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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The “Stimulus Package” Still Makes Me Angry

As someone who is part Italian and part Irish, I learned at a very young age that I needed to do my best to keep my genetic predisposition towards hyperanimation and anger in check. The presidency of George W. Bush has severely tested the limits of my personal patience. In most cases when I visit here, I have done my level best to be civil and to bury the more guttural speech that was part of my upbringing in Philadelphia.

Yes, the war, the constant stream of lies emanating from the White House and the eunuchs in Congress who call themselves Democrats all made me extremely angry to varying degrees, but I calmed down by telling myself that in the current climate in America, self-determination is the prevailing power. At the end of the day, I had the wherewithal to take care of myself with minimal interference. After all, fundamentally, this was still America.

Then came the "stimulus package", or as I now call it, that FUCKING stimulus package.

With this action, the powers that be in Washington, D.C. have now completed their conversion from freely elected representatives of the people to an Americanized House of Lords.

Let me start at the beginning. Whoever the person was who came up with Adjustable Rate Mortgages should go into the Legalized Grifting Hall of Fame, right next to the sonofabitch who invented auto leasing, which is basically selling the same car twice for its sticker price. Never mind the fact that the moment it gets a mile from the dealership, the car has lost 50% of its stated value. By all means, everyone needs an eternal car payment.

The mortgage industry peddled the American Dream to people who couldn’t afford it. The reason for this had nothing to do with altruism or building a better country or community. It had everything to do with bonuses to the individual mortgage brokers for getting a signature on several dotted lines.

Thanks to the changes in bankruptcy rules requested by the major banks that were fast-tracked through Congress a few years ago, the banks are now surprised to find that people are more than happy to abandon the houses that are plummeting to values below the purchase price. If you can’t afford the mortgage at an adjusted rate, the cost of that mortgage is more than the value of the home and bankruptcy protection is now off the table, why wouldn’t you abandon the house?

The fundamentals of the economy, thanks in large part to the upending of the mortgage market, are still a train wreck. The FDIC currently is making preparations for the failure of roughly 200 banks. In addition, they are making it known that they are looking for a separate entity to take care of the portion of bank failures that deals solely with mortgage losses. None of the banks are talking about the true indemnity of their mortgage debt, fearing a run. The brokerage houses that repackaged the lousy mortgages as now-worthless collateralized debt obligations are being propped up economically by China and other foreign "investors". The beginnings of the effect on credit card payments and car loans are now being realized, as the default rates for both are now climbing.

The solution of the Lords on High in Washington, D.C., after about 20 minutes of serious deliberation, is to throw money to the peasants so they can buy things they don’t need. This is apparently the panacea to all of our economic problems.

I am not a serf. I am not a person who needs to be taught how and when to spend my money for the sake of others. As an American citizen, it’s really fucking insulting that the leaders of my government now consider me as little more than an urchin in an orphanage who needs a handout. I never asked for charity, mainly because I DON’T FUCKING NEED IT!

My lack of spending is not the problem here. How about CEO pay? How about business regulations? How about the fact that whenever business leaders want a new perk or a fresh public mouthpiece, all they need to do is write a check to a legislator’s campaign fund and it’s blow jobs ahoy?

The people at the bottom of the poverty scale are getting $300, or as I like to call it nowadays (after a stop this morning on the way to work), 9 fill-ups of a compact car’s gas tank. For most people, that’s not even ½ of a month’s rent in an apartment. If it’s a mortgage you’re paying, $300 is about as potent as a fart in a football stadium.

In a previous diary about this same topic, I received many suggestions regarding what to do with the money, from charitable donations to political contributions (fat chance!) to those who agreed with me that the best way to stick it to the man is to deposit it and collect interest. My wife and I are slated to receive $1500, thanks to a combination of our wedded bliss and our 19-month-old son. In the end, my wife does the books, so odds are that she has an idea for the money that will trump any of my ideas. Wedded bliss; CATCH IT!

I do have a 4th option now though. If you can afford it, put it towards investments in other countries. Buy stock in a foreign country. My 401(k) offers me the option to invest in a mutual fund that puts 96% of the fund’s money in Canadian companies. Or better yet, invest in a social activism fund that shies away from companies that are bad for the environment or who sell things like tobacco products.

Why invest in a country that treats you as if you should be grateful that the Lords are borrowing against our collective tomorrows to throw you a few crumbs? The sweetest revenge is to send the money packing and find a way to make sure that it never ends up back in their grubby little hands.

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