Monday, November 23, 2009

Quote of the Week!

While I am not fully 'educated' on whether or not I like or dislike Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner (I definitely hate the fact that big O couldn't find someone who didn't owe back taxes for the post, however) I must admit that I LOVED the following interchange reported by the Wall Street Journal last Friday (from the Joint Economic Committee):

REP. KEVIN BRADY (R-TX) "The public has lost all confidence in your ability to do the job."

TREAS. SEC. GEITHNER: "What I can't take responsibility is for the legacy of crises you've bequeathed this country."


I concur Mr. Geithner, you hit the nail on the head (and nailed Mr. Brady in the process). I guess I'll go harsh this morning: I condemn Congress. I blame Congress. I am unhappy with Congress. For too long we have had these people running our country into the ground. BOTH parties. It's time for this mess to stop. It's time for TERM LIMITS. Elect representatives based on what messages they 'sell' us during elections (e.g. do we agree with their point of view? Then send them to DC for a short time to accomplish that goal and can them if they don't do what they promised). House of Representatives? 3 terms (that's six years). Senate? 2 terms (twelve years). I am unsure how I'd feel about a Representative 'graduating up' to the Senate (giving them a potential 18 year 'reign' on our nickel). I just can't see any other options to get these people to do what we want them to do--so that our "government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."

We are at a true crossroads in our country. I have made my own choices in my life and I have benefited or been 'punished' for them. It is not the role of the government to step in and save me (or further punish me) for my choices. You cannot legislate change; there is no moral obligation (or requirement) for the government to take money from me and give it to someone else. I have my own issues and 'causes' to handle--it's not my job to be someone else's guardian--except for my wife, kids, dogs and family. My choices. Again, read John Galt's speech from Atlas Shrugged and you'll understand (for a highly condensed version, click here).

Lest you think I am a complete selfish monster, I do want to point out that I am a charitable person--however, I give to what I support-not what the government 'thinks' I should support. My 2 cents as always... Happy Monday, eh? : )

(For one important group I support, check out The Rotary Foundation and consider supporting them...)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Current Outlook

The Recession Is Over!

Oh, really? Ask one of the thousands of unemployed people and I'd bet you'll hear a different answer. Yes, home sales (and prices) have risen a bit and yes, retail sales have risen a bit, BUT we need jobs. (I could digress about wasting time with health care reform vs. our real problems (It's the Economy, Stupid!) but this is not to be a politicized rant today).

This week's unemployment figures didn't truly rise (on a nationalized level, but in GA it actually went UP) but the numbers are higher than a level that indicates the economy is adding jobs. New unemployment claims have fallen around 22% since the Spring, but who is hiring? With people losing jobs and with those people not FINDING jobs, foreclosures could be the next flood to hit. We have been hit with all the adjustable-rate and/or subprime loan foreclosures in prior years but we are seeing many more fixed rate 'plain vanilla' loans going to the courthouse steps of late. To turn the tide, we need to see weekly claims to fall to higher than 400,000 for several weeks! Unemployment benefits were extended, but this lifeline will run out in January unless we see another extension from Congress. Some members of "The Fed" have noted that our recovery will resemble an "L" with a gradual upward tilt from the base (which is better than the L pointing down!). Small businesses typically contribute about a third of net job growth in the last 2 economic recoveries--not this time! Small businesses have accounted for about 45% of net job losses through the end of 2008, so it looks like we are in for a long fight...

On a positive note, the federal tax credit for 1st-time home buyers was extended and 'move up' buyers were given their own credit of $6,500 as well. HOWEVER, I am very disappointed in that credit as it is restricted to people who have lived in their home for 5 of the last 8 years. Let's cut to the chase-I am 44 and I am finally 'stable' (well, at least as it relates to moving!) and I don't plan to move any time soon. I have never lived in a home for over 5 years so if I was looking to move (I'm not) I couldn't get the tax credit. I think a more reasonable figure would have been a 3-year restriction but no one called for my opinion...

If we could loosen credit to credit-worthy borrowers AND get back to common sense underwriting we could get out of this mess faster. As I keep saying, this all started with Housing and Housing will get us out of this mess. We need to repeal the Home Valuation Code of Conduct as well so we can go back to using quality appraisals vs. whomever happens to be cheapest, but again, that's a topic for another day.

Finally, I read that Atlanta's housing inventory began to deplete in the 3rd quarter and housing starts actually ROSE. The quote (from Metrostudy) that really rang true for me was this: "We do not have an oversupply problem, we have a demand problem". This is what I am referencing above-if people could sell their homes they could move into a new home. It's like a 'reverse' domino effect-nothing is falling into place so that the next domino can fall. No credit = no home sale. No home sale = no seller becoming buyer. Hopefully we'll see some positive movement sooner rather than later!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Senator Byrd-time to go?

This is a perfect case for Term Limits. While I respect the fact that Senator Byrd has set a record for his service I want to 'cut and paste' a few things from the AP article written by Laurie Kellerman.

*It was unclear whether Byrd would be able to attend Wednesday's session.

* He has cast more than 18,000 votes and, despite fragile health that has kept him from the Senate floor during much of this year, has a nearly 98 percent attendance record over the course of his career.

*Friday is his 92nd birthday.

Now I must admit that I have bias against him as he is known for his pork (another quote from Laurie's article: "He's a champion of "earmarks" - pet project spending that critics also call "pork." He's helped bring home to West Virginia $326 million for 2008 alone, according to Citizens Against Government Waste.") but truly I feel that ALL of our Senators and House members should have a much shorter shelf life. If he is not attending Congress, why is he there? And it's not blaming him for anything in particular, but I feel that many in Congress are too focused on special interest groups and companies and are biased against making tough decisions for our country versus voting using polls so that they can remain in Congress! As I type that comment, I must note that I think my Representative, Dr. Tom Price, has done great things and his voting has been in-line with many of my thoughts. So what to do? Guess it will be a 'toss the baby out with the bathwater' (e.g. getting rid of a 'good guy' along with some of the corrupted (yes, I said it) members).

Why are term limits so important to me? ALL of Congress have forgotten why they are in office: to serve US. Not special interests and not to vote laws that more or less purchase votes. As it relates to health care, why do they get a VIP health plan (at our expense)? Why can't they use the new health plan (in whatever form it passes)? As far as unemployment is concerned, wouldn't you like to vote on your own pay? Even as monster corporations get bashed by Congress, you don't see CEO's paying themselves MORE money when the company is losing money? I digress by complaining about Congress complaining about "corporate excess" by flying around in corporate jets--how does Madame Queen Pelosi get around? Do you think you'll ever sit next to her in Coach (heck, even on 1st class!) on Delta??? NOT!

Bottom line: Congress is broken. Let's end the fiefdoms of ALL of our "leaders" (lowercase and in quotes on purpose) and see how they fare in the real world like US. See how their tax and spend policies help them out (there are over 237 Congressional MILLIONAIRES currently serving us! Wonder how they'll like the tax code if they were private citizens again?) Let's work on getting Term Limits passed! My 2 cents and your rant for the day :)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Obama signs tax credit extension!

In a rare bit of bi-partisanship, the house passed a bill extending jobless benefits AND the 1st-time homebuyer tax credit in a 403-12 vote (wonder who the 12 were??). The bill also expanded this tax credit, giving a $6,500.00 tax credit to 'move up' buyers. While this is great news, there is one "issue" (if you can call it that) about this new credit--you have to have lived in your principal residence for over 5 years. Using myself as an example, I have only been in my current home for 3 years. Prior to that, I lived in my old house for right at or just under 5 years, so that may have worked, but I was only in my first 2 homes for 2 years/4 years respectively. I would say that this is more or less common (to be so 'transient'). People like to move up; that's the goal! My current home is exactly what I need for now and I don't forsee moving in the near future. But if I wanted to move, this new law would not benefit me at all. I would think that this restriction is going to make this new tax credit pretty worthless. The intention was good, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. But hey, I won't complain any longer as any help for the housing industry these days is a good thing (and the tax credit extension is a great thing too!).

One soapbox issue: based on how well the government has performed with the H1N1 vaccine, do you really want them handling our healthcare? While I'm at it, can you think of ANYTHING the government does efficiently? Just a thought...