Tag Archives: economy

U.S. and the rest of the world

Most people around the world have heard about the 33 Chilean miners who were trapped on August 5thwhen their mine suddenly collapsed.

At the moment, their rescue is being watched live around the world as each miner is being brought to the surface via a small tube just big enough to hold each miner, one by one from nearly half a mile underground. Each miner is wearing sunglasses as they haven’t been in sunlight for over 65 days. This has been a day of happiness for not only those waiting at the site but also many around the world watching live as these events unfold.

People have sent words of encouragement, hope, prayers and support from all over the world to the friends and family of the miners.

Often times, it is said that the U.S. needs to concentrate on its own issues and not worry about what is going on in the rest of the world. People ask why the U.S. offers aide and assistance to other countries when our country is so in debt or why our news networks have such continuous coverage of disasters or even these types of stories in other countries.

These same questions came up soon after the earthquake in Haiti earlier this year because people didn’t understand the continuous news coverage being done or why the U.S. was encouraging fund raising efforts for Haiti when people in the U.S. were facing such devastation of their own due to an economic crisis.

When Hurricane Katrina happened, the coverage was shared around the world and the same thing happened after the attacks of September 11th. Other countries shared in our pain and offered their words of condolences and backed us up with aide after Katrina and support for the War on Terror.

One thing that was pointed out from others when seeing the footage after the 9/11 attacks was how those abroad were seeing Americans at their best in the worst of times. Americans were united together to help each other out, pull each other up and bring strength back to a nation that had been shaken.

It didn’t make a difference what a person’s race was, or their religion, nationality, beliefs or whether they were gay or straight. Nobody was asking those questions. They just wanted to help someone who needed help and move America forward from a bad situation.

Over the past few years, America has been in a bad situation. This wasn’t a small part of America or something that could just be cleared up in a day with a quick fix or an easy plan. This was an enormous and devastating economic meltdown that happened over years. First, without many people knowing and then without being properly managed to bring it to a halt which allowed an even broader, long lasting, economic crash.

Due to the housing and mortgage collapse and the stock market collapse in 2008, it felt as though the rug was pulled out from under many Americans who before that time had a sense of security in their homes, jobs and savings or some type of stock or retirement plan.

Many people lost their jobs due to company closings or cut backs, their health benefits and their homes due to the inability to make payments and with so many unemployed trying to find a job would become an opportunity so many would be seeking and few would find, only making the current situation that much worse.

At the same time, our country was going through presidential elections. These elections were being watched all over the world. Why are so many people concerned about the outcome of the presidential elections in the U.S.?

During the campaign, John McCain was saying he had more experience in Washington than Barack Obama and therefore would be a better president and Obama was running on the fact he would be able to bring change to D.C. and could bring hope to America when America truly needed hope and change.

Part way through the campaign, due to a serious downturn in the economy, a $700 billion bailout package for the financial industry was drafted and passed by both the House and the Senate. The country was desperate to elect someone who would get the country moving forward and back on its feet but many didn’t realize how much damage had really gone on for years within the financial industry and how much corruption had taken place.

In November 2008, Barack Obama was elected into office and from the beginning had started making changes and has continuously worked alongside his team to make things happen, moving America forward.

To see some of President Obama’s achievements, click here.

There are many people that question why more hasn’t been done, why it isn’t more obvious that America is on the road to recovery. Of course it would be best if everyone who needed a job had a job. It would be best if everyone who lost their home was placed back in a home with a suitable mortgage.

Aside from curing all the devastating diseases, making sure that people are able to have insurance, not be turned away due to pre-existing conditions or have their insurance company say they’ve reached their yearly or lifetime maximum payout is something that should have been an easy agreement by both, the House and the Senate as well as the American people. Healthcare should not be made into a political argument or slogan like “Obamacare”. It should be a human right.

If those in Washington were more worried about the people they were working for instead of themselves being reelected, much more would get done.

I asked early on in this article why should Americans be worried about what goes on in the world or other countries? Why should we get involved? Why does the world watch what goes on in the U.S.? Should it matter to us what other countries think about us?

The U.S. is made up of immigrants from countries all over the world. This country has been added to by immigrants, although some have family here that has been here for many generations, and others for a few generations or maybe some have just come here recently, roots go back to other countries. Many still have families in those countries and are very concerned on a daily basis for their family and their country. Their family there is very concerned for them here. That is how America is. That is what makes America strong. It’s diversity. With each person and their background, their heritage and their culture, America has gained a great strength. The land of opportunity has always had an opportunity to learn as well from every person that has come here just as they have had the opportunity to learn by coming here.

When a natural disaster happens anywhere, we have people here that are very concerned about their families who live in their countries not knowing whether they are dead or alive, homeless or if their home is okay.

We have many American citizens living abroad. Our concern for them does not end at our borders.

Our government also maintains relationships with other countries for diplomacy reasons and compassion is an act of humanity.

These are just a few reasons to care about people all over the world, to offer aide when possible and to lend a helping hand when needed.

Of course the U.S. has to take care of its home front, its people and protect its borders but that doesn’t require throwing in the towel on humanity and forgetting what other countries truly mean to us and our own citizens.

It’s been said, “The only time you should look down on a person is when you are helping them up.”

Recession ended, really?

It seems not only has the recession ended, but it has been over since June 2009. Missed that memo…

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research which is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, their finding is the recession started in December 2007 and ended in June 2009 (lasting 18 months) which would be the longest recession the country has gone through since the Great Depression.

With this news just coming out today, reactions were mixed. On the Social Media website, Twitter, the hashtag#recessionended quickly became the #2 trending topic.

Many were passing along the news while others were just verifying the news had actually said the recession was over. There were tweets mentioning how many jobless people would “love” to hear this recently reported information and tweets from people without jobs or going through financial crisis feeling this report was really out of touch.

The nation has seen recessions in the past and has also faced its economic setbacks so it isn’t hard to imagine how an economic group would know which numbers to focus on. The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) looked at figures that make up our nation’s GDP (gross domestic product) which measures the total value of goods and services produced in the U.S. The NBER also takes into account the incomes, employment and overall industrial activity.

Not only can the NBER look at these present numbers but they can compare them to past numbers during good economic times and not-so-good economic times in the U.S. Therefore they can look at trends in the U.S. economy. I’m not an economist but it gives them an advantage to use the past to possibly see a bit into the future.

However, that is only part of what today’s article is about. As the saying goes, “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” That also goes for what someone says may be or what they think may happen. To a person without a job or only a part time job instead of a full time job with benefits like they need, to hear these “good news” is more like “passing news” until something more concrete shows up.

Twitter has been a great way for people to share their job finds, job losses or their job being saved. It has also been a good place to keep in touch with others from previous companies or post a type of job they may be looking for. As always, Twitter keeps people up with what is happening at any given moment all around the world. For instance, on a positive note, the DOW rose 145 points today. That is in the right direction.

How has the recession affected you? Or, were you someone that really wasn’t affected? If you were affected, have things improved for you yet? Share your comments.

Recovery for America Pt. 1 – Promise of "Change"

In November 2008, the United States of America was caught up in the “feeling of change”. Even those that didn’t vote for President- Elect Obama were curious and they were anticipating what changes would be ahead with the new president and his administration.

The economy was in a downfall, job losses were at an all time high in decades, home values were in a rapid decline, and record foreclosures were happening nationwide. The U.S. Military had two active wars going on and people wanted answers about troop levels, cost and prospective withdrawal dates. This is only part of what was going on when Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States of America.

From early in Obama’s campaigning days, he made his issues clear and he made campaign promises along the way. After all, that is what campaign time is about, right? It shouldn’t be just about what is said, it should be about the outcome and the ability to see things through, the long term effect.

He announced a his position on withdrawing troops from Iraq, increasing energy independence, and promoting a Universal Health Care Plan just to name a few.

In 2008 Obama’s campaigning committee did something that had never been done before. It put social media to the task and through Twitter, Facebook and MySpace was able to target the younger supporters and not only get more of them to register as voters but also to become active in the campaign process.

By using the internet, websites were designed and kept updated with speeches, rally locations, policy information, etc. Supporters could upload images from these websites to their own blogs or social media pages, print out posters, send emails to their friends, family and colleagues as well as find many other ways to show their support for Obama’s campaign. Users could also sign up to have secured text messages from Obama’s Campaign Manager, David Plouffe sent to their mobile device. It was something that had never been done before and voters felt much more “in the loop” by knowing things right as they happened and sometimes, before it was announced on the news by receiving a text message from #62262. For many who followed, that is how they found out who Barack Obama had chosen as his Vice President candidate. The campaign was very up to date and personalized.

After winning the presidential election, President-Elect Obama announced the formation of Organizing for America Organization (OFA) on January 17, 2009 which was a community organizing project of the DNC. Obama said it was an “organization that will build on the movement you started through the campaign.” Again, this was something being done that would involve Americans in a way (via the Internet and community efforts) that hadn’t been done before. He said although he and Vice President-Elect Joe Biden would be working in Washington D.C., “We cannot do this without you.”

It is now 18 months later and people are looking at how things are going for the U.S. The economy does seem to be coming back out of its devastating recession. Job loss continued to worsen and went beyond 10%.

The auto companies were crashing and therefore factories were closing, more job losses and for many towns across the country, the auto industry was their way of life, their income.

With so many people out of work, so many companies out of business, factories closed and therefore not producing, banks not lending money, people were losing the ability to see the “light at the end of the tunnel” or have faith things would get better.

For a nation under such difficult times, a simple solution was not going to work for the long term but also many people were hesitant to throw money at problems that money seemed to have caused, or at least the misuse of money seemed to have caused.

Somehow, things needed to get onto a road to recovery.

This series of articles, “Recovery for America,” is going to take a look at promises made through the campaign and whether they have been kept, are in the process of being carried out, have been compromised on or broken.

If you read my last series, “Help for America” it is clear many Americans are in need of jobs and/or better paying jobs. Small businesses need help to grow and be able to hire more employees and many American families are not only barely getting by but are simply just suffering here in America.

Many communities need to improve their schools, roads, hospitals and be able to hire back teachers and first responders. Here in the Bay Area, being prepared for a natural disaster is something that is always a priority. This isn’t something that can be done when it is too late.

Please share your comments and ideas below in a productive way and they may be used in an upcoming article. You may subscribe above to become a regular follower.

Help for America Pt.2 – Where are the jobs?

In 2008 alone, at least 2.6 million jobs were lost, the highest level in more than six decades. In January 2009, Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute said, “We’re seeing a complete unraveling of the labor market and are on track for getting beyond 10% unemployment.” That was a little over 18 months ago and unemployment has continued to soar.

CNN wrote an article, “Looking for work? Unemployed need not apply” This article was talking about companies that may be putting unemployed applicants aside feeling they may have been laid off due to performance issues.

Getting a job is extremely tough and having the fact of being unemployed held against an applicant is a crucial downfall. Possibly unknown to some employers and applicants is the HIRE Act which was signed March 18, 2010 and includes incentives for businesses to hire applicants that have been without work.

A petition is posted for people to sign and be heard that companies not wanting to hire the unemployed is just not right. Visit the Care2petition Site to sign.

On the well known social media website Twitter, a hashtag #99ers has been appearing next to tweets about unemployment and people looking for work.

Who are the 99ers? According to an article put out by AOL News, the “99ers” is a term for the group of unemployed workers who have been out of work for over 99 weeks and thus are no longer able to receive unemployment benefits.

Unemployment benefits and extensions are heard about on the news as they go to the senate to pass, expire or get pushed aside for a later date to vote on. Many people feel differently about unemployment benefits and the need for these extensions.

The unemployed want their jobs back and the ability to receive a paycheck, benefits and take care of their responsibilities and families. Many have lost what they worked years to gain. Across America the outcome of this has been seen in the alarming rates of foreclosures, bankruptcies and overall the continuing downfall in the economy. However, many employers are looking to put out the least amount of funds possible making the hiring process difficult for both the applicant and the employer.

Numbers released today by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics say there are currently 14,600,000 unemployed with 6,800,000 being long term unemployed.

To get jobs back, a lot of small businesses need to be able to build up their capital but also their confidence in the future of the economy and hire the unemployed. Larger corporations need to reach out and hire as well. By putting people back to work, more money goes into the economy and the cycle can begin to fix itself.

As people are able to go back to sufficient jobs, unemployment becomes less necessary for more people. The economy can grow, businesses grow, new businesses can open and therefore more hiring can occur. But, to see America’s economy grow and the deficit decrease, the businesses and employees that need to be supported have to be here in America.

It’s not just about today or next week. It’s not just about numbers, policies, or parties. It’s not about who is getting elected or even who says what in their campaigns when it comes to this. This is about Americans supporting America. Supporting it now, 5 years from now, 10 years from now and continuing to do so from one generation to the next. Helping America to grow and strive, to move forward as the great Nation it is.

Help for America Pt. 1 – What lies ahead for small businesses?

After such a devastating blow to the Nation’s economy that not only was felt by most Americans but also by many people around the world, as one market crashed after the other, it is quite understandable why many small business owners have felt uneasy to move forward without hesitantly looking back.

This past week a bill went before the Senate that would create a $30 billion government fund to help community banks increase lending to small businesses.

“Everywhere I go, I hear from small business owners who simply cannot get the credit they need to hire and expand,” Obama said. “And we’ve been hearing from smaller community banks that they want to lend to these folks but need more capital to do it.”

Obama told Republican congressional leaders that “the provisions of this bill are things the Republican Party has said it’s supported for years: helping small businesses, cutting taxes, making credit available.”

The Small Business Jobs Act would eliminate capital gains on certain investments and increase deductions from new equipment and other expenses.

However, when the vote came to the floor, Republicans filibustered the measure by a vote of 58 (in favor of cloture) to 42 (against).

“It’s not going to die,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell spokesman Don Steward noted. “We just want to have amendments considered. They made a start, allowing three…so we’re making progress.”

Across the Tampa Bay Area, businesses have had to close their doors, lay off employees, cut back on benefits, or make numerous other changes over the last years.

Vanessa Karl, a Bay Area dog groomer said, “Due to having regular customers and word of mouth referrals and also having made changes to my location, things seemed to have stabilized. However, we have also lost customers due to their own circumstances.”

Although it is said the economy is coming back and people are getting hired, are people feeling confident enough to once again expand their businesses, start a new business and once again look forward to the American Dream?





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If You Don’t Like It, You Can…

What?

What can you do?

Is that the question you ask yourself, those around you? Or, are you the problem solver, the one with the answers? For me, it goes both ways, depends usually. I am not one that is easily flustered (well according to me). I have learned that some fights are better off avoided and not to “sweat the small stuff.”

However, if you live in the real world like most of us do, many things are pretty unavoidable as much as it takes air to breathe and water to live. Life is far from simple and what should be simple is often made more complicated by someone, even we ourselves by trying to make it more fun, organized and in some way hoping to get the most of our time with the least amount of effort. In the long run, it usually ends up quite the opposite. We seem to always be in need of more time, relaxation and “wind down”. But, what has everyone so wound up?

Do we not have enough time in the day, not enough days in the weekend? Is it too little family time? Is it too little money? Are we faced with too many bills? Is work too hard or too stressful? Is it traffic jams? Is it our healthcare we just heard our government fight over for what seemed like 10 years? Is it guilt? What exactly could it be?

I think it is each of the things I mentioned above but all stemming from one thing. Choice or the lack of. What do I mean by that? Well, I think we have lost a lot of our ability to be in control of our own lives. In many ways I think we have so many choices to make at times, it is just overwhelming. At other times, the choices are taken away from us and basically it is that we take what we are “offered” or we lose our “choice”.

As time has gone on, jobs have changed to grow with the times, That means our job structure, the number of positions and our job security has changed. More time is required to do different things even if you are with the same company. Throughout our government, economy and our population it has always been accepted that “time is money” but that is growing truer as time marches on. Employees are becoming more replaceable to their employer due to the fact employers can hire a new employee at a lower pay rate and gain newer ideas, fresh outlook and again do the same thing at a later date. Many times as well an employer has done away with retirement savings and healthcare plans to save money for the business and the employee has been the one to lose out. Both can see it from their side and explain why one side makes more sense than the other but what a person works for and earns should be theirs to keep is the way I see it. It is basically a promise made to them and held in safe keeping by the employer. It shouldn’t be something that is held above their head like a piece of meat that can be stripped away at the first, second or third sign of trouble. But, what can an employee do? If it is not physically in their hand, signed in a contract, already in a bank account in their name, what can they do? They can’t do anything. It is a case of broken trust basically. It is a case of losing out what is rightfully yours, something you worked for. I mean you have done your job, earned that time and now it is gone. For some, they were just 5 years or so away from retirement and then it is gone. Their retirement, their healthcare and in a lot of cases their job too. If they don’t like it, what could they do? Join everyone else that didn’t like it. Join everyone else that had worked so hard as well. Life dishes out unfairness a lot. People dish out unfairness a lot. Often it is done in the name of “survival” to save a business or to fix a broken economy. What about everyone who is being dumped on? They have no choice in the matter. Their choice is on the Pink Slip.

Do you remember the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act of 2009? The law that was designed to protect credit card holders from jacked up interest rates, sudden change in requiring enormous minimum payments and cutting credit lines from one amount down to less than half or even a third or less. Remember also where the banks suddenly required minimum payments of nearly a third of the balance or half the balance? In some cases a person may have had a minimum payment of say $45 and suddenly been required to pay $300 or more? The banks were getting government bailouts and ripping off their customers. Well, they are still out to get the customers. The banks and credit card companies have plenty of tricks up their sleeves and without being prepared, you can get caught in the middle. Well, there really isn’t a middle. There isn’t much you can do if you get caught so you just have to stay ahead of the game. What else can you do?

These are a few tips found in a Reader’s Digest Article in March 2010. “Credit Card Tricks and Traps

*The Catch: After 12 months, banks can raise rates as high as they want on future purchases as long as they give 45 days’ notice.

*The Tip: Watch your interest rates closely

Some companies are sending out bills in plain envelopes,” says Lewis Mandell, a professor of finance and business economics at the University of Washington. Don’t mistake it for junk mail and throw it out. Remember: After 45 days, the new rate takes effect unless you have notified the bank that you choose not to accept it.

That is just one of the examples of what you will find in the article linked above. Click on the article to learn more. It is a very worthwhile read to pass on as well. This is just one example of ways choices are being taken away. You can chose which credit card you pick by looking at their introductory offers and what they reel you in with but I think most people that have followed our economy and the news over the last few years can truly see what can happen and how much is really out of our control unless we take the time to keep a solid eye on matters each day and keep up with the financial news. Even then, most of us have learned that the banks and financial institutions should not be trusted with our money so many have cleaned up their financial matters and had a quick economical education recently. I mean, if you don’t like it, the banks basically said shove off! They were out to save themselves, not the customer.

Do you ever see the homeless people on the side of the street? If your answer is “No”, where do you live? I have seen them anywhere I have ever lived. In some places more than others and at different times of the year, there seems to be less than at other times. These days, there is more. I have to admit when I was younger I didn’t understand how a person could be homeless. It wasn’t that my family was wealthy but I just didn’t understand how a person didn’t have family member that they could live with. As I grew older, I began to understand. I realized in my teen years that a lot of homeless people in our area were Veterans and that was another thing I didn’t understand. If people fought for our country, why were they homeless? How could that be possible! What was wrong with our Country? My eyes were really getting opened. In my 20’s my husband became a U.S. Veteran and that really affected me even more than I imagined it would. Seeing these homeless Veterans and hearing people insult the fact they were there was unacceptable. What upsets me the most is the fact people don’t know the circumstances behind what brings people to a certain place at a particular time in their life. Was it a choice or a circumstance beyond their control? I genuinely doubt the homeless people I see on the street woke up one day in their bed, at home and had a big breakfast and said, “I think I want to give up my job, my house, my family and go live on the street. That is my CHOICE.”

“The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.” Samuel Johnson

I am not saying we should pay people to live on the street but I don’t think we should be going around judging people not knowing what put them there just like we wouldn’t want someone judging us if we look tired and not so put together one day. What if they went around saying, “She must have been out one of her drinking rampages again last night. I hear she does that all time.” Really? Do we have the right to go around making statements and judging people when we don’t know them? Do we have a right to judge people even if we do? Some of my past blogs have been about judging others for reasons beyond their control or things that show a complete lack of intolerance and to be completely up front, this is something that really gets under my skin. But, this is also one of those character traits that is the most difficult to change about people. The title of this blog, “If you don’t like it, you can…” is basically how I think a lot of people are running their lives. I think big businesses are running their companies to the ground, their employees are becoming less and less important to them and the numbers are more and more the focus.

I think overall our government seems to have become less tied to the people because of so many ties and demands on our government. What do I mean by that? Well, to make this simple and due to the fact I intend to continue this in another blog to follow, the U.S. Government has business in every country in some way. There isn’t a day that goes by in which this isn’t true. Americans are spread all over the world and citizens from every nation are here in the U.S. We are so intertwined with our world this is something that is not only possible but an absolute necessity. Our U.S. President cannot have the attitude to walk away from other nations or snub another nation but instead must be willing to negotiate although at all times, keeping our security and economy safe and secure and a number one priority. Our Country cannot have the attitude of, “If you don’t like it, you can…” when it comes to our diplomatic relations or when it comes to having relations with one another. It hasn’t been working and it will only continue to work against us if we have that attitude. As a Nation that doesn’t work, as a citizen that doesn’t work and as a person that doesn’t work.

You may say you don’t like our President or you don’t like our current administration or how the War is going. That is your choice to not agree with something. Elections are also a time for choosing. The outcome of our presidential elections, show America’s choice and ultimately either way we work with that choice for the next four years. As Americans, we should never try to tear down our Government. By doing so, that is tearing down us. Since earlier wars, there have always been people against the wars this country has fought and I can’t think of many people that would be happy to have our soldiers in harm’s way. Personally, I agree things have definitely dragged on but I chose to support our troops. There is a difference between supporting our troops and supporting a war. I am not the person that has a choice whether or not our war efforts should continue but I do know our men and women in the military deserve my continued support and admiration. I have a choice here and that is what I choose to do. I can be up front about where I stand and I won’t send out a mixed or a false message on what I don’t understand.

You see, in many ways a lot of our choices have been slowly voided. They haven’t so much been yanked away but they just aren’t there in the open anymore. They are being made for us or they just happen to be made “by default” these days. Sometimes they are sent to us but they are done in a way that we don’t notice and the company is able to say we ignored our chance to claim making a choice (like the credit card company mentioned above).

But, we do have many decisions we are responsible for making, many choices each day. Do we notice them? Are we taking them lightly when they really could have a big impact on our life or someone else’s?

Look at the statement this way:

If you don’t like it, you can CHANGE IT.

“What you will be tomorrow depends on the choices you make today.” ODB