’s all getting better. Get out there and buy something. But that story’s actually a few weeks old. The latest news is now:
Falling Home Prices Drag New Buyers Under Water
More than 1 million Americans who have taken out mortgages in the past two years now owe more on their loans than their homes are worth, and Federal Housing Administration loans that require only a tiny down payment are partly to blame.
Doh!! For those that don’t understand let’s be clear; the “solution” to the problem is making the problem worse.
Governments intrusion into every sector of our lives has been an abysmal failure. The people are being taken advantage of and the banks — who are supposed to be the ones the government’s to control — get keep getting richer an richer. The too big to fail are now even bigger.
It’s a joke.
April 30, 2012 § 1 Comment
Now, [CPS Chief of Food Services Louise Esaian] and two members of her staff are accused in a report by CPS inspector general James Sullivan of accepting perhaps thousands of dollars in gifts from Chartwells and another vendor, Preferred Meals Systems, that have combined food contracts at CPS in excess of $75 million.
Esaian told the inspector general that the gifts didn’t influence her decisions at CPS, according to the report, which came out last week. But the appearance of conflict in such situations is inescapable, said Laurence Msall, president of the government watchdog Civic Federation.
“Even if it only affects the appearance of the procurement, it has a corrosive impact on the public’s trust and the perception of how government decisions are made,” Msall said. “These ethics codes exist because too often governmental officials are confused about what is in the public’s interest and what is in their private interests.”
The inspector general report does not make note of the expansion of Chartwells’ breakfast program. But at the same time the school board was considering, and ultimately approving, lucrative contract extensions for Chartwells and Preferred, the report says Esaian was being wined and dined at upscale Chicago restaurants, lavished with birthday gifts and NFL tickets for her friends and family.
via Chicago Tribune.
This is what happens when you hire politically connected people to run these programs. They are not “called to service” or have any feelings whatsoever of acting in the best interests of the taxpayer. They are all filled with a sense of entitlement that corrupts them into believing they some earned they things.
April 30, 2012 § Leave a Comment
It’s 1984 all over again:
A new camera technology from Hitachi Hokusai Electric can scan days of camera footage instantly, and find any face which has EVER walked past it.
Its makers boast that it can scan 36 million faces per second.
The technology raises the spectre of governments – or other organisations – being able to ‘find’ anyone instantly simply using a passport photo or a Facebook profile.
The software from Hitachi Hokusai electric can scan through 36 million faces a second looking for its ‘target’. The software can scan through days of CCTV footage almost instantly
The ‘trick’ is that the camera ‘processes’ faces as it records, so that all faces which pass in front of it are recorded and stored instantly.
Faces are stored as a searchable ‘biometric’ record, storing the unique
When the police – or anyone else – want to search for a particular individual, they’re searching through a gallery of pre-indexed faces, rather than a messy library of footage.
‘We think this system is suitable for customers that have a relatively large-scale surveillance system, such as railways, power companies, law enforcement, and large stores,’ says the company.
via Daily Mail.
This is more than a little troubling. Someone get the ACLU on the phone.
April 30, 2012 § Leave a Comment
We’re national news again.
… Indiana’s debt for unfunded retiree health-care benefits, for example, amounts to just $81 per person. Neighboring Illinois’s accumulated obligations for the same benefit average $3,399 per person.
Illinois is an object lesson in why firms are starting to pay more attention to the long-term fiscal prospects of communities. Early last year, the state imposed $7 billion in new taxes on residents and business, pledging to use the money to eliminate its deficit and pay down a backlog of unpaid bills (to Medicaid providers, state vendors and delayed tax refunds to businesses). But more than a year later, the state is in worse fiscal shape, with its total deficit expected to increase to $5 billion from $4.6 billion, according to an estimate by the Civic Federation of Chicago.
Rising pension costs will eat up much of the tax increase. Illinois borrowed money in the last two years to make contributions to its public pension funds. This year, under pressure to stop adding to its debt, the legislature must make its pension contributions out of tax money. That will cost $4.1 billion plus an additional $1.6 billion in interest payments on previous pension borrowings.
Business leaders are now speaking openly about Illinois’ fiscal failures. Jim Farrell, the former CEO of Illinois Toolworks who is heading a budget reform effort called Illinois Is Broke, said last year that the state is squandering its inherent advantages as a business location because “all the other good stuff doesn’t make up for the [fiscal] calamity that’s on the way.” Caterpillar, the giant Peoria-based maker of heavy construction machinery, made the same point more vividly when it declined in February to locate a new factory in Illinois, specifically citing concern about the state’s “business climate and overall fiscal health.”
How bad is it going to be?
Back in Illinois, Dana Levenson, Chicago’s former chief financial officer, has projected that the average city homeowner paying $3,000 in annual property taxes could see his tax bill rise within five years as much as $1,400. The reason: A 2010 Illinois law requires municipalities to raise the funding levels in their pension systems using property tax revenues but no additional contributions from government employees. The legislation prompted former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley in December to warn residents that the increases might be so high, “you won’t be able to sell your house.”
We’re in trouble.
Local media is still ignoring. National media starting to ring the bell.
April 30, 2012 § Leave a Comment
I offer this by way of observation only; make up your own mind as to what it means.
More from the Brits:
Barack Obama has already held more re-election fundraising events than every elected president since Richard Nixon combined, according to figures to be published in a new book.
Obama is also the only president in the past 35 years to visit every electoral battleground state in his first year of office.
The figures, contained a in a new book called The Rise of the President’s Permanent Campaign by Brendan J. Doherty, due to be published by University Press of Kansas in July, give statistical backing to the notion that Obama is more preoccupied with being re-elected than any other commander-in-chief of modern times.
Doherty, who has compiled statistics about presidential travel and fundraising going back to President Jimmy Carter in 1977, found that Obama had held 104 fundraisers by March 6th this year, compared to 94 held by Presidents Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush Snr, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush combined.
Since then, Obama has held another 20 fundraisers, bringing his total to 124. Carter held four re-election fundraisers in the 1980 campaign, Reagan zero in 1984, Bush Snr 19 in 1992, Clinton 14 in 1996 and Bush Jnr 57 in 2004.
via Daily Mail.
Yowza! That’s a lot of fundraising.
April 30, 2012 § 1 Comment
U.S. main stream media so far slow to respond:
Large windfarms can increase local night time temperatures by fanning warmer air onto the ground, new research has revealed. The study used satellite data to show that the building of huge windfarms in west Texas over the last decade has warmed the nights by up to 0.72C. …
“West Texas has seen rapid expansion of windfarms, with turbine numbers rising from 111 in 2003 to 2358 in 2011. Zhou’s team compared the land surface temperatures at the windfarms with other areas across this period and detected a clear rise at night. …
The scientists say the effect is due to the gentle turbulence caused by the wind turbines. After the sun has set, the land cools down more quickly than the air, leaving a cold blanket of air just above the ground. But the turbine wakes mix this cold layer with the warmer air above, raising the temperature. …
“The result looks pretty solid to me,” said Steven Sherwood at the climate change research centre at the University of New South Wales, Australia. “The same strategy is commonly used by fruit growers, who fly helicopters over the orchards rather than erect windmills, to combat early morning frosts.”
April 28, 2012 § Leave a Comment
An Illinois law aimed at leveling competition between online and offline retailers while collecting more state sales taxes owed from Internet purchases is unconstitutional a Cook County judge said Wednesday. …
In March 2011, Illinois passed the Main Street Fairness Act, informally dubbed the Amazon-tax law.Before the law, online retailers were forced to collect and remit sales taxes on purchases made by Illinois residents only if the online retailer had a “physical presence” in the state. For example, Sears must collect sales tax on virtual checkout at Sears.com because it has a headquarters and retail stores in Illinois. But Amazon.com does not have a physical presence and did not have to collect tax on checkout.
But the new law expanded the meaning of physical presence beyond a warehouse, factory or office to include affiliate companies, typically deal and coupon website operators that earn commissions for directing shopping traffic to an online store. Affiliates are essentially third-party advertisers for online stores.
To avoid having to collect sales tax upon virtual checkout, some large Internet retailers including Amazon.com, responded by cutting ties with affiliates in Illinois. That eliminated revenue streams for affiliate marketers. There were an estimated 9,000 affiliate marketers in Illinois, according to the Performance Marketing Association, a trade group that was the plaintiff in the case.
After the new law passed, some prominent Illinois-based Internet businesses, such as CouponCabin.com and FatWallet.com, fled to nearby Indiana and Wisconsin rather than be cut off from commissions from Amazon.com,Overstock.comand others.
Cook County Circuit Court Judge Robert Lopez Cepero said in court Wednesday that the Illinois law violated the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution, which limits who a state can tax, and that the law conflicted with the federal Internet Tax Freedom Act, which prohibits some types of Internet-related taxes. He directed parties to draft an order reflecting his opinion. …
“We are relieved that the 9,000 affiliates that were based in Illinoismay now have the opportunity to operate in Illinois without jeopardizing their business relationships with online retailers. This ruling places the responsibility for a solution back where it belongs: in Congress. CouponCabin continues to strongly support a federal solution to the taxation of all online transactions.”via Chicago Tribune.
I got news for the mopes that voted for this thing — THESE JOBS AIN’T COMING BACK!!
Worse, the companies that left took the talent base with them. So now there’s some talent in Indiana or Wisconsin which will attract other tech businesses. Companies locate to where there is talent. The “if you built it they will come” only works in movies.
Chicago was establishing itself as an affiliate marketing empire, sort-of a Midwest silicon valley of online marketing. But 9,000 high paying tech jobs left.
What we need is a law that says anytime a legislature votes for some law later found to be unconstitutional that they get docked what it cost the taxpayers to defend in court and the estimated loss to the state treasury.
April 28, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Illinois lawmakers ought to give up their state pensions.
Legislators are part-time employees, but they make nearly $70,000 a year and in some cases can qualify for a pension after as little as four years in office at age 62. If they were elected before 2011, they can retire at 55 and collect a pension after eight years of service.
Those pensions (like all pensions in Illinois) are not subject to the state income tax, and lawmakers also get health insurance benefits after they retire.
With the state facing roughly $80 billion in unpaid pension liabilities and on the verge of financial collapse, the elected officials who created this crisis ought to be ashamed to accept such largesse from taxpayers.
via Southtown Star.
I can’t remember where exactly but I once wrote about this at length. Elected folks should earn a salary based on their more recent private sector salary. And when they’re done with their “service” they should not receive a nickel from the taxpayer.
This change alone would solve many many of our problems.
April 27, 2012 § Leave a Comment
We’re now making national news:
After trying to tax Illinois to governmental solvency and economic dynamism, Pat Quinn, a Democrat who has been governor since 2009, now says “our rendezvous with reality has arrived.” …
Illinois was more heavily taxed than the five contiguous states (Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin) even before January 2011, when Quinn got a lame duck Legislature (its successor has fewer Democrats) to raise corporate taxes 30 percent (from 7.3 percent to 9.5 percent), giving Illinois one of the highest state corporate taxes, and the fourth highest combination of national and local corporate taxation in the industrialized world. Since 2009, Quinn has spent more than $500 million in corporate welfare to bribe companies not to flee the tax environment he has created.
Quinn raised personal income taxes 67 percent (from 3 percent to 5 percent), adding about $1,040 to the tax burden of a family of four earning $60,000. Illinois’ unemployment rate increased faster than any other state’s in 2011. Its pension system is the nation’s most underfunded, and the state has floated bond issues to finance pension contributions. Quinn’s recent flirtation with realism — a plan to raise the retirement age to 67 and cap pension cost-of-living adjustments — is less significant than the continuing unrealistic expectation that some Illinois’ pension investments will grow 8.5 percent annually. Although the state Constitution mandates balancing the budget, this is almost meaningless while the state sells bonds to pay for operating expenses (in just 10 years the state’s bonded debt has increased from $9.4 billion to $30 billion), underfunds pensions and other liabilities, and makes vendors wait (they are owed $5.6 billion).
Peterson, a professor of government at Harvard, and Nadler, a doctoral candidate also at Harvard, say collective bargaining rights for government employees pose “a dramatically new challenge to the viability” of American federalism. They cite studies demonstrating that investors’ perceptions of risk of default are correlated with the rate of unionization among government employees. Higher percentages of government employees who are unionized, and larger Democratic shares of state legislative seats, correlate with increases in state borrowing costs.At least 12 percent of Americans change their residences each year, often moving to more hospitable economic environments. In a system of competitive federalism, Peterson and Nadler write, “If states and localities attempt in a serious way to tax the rich and give to the poor, the rich will depart while the poor will be attracted.” And government revenues and expenditures vary inversely.
via Boston Herald.
Illinois may fail before California. Businesses are fleeing. Residents are fleeing. Illinois is shrinking, dying.
For all of the Democrats efforts to “help” the poor, how will the poor be helped when Illinois becomes nothing more than one big Detroit? The rich will all leave — they have the means to do so. Those left I guess will feed on each other.
I need to make sure history get written correctly. The suffering of the poor that is coming is blood on the hands of Richie Daley, Michael Madigan, Lisa Madigan, Rod Blagojevich, George Ryan, Pat Quinn, Rahm Emanual, Jesse White, Danny Davis, Jesse Jackson, Todd Stroger, John Daley, and the rest of the Illinois combine… the Machine.