Posted by: thefinancedude | May 28, 2008

Two Pennies May 28, 2008

Legal Plunder


WASHINGTON (AP) – Pentagon auditors say billions of dollars in military spending is going unchecked because they are having trouble keeping pace with the ever-expanding defense budget and combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.


In a recent report, the Defense Department inspector general estimates that nearly half of the military’s $316 billion weapons budget went unchecked last year because the IG’s office lacked the manpower. Whereas 10 years ago when a single auditor would have reviewed some $642 million in defense contracts, individual investigators are now charged with auditing more than $2 billion in spending.


The IG also has been stretching its staff to investigate corruption and fraud cases overseas, primarily in Iraq and Afghanistan where the military is hiring contractors to help run operations.


Growing up I can remember in the nineties when I started hearing about $200 toilet seats and hammers.  It was a big joke.  It’s even bigger now.  Are any of us laughing? I suppose the real point here is an expansion of government power to tax (how must they ultimately pay for this) without the corresponding increase in oversight.  It’s usually money first, deal with the problems when someone asks.  Who deals with the problems?


Apparently no one; regardless of which side of isle they come from, the budget goes up.  Every year the government grows more than the free market diverting valuable resources to waste.  This is corporatocracy at its finest.  People don’t have a unified lobby that can articulate anything of value. So corporate elite saddle up to government officials and discuss how they can be mutually beneficial.  This is econ 101 folks.  The incentives to loot are built into democracy.  It’s made worse by the wealth we’ve been deluded into believing we owned.  Turned out we are owned by the banks and we can’t get out of because the banks asked CONgress to limit “frivolous” bankruptcies.  The checks on this entire system rest with the people.  In order for people to “check” government, they must have time to do so. 


We can insert some Economic marginal utility theory into this, but basically we’re distracted with what we believe to be higher value needs.  For each of us it is different, but generally we’re working out, driving (wasting a whole lot of free thinking time), running kids around, watching tv, working to keep up with Joneses or surfing the internet. We’re running to stay in place and starting to collectively realize we’ve been duped. We leave the big stuff to the people who tell us it’s messy.  It’s not messy folks it’s real easy to understand most issues when you come to realize who benefits and who pays.  You rarely benefit directly from any one program.  However you’re paying for them all. 


Most of CONgress doesn’t write or read a bill that makes it to vote.  Who writes these laws anyway, oh yeah lobbyists coordinating with their employers – corporations.  I like corporations but when they are allowed to insulate themselves at our expense we’re screwed. Each company does what it must without regard to the whole.  They each seek their self interest in no different manner than a person would.  The practical difference lies in the fact that companies write our laws and our trained legal experts (most of them are lawyers anyway) don’t even read the 500 pages.  WTF?


Granted I don’t want to read that much either, but they wanted the position.  It seems as though they just want all the perks and none of the work that goes along with it.  Is it really shocking that we’re getting fleeced for everything in this war?  Every single number that comes from government should be ripped apart and verified.  None of it adds up and it’s so bad now we’ve got them trying to make us believe gas costs decrease in April 08 from a year ago! We must wake up…


All my devotion betrayed
I am no longer afraid
I was too blinded to see
How much you’ve stolen from me


~Disturbed, “Deify”, 10,000 Fists


The inventory is not spread out evenly across the country. Manhattan and choice neighborhoods in San Francisco and downtown Boston, for example, do not appear to be suffering from the kind of glut that is hurting suburban Phoenix, southern Florida and inland areas of California.


“We are still getting multiple offers on properties there,” Phil Rodocker, a Seattle-based real estate agent, said about the downtown area and Bellevue. But “as you move south, every 10 miles south you go, you see more and more short sales and repossessed houses.”


The support mechanism for urban sprawl is more clearly becoming defined as cheap energy that bridged the transportation gap to your income source. Well, the rest of the world wants to copy us.  Oil supplies are clearly peakish at minimum. The entire paradigm created post WWII has reached zenith and will be replaced by more dense urban landscapes more integrated with the surroundings. 


Those who are relocating or buying properties nearer to urban centers will be the contrarian millionaires yet to come.  Most cities are totally unprepared for the reality of more scare, higher priced oil. It’s just going to be there we’re all thinking. Well no it’s not.


If you want to be ahead of the curve begin researching areas where light rail will be.  The goal is to get people within a few miles of a station and the closer you are, the higher priced that property will be.  There are urban centers in my city in complete shambles and plenty of developers are sitting on the properties in anticipation of something happening.  Trolley cars will be back. The only reason they left is because they got in the way of cars, a business more profitable for auto manufactures so of course they wanted to eliminate their competition and they did so through lobbying.  Nice. Now we get to pay for them again.


Congress recently considered a proposal by Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) to let bankruptcy judges cut interest rates and principal on troubled mortgages. But that plan was scuttled last month. Instead, consumers must operate under the law passed in 2005, which was intended to get people like the Smiths to choose other alternatives. In response to critics, such as credit card issuers who complained that people sought bankruptcy too frivolously, Congress enacted tighter income limits, tougher standards for measuring a debtor’s ability to pay and mandatory credit counseling.


A government official really thought he could rewrite contract laws to help out 2% of the total population, let alone his own constituents?  Eh, it’s not his money so what does he care? Funny how a credit card company tries to make people choose “other alternatives” yet we don’t seem to ever have “other alternatives” when it’s not consumer related. 


As long as you buy something, we’ll give you all the choice you want.  As long as we’re stealing you’re money from you though, you can’t tell us what to do with it or even how much we can have.  We’ll just ask some other government to loan us the money and you just deal with it, K? So far, yeah that seems to be just fine by us. We’re dumb enough to believe hype and fail to think for ourselves which leads into social pandering for all types of causes.  How about we buck up and starting taking ownership of what happens to us, rather than trying to blame anybody who can’t defend themselves.


When marketing began utilizing psychology we lost our ability to think for ourselves. It’s easier to believe what sounds reasonable without critical analysis.  We’re programmed this way and marketing teaches it in B School.  As long as we convince ourselves we were doing as well as the marginal neighbor, we feel better. That feeling is now eating away at us as we figure out where the eject button is.  Good luck finding yours.  I pushed mine nearly three years ago and haven’t looked back. 


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