Tag Archives: economy

Obama takes aim at loophole

I was greeted this morning by one of the most welcome stories I’ve read in some time.  US President Barack Obama has signaled his intent to close some infamous gaps in our byzantine tax code.  Specifically, loopholes that allow US corporate entities as well as individuals to evade their fair share of taxes.

In my opinion this is a good move for the US in general, as one goal is to remove incentives for US-based companies to create jobs overseas rather than onshore.  I’m not against multinationals per se, but on the other hand the extreme loss of our manufacturing base has troubled me for some time.

Continue reading

150+ and counting…

A few days ago I posted that I was up to 130 job applications since losing my position with Nokia.  Afterward, out of sheer frustration over lack of progress I began digging deeper than ever, turning up companies I had never heard of before but listing positions I could perform.  A few look very promising… at least on paper.

So as of today I am over 150 applications, and setting a goal for myself of 10 per day.

Perhaps I need to make it clear at this point that I am not spamming any employers– yet.  So far every job to which I’ve applied I believe I can do.  But as I exhaust the typical possibilities I am going to have to broaden my scope– both up and down.

Continue reading

The Great microSociety, part 1

In the 1960s former US President Lyndon Johnson signed off on laws to create what he called “The Great Society“, his follow-up to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.  There are mixed analyses to this day over the effects, some pro and some con, but his ostensible goal was “the elimination of poverty and racial injustice.”  Most of this change attempt was orchestrated through legislative means.

We’re not there yet, and perhaps never quite will be, but the ideal itself is certainly worth pursuing.  Opponent criticisms are tempered, I think, by the fact that the following two administrations (Nixon and Ford) extended the programs further.  Now current US President Barack Obama is touting yet another stage to this social progression, although couched in necessary contextual terms such as recovery and the ambiguously-useless change.

It is with that foundation in mind that I began wondering what a “great society” should look like presently given our opportunities and advancements, especially in medicine, agriculture and high technology.

Continue reading

Good day sunshine

Regardless of how one may view the administration of former US President Jimmy Carter, one really good thing that came out of it (besides a large supply of comedic material for Dan Aykroyd) was a sensible, proactive energy policy.  Carter signed off on federal incentives to kickstart alternative energy years before it was fashionable, and a growth industry erupted almost overnight in response.

I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time because I got to directly participate.  I was a young plumber at the time, almost ready to take my journeyman’s license exam, when our little outfit became involved with installing passive solar water heating systems.  The basic setup was a roof-mounted panel or two along with a heat exchanger in the garage.  There was even a job or two involving several panels as well as a large storage tank for swimming pools.

Continue reading

Home, home on the range

The title of this post is an old cowboy folk tune that rings pleasantly nostalgic… a stark contrast to what I am actually going to lament.

2008’s economic implosion was identified months ahead by savvy analysts who knew the olympic housing boom was unsustainable.  Unfortunately, people caught up in the event had banked on it lasting just a bit longer… and the Last Ones Holding lost as always.

And so today in the US we have markets flooded with severely devalued houses that act as a drain on the economy.  What triggered me to talk about it today was this short article referencing a study that found many Americans wanting to relocate.  Not surprisingly, the cities targeted for abandonment are those in devastated local economies: Detriot, Cleveland, et al.

Continue reading

The jobless saga continues

I hate to sound like a one-topic writer but it has been difficult lately to move off of the unraveling economy… especially since it has impacted me in a big way already.  I also hate diverging from my usual attempts at objectivity but maybe I just need to vent a little.

I read another job loss story on CNN that got me a bit cranky this morning.  For the most part it was an all-too common tale: hard-working professionals like myself faced with big adjustments and personal loss.

But what got my ire up was the advice doled out by a clinical psychologist quoted in the article:

“Bad times pass, and it’s sometimes hard to see that when you’re in the throes of a terrible place,” she said. “I think we do need to hold onto a spirit of optimism and a sense of confidence.”

“I think we’re getting mired in the gloom and doom, and we need to hold on to the fact that lots of people are working.”

Does that snippy bit of cavalier fluff help anyone?  Sorry, Dr. Dorlen, your desk-side manner stinks.

I want to write on more upbeat themes but I am not going to insult the few readers I have with trite, insensitive remarks such as “bad times pass” and “lots of people are working”.  So by all means propose some topics.  Send me something you would like covered– I’ll research, synthesize, analyze and write it up.  Then we’ll discuss the heck out of it.  If nothing else I can use the practice while continuing a discouraging job search…

A plea to our president: unlock the 401K

Some days ago I wrote on a revival in entrepreneurship in the US largely initiated by massive job losses and corporate failures.  In the article I briefly mentioned Retirement to Franchise Transfer Plans, a means of using one’s 401K retirement to purchase stock in a franchise.  This is in essence a stock transfer, and no penalties are incurred.  Oddly, my Google search on that phrase only turned up 5 distinct hits!  That leads me to assume the option may not be exercised by many.

Maybe that last detail has to do with low awareness, or perhaps many cannot realistically employ it.  This alternative funding vehicle may work well for those with monster 401Ks, and a desire to fund their own business, but it is useless for someone like myself with a tiny (and shrinking) tax-deferred investment along with no access to other working capital.

So I’d like to propose something blasphemous to our current national leadership: create a temporary moratorium on 401K and/or IRA early withdrawal penalties and taxes (note: see update below for an embarrassing admission).  Continue reading

A surplus of nonexistant workers?

Many years ago I worked in the US defense industry, in an engineering capacity.  In the mid 1990s that work declined significantly due to lack of Soviet-scale threats and I bounced around a bit before landing in consumer hand tools.  Competition for engineering positions was fierce at the time, due to so many former highly-skilled defense workers on the job market.

Simultaneously, corporate leaders were lobbying Congress for reform of H1-B visa rules.  The goal was to increase quotas of guest workers.  The argument was that there were not enough qualified native candidates, especially in IT.  Readers may recall that correcting potential “Y2K bugs” (a very real problem at the time) drove massive demand for data managers and coders.

Continue reading

Theory of relative pain

There is nothing like being laid off of work to make one really appreciate steady income.  I had gotten too used to a budget on autopilot, one that just worked, and since my position at Nokia was eliminated I am questioning the little purchases that used to be reflex.  “Can I have a bag of donut holes, Dad?”  Depending on behavioral trend, that used to be an easy “yes”.   Now I have to consider the larger scenario: Donut holes, about $3 per bag.  Uninsured visits to the dentist: priceless.

So I am not sure if I am relieved or discouraged to read that millionaires in the United States are suffering, too.  After a few years creating more than ever, our fickle economy has now stripped many of up to one-third their worth.

On one hand it is easy to dismiss their situation– so someone’s net worth declined from a cool one million or so dollars to a cold $700,000.  Yawn.  Let me know when they lose a little more.

Continue reading

Last phone standing

This 2-page Reuters article describes the declining cell phone market and presents a case for Finnish giant Nokia emerging from the stumbling economy less battered than its rivals.  I tend to agree.  The Finns are known for their methodical, conservative approach to business and I believe that trait is the main element enabling Nokia to weather the economic storm.

As on-target as I generally found the article to be, though, the author did neglect to mention that a large part of Nokia’s resilience has been and will be due to its success in emerging markets.  Instead, he makes this comment:

In a shrinking market, handset makers are battling for the only remaining growth business — smartphones — where they face newer rivals such as Apple (AAPL.O), with its iPhone, Blackberry maker RIM (RIM.TO)(RIMM.O) and Google (GOOG.O).

Continue reading