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Iraq
Iraq

Iraq

Close to 40,000 troops will return home by the end of year from Iraq at a cost savings of about $30 billion. That comes out to about to just under $1 million a soldier.

“What history has told us is that you don’t see a proportional decrease in spending based on the number of troops when you draw them down,” says Chris Hellman, a senior research analyst at the National Priorities Project.

That means most war expenditures lie not in the troops themselves but in the infrastructure that supports them — infrastructure that in some cases will remain in place long after troops are gone.

The return of our soldiers though will have positive and negative effects on the economy. Our military budget will be lowered which will help with our budget deficit at the same time as saving the lives of our soldiers.

There will be other economic effects; the US military will reduce spending so the companies that are dependent on military contracts will see smaller revenues which in turn will mean staff reductions and increased unemployment.

There is also the fact that most of the soldiers returning will be rotated out of the military and become part of the job markets, increasing unemployment and the competitiveness in a small employment market.

Regardless of the effects on the economy, saving lives, reducing injuries and leaving a war-zone will have positive effects on our society, which in turn will have a more positive effect on our economy.

The reduction in military spending, the reduction in military was and the reduction in long term health and medical care will have a good effect on our economy.

The US economy depends on the health and happiness of the citizens. When the people are happy, our economy blooms as consumer confidence increases. History shows that whenever America leaves a war or military action our country prospers.

The improvement in the economy may not be something we can calculate or measure, but it is there.  War is not good for a population or its economy.

Wikileaks

After making big splashed worldwide, with Wiki leaks, Julian Assange, lands himself in hot water in Sweden.

Wikileaks

Wikileaks

Last year, Wikileaks was the headlines of every international paper when they leaked 100,000’s of classified US documents. Many of these documents reflected badly on our government and many of these documents, caused embarrassment to foreign governments, but the global uproar, was not in favor of Wikileaks, most citizens understand that governments like people say certain things to special friends or say things one day that are changed the next and most people would not like their personal conversations, or private documents released around the globe especially without context.

The majority of these documents did not disclose huge government conspiracies or backdoor dealing and huge financial schemes.

The continued threats and demands and the chest pounding by Wikileaks and its founder Julianne Assange turned most people off, the secret codes to publish all the documents if anything were to happen to Wikileaks or Assange himself. The highbrow press releases and the self righteous actions, turned the public off.

During the high times of Wikileaks, Julianne Assange was placed under investigation for sexual misconduct in Sweden. The same laws and governments he was trying to expose he now hid behind to refuse extradition. Blaming this all on America who would then extradite him and try him to Federal Crimes. None of these crimes has he been charged with at this time and there has been no effort by the US government, only Julian Assange ranting and raving.

Julian Assange

Julian Assange

While staying in a palatial estate of a supporter, he has used the courts of a foreign nation to manipulate the law. Sweden did not want to arrest him they simply wanted to question him.

The question remains still today, if the man is innocent, why doesn’t he go to Sweden and speak with the police. How would he like it if all the documents against him were released for the world to see?

Now Wikileaks is not able to raise funds, to continue to operate, again Julian Assange places the blame on corporations, not on governments that are out to get him. He blames, Bank of America, Paypal, VISA and others.  The question remains, why doesn’t he find out sources of processing donations, why does he use a local Australian bank, his home, how come he just doesn’t change to a new financial institution? If he cannot use PayPal, then why not Money brokers, or why not American Express or Discover or the European branches of these companies.

FedEx
FedEx

FedEx

International shipping giant FedEx expects December 12, 2011 to be the busiest shipping day in history. They are expecting to break all records for volume and package counts. They are predicting more than 17 million packages to be shipped that day. This is the last date for guaranteed arrival for Christmas, for regular shipping packages.

FedEx is not necessarily predicting or projecting a successful holiday season for retailers.  FedEx is projecting a huge increase for online sales. FedEx also states that in times of recession, grandma still buys gifts for all the family. This year she might spend less or might purchase essentials instead of toys, but Grandma and Santa always come through during the holiday.

Consumers have also been cutting back spending for several months and putting purchases on hold hoping to get better prices and promotions during the holiday season.

Regardless the reasons, FedEx is set to be the big winner along with many unemployed. This year FedEx is estimating hiring up to 20,000 seasonal employees, which should help those without jobs.

FedEx is estimating that during the holiday season which stretches from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve that they will handle 260 million packages. This is an increase of 12% year to year.

UPS the other major competitor to FedEx in worldwide shipping is also expecting a huge increase this year.

FedEx in the past years have slowly begun to overshadow Big Brown, especially with online retailers and international shipping.

FedEx has recently introduced a new consumer program called SmartPost, which makes shipping easier for consumers and reduces shipping costs.

FedEx has also spent a lot of time building a global sales force and tools for online retailers to make shipping easier and more convenient for large shipping companies.

FedEx’s expansion plans have been successful and are now paying off with their market share increasing steadily along with growth and market domination around the world.

Wells Fargo ATM
Wells Fargo ATM

Wells Fargo ATM

Recently Democrats have asked Eric Holder, Attorney General for the United States, to investigate charges of collusion between the major banks and the announcement of new debit card monthly fees. The banks state that these fees were instituted because of changes in the consumer laws taking place in October, but it is very strange that they all came up with the same ideas, the same fees and the same terms and conditions, simultaneously.

Most businesses especially banks, such as gasoline stations, react independently, in change prices, but watch closely what their neighbors and competitors are doing. Some morning when I drive to work, I can watch the gasoline stations on each corner changing their prices at the same time; this is usually or uses to be in reaction to changes in the world market and the cost of gasoline in the commodities markets.

It only takes these fuel stations minutes to react, but banks have many legal requirements, government requirements and huge computer systems to program and huge customer number all who have to be legally notified in writing.

What is strange, is that regarding debit fees, all the major banks reacted the same within days of each other, and their terms and conditions and their programs were virtually the same!

No banks came out with a fee per use, or a base fee for having a debit card, they all launched their monthly fee, if the card is used during the month, and then a program that they could then make all the debit card purchases they wanted during that period.

The question remains, how did all of these banks virtually duplicate these conditions, before they were announced publicly if they did not plan and act in collusion?

Unfortunately we have an Attorney General who is very ineffective, we have a congress that is bogged down in budget and recession and debt program and they also do want to admit that they left loopholes in the new consumer protection act that the banks are exploiting.

The Democrats, Reps. Pete Welch (Vt.), Keith Ellison (Minn.), Raul Grijalva (Ariz.), John Conyers (Mich.) and Michael Honda (Calif.), and others said in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder that the timing of the fee hikes raises enough suspicion to warrant an investigation.

Attorney General Eric Holder

Attorney General Eric Holder

It is acceptable for banks to coordinate their lobbying and political activity, as they did to combat swipe fee reform. As part of that lobbying fight, banks regularly warned that if the fee they were allowed to charge merchants for accepting customers’ debit cards was reduced, the banks would raise debit card fees in other ways. That, too, is well within banks’ lobbying rights.

The law prohibits the banks from coordinating the fee hikes as a group. Bank of America, SunTrust, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo have all recently announced new debit card fees. We will have to wait and see what will happen on the legal end, hopefully, consumers will demand an end to these fees and either limit their use of debit cards, or move to small banks and credit unions until the big banks get the message. See also, Visa and MasterCard raise Debit Card Fees.

Occupy Wall Street 99 Percent

Capitalism, as practiced in the United States, guarantees an unequal distribution of wealth.  Those who work hard and take calculated risks have the possibility to amass far more wealth than the average person.  Conversely, those who are not favored by circumstance or force of will have the possibility to earn far less than average.  Some has come to the conclusion that, while this imbalance is part and parcel of our economic system, the disparity between the top earners and the average household has become extreme.  According to one report from Wikipedia (and supported by data from the United States Congressional Budget Office), the top 1% of earners in the United States currently controls 40% of the wealth in the country.

Occupy Wall Street 99 Percent

Occupy Wall Street 99 Percent

The Occupy Wall Street movement started as a protest against this wealth disparity, and against the immense influence that corporations and corporate greed have on the US government.  Several factors have given rise to this movement:

  • The financial crises of the 2000’s, driven by high risk financial professionals and resulting in major losses by the middle class.  The value of the family home was damaged, perhaps irrevocably; jobs were lost; taxpayer funds were used to bailout corporations and banks that were “too big to fail”.
  • Uprisings around the world, commonly called the “Arab Spring”, have shown that populist movements similar to this have the power to create radical change.
  • People who once believed that President Obama would institute sweeping reforms to correct these issues have grown disillusioned and now lack faith that the government will voluntarily enact the necessary reforms.

While the majority of the protesters occupying Zuccotti Park are young and Democrat-affiliated, as the protest continues, it attracts a widening population.  Many local union organizations have pledged their support, and the movement has started to gather celebrity endorsements as well.

Most Americans view these protest favorably and agree in principle with the goals of the protesters.  However, one major problem is that there is no clear statement of what those goals really are.  The Canadian group AdBusters made the original call to action with a statement that balance was the only demand, but how exactly should that be achieved?  No one seems to know.

Making the movement even more difficult to understand is the nature of the protest’s growth.  Historically, these kinds of movements need a clear leader and a clear agenda in order to garner this much support.  This movement has grown primarily through social networking media, and the only leadership is the NYC General Assembly, an informal forum that meets nightly in the park with open-mike speaking by any who care to air their opinions.  With no leader or spokesman to follow, it is difficult for Wall Street or for the government to address the crowds in a meaningful fashion.

Meanwhile, the protest continues and continues to grow.  Expenses are piling up as New York City police officers and sanitation crews are working overtime to maintain safe conditions.  A report from CNN cautioned people to not view this as a passing phase, but rather as a major pronouncement that the way we’ve done business for so long must now change.

Credit Utilization Ratio
Credit Utilization Ratio

Credit Utilization Ratio

Everyone knows that keeping your FICO score (credit rating) as high as possible is very important.  It is equally common knowledge that the most important factor in keeping the score high, or recovering your score, is paying all bills on time.  However, many people may be less clear about the other factors in determining your score.  The rating agencies look at the age of your accounts, the number of times you’ve recently applied for new credit, the types of credit you have, and also your credit utilization ratio.

The credit utilization ratio is becoming more and more important.  The credit utilization ratio is also called the debt-to-credit ratio, and is a number used to quickly measure how much of your available credit is used up.  To explain the term, see the example below:

Mr. Smith has two credit cards.  One card has a $1000 limit and a $200 balance.  The second card has a $1000 limit and a $400 balance.  The scoring agencies will calculate his utilization overall, and per card.

In other words, the overall ratio would be calculated as:

$1000 + $1000 = $2000 total available credit.

$200 + $400 = $600 total balance.

($600 / $2000) x 100 = 30% overall credit utilization ratio on these credit cards.

Independently:

Card 1: ($200 / $1000) x 100 = 20% credit utilization

Card 2: ($400 / $1000) x 100 = 40% credit utilization (this is relatively high – work to keep your ratio below 30% overall and on each credit card).

Why is the credit utilization ratio important?  If you are charging all the way up to the limit on your credit cards, then you are much more likely to default on the debt or to have trouble paying on time.  This means that you are a higher risk borrower, and credit rating agencies will lower your credit score to reflect this.  Alternatively, if you are using your credit cards sparingly and maintaining low balances, you show responsible use of your credit and become a better risk.

Keep in mind that paying off your balance in full every month does NOT guarantee a low credit utilization ratio.  The problem is that your creditors may report the debt-to-credit ratio at any time during the month, and if you have a high balance on the day that they report to the bureaus, then your ratio gets spiked.

One other common misconception on this point is that closing old or inactive credit card accounts can improve your credit score.  Actually, just the opposite is true.  If those inactive accounts are in good status (meaning you have zero balance and a positive payment history), then the credit limit on those credit cards increases your overall available credit limit and helps to keep your credit utilization ratio low.  Closing the account cuts down the available credit and raises the ratio, and that’s what we need to avoid.

How can you correct a high credit utilization ratio?  This is pretty simple to achieve.  You can either pay the balances of your credit cards down as quickly as possible, or apply for an increase in your credit limits.  As soon as either of these is achieved, the ratio will drop and your all-important credit score will go back up, where it belongs!

Credit Card for Holiday Shopping
Credit Card for Holiday Shopping

Credit Card for Holiday Shopping

During this holiday season, all the retails along with all the credit card companies are hoping that we spend huge amounts of money. The retailers need a good season to show some profit and the credit card companies need us to climb into debt so they can earn fees and high interest.

A smart shopper with average credit can find just the right card for them today.

Many card issuers are offering special promotions and even balance transfers with no fees.

There are several steps I would recommend.

Use an online credit card site such as First Credit to find all of the offers, there are so many that you cannot just depend on the ones that come in the mail. First Credit will list all the different programs, promotions and the advantages and disadvantages’ to each card.

1)      Look at the interest rate and interest rate increases

2)      Look closely and see if the interest rate offered in a promotional rate and for a limited time period

3)      Look at the rewards or bonus package that is begin offered, decide which is best for you

  1. Shopping awards
  2. Travel awards
  3. Frequent Flyers awards
  4. Cash Back awards

4)      Look closely at the cash advance interest rate and repayment.

5)      Look at the Balance Transfer Fee promotion and time period

This time of year, stores like Wal-Mart, Target and Sears are offering their own promotions for VISA, MasterCard and Discover cards under their logo. Look around ask around. If you are a big time Wal-Mart or Target shopper, their VISA program is probably best for you, they sometimes offer additional store discounts or better prices then the sale prices in the stores.

Sometimes, it is best to stay with the card you have and simply ask your card company for a credit line increase, explain that you are going to be doing a lot of holiday shopping for things you put off all year. Ask your card company if they are offering promotions.

As always be a smart and knowledgeable shopper, remember do not let yourself get into debt that you cannot handle. Keep your shopping budget and make a list of what you need, what you can spend and how you are going to repay the credit card companies, without paying too much interest.

There are some cards offering deferred interest and payments for 90 days, if you know you can pay off all your shopping in this period, apply for one of these cards, saving interest is like finding a better sale.

Do not get suckered into those spontaneous purchases. Keep to your budget.

occupy-wall-street

Occupy Wall Street, is a slow growing protest and movement around the globe. No one person or one group is leading the protest and no single issue is the motivating factor. The overall theme seems to be the discontent with the status quo and aguish and abuse of government and business upon its citizen. Corporate Greed, Personal Greed and Unfair Business Practices seem to hold the overall agreement of the participants. This is a grass roots movement with no spokesperson and no figurehead.

Many people agree that the sparks were ignited by the abuse of the banks and financial institution on its customers, consumers and citizens. The movement has spread slowly all across America, reaching from New York to San Francisco and growing overseas in London, Rome and Madrid.

Occupy Wall Street

Occupy Wall Street

During times of economic crisis, people need to be able to vent their anger and government and business have always been the fall guys. In the 1970’s we had Vietnam, in the 1980s we had the Equal Rights and Women’s Rights. This time it is different, these protests are non violent, without a cause or a defined theme.

This is a movement that has active participant, including those living in tents and sitting in protest but there is a huge silent majority, those who support the protests but are quiet and non active and those who support the protest but do not know exactly what to do or how to get involved.

Slowly the protests will begin to gel and develop a group of leaders and an overall theme.

Recently, CNN tried to interview a lot of participants in New York’s Wall Street protest. Most refused to be shown on television as they are part of main stream society and do not want to have problems at work or at home, others refused to speak as they said the media would misrepresent them and others said they were there and supported the movement, even though they could not explain exactly what they supported and why.

Most everyone is in agreement that they are unhappy with Corporate America, They are disappointed with their lack of scruples and honesty and their overall views of their customers and employees.

They are in agreement that our government is not effective and there is a big disconnect between Washington and the people on the street.

The website for Occupy Wall Street defines the movement as follows:

Occupy Wall Street is leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%. We are using the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic to achieve our ends and encourage the use of nonviolence to maximize the safety of all participants.

I will leave it to the reader to decide if they consider themselves a support or silent participant in the Occupy Wall Street Movement.

Robo-signer
Robo-signer

Robo-signer

In recent years, waves of home foreclosures have swept the United States. These foreclosures, and the collapse of mortgage-backed securities that follows, continue to impact the US economy.  There is an ongoing focus into the legitimacy of the foreclosures across the nation, driven in part by the controversial practice of “robo-signing”.

Robo-signing refers to bank officials who approve documents during loan origination, debt collection, and foreclosure proceedings without reviewing them to ensure accuracy. This can lead to improper loans being made, debt collection activities against people who do not owe anything, and in worst case, a foreclosure filing that is not justified. The practice is not legal.

After a rash of complaints and a groundswell of pending lawsuits, large companies such as Bank of America have stated that robo-signing is no longer in practice. However, Bank of America and some other companies have been found still employing this illegal practice well into 2011.

The latest news on this topic is the discussion between the US government and some of the biggest banks (Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and Ally Financial) to reach a legal settlement on the issue. The banks are negotiating a penalty payment to avoid further prosecution, and the deal will include a release of liability for future prosecution. Details are not agreed yet on how far the release in liability will go. The government wants to limit the release to improper foreclosures, with the possibility of improper securitization liability waived as well. The banks would like to push this farther, and to include protection from civil claims in the agreement.

PRO

A convincing argument can be made to allow a settlement. The bailout packages for the banks have cost the federal government dearly, and the penalty in discussion would cover $10 to $25 billion dollars. A quick agreement on the penalty and the liability limits would also reduce the ongoing costs to taxpayers of funding an investigation and a lengthy trial process.

Continued scrutiny and an ongoing investigation into the banks will do nothing to relieve the downward pressure on stock prices. Bank of America’s stock has lost nearly 50% of its share price so far. Putting an end to the investigation may allow the banks to rebuild, supporting the investors and permitting financial recovery in the sector.

Finally, putting additional pressure on the banks and driving to recover every penny may have an unintended side effect.  If the penalties and costs associated with them are too severe, this could restart the cycle of bank failure threats from 2008 and 2009. This benefits no one.

CON

Against the compromise is the fact that the banks broke the law. Allowing the payment of a penalty will carry the appearance of purchased justice, while a full investigation into the practice could reveal pervasive activities impacting ongoing foreclosures and other banking practices. A full investigation would further ensure that much stronger regulatory controls are in place and more closely monitored in the future by government officials.

The current wording of the offers from state government officials is quite vague, and there is growing concern that the terms would allow future immunity from lawsuits. The intention today is to close out the robo-signing issue as regards improper foreclosure, but the wording can be used to also evade lawsuits for improper securitization in the future. The allegation here is that by the same lack of due process on documentation, the banks originated mortgage-backed securities that were not robust, then packaged them into bonds and sold them, leading to the recent problems.

Additionally, the banks are seeking protection from civil claims as part of the arrangement. This means that the government will abrogate not only the criminal charges that it could bring, but may also elect to grant immunity from lawsuits by individuals. This severely limits the legal recourse of families who may have lost their homes without due process.

Credit Card Consolidation
Credit Card Consolidation

Credit Card Consolidation

With everyone living in a consumer age it is not surprising that personal debt has spiraled. As the need for more credit grows, with many often choosing numerous avenues in which to borrow; juggling all the monthly payments has become difficult. It is now easy to lose track of what you owe and when, and to becomes stuck in financial hardship. Credit card consolidation can potentially calm the stormy waters and give you one monthly payment to keep track of. However, does credit card consolidation make sense to the average consumer?

If you have more than one credit card and are becoming bogged down by high interest rates, then by using credit card consolidation services you can lower the interest and bring all your payments under one banner. It is often the case that this new monthly payment is less than the sum of the lone credit cards. This option of using one credit card to in essence house all your others is now common practice in achieving credit card consolidation, and is a good way to keep track of your monthly outgoings while still having a line of credit available to you.

Another way to consolidate your credit card debt is to take out a personal or home equity loan to cover the outstanding monies that are owed. This method is slightly more fraught with danger because to make it work you will need a low interest loan, and in turn a good credit rating. A loan will allow you to pay off all the outstanding credit accounts and then simply pay the monthly repayment on the loan. This is only viable if you can find a loan where the monthly repayments are less than your current outgoings.

The only way to truly get on top of your credit card debt is to be disciplined. Whether you try credit card consolidation or just continue on your current path, managing your debt in a prudent fashion is a must. Trying credit card consolidation to only become complacent and go back to old ways will lead you right back to square one. As wonderful a solution as consolidation seems it is estimated that more than 50% of people who seek credit card consolidation end up in even more debt within three years.

Using a low interest credit card or loan is a good option if you can get it, but it is likely that if you are in debt lenders will be reluctant to offer you a good deal. And while consolidating your debt can help you achieve a better credit rating in the long term, it is still a requirement to have a good rating when trying to get a good loan or low interest credit card.

Credit card consolidation then only works if the way you use credit is changed. It is a good option for those wanting to move away from debt and who are aiming for a good credit rating. With there being an ever rising increase in consumers who are falling into debt, the debt management industry is a fast growing sector. As such there are hundreds of credit card consolidation services available to those looking to manage their debt more efficiently.

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