Let’s Not Call it a Federal Bailout, It’s an Investment

Posted in economy, government with tags , , , , , on May 15, 2010 by Bitch Slap Poli
Major Federal Bailout Participant - the Treasury Department

Bailout Bank - Department of Treasury

Seriously, if we looked at the ‘bailout’ as if the federal government was our broker, and we had invested in these ‘too big to fail’ businesses rather than just bailing them out with our tax money it would be much more constructive.

Not to mention we’ve actually made some money off the ‘investment’ already.

The New Power of the People

We the people finally have the power to hold CEOs feet to the flames after many years of letting them run loose without enough regulation. We have the attention of politicians who are sweating their upcoming elections and will listen to what we have to say.

So, why cry over spilled milk? Why keep complaining about the ‘investment’ happening in the first place? We’ve all had ample time to voice our opinions about the bailout enacted at the end of Bush’s presidency.  It’s now time that they we face down our problematic circumstances and ask ‘How can we make the best of this?’.

I’m talking about good ‘ole American gumption.

If We’re Investing, We Can’t Throw Our Money Away

We’ve entered a new era where the taxpayers could realize real profits if we could just realize the potential. Face it, we have invested in these companies like it or not. We might as well make sure that they get it right this time by holding them accountable with more oversight and helping them shape successful businesses that put their customers first.

If we’re smart shareholders we’ll not only have better businesses and a stronger economy, we’ll also make back our money and then some.

And we’re already seeing some gains.

So far we’ve gotten back $216.8 billion of the $536.3 billion spent on the TARP. Of that money we’ve received $29.9 billion has been revenue – money we’ve made off of our ‘investment’.

Too Big to Fail is Too Risky of an Investment for Our Economy

At the root of the whole problem, the reasoning for the bailouts in the first place, is that these businesses were ‘too big to fail’. And just why is that? Why is it imperative that these big businesses stay afloat?

Because changes were made to regulations over the financial sector which allowed for 6 banks to go from having assets that equal 17% of the GDP in 1995 to assets that equal 63% of the GDP today.

That’s right, 6 banks (Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, WellsFargo, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, and Morgan Stanley) basically control the majority of our country’s economy. This gives them far too much influence over the financial well-being of us all. CEOs can potentially make decisions that affect your money more than the decisions you make. And we’ve all seen that they can make very bad decisions.

Our country’s GDP now depends on these too big businesses. Is there anybody who still thinks we don’t need more federal regulation over them?

So let’s get active as investors. Let’s make sure we’re informed on the risks and rewards of our ‘investments’ and correct the problems so that we the people have more control our country’s financially stabilility than 6 banks.

Basic Economics for the Tea Party – Balancing the US Budget

Posted in 1, economy, government with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 24, 2010 by Bitch Slap Poli

In honor of all those filing their taxes late, Bitch Slap Politics is going to dumb down information on how taxes effect our greater economy and analyze whether or not the Tea Party members made any sense with their Tax Day arguments.

It’s time for another installment of – Smart S*** Gets Stupid!

A Look at What the Tea Party Wanted Tax Day 2010

The New York Times recently polled Tea Party members. Two initiatives near and dear to their hearts are, of course, reducing taxes and reducing spending by the government.

They were also asked in the poll:

If you had to choose, would you prefer reducing the federal budget deficit or cutting taxes?

The results:

  • Cutting Taxes – 49%
  • Reducing Deficit – 42%
  • Don’t Know or No Answer -9%

To be fair, the general public that the NYT also polled, which consisted of Democrats, Republicans and Independents, said:

  • Cutting Taxes – 47%
  • Reducing Deficit – 45%
  • Don’t Know or No Answer -8%




Taxes and the Federal Deficit

 Let’s take look at history and see what it tells us about taxes and the federal deficit – two big economic factors that go hand-in-hand.

In order to reduce our deficit we need to both increase the GDP and reduce spending. (We should be saving money in Iraq soon so Tea Partiers will be throwing a party to celebrate that, right?)

Reduction of spending is possibly the only goal I see eye to eye on with the Tea Party, sort of.

We need to make sure that our money isn’t being wasted. That means cutting spending on programs and projects that aren’t narrowly focused on fixing the biggest problems in this country. But, as discussed during the 2008 presidential debates, we don’t need to simply hack away at the budget. We still need to invest some in ourselves and allocate our money correctly.

However, the cutting taxes goal, while good in theory, shouldn’t be a priority. It just isn’t logical.

The following video is a visual of the information in text below. Feel free to watch then read or just choose a preferred method of receiving your economic knowledge.

Really, we should be happy about how much we pay in taxes at the moment. Taxes have been much higher than they were in 2009/2010 and they will surely be higher in the future at some point.

For a comparison here are the tax rates for 2010, 2005, and 2000

2010 tax rate

up to $8,375  —  10%

$8,375-34,000  —  15%

$34,000-82,400 —  25%

$82,400-171,850  — 28%

$171,850-373,650  —  33%

above $373,650  —  35%

2005 tax rate

up to $7,300  —  10%

$7,300-29,700  —  15%

$29,700-71,950 —  25%

$71,950-150,150  — 28%

$150,15o-326,450 —  33%

above $326,450  —  35%

2000 Tax Rate

up to $26,250  —  15%

$26,250-63,550  —  28%

$63,550-132,600 —  31%

$132,600-288,350  — 36%

above $288,350  —  39.6%

2010 tax day is looking pretty good, huh? Show of hands for all of the Tea Party supporters and Republicans who protested about taxes in 2005 and/or 2000. No one, really? Okay, we’ll move on.

Now let’s examine the federal deficit over the same period:

As you can see, as taxes get lowered the federal deficit has expanded. This makes sense when you consider the fact that since the 1950s taxes have made up about 20% of our GDP. GDP means Gross Domestic Product, which is basically a measure of our worth as a country based on what we produce.

Since 2001 our country has been spending like crazy, not producing as much and lowering taxes. Add to that an economic meltdown brought about by unscrupulous money pushers who were de-ruglated by President Bush and there’s a perfect storm scenario going on with our federal deficit and national debt.

Of course, the Stimulus Package, which included money for tax cuts, made up the bulk of the deficit in 2009, though there was already a very high $455 billion deficit when Obama came into office on Jan 20. Hopefully, the federal deficit will be significantly improved by the end of 2010, there are signs of hope.

Interest is Crippling the Efforts to Balance the Budget

However, in the mean time since the beginning of 2010 our country has paid almost $202 billion dollars in interest on the debt we owe. That’s billion, with a B.

That’s more than the cost of the Legislative Branch, the Executive Office of the President, the Department of Commerce, Environmental Protection Agency, NASA (saving money on that soon as well), the Department of Energy and many more combined.

So no, cutting taxes isn’t nearly as important as cutting the deficit and diggin ourselves out of this hole. Even if that means more of us pay more in taxes or getting a little less in our tax returns.

I don’t think enough has been said about the recent wins in growing the GDP, especially given the economic circumstances. We just experienced the largest GDP growth since before 2006.

And, no Teabaggers, it wasn’t because of higher taxes on main street. A whooping 47% of the workforce didn’t have to pay any income taxes this year, thanks in part to 2009’s Make Work Pay tax credit.

In short, please Tea Party members do us all a favor and take up a cause that can do some significant good for our country. Be problem solvers, not problem creators. We got enough of those already.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is Pushing for Net Neutrality, Bravo!

Posted in 1 with tags on April 8, 2010 by jwilhelmy

Update: The FCC lost the battle for net neutrality, so it seems the war must be fought by vocal customers. The court shot down the FCC’s attempt to regulate Comcast. It was defended by Michael Powell, a former FCC chairman and currently co-chairman alongside Comcast and Verizon over at Broadband for America.

“Well before the presidential election and the FCC’s new commitment to draft net neutrality rules, the broadband provider community had committed themselves to open Internet principles and were running their business consistent with their consumers’ wishes for access to content and applications of their choosing, as well as the freedom to connect Internet devices to their connections,” Powell wrote.
So, if we tell you we don’t want to be charged based on the amount of content we consume, which would affect many people’s access to content, then you won’t, right? Right?

On the table at the Federal Communications Commission is a proposal that will enact strict rules which will prohibit Internet Service Providers, such as Comcast and Time Warner, from blocking certain types of web traffic.

If this proposal passes, the companies will no longer get to choose which content or applications get top billing for the highest bandwidth. This is a very good thing.

Hulu is an Example

The Internet has been a great enabler of innovation and has helped countless businesses expand and achieve great economic growth.  However, when one of these innovators are burgeoning on success, sometimes their product or service may rest in conflict with the ISP’s business model.

Think about hulu.com, which allows people to watch tons of on demand TV shows that they previously had to wait for the cable company to deliver.  That cable company is also an ISP can then strike back by throttling down the bandwidth available to hulu.com traffic, thereby lowering the value proposition of the streaming video service.

Their Solution

This sounds like the ISP’s actions are also hurting their bottom line since the consumer or content provider would simply move to an ISP that doesn’t throttle their service.  Which might be the case if there actually existed competition in this service sector.  I live in a large city and Time Warner is my only option.

The large ISP’s will not be challenged by new offerings or advancements as they have the coffers to swallow up most anything that comes along and what they can’t they’ll lobby for new regulations that will put an end to any competition.

Texas Conservatives Are Acting Like Communists

Posted in education, Politics with tags , , , , , , on March 19, 2010 by Bitch Slap Poli

Last week the Texas Board of Education, which is made up of 10 Republicans and 5 Democrats, decided to do what many communist countries do – namely rewrite history and make themselves seem in the right on every matter no matter how far that is from the truth.

Every American, from far right conservatives to far left liberals, should be very concerned about the Texas Board of Education’s actions. There is clear bias and inaccuracies in the changes that they are wanting to make to history and social study books and our kids’ education is no place to be playing politics or letting ideology get in the way of facts.

Conservatives Seemed to Have Become Scarily Disconnected with Reality

This is just another example of the disconnect that is plaguing conservatives. They are getting farther from reality and the standards that our forefathers established when they formed our country.

They see their ideology as the only correct ideology regardless of the fact that this country is founded on the principle that personal ideology would not stand in the way of rights for all people – including a public education that is based on factual evidence not political positions.

Stalin himself rewrote the history books in the Soviet Union in order to cast himself and his party in a more positive light. They removed names from history (in particular those that they had executed) and replaced it with their own. He wanted to establish a specific mindshare in the brains of the youngest soviets knowing that would influence their loyalty in him.

Maybe the Rampant Hypocrisy is Worse

Supporting the case of how disconnected Texas conservatives have become is what they have stated as their motivation for the amendments.

Conservative board member Don McLeroy said after the vote, “We are adding balance. . . History has already been skewed. Academia is skewed too far to the left.”

So the Texas board of Education decided to clearly skew it to the right.

Among the changes are:

Down playing the significance of Thomas Jefferson in the creation of the US government and out right removing him from history books because he was a proponent of separation of church and state.

Changing ‘democratic’ to ‘constitutional republic’ because the prior term favored democrats too much – they clearly don’t mind the new terminology favoring themselves.

Removing mention of hip-hop as a cultural movement in America.

Putting more focus on the right to bear arms in the teaching of the constitution.

‘Capitalism’ is now called ‘free enterprise system’ because as republican member Terri Leo puts it:

“Let’s face it, capitalism does have a negative connotation. You know, ‘capitalist pig!’ ”

Of course that negative connotation has made a come back after the Bush administration’s economic policies of the 2000s. Clearly it a term the Republicans would love to replace and wipe the slate clean of.

The list goes on and is aptly summed up by the New York Times if you care to be amazed and shocked that such a thing could happen in this country.

The Real Losers – Texas Students

Consider this, elected officials – politicians, with no expertise in any of the subjects at hand are amending standards that were set by an association of teachers. POLITICIANS are overriding TEACHERS curriculum standards.

In a country where our students are already falling behind globally the last thing we need is for our own states to start impeding their progress by replacing and ignoring facts in exchange for political ideology.

Given the reason events in the state where I reside, I wonder how much collateral damage will pile up before the 2010 November elections.

Google’s Losing Hand in China

Posted in government, Politics, Tech with tags , , , , , , on January 21, 2010 by jwilhelmy

It took me a while to digest the situation that’s arisen between Google and the Chinese Government.  On the face of it you have the PR statements directly from Google’s official blog:

“We detected a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China that resulted in the theft of intellectual property” and “we have evidence to suggest that a primary goal of the attackers was accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists.”

Which, was followed by Google publicly calling out the Chinese Government and stating that they will pursue the operation of an unfiltered google.cn.

However, if the Chinese Government will not allow the unfettered access for it’s people to all that Google indexes then they will pull out of the Chinese market completely and shut down google.cn as well as the offices that the company operates in the country.

A Champion of Free Speech?

Huzzah Google!  But not so fast.

Regardless of the corporate slogan, “Don’t be evil” Google is a for-profit publicly traded entity that exists to make money.  Why would a company that actively cooperates with the Chinese Government by employing people whose sole job is to track down and eliminate disallowed content from the google.cn index suddenly change it’s tune and become a trumpeter for free speech?

Advertising revenue is by far the largest source of income for Google so why threaten the Chinese government in such a way that would deny your ad partners the chance to reach the 338+ million internet users in China?  On a stance of free speech the shareholders will not have it.

So what really happened?

What Really Happened

It’s important to understand what Google is really concerned with in its relationship with China.  The attacks that China made on the intellectual property of Google and at least 20 other western companies is the real key here.

It’s smart for Google to focus its media spin on the activists whose gmail accounts were hacked (using pure social engineering techniques, BTW), however, the reason so many of us use Google is because of its prowess in search.  Though ad revenue may keep the cogs going, if the search functionality was crap there would be no reason for people to use Google.

China’s attempt at co-opting the search algorithms potentially degrades the functionality of Google search. Big time – potentially.

The Search Algorithm, Not the Users, is What Google is Afraid of Living Up

Currently, estimates put Google’s China revenue in at around $300 million, or 1.6% of its total sales. Which is a rather small concession compared to what it would lose if say Baidu, the current king of Chinese search, were to get their hands on what makes Google such a worldwide search powerhouse.

A Chinese competitor using the Google IP could become a worldwide competitor in short order, leaving much greater Google losses in its wake.  I guess keeping enemies closer is a bit trite in the eyes of Google, but it looks like this is simply their safest bet.

The Chinese have no incentive to concede and Google can’t risk its golden goose.  The days of google.cn are numbered indeed. That is, unless China decides to stop their cyber theft ways.

But hey, China is already hacking into our very own government’s web systems and are the biggest thieves online at the moment, so I’d say that is not likely to happen.

FCC Fines Fox News For Inaccuracies

Posted in breaking news with tags , , , on January 14, 2010 by Bitch Slap Poli

Wouldn’t it be great if that headline were true? And not just because it’s Fox News.

If the FCC punished media outlets that repeatedly relay misinformation like they punish stations that show indecency on television, then we’d probably be a smarter voting base in general.

The Corruption of Trusted News

A good journalist knows you need to get to the source. Dig into some news outlets and you’ll see money is greasing the gears. Fox News striking a deal with Sarah Palin is a perfect example. Despite her repeated inaccuracies and obvious bias, the “fair and balanced” Fox News is showing its true colors – green and more green with a red bow on top.

Is Entertaining News a Good Thing?

An entertainment factor has been slowly changing the way “news” sources deliver information, right down to the accuracy of it. Call me crazy, but I think if it has to be one or the other I’d rather my news be factual and informative and I’ll find entertainment elsewhere.

I guess that’s why I’m such a big fan of NPR.

In a Romanesque culture that gets off on bloodsports, we’re not satisfied with logical, respectful debate and discussion. The political jabs and theatrics of a house divided are much more attention grabbing. It’s hard to clearly determine if the general public or the politicians are more to blame for the state of things.

Regardless of the cause, the cure partly rests in media sources that resist over-dramatize a story by sticking to unbiased facts.

Money Talks in Media

At the end of the day there’s a bottom line. If spicing things up with a little twisting of the truth plays to a sizable market then who’s to say that’s not affecting how news is delivered and received in turn affecting public policy.

We must also remember there are people at the top of news networks with political ties and special interests of their own. They set the tone and direction for their whole operation.

But what if the FCC regulated news stations the way it regulates profanities on t.v. with fines? What if, in order to call yourself a “news source” you were subject to a rule of accuracy? If you break the rules you get fined, if you don’t meet the standards you can’t call yourself a news source.

The stations and shows can still operate independently of these regulations if they choose. They just wouldn’t be able to call themselves a news source. That seems pretty logical and fair, especially to the end consumer.

Tea Party Leader Can’t Give Reasons for Opposing Obama

Posted in 1 on December 10, 2009 by Bitch Slap Poli

NPR did a dozy of a report on the Tea Party organization which seemed to let off a lot of its steam this summer while spreading misinformation about health care. Now that they’re losing the lime light it seems Tea Party leaders have figured out what made them such a hot ticket in August.

Anger. Blind, egged-on anger.

If you listen to the report, pay close attention around the  8 minute mark. Dallas area Tea Party leader Lorie Medina couldn’t seem to come up with a real reason for why she opposes president Obama. Not one single thing about his policymaking.  (Bet tea baggers hate that the stimulus, though it has its flaws, is working to stabilize the economy.)

Her complaint was that he apologizes for our country when overseas. Apparantly though Medina’s Christian she doesn’t believe in apologizing when she’s done something wrong. That, or she doesn’t understand the tone and actions that our country’s leaders have taken with the rest of the world this decade and the ill will that it created world-wide.

Or that many of our previous political leaders cared more about themselves and their wealthy friends than her and their country when they passed tax cuts that added more than 2.1 trillion dollars to our debt and gave approximately half of the tax cut benefits to the wealthiest 5% of the population, or in other words them and their friends.

Which means those tax cuts cost the middle and lower class by way of added debt and loss of funding for federal, state and local programs in return for tax cuts that weren’t equally shared.

We got boned. Citizens for Tax Justice put it this way:

From 2001 to 2006, the typical middle income American has received a tax cut totaling $1,855 per family member. But that family’s share of the added national debt burden is $8,936 per person.

Do you recall what you did with the roughly $370 in tax savings each year? Me neither, but I do know it would be nice to have trillions less in national debt right now.