Morning Roundup: You figure it out

Part of the frustration with reading local daily media is, as HA denizens know, the failure of perspective. It’s sort of like hiring a contractor to build you a deck, and the guy shows up with the tools and supplies and lumber and says, with a wave goodbye, “Figure it out yourself, bub.” So when the P-I and The Times both run stories that a judge has released police reports on Councilman McIver’s arrest, one would kind of like to know why the reports were not released in the first place. That might be a topic worth explaining. And why, if they were withheld before, they’re being released now. This all falls under the heading of media transparency, which means media as well as the cops and courts should be working for you and me, the reader and the public, and not for the privileged and powerful. What the McIver case has become is a poster child for domestic abuse prosecution. The Weekly stirred this pot a few weeks ago, but dailies updates on the case show almost no sense of a larger context: OK, reader, you figure it out. Goldy and I have both observed that in another metro this probably would not be the case; it certainly isn’t in S.F. and Philly.

The housing crisis is another huge local story with virtually no enlightened reporting. Yes, we’ve got the guys showing up with the boards and bricks. The P-I took a stab last Saturday, even including a nearly useless “What’s A Townhouse?” sidebar, and again today with a report on Seattle slipping from No. 1 in housing price increases. One nugget worth noting: “The 4.7 percent change is healthier and more sustainable than the double-digit appreciation the Seattle area saw in prior years, Crellin said Tuesday.” Funny, I never saw a reference to “unhealthy” and “not sustainable” in real-estate stories during the boom years.

To be fair, Seattle is a trailing edge indicator. Housing nation-wide is in a precipitous plummet, down 4.5 percent for the quarter in the worst drop since at least 1988. It was almost spooky during my recent Bay Area visit to hear and see almost no signs of home construction. For years the sawing and hammering and cement trucking has been incessant and pervasive. If Seattle goes as S.F. goes, we ain’t seen nothin’ yet. The problem with stat-based reporting is the unavoidable data latency. No one walking around Seattle’s once-hot neighborhoods actually believes prices are going up 5 percent. They’re already in decline, and with all the still-unfinished (an unpainted, girder-visible condo on Phinney that just got glass in the windows has a hilarious banner, “Move in this December!!!!”) housing coming on the market, they’re not going back up any time soon. Year-to-year comparisons disguise this, of course, giving no sense of street trends and acceleration. (The stat to watch for, which apparently the locals don’t understand, is number of sales and time on market. Housing prices may hold, but if there’s huge inventory and little turnover, as can happen in a tony neighborhood, the real truth is a cancerous psychology.) And then there’s a bogus inflation index (Krugman has been nailing this in the NYT, pointing out how figures ignore staples like bread and gas), which undermines supposedly inflation-adjusted graphs like this one, skewing the housing boom even more.

Media don’t really want to report dire real-estate news, since housing ads are one of the few revenue streams still buttressing the news business. So it comes as little surprise that the big story is being ignored: How does all this affect those bullish transportation and housing forecasts, fed in big part by Mayor Nickels’ insatiable boosterism of 50,000 new jobs and 22,000 additional housing units. For a stampede, I haveta say it’s awfully quiet out there.

Finally, as a coda to our Cyber Monday skepticism, there’s today’s joy and exultation over a 21 percent sales jump, put in true perspective only if you factor in a 38 percent increase in buyers. So sales increasing, but number of buyers increasing even more, means…guess you’ll just have to figure that out for yourself, bub.

Comments

  1. 1

    rhp6033 spews:

    “And then there’s a bogus inflation index (Krugman has been nailing this in the NYT, pointing out how figures ignore staples like bread and gas)”

    Do you have a link to that article? I’d like to read more.

    I’ve noticed a significant discrepency between actual inflation (the increase in my cost of living) and the national inflation figures. Housing up 100% +, cost of gas up almost as much, groceries, etc. getting significantly higher, but the cost of living for the past year still at under 3.2%???? Obviously, the numbers are being fudged. I suspect it is an attempt to keep wages down, as many union contracts peg wage increases to the CPI.

  2. 2

    spews:

    @1…RHP6033…

    Not sure that many collective bargaining agreements contain automatic escalators such as you describe anymore. The trends favor lump sum payouts over percentage wage increases and the elimination of anything that isn’t absolutely fixed in terms of cost.

    Auto industry bargaining, which is always a precurser to what happens elsewhere, now features more and more fixed sum adjustments, if any wage increase at all. No employer who wants to remain competitive ties himself to a contract with COLA-type variables over which he has no control, and unions recognize that the better solution is a contract that emphasizes competitiveness meaning the membership keep their jobs.

    At least this is the way it works for the increasingly small number of private sector workers nationwide represented by unions. Where you fund dumbness is in the public sector where unions increasingly get elected officials at all levels to carry water for them. From the legislature on down, the pandering continues and some in labor are picking the pockets of the public via either Oly or, say, the King County Council who abdicate their legislative responsibilities in favor of union control over the public purse.

    Unelected union officials now make decisions on how tax dollars are to be spent. Not quite sure that’s permitted under the Washington Constitution.

    Stay tuned…

    The Piper

  3. 3

    Paul Andrews spews:

    @1 Krugman makes reference in Monday’s column to “necessities like food, transportation and medical care are rising considerably faster than the Consumer Price Index as a whole. One striking statistic: the cost of a traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner was 11 percent higher this year than last year.” But the column I was thinking about was actually written by Bob Herbert:

    “And the most popular measure of inflation, the Consumer Price Index, does not include the cost of energy or food, ‘the two most significant aspects of the increased cost of living for the American people’.”

    I think you’re right about labor, but a (artificially) low inflation rate also misleadingly skews just about any economic index. BTW for an example of how to interpret numbers in a meaningful way, see today’s New York Times column on job indices by David Leonhardt.

  4. 5

    Blue John spews:

    @3 The New York Times piece about declining job creation was depressing.

    I’m taking a IT class on IT strategy and it’s constant theme are how to do business more efficiently through IT. (This class has not covered making products and services more profitable by making them for less or providing less for the same price.) This class has focused on using IT more profitably. On how business can have less people or cheaper people do the same work. Businesses standardize platforms so it needs less IT staff. Businesses standardize processes to use less people in general. Businesses outsource and offshore to find the cheapest workers.

    It’s all focused on getting the machines or the cheapest humans to generate the maximum profits for the owners. How can we host a successful society on a race to the bottom line?

    What do you all see the logical end point of declining job creation?

  5. 6

    david in wedgwood spews:

    Paul,

    You wrote: “Finally, as a coda to our Cyber Monday skepticism, there’s today’s joy and exultation over a 21 percent sales jump, put in true perspective only if you factor in a 38 percent increase in buyers.”

    I saw the 21% sales increase in an article in the NYTimes, but I’ve not seen the 38% increase in buyers anywhere. Will you please cite your sources?

    Thanks.

  6. 7

    Proud To Be An Ass spews:

    “Unelected union officials now make decisions on how tax dollars are to be spent.”

    A rank dishonest lie. You are shameless, Piper.

    Housing prices: Geez, prices go up. Prices go (or slow) down. What a suprise. We’re coming down off a big housing bubble (as forseen by economists such as Dean Baker). Maybe Bruce Ramsey will stop blaming all recent price increases over the last decade on the Growth Management Act.

    Nah. He’s too dense.

  7. 8

    correctnotright spews:

    CPI is linked to many wage disputes. Employers and workers often cite these statistics and it is clear (as Krugman says) that the CPI is not increasing at the true rate. anyone hwo shops knows that food is more expensive – but the little tricks are to make the container smaller, change the way the food is calibrated and to not sample staples or housing.

    The bottom line is inflation is roaring along and wages are not. Our econmomy is going to hit the skids because:

    1. Trade deficits (see NAFTA and China)

    2. Budget deficits (Bush took a budget surplus and took it to the largest deficit in history). This can primarily be attributed to tax cuts for the rich and spending on Iraq.

    3. Housing market collapse and unethical lending practices – this is already starting to have effects on the banking institions.

    this has all lead to the weak doller – less than the looney now!

  8. 12

    ArtFart spews:

    The Bush Crime Family has evidently launched a full-court press this week to prevent a financial panic from marring the Chri$tma$ season. They’ve called in some markers from their middle eastern friends (yanno, the folks who also pick the tab for al Queda) to buy a chunk of Citibank and crank up the pumps to bring the price of crude down by a few bucks a barrel. This, combined with the Fed promising to shower the floor of the New York Stock Exchange with more greenbacks has the securities markets climbing once again, at least for the time being. Perhaps the shopping public will respond by spending whatever dollars they can spare, rather than have them continue to shrink in their pockets.

  9. 13

    ArtFart spews:

    I dunno whether it’s just a repitition of more flack from the Discovery Institute or not, but the group quoted by the Times today advocating commuter rail through the eastside corrider makes a modicum of sense. I hadn’t thought about the concept of running Budd cars instead of big, noisy combines–the latter would cause an uproar because the route runs next to some pretty expensive back yards. It remains, though, that with or without obfuscation from DI, the county and Sound Transit are sure to spend ten times as much money studying the idea as its advocates say it would take to put it in play.

  10. 14

    rhp6033 spews:

    Okay, I’ll conceed that the CPI does not appear in bargaining unit contracts to the extent it once did. But even in private industry where raises are awarded pretty much according to whatever standard the employer decides to use, the CPI is often bandied about as a rationale, one way or another. At one company when raises were particularly low one year, the company basically said: “What are you complaining about – it is more than the rate of inflation, so you aren’t losing any ground”. But that was when the CPI was measured at less than 1.5% per year, even though costs were clearly rising much faster than that. I know of several companies that start with the CPI and then add “performance raises” of 0% to 3% above that. But if the CPI is artificially deflated, then a “rate of inflation plus 1.5%” might actually be a decrease in spending ability, over the course of the year.

  11. 15

    rhp6033 spews:

    Okay, I’ll conceed that the CPI does not appear in bargaining unit contracts to the extent it once did. But even in private industry where raises are awarded pretty much according to whatever standard the employer decides to use, the CPI is often bandied about as a rationale, one way or another. At one company when raises were particularly low one year, the company basically said: “What are you complaining about – it is more than the rate of inflation, so you aren’t losing any ground”. But that was when the CPI was measured at less than 1.5% per year, even though costs were clearly rising much faster than that. I know of several companies that start with the CPI and then add “performance raises” of 0% to 3% above that. But if the CPI is artificially deflated, then a “rate of inflation plus 1.5%” might actually be a decrease in spending ability, over the course of the year.

  12. 17

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    As long as we’re whining about real estate prices, homes have ALWAYS been expensive, and the next occupant of my hole is going to get a bargain.

    I’ve been in these digs for almost 20 years, and if you believe Zillow, I could sell it for about double what I paid for it. Although I haven’t done the calculation, I’m pretty sure that does not exceed the rate of inflation. In other words, my abode is a lousy investment.

    It will be for the next owner, too.

    I’ve lived in Seattle for over 40 years, and for as long as I can remember, this town has always had a stair-step real estate market. Prices will shoot up rapidly for a few years, but then they’re absolutely flat or show negligible increase for a decade or more. The periods of rapid gain price typically coincide with a Boeing upswing. Seattle is less dependent on Boeing today than in the past, but the current housing market here clearly is being driven by employment growth.

    This growth, too, will end and Seattle’s housing market will then flatten again. The reason real estate prices don’t go down is because people will stay in houses rather than sell for less than they paid. Americans are conditioned to think of their homes as their “largest investment” (with emphasis on the word “investment”) and thanks to the media they think everyone else is making a killing on home appreciation, so they’re simply unwilling to sell at a loss. Not only because so many people are so leveraged that they have no equity in their homes and would walk away from such a deal owing money to the bank, but — even more importantly — because they would feel like saps if they took a loss on an “investment” that (they think) is making mountains of money for everyone else. They would feel stupid.

    What’s stupid is thinking residential real estate is an investment. What’s stupid is going deeply into debt to buy houses on speculation hoping to quickly flip them for enormous profits. What’s stupid is owning rental houses. What’s stupid is believing that a house is for making money. The only thing a house is good for is living in, and it costs you money to own it, live in it, maintain it, and pay for taxes and utilities. It also costs you money to buy it, and then costs you money to sell it. Lots of money.

    If you want an investment, buy stocks in companies that make money. Houses are an expense, not an investment.

  13. 18

    spews:

    @15…RHP6033…

    Salary increases these days aren’t a given. One standard used at one of America’s larges manufacturing companies before ANY increase in base compensation (let alone bonus money) is awarded is whether an individual can demonstrate that he or she has added value to the company.

    In a sense, it’s being able to prove you got tons out the door and cash in the door; you have to justify the increase by showing you’ve made a difference.

    Any employee of any company anywhere who doesn’t look at him or herself as functionally self-employed is delusional. There is no sense of “job security” as previous generations have understood the term, and there hasn’t been for 15, going on 20-years. This includes compensation and benefits.

    The transition from defined-benefit retirement plans to defined-contribution to the 401(k) model illustrates the point. Ditto replacing full-dollar medical coverate with both increased co-pay, co-insurance, and employee participation in premium payments.

    Of course, the public sector lags behind a lot of this, but then the public sector always lags in terms of competitive innovation and necessary change.

    Anyone who complains about the cost of living yet doesn’t correspondingly do something about it is doing nothing more than shaking their fist at the train as it leaves the station. You have to take control of your own life and destiny; neither the company nor the government is your daddy anymore.

    Not getting paid enough? Change jobs. Don’t have the skills to do it? Get them. Facing obsolescence in your line of work (who isn’t?)? Improvise, adapt, overcome.

    In a free market, those who do stand a far better chance of success than those who don’t. Still, there are no guarantees for anyone.

    The Piper

  14. 19

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    I have a friend who bought cheap land out in the hills and built a house from logs cut and milled on site. It’s a nice house, and it cost him only about $30,000. But he’s been working on it for 25 years and it’s still not completely finished. He’s miles beyond the end of the powerlines, so he has to feed $3 gas into a generator when he wants electricity. The terrain is steep so he needs a gas-eating 4-wheel-drive vehicle to get in and out. He has to commute 50 miles a day, each way, to his job and his wife has to drive 30 miles a day, each way, to get the kids to school. So, it’s 6 of one or half a dozen of the other. The farther out you live from the city where the jobs and schools are, the cheaper the land, but the less amenities you have and the more you pay for transportation. If you want cheap housing, it’s hard to beat the cost of living in your car in a Wal-Mart parking lot. You can walk to shopping and bus lines in most of those places. For dirt cheap housing, and I do mean dirt, dig a hole in a public park and live under a tree root. You may get some water coming through the ceiling when it rains, but that’s what the Great Mother Rabbit Spirit gave you a fur coat for!!!

  15. 20

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @15 I saw a figure a couple days ago that said today’s 30-year-old male makes 12% less than his father did at the same age, adjusting for inflation.

  16. 22

    spews:

    @17…RR…

    The one thing no one is making more of is land, and it’s upon land that housing is built. The more the existing amount of land is restricted from use upon which to build housing, the more supply and demand cause the value of the land currently used for housing to increase in value.

    My second son, the non-military one, is in the remodel business. He and his partner have bought, flipped, and sold two houses in as many years, and they’ve made money both times, albeit the first was a definite learning experience. They also own a rental house.

    Some people make money speculating in the stock market. Those folks are often criticized as rank gamblers. Some people make money speculating in real estate and housing. They’re often criticized as inflationary profiteers.

    As long as it’s honest, though, what’s the difference and who cares? If you’re willing to risk, then risk where you’re comfortable doing it and in what you know. Some know stocks, some real estate. Wealth can be created in both, and both are necessary components of the marketplace.

    Right now, my son and his partner are holding back rather than look for another flip prospect. The nature of the real estate market is such that good values are hard to find. Smart young businessmen they are, they’re concentrating on bidding jobs and doing remodel work until they can get a better sense of where the market is headed long term.

    One thing I’ll say is that the quality of work, Matt, my son does is such that it grows his business. The second flip house, right across the street from me (I clued him into it), has generated a lot of interest in him doing work for people in the neighborhood in which he grew up because those who went through it during the open house period were impressed. He and his partner worked on it from April through June of this year, and it sold after being on the market for two-weeks.

    The point? Quality sells and always has value. This goes for the stock market as well as housing.

    And I’m sure proud of my quality sons!

    The Piper

  17. 23

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    The truth is, only the richest 5% of the country have benefitted from the Bush economy, even taking into account Bush’s tax cuts (and ignoring the fact we’re going to pay higher taxes in the future because of the debts used to finance them). The economy is a big factor in every presidential election, but it will be especially big in 2008 because most Americans have gone backwards, economically speaking, under the Bush regime. And they know it, or at least sense it. Conservatives have given us a labor-unfriendly, falling-wages economy. Last week when the conservatives were voted out of power in Australia, the main reason was voter anger over their labor policies. As big an issue as Iraq is, the war doesn’t directly affect most Americans, but 90% of Americans suffer from deep anxiety over financial insecurity, stagnating real incomes, health care costs, disappearing retirement security, and a vanishing safety net. That anxiety will be acted out in voting booths all across the land next November. And voters have learned Republicans are a big part of the problem, not the solution.

  18. 24

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @22 There are vast swaths of vacant land, much of it buildable, outside the cities. Land is scarce and expensive only in urban areas and resort areas.

  19. 25

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @22 (continued) The $200,000 you would pay for a tiny building lot in Seattle (no view, nothing special about the neighborhood) will still buy you a fairly nice house on 10 to 40 acres in lots of places in this state, if you don’t mind commuting 200 miles each way to your job in downtown Seattle.

  20. 26

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @22 (continued) “The more the existing amount of land is restricted from use upon which to build housing, the more supply and demand cause the value of the land currently used for housing to increase in value.”

    Is this a screed against zoning laws? Tell you what. Let us know where your house is, then you and your neighbors all sign a petition to the city council to lift all land use restrictions, then I’ll help you find a developer who will build a 60-unit apartment house next door to you. We’ll see what you think of zoning laws after you’ve lived next door to that for a few years.

  21. 27

    Marvin Stamn spews:

    #17 roger rabbit spewed…
    > Americans are conditioned to think of their homes as their “largest investment”
      
    If americans could think for themselves they would know that taxes/government fees are their largest “investment” in life.

  22. 29

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @22 (continued) “Some people make money speculating in the stock market.”

    If you buy an S&P index fund and never sell it, your investments will go up in years the market goes up, and will go down when the economy is lousy and the stock market is declining, but on average you’ll make about 2 to 3 times what you’d get by depositing your money in bank CDs.

    If you add more money to your fund every month, dollar-cost-average your purchases of additional shares, and reinvest all dividends and capital gains, you’ll turn a modest investment into a hell of a nice nest egg for retirement if you start young and do this for 30 to 40 years.

    There are all kinds of statistics that demonstrate the stock market consistently beats all other investments, and beats the hell out of owning residential housing.

    As for gambling in the stock market, that’s just too damn much work! Generally speaking, the harder you work at speculating in the market (instead of doing nothing and letting your portfolio grow in tandem with the economy), the more money you will lose. It works the same way in casinos. The more time you spend in casinos, the more money you will spend in casinos.

    As for beating the stock market, it’s awfully hard to do, and you have to know what you’re doing and work at it. Warren Buffett has consistently returned gains in excess of 25% a year for over 40 years now. I’m not as good as he is; my investment results over the last 20 years are approximately 2 1/2 times the market average. I’m up about 20% year to date, which isn’t shabby, considering how difficult the market has been since late spring.

  23. 30

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    My strategy is complicated, but what I basically do is invest my original stake (the money I had to work for) and use the profits to invest in riskier market-beating growth stocks (you win some, you lose some), and use windfall gains to speculate (you lose frequently, and occasionally win big). There is one way, and one way only, to speculate on stocks and it works like this.

    Let’s say you buy 100 shares of Stock X for $30 a share. If it goes up to $60, you sell half of it. Your original investment in Stock X is now $0 but you’ve still got $3,000 worth of X. From now on, your “investment” in this stock is risk-free, costs you nothing, anything you make on it is free money, and if you lose it all you are not worse off than when you started.

    For example, Mrs. Rabbit and I own several hundred shares of Starbucks that have lost 50% of their market value in the last year, but we don’t lose sleep over it because — trust me on this — we paid absolutely nothing for that stock. We originally bought 100 shares, and several splits later, we long ago sold off enough to recoup approximately double what we paid for it. The rest is pure gravy.

  24. 31

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    I speculate with about 30% of our portfolio, and I consider that gambling. But since the portfolio is worth more than 12 times the original investment, I let only about a third of it sit in (relatively safe) “market perform” stocks, and the other 40% is in growth stocks.

  25. 32

    Shiksa Chix spews:

    Morning Roundup, the Sequel: http://thedaily.washington.edu.....rvesPraise

    At last! Diversity at the Dub Daily! (Many thanks to Celeste Flint for letting some fresh air into the room. So surprising and refreshing after years of knee-jerk leftist drool such as a notorious & noxious Daily homage to Easter, several years ago, that encouraged readers to ‘Get an Abortion Like Jesus’ Mother Should Have.’

    Even for us born-again Jews, it was way over the line.

  26. 33

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Furthermore, I don’t have to pound nails, paint, sweep up, climb ladders, or buy materials to make money in the stock market. All I do is sit on my fat rabbit ass all day doing NO WORK.

    Why should anyone work in this country? Work is punished! Our society doesn’t value work. America rewards people for owning things, not doing work. According to the value system that Congress has embodied in our tax code, the most honorable way to get money is inherit it! The second most honored way of getting money is by owning companies, or at least, pieces of companies. Work is considered anti-social, despised, taxed, and flogged! If you are foolish enough to work, you will get a puny exemption, very few deductions, by far the highest tax rates, and you will be required to report to your supervisor’s office every 90 minutes for your daily beatings.

    Work is for saps! I do NO WORK. I produce absolutely nothing! I add zero value to the American economy. The system has rewarded me for my constructive attitude with huge stock market gains and ridiculously low tax rates! Someday I’m gonna be a rich fucking bunny and then I’ll get to live like a Republican too!

  27. 34

    spews:

    @28…PTBAA…

    In both instances, it involves the SEIU…

    At the state level, several Democratic state senators recently signed a letter written on state legislature letterhead but BY THE SEIU to an employer in Olympia implicitely demanding he accede to SEIU labor bargaining demands as a condition of the receipt of state funding of fee reimbursement for clients of this employer.

    These senators used their office and state resources to influence the outcome of a labor dispute in the SEIU’s favor, at the SEIU’s request, and under the SEIU’s direction, thus allowing the SEIU to direct where state funding ought to go.

    Not only is this unethical (a complaint has been filed with the legislature’s ethics office since behavior of this type was determined to be unethical by that office per a legal opinion), but it improperly interferes in private business matters that are, frankly non of the business of the senators who signed the letter.

    I have a copy of the letter, BTW…

    At the county level, I’m referring to recently passed ordinance 2007-0599, which contains language that lets a union, again the SEIU since it was the prime mover behind it, dictate to whom county funds for mental health and chemical dependency programs may be directed.

    The ordinance has language giving the union the unilateral right to determine who qualifies and who doesn’t based upon whether the union has “…certified to the county executive that the (collective bargaining) agreement is operative with no significant deficiencies.”

    In other words, the union, and only the union (really, the SEIU) determines who is to receive tax revenue raised to fund the ordinance’s programs.

    Who elected the SEIU and gave it veto or other power over who should or shouldn’t receive state or county social service funding?

    The Piper

  28. 35

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @27 “If americans could think for themselves they would know that taxes/government fees are their largest ‘investment’ in life.”

    And a damned good investment, too, except for money squandered by WingNut (TM) Warmongers (SM) on weaponry and killing innocent women and children in shithole countries.

    The government paid for my education; built the roads I drive on to get to work, shopping, health care, entertainment, etc.; provides police and courts to protect my person and property from criminals; regulates businesses to keep them from ripping me off; and my veterans benefits, social security, and medicare provide me the reassurance of knowing that I’ll always have health care and will never have to eat out of dumpsters even if inflation reduces my pension to nothing, my burrow burns down, and all my investments get stolen by crooked Republican CEOs or go to shit because of lousy management.

    All that for only 40% of my income. It’s a fucking bargain, if you ask me.

    The private sector couldn’t begin to provide all those services and benefits for the same money. All you have to do is look at what happens when Republicans let big companies run nursing homes. The food goes to hell, the patients lie for hours in their urine and shit, and nobody comes when your oxygen tank runs dry because they cut the nursing staff in half! When was the last time you mail-ordered something from a private business and got it as fast as the government delivers a letter? For that matter, when was the last time you got it at all? When was the last time you had auto repairs done by a privately owned garage that did the work right and didn’t rip you off? When was the last time you hired a private contractor who showed up when he said he would, finished the work on time, and didn’t charge you more than the estimate? The private sector sucks! The only reason it functions at all is because the government is standing there with its regulators and consumer protection agencies to keep them halfway honest.

    The government is a huge bargain for what we pay for it, if you ask me.

  29. 36

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @27 Stamm, do you really think people don’t know how much of their income goes to taxes? I have a big news flash for you: Voters KNOW how much they’re paying to government, and they keep voting in the politicians who spend their money on all the government programs we have because they WANT those programs, benefits, and services.

    If you don’t believe me, why don’t you take a tape recorder, stand on the corner of Third and Pike, and ask people as they come by which they would rather have, (a) a 70% cut in county taxes and no law enforcement or jails, or (b) the county taxes they’re paying now and the cops and jails we have now, or (c) higher county taxes and more cops, judges, and jail inmates.

    My guess is that when you come home without the tape recorder and with lumps and bruises on your face and head, you’ll be in a mood to seriously consider option (c).

  30. 37

    Bust Him Again, Dammit spews:

    Word on the street and on The Street was that seminar investmnet fraud Wade Cook had been put away. He’s back @17, @19, @20, @23, @24, @25, @26, @29, @30, @31, @33, @35, @36.

    Don’t feed him. Don’t buy his books or tapes. Don’t give him a hacksaw.

  31. 39

    spews:

    @36…RR…

    You’re a poster boy for everything the left hates about capitalism. That you have no shame about it indicates…that you have no shame.

    Couple that with your contentment to suckle upon the public teat all at the expense of others is consistent with your rodent-nature.

    BTW…is their a government program to combat your fleas?

    You live in essentially public housing, you do no work, you look to the government to provide you with everything, yet you’re as big a Wall Street hustler as @37…BHAD…contends.

    Curious…had you lived, say, 100-years ago when all those government programs weren’t around, what would you have done? You’d have gone to work for a living like the rest of society.

    The government didn’t pay for anything for you; the government pays for nothing, people do. The government has no money of its own, save that which it borrows or prints, which is really debt that must then be repaid by…people, other than what it takes essentially at the barrel of a gun from the people.

    Fascinating how you’re so willing to live off the hard work of others…

    The Piper

  32. 40

    Proud To Be An Ass spews:

    “The government didn’t pay for anything for you; the government pays for nothing, people do. The government has no money of its own, save that which it borrows or prints, which is really debt that must then be repaid by…people, other than what it takes essentially at the barrel of a gun from the people.”

    Amazing. Piper Scott, anarchist. Who’da’ thought?

  33. 41

    spews:

    @40…PTBAA…

    Anarchist? Not me! I’m a “law and order” kind of guy who’s more pro-life libertarian. I find much not to like about government: too big, too intrusive, too costly, too bloated, too lacking in discipline, too indulgent of itself and special interests…just TOO!

    That’s why I’m always in favor of cutting taxes or making it as hard as possible to raise them. The only way to wean an addict is to cut of its supply. Government, if left unrestrained, will suck the people dry. I, for one, refuse to be sucked upon!

    The Piper

    The Piper

  34. 42

    Puddybud spews:

    ArtFart says: A BUNCH OF BULLSHIT – The Bush Crime Family has evidently launched a full-court press this week to prevent a financial panic from marring the Chri$tma$ season.

    Robert Rubin chairman of Citigroup is a Clinton Crime Comrade!

    Try again Fart-n-Art!

  35. 43

    Puddybud spews:

    Pelletizer (TM) again swings from the trees with his prehensile tail. More “bunny crap” – “The truth is, only the richest 5% of the country have benefitted from the Bush economy”

    I don’t know in what circle-jerk group you live in Pelletizer (TM) but most of my friends and some of them live in the Rainier valley have benefited from this economy and still benefit from it. I guess your “rabbit friends” are struggling. Take some time and each a bunch of virtual carrots from Carl Left-Foot Grossman. It’ll do yourself good!

  36. 45

    Puddybud spews:

    #37 – He spreads his pellets all over the place. It takes him five entries to say what most say in one. That’s why I call him the Pelletizer (TM).

  37. 46

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @18 “Salary increases these days aren’t a given. One standard used at one of America’s larges manufacturing companies before ANY increase in base compensation (let alone bonus money) is awarded is whether an individual can demonstrate that he or she has added value to the company.”

    In other words, companies are cutting wages. If you don’t give workers a COLA equal to the inflation rate, then you’re paying them less than you did last year. I’m sure companies can justify this by pointing out that corporate profits are soaring and workers’ share of the economy has only fallen 10% of GDP over the last decade — from 60% to 50%.

    All wealth — every cent of it — is created by workers. Without the people on the shop floor, capital and management produce absolutely nothing.

    It’s past time for workers to get their fair share of the economy. They’re all due 12.5% raises right now — 10% catchup plus 2.5% for the official inflation rate (which we all know is a joke). That’s just to break even.

    If their productivity is up, then corporate America also owes them a share of the increased productivity. After all, they produced it.

    Businesses have gotten away with taking their workers for granted far too long. What workers need to do is demand fair pay, and walk off the job if they don’t get it.

  38. 47

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @21 “how many lay-offs in the mortgage industry?”

    Lots. But I won’t shed a tear for the bartenders, waitresses, and cab drivers who got mortgage brokers’ licenses and reaped fat commissions by putting people into shady mortgages. They didn’t earn a cent of it.

  39. 48

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @34 SEIU represents service workers who do hard, dirty work for low pay — including nursing home aides, home care workers, janitors, security guards, school bus drivers, and child care workers. No one needs a union more than these folks. SEIU’s efforts are lifting them from poverty into the working class. Why should anyone who works full time at a hard, dirty job go without decent housing, health coverage, or retirement benefits?

    Fuck you, Piper! If you want to pick on someone, the hedge fund managers making over a billion dollars a year and paying lower tax rates than their maids are more deserving of your concern. You have a talent for picking the wrong targets and repeatedly shooting yourself in the foot. We need more, not less, unionization in this country to get things back on an even keel again.

  40. 49

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @37 If you don’t like my advice feel free to get yourself a nice, dirty, unsafe, nonunion, minimum-wage job cleaning up toxic waste without safety equipment or health care coverage.

  41. 50

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @39 “You’re a poster boy for everything the left hates about capitalism.”

    Bullshit! I love capitalism, man! It sure beats working. The only regret I have is that it took me so long to figure out that the key to succeeding in America is doing no work.

  42. 51

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Under communism, everyone works, and no one owns stock. That sucks! I like our system better — the less work I do, the more I get paid, and the lower my tax rate! The Stalinists can’t compete with that.

  43. 53

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @39 “Curious…had you lived, say, 100-years ago”

    Why do you assume I wasn’t here 100 years ago?

  44. 54

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @39 “Fascinating how you’re so willing to live off the hard work of others…”

    Why shouldn’t I? Republicans do. If they can, so can I! Since this is our system, Democrats have as much right to milk it as Republicans do. If you don’t like it, change the system.

  45. 55

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @41 “I, for one, refuse to be sucked upon”

    Yes, we know you’d muck rather be a suckor than a suckee.

  46. 57

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @45 The fact you shit turds the size of an aircraft carrier doesn’t mean they’re not turds.

  47. 58

    spews:

    @48…RR…

    I used to be a business agent/organizer for the Tacoma local of the SEIU, so I don’t need your lectures about the bargaining units it represents.

    What I do know, however, is that it engages in political logrolling that isn’t in the best interest of Washington State or King County taxpayers. No matter the condition of its members, wrong behavior on its part has no justification.

    According to you, their poor wages, hours, and conditions justify any stratgy. Why not, then, give them all weapons and tell them to rob banks?

    We all have to live with the consequences of the choices we make, including the choice of a career or job. Don’t like your job? Get a better one; it’s that simple – may not be easy, but it is that simple.

    Yours is a false view of the creation of wealth. Labor has no place to work unless capital is first invested. Without capital to invest, you have…unemployment. Your theory presumes a static view of value, which is false.

    Supply and demand regulate price, irrespective of labor. And efficient manufacturing, product development, supply chain management, distribution, marketing and sales can drive down cost, increase margins, improve sales and generally positively impact a bottom line. Labor, generally, has little, if anything, to do with that.

    Your theory of labor isn’t even acceptable to many of the few remaining manufacturing sector unions who are quite willing to negotiate away cost items, even reduce wages and benefits, in return for job security, which is the name of the labor relations game in a lot of companies these days.

    But what would you know? How much time have you spent working in the private sector? Ever built a company? Had an idea, then made money on it? Ever been responsible for meeting a payroll? Not getting a check yourself so that the crew can get paid?

    Where is it written that anyone has a “right” to a pay increase? Even if the cost of living increases?

    Pay increases can come only through improved productivity and efficient performance. Just because the cost of living goes up doesn’t mean an employer’s profits go up. Oft times the opposite is true since his or her costs also rise.

    Additionally, the less you risk, the less is your reward. As a stock market investor, you should know that!

    Republicans don’t live off the hard work of others, they do hard work. Ask most self-employed individuals or small business owners who they favor. Some Democrats also are self-employed or own small businesses, and they benefit from Republican policies that favor them. Low taxes, minimal regulation, business friendly policies…elements necessary for business to thrive and…create wealth.

    You get no public money? I thought you were a retired public sector attorney. No retirement paid for out of the public purse?

    Not only are you retired literally, you’re retired in your thinking and understanding of the modern marketplace, employee and labor relations, and the competitive environment. You rail against the very capital management and investment professionals who provide you your bragadocio capitalist largesse.

    How pro-union is Starbucks, Mr. “We need more, not less, unionization in this country?” You who now brag about how much money you’ve made at the expense of and on the backs of non-union baristas and impoverished, barely fair trade growing coffee farmers…It would be interesting to analyze your portfolio from a pro versus union-busting perspective. I’ll bet some real cooties would be found!

    You sure love to get all high and might for someone who lives low and dirty and anonymous in a hole in the ground…

    The Piper

  48. 59

    Blue John spews:

    @18 Hi Piper,

    In a sense, it’s being able to prove you got tons out the door and cash in the door; you have to justify the increase by showing you’ve made a difference.

    So in a ruthless way, it’s “Prove how much profit has you made for me in the last 15 minutes or get out?”
    The instant you as an employee stop generating lots of profit, it’s time for you to go?
    If you are a parent who would like have time to raise their kids,
    or a spouse taking care of a sick vet or elderly parent,
    or you have any sort of disability
    or pregnant,
    or have any responsibility or condition or situation that
    would keep you from working an 80 hour week for the company, you should be fired and replaced? Or at the very least, not give a pay raise for the rest of your life at the company? How is that system sustainable? I heard of a manager at Microsoft who was working 16 hour day, that had not seen his children awake in over a month. This system we are evolving to is a cruel ruthless system, Piper. Why would we, as a society, want to encourage that?

    Any employee of any company anywhere who doesn’t look at him or herself as functionally self-employed is delusional.

    What does “functionally self-employed” mean? Can you define that? I’ve got several variations, I want to know how you mean it.

  49. 60

    spews:

    @59…BJ…

    “A cruel ruthless system?” Then don’t participate.

    Your friend, the Microsoft manager, isn’t chained to his workbench. As a complete free agent, he can quit at any time.

    To be functionally self-employed is to see yourself less as an employee of anyone, hence dependent upon your company, and more an indepdendent economic entity always in the marketplace available for better (however you define “better”) opportunities.

    I’ve been in the executive search business for 25-years, and that’s simply the way things are.

    You imputed to me by placing it in quotations a statement I did not make nor even remotely suggest. What I did say is that every employee of every enterprise needs to focus on what he or she is doing to advance the cause of the enterprise.

    If you, as an employee, cannot tell me what you’re are doing to make money for the company, then my question becomes, “Why are you here?” From the third-shift janitor to the CEO, the question is exactly the same.

    The purpose of the company for whom you work (assuming you do work for a company) isn’t to provide you with paid time off, it’s to make money for the shareholders, create wealth for long-term viability, and to constantly be in a state of growth. That’s not ruthless, it’s the natural order of things.

    Trust me, every employee at Boeing Commercial Airplane knows these days that if they don’t have this attitude, Airbus will then have their lunch.

    Nobody forced you to work for whatever entity it is that employs you. If you don’t like it, find the conditions onerous, or feel you’re not respected, then it’s up to you to do something about it. Change jobs, quit, start your own business, or whatever. That, my friend, is the nature of competitive enterprise these days.

    The only person responsible for your career is you. To think otherwise is to cede your freedom and fate to others.

    The Piper

  50. 61

    ArtFart spews:

    Piper, the fact that people like you have contributed to populating the “mahagony rows” of America goes a long way to explaining why everything’s so fucked up.