Must See Explanation of Sub-Prime Mortgage Collapse

March 15, 2010



Best selling author and former Salomon Brothers bond trader Michael Lewis gives an insider’s perspective on what caused the sub-prime mortgage collapse.  His blunt explanation and brutal analysis cut through all the excuses and lay blame directly on Wall Street.  Click here to see part of his riveting interview with 60 minutes Correspondent Steve Kroft. Click here for more.

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How Long Should Unemployment Benefits Last?

March 11, 2010

Do you think extending unemployment benefits is a good idea?

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By Angie Moreschi:

Does extending unemployment benefits just end up extending unemployment?   It’s a question a lot of people are asking as the Senate passed yet another extension of jobless benefits.  The provision to extend unemployment benefits is part of a $138 billion package which also extends dozens of expiring tax benefits, eases corporate pension requirements, and heads-off a cut in Medicare reimbursements to doctors.  The bill passed in a 62-36 vote.

The unemployment provision in the new bill extends benefits up to 99 weeks, which is almost 2 years. Benefits have generally been limited to 26 weeks or 6 months, but several extensions already enacted have elongated the benefit time period to 78 weeks, which is 18 months.  And now, this will extend it again to 99 weeks.

The extensions come in the face of extraordinarily trying economic times which have made finding a job difficult.  The jobless rate held steady at 9.7% in February, with 14.9 million Americans reportedly out of work.  Those individuals have been unemployed for an average of 29.7 weeks.

Critics say the unemployment benefits program which was created as a temporary bridge for laid off workers is turning into a very expensive entitlement.  About 11.4 million out-of-work people now collect unemployment compensation, at a cost of $10 billion a month.  Unemployment compensation is funded largely through employer taxes, but occasional extensions by Congress are made on a federally funded basis.

Helping Hand or New Form of Welfare?

At what point does a helping hand turn into a hand-out that people abuse?  An increasing number of opponents suggest extending jobless benefits discourages people from trying to find a job.

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) told the Senate he questioned why anyone would see unemployment benefits as helpful to the economy, or to the job market. “If anything, continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work,” Kyl said. “I am sure most of them would like work and probably have tried to seek it, but you can’t argue it is a job enhancer.”

A labor economist at the Heritage Foundation told the Washington Post that with all the extensions unemployment benefits are turning into a form of welfare.  “It is appropriate and natural for Congress to extend the time limit of unemployment insurance with the job market as bad as it is, but by quadrupling it, it is no longer an unemployment insurance program but a welfare program,” said James Sherk.

Necessary in Difficult Times

Others say the extensions are necessary in these difficult economic times. The National Employment Law Project urged Congress to pass the latest extension without to prevent thousands of people from losing their unemployment benefits.

“Congress must swiftly act to maintain the lifeline for millions of jobless Americans caught in the undertow of record long-term unemployment in this ongoing downturn,” said NELP director Christine Owens in a statement.

Is 99 Weeks Too Much?

The centerpiece of the measure passed by the Senate would extend provisions offering the jobless as many as 99 weeks of unemployment assistance averaging $300 per week along with a 65 percent subsidy to help buy health insurance through the federal Cobra program.  In general, benefits are based on a percentage of an individual’s earnings over a recent 52-week period – up to a State maximum amount.

Unemployment benefits were created as part of the Social Security Act in 1935, intended to provide the unemployed some portion of their income while helping the economy weather down times. In 1970, federal law was amended to allow for extensions within the unemployment system during periods of high and rising unemployment. Nearly two-thirds of the jobless collect unemployment benefits, which go only to those who have earned a certain amount of money in the previous year, and who lost their jobs through no fault of their own.

Do unemployment checks discourage people from finding work? What if the checks keep rolling in for nearly two years?  Is it worth it? Weigh in by voting in the CWN poll above.

Ten Activities More Dangerous Than Air Travel

March 9, 2010

dangerBy Terry Smiljanich:

Just a few months into 2010, there have been 104 people killed in air crashes worldwide. The most serious was the January crash of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 after taking off from Beirut, Lebanon, killing all 90 aboard. Consumer Warning Network has written about air safety and ranked the various air carriers, both domestic and international.

Most people are at least a little apprehensive when boarding an airplane, but just how concerned should we all be? What’s more dangerous than getting on an airplane?

According to the National Safety Council’s data on accidents, the lifetime odds of dying from an injury are 1 in 24. The suffering from accidental injury ranges from being bitten by a venomous spider (1 in 716,000) to suffocating in bed (1 in 11,000).

Here’s a list of ten activities that present a greater threat of death than traveling by air, based on lifetime odds.  They are ranked starting with the most dangerous.

  1. Dying in a car crash (19 times more dangerous than traveling by air)
  2. Overdosing on narcotics (8 times more dangerous)
  3. Being killed while crossing a street (7.5 times more dangerous)
  4. Dying in a pickup truck or van crash (4.2 times more dangerous)
  5. Suffocating on an ingested non-food object (4 times more dangerous)
  6. Dying in a building fire (3.7 times more dangerous)
  7. Killed on a motorcycle (3.5 times more dangerous)
  8. Being poisoned (3.3 times more dangerous)
  9. Falling down a flight of stairs (1.7 times more dangerous)
  10. Drowning in natural water (1.5 times more dangerous than air travel)

    We’ve all heard that the car trip to the airport is more dangerous than the plane trip, but how many realize it is almost 20 times more dangerous, or that crossing the street to the air terminal is almost 8 times more dangerous?

    World’s Most Admired Companies

    March 5, 2010

    Apple & GoogleBy Angie Moreschi:

    Fortune Magazine is back at it with another list to capture the collective mindset on which companies are the most admired. “Most admired” falls closely in line with being profitable, as you might imagine, but not always.  Other key factors in getting the nod included respect for the product, service quality and innovation.

    Apple, with its legion of devoted followers, not surprisingly, ranked number one.  It was followed in second place by Google, which I personally could not live without.  Ironically, Toyota, in the midst of its brand meltdown due to safety concerns over sudden acceleration in its vehicles, made the top 10, coming in at number seven.  Also in the top ten, Berkshire Hathaway, Johnson & Johnson, Amazon.com, Proctor & Gamble, Goldman Sachs, Wal-Mart, and Coca-Cola.

    To come up with the list, Fortune’s survey asked businesspeople to vote for the companies they admired most, from any industry.  Here’s a look at the list.  Click on each company to get a description of that company’s business status.

    Top 50 most admired companies overall:

    Rank Company
    1 Apple
    2 Google
    3 Berkshire Hathaway
    4 Johnson & Johnson
    5 Amazon.com
    6 Procter & Gamble
    7 Toyota Motor
    8 Goldman Sachs Group
    9 Wal-Mart Stores
    10 Coca-Cola
    11 Microsoft
    12 Southwest Airlines
    13 FedEx
    14 McDonald’s
    15 IBM
    16 General Electric
    17 3M
    18 J.P. Morgan Chase
    19 Walt Disney
    20 Cisco Systems
    21 Costco Wholesale
    22* BMW
    22* Target
    24 Nike
    25 PepsiCo
    26 Starbucks
    27 Singapore Airlines
    28 Exxon Mobil
    29 American Express
    30 Nordstrom
    31 Intel
    32 Hewlett-Packard
    33 UPS
    34 Nestlé
    35 Caterpillar
    36 Honda Motor
    37 Best Buy
    38 Sony
    39 Wells Fargo
    40 eBay
    41 Nokia
    42 Samsung Electronics
    43 Deere
    44 L’Oréal
    45 AT&T
    46 Lowe’s
    47 General Mills
    48 Marriott International
    49 DuPont
    50 Volkswagen

    Waste in the Health Care System – Outrageous Prices

    March 1, 2010

    If you’re looking to buy a toothbrush, stay far far away from a hospital.  Imagine paying $1000 for ONE toothbrush. Perhaps we should call it an oral contaminant removal system, given the hefty price tag, but whatever you call it, it’s simply outrageous. And more importantly, it’s why American health care costs are skyrocketing. Click here for more.

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