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marmar

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Gender: Male
Member since: Thu Oct 28, 2004, 11:18 PM
Number of posts: 70,252

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Consumer Comfort in U.S. Drops Most in Five Months on Finances


(Bloomberg) Consumer confidence fell last week by the most in five months as households’ attitudes about their finances and U.S. economy deteriorated.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index declined to 40.5 in the week ended July 26, matching the second-lowest level since November, from 42.4. The measure of attitudes about personal finances suffered its biggest weekly setback in 10 months.

Sentiment has soured recently as concerns about Greek debt and China’s economic slowdown ignited stock-market volatility in the U.S. Continued improvement in the labor market that pushes wages higher would help reassure Americans the recovery remains on track, giving them the confidence and the means to boost spending.

The personal finances gauge fell to 54.9 from 57.8 in the previous week, the biggest drop since September, while the measure of Americans’ views on the state of the economy fell to an eight-month low of 30.4 from 32.2. .................(more)

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-07-30/consumer-comfort-in-u-s-drops-most-in-five-months-on-finances




The Distracted Driving Menace .......


I swear it's to the point where at least once a day, I have to swerve, stop or take some other evasive action to avoid colliding with someone tapping away at their cellphone and drifting out of their lane. Yesterday I had 3 near-misses. Driving requires so much vigilance these days!





Hedge funds tell Puerto Rico: lay off teachers and close schools to pay us back


from the Guardian UK:



Billionaire hedge fund managers have called on Puerto Rico to lay off teachers and close schools so that the island can pay them back the billions it owes.

The hedge funds called for Puerto Rico to avoid financial default – and repay its debts – by collecting more taxes, selling $4bn worth of public buildings and drastically cutting public spending, particularly on education.

The group of 34 hedge funds hired former International Monetary Fund (IMF) economists to come up with a solution to Puerto Rico’s debt crisis after the island’s governor declared its $72bn debt “unpayable” – paving the way for bankruptcy.

The funds are “distressed debt” specialists, also known as vulture funds, and several have also sought to make money out of crises in Greece and Argentina, the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the near collapse of Co-op Bank in the UK.

The report, entitled For Puerto Rico, There is a Better Way, said Puerto Rico could save itself from default if it improves tax collection and drastically cuts back on public spending. ......................(more)

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/28/hedge-funds-puerto-rico-close-schools-fire-teachers-pay-us-back




What’s Left of the American Dream Withers at Record Pace


What’s Left of the American Dream Withers at Record Pace
by Wolf Richter • July 29, 2015


The current housing boom has Dallas solidly in its grip. As in many cities around the US, prices are soaring, buyers are going nuts, sellers run the show, realtors are laughing all the way to the bank, and the media are having a field day. Nationwide, the median price of existing homes, at $236,400, as the National Association of Realtors sees it, is now 2.7% higher than it was even in July 2006, the insane peak of the crazy housing bubble that blew up with such spectacular results.

Housing Bubble 2 has bloomed into full magnificence: In many cities, the median price today is far higher, not just a little higher, than it was during the prior housing bubble, and excitement is once again palpable. Buy now, or miss out forever! A buying panic has set in.

.....(snip).....

That’s true for many cities, including San Francisco. The “Boom Town,” as it’s now called, is where the housing market has gone completely out of whack, with a median condo price at $1.13 million and the median house price at $1.35 million. This entails some consequences [read… The San Francisco “Housing Crisis” Gets Ugly].

The fact that Housing Bubble 2 is now even more magnificent than the prior housing bubble, even while real incomes have stagnated or declined for all but the top earners, is another sign that the Fed, in its infinite wisdom, has succeeded elegantly in pumping up nearly all asset prices to achieve its “wealth effect.” And it continues to do so, come heck or high water. It has in this ingenious manner “healed” the housing market.

But despite the current “buying panic,” the soaring prices, and all the hoopla round them, there is a fly in the ointment: overall homeownership is plunging.

The homeownership rate dropped to 63.4% in the second quarter, not seasonally adjusted, according to a new report by the Census Bureau, down 1.3 percentage points from a year ago. The lowest since 1967! ..............(more)

http://wolfstreet.com/2015/07/29/home-buying-panic-record-prices-crashing-homeownership-rate-low-rental-vacancy/




Movie shooting response (cartoon)





http://www.truthdig.com/cartoon/item/nra_emergency_20150729


Say Her Name: Protesters in Chicago Demand Justice for Sandra Bland


Say Her Name: Protesters in Chicago Demand Justice for Sandra Bland

Wednesday, 29 July 2015 00:00
By Kelly Hayes, Truthout | Report




This week, from Dallas to San Diego to the Midwest, activists and community members around the United States are answering a national call to demand justice for Sandra Bland, a Black woman and activist who died in police custody on July 13.

In Chicago, protesters lifted up Sandra Bland's name on Michigan Avenue on July 28, as hundreds of protesters lined a bridge over the Chicago River, urging those who believe Black lives matter to "say her name." While a great deal of public discourse has focused on whether or not Sandra Bland committed suicide, or died as a result of police brutality, participants in Tuesday night's event carried a broader message - that the system was responsible for Sandra Bland's death regardless of the specifics of her death. In the words of organizer Mariame Kaba, "I don't care about the CSI version of how she died. The system killed her. The rest is superfluous."



Attendees loudly stated - through speech, song and imagery - that Sandra Bland's unlawful arrest was, in of itself, an act of violence and a manifestation of a culture of anti-Blackness in US policing. Connections were also drawn between Black and Indigenous struggles, with the name of Sarah Lee Circle Bear - an Indigenous woman who recently died in a jail cell - being called out alongside that of Sandra Bland and Rekia Boyd, an unarmed Black woman shot down by police in Chicago, whose family continues to seek justice. ................(more)

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/32130-say-her-name-protesters-in-chicago-demand-justice-for-sandra-bland




James Hansen on Hillary Clinton's climate change proposal: "It's just plain silly"


(Guardian UK) Hillary Clinton’s pledge on Sunday to support renewable energy and boost subsidies for solar panels was set up as a great unveiling – the Democratic frontrunner’s first public remarks on how her presidency would tackle climate change.

“I personally believe climate change is a challenge of such magnitude and urgency that we need a president who will set ambitious goals,” she said in a video posted to her campaign website.

It wasn’t difficult to draw a sigh of relief from the progressive electorate that has heard only climate change denial – loud and triumphal – from Republican frontrunners. (Ted Cruz proudly announced in May that he had just come from New Hampshire, where there was “ice and snow everywhere”. Trump took up the issue with typical savoir faire on Monday, declining to call climate change by name: “I call it weather.”)

.....(snip).....

Environmentalist Bill McKibben said that while Clinton’s support for solar was necessary, it was far from a comprehensive energy policy. “Much of the impact of her climate plan was undercut the next day by her unwillingness to talk about the supply side of the equation,” he said. “Ducking questions about the Canadian tar sands or drilling in the Arctic makes everyone worry we’re going to see eight more years of an ‘all of the above’ energy strategy, which is what we do not need to hear in the hottest year ever measured on our planet.”

.....(snip).....

“It’s just plain silly,” said James Hansen, a climate change researcher who headed Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies for over 30 years. “No, you cannot solve the problem without a fundamental change, and that means you have to make the price of fossil fuels honest. Subsidizing solar panels is not going to solve the problem.” .............(more)

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/jul/29/hillary-clinton-climate-change-plan




Hedge funds tell Puerto Rico: lay off teachers and close schools to pay us back


from the Guardian UK:



Billionaire hedge fund managers have called on Puerto Rico to lay off teachers and close schools so that the island can pay them back the billions it owes.

The hedge funds called for Puerto Rico to avoid financial default – and repay its debts – by collecting more taxes, selling $4bn worth of public buildings and drastically cutting public spending, particularly on education.

The group of 34 hedge funds hired former International Monetary Fund (IMF) economists to come up with a solution to Puerto Rico’s debt crisis after the island’s governor declared its $72bn debt “unpayable” – paving the way for bankruptcy.

The funds are “distressed debt” specialists, also known as vulture funds, and several have also sought to make money out of crises in Greece and Argentina, the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the near collapse of Co-op Bank in the UK.

The report, entitled For Puerto Rico, There is a Better Way, said Puerto Rico could save itself from default if it improves tax collection and drastically cuts back on public spending. ......................(more)

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/28/hedge-funds-puerto-rico-close-schools-fire-teachers-pay-us-back




How Big Corporations Are Starving Public Schools of Billions of Dollars


By Paul Buchheit, a college teacher, a member of US Uncut Chicago, and the editor and main author of American Wars: Illusions and Realities (Clarity Press). He can be reached at paul@UsAgainstGreed.org. Originally published at Alternet


Corporations have reaped trillion-dollar benefits from 60 years of public education in the U.S., but they’re skipping out on the taxes meant to sustain the educational system. Children suffer from repeated school cutbacks. And parents subsidize the deadbeat corporations through increases in property taxes and sales taxes.

Big Companies Pay about a Third of their Required State Taxes

An earlier report noted that 25 of our nation’s largest corporations paid combined 2013 state taxes at a rate of 2.4%, a little over a third of the average required tax. Many of these companies play one state against another, holding their home states hostage for tax breaks under the threat of bolting to other states.

Without Corporate Taxes, K-12 Public Education Keeps Getting Cut

Overall spending on K-12 public school students fell in 2011 for the first time since the Census Bureau began keeping records over three decades ago. The cuts have continued to the present day, with the majority of states spending less per student than before the 2008 recession.

It’s Getting Worse

Total corporate profits were about $1.8 trillion in 2013 (with other estimates somewhat higher or lower). The $46 billion in total corporate state income tax in 2013, as reported by both Ernst & Young (Table 3-A) and the Census Bureau, amounts to just 2.55% of the $1.8 trillion in corporate profits, a drop from the 3% paid in the five years ending in 2012.

The Worst Offenders

The most recent Pay Up Now analysis for 2014 shows some of the biggest and the worst offenders among U.S. corporations in 2014. Twenty companies with total U.S. profits of over $150 billion paid just 1.4% in state taxes. Some of the lowlights:

• Three of the largest California companies (Google, Intel, Wells Fargo) paid just 1.4% of their profits in state taxes. That’s less than 1/6 of the required California rate. Apple, which paid about half of its required state taxes in 2014, shamed itself by claiming residency in tax-free Nevada to avoid California’s high rate.
• Texas has a modest franchise tax instead of a state tax, but two giant firms (Exxon and AT&T) still managed to claim sizable state tax credits. Exxon, which has almost 80% of its productive oil and gas wells in the U.S., declared only 17% of its income here, while using a theoretical tax to account for 83% of its smallish federal income tax bill. On the state side, the company received hundreds of millions in subsidies for its refineries in Louisiana.
• In Illinois, a state beleaguered by pension woes and the nation’s worst per-student spending cuts in 2011-12, lost nearly a billion dollars in tax revenue to just six companies (Boeing, Archer Daniels, Walgreen’s, Caterpillar, Exelon, Abbott Labs), which paid just 1.9% of their profits in state taxes, about a quarter of the required amount.
• New York’s most notorious tax avoider is Pfizer, which had nearly half of its sales in the U.S. over the past three years, yet claimed $50 billion in foreign profits and losses in the U.S.


.....................(more)

http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2015/07/how-big-corporations-are-starving-public-schools-of-billions-of-dollars.html




What’s Left of the American Dream Withers at Record Pace


What’s Left of the American Dream Withers at Record Pace
by Wolf Richter • July 29, 2015


The current housing boom has Dallas solidly in its grip. As in many cities around the US, prices are soaring, buyers are going nuts, sellers run the show, realtors are laughing all the way to the bank, and the media are having a field day. Nationwide, the median price of existing homes, at $236,400, as the National Association of Realtors sees it, is now 2.7% higher than it was even in July 2006, the insane peak of the crazy housing bubble that blew up with such spectacular results.

Housing Bubble 2 has bloomed into full magnificence: In many cities, the median price today is far higher, not just a little higher, than it was during the prior housing bubble, and excitement is once again palpable. Buy now, or miss out forever! A buying panic has set in.

.....(snip).....

That’s true for many cities, including San Francisco. The “Boom Town,” as it’s now called, is where the housing market has gone completely out of whack, with a median condo price at $1.13 million and the median house price at $1.35 million. This entails some consequences [read… The San Francisco “Housing Crisis” Gets Ugly].

The fact that Housing Bubble 2 is now even more magnificent than the prior housing bubble, even while real incomes have stagnated or declined for all but the top earners, is another sign that the Fed, in its infinite wisdom, has succeeded elegantly in pumping up nearly all asset prices to achieve its “wealth effect.” And it continues to do so, come heck or high water. It has in this ingenious manner “healed” the housing market.

But despite the current “buying panic,” the soaring prices, and all the hoopla round them, there is a fly in the ointment: overall homeownership is plunging.

The homeownership rate dropped to 63.4% in the second quarter, not seasonally adjusted, according to a new report by the Census Bureau, down 1.3 percentage points from a year ago. The lowest since 1967! ..............(more)

http://wolfstreet.com/2015/07/29/home-buying-panic-record-prices-crashing-homeownership-rate-low-rental-vacancy/




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