Who's Kidding Who?

Roger Schlesinger
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Posted: Jun 19, 2009 11:47 AM
Who's Kidding Who?

As we flounder at the bottom (?) of a nasty recession, I am astounded by the message that seems to permeate from Washington: everything can be accomplished, and except for a few Americans who make excessive amounts of money (the President's thought), everything is basically free. Any and all problems will be fixed by our Uncle Sam and because you are a loving niece/nephew, it's all on him. Astounding but apparently true, for now, as I see it once I removed my rose colored glasses.

Maybe my view from the cheap seats is skewed because I live and work in Los Angeles which has the highest business license tax one could imagine, as much as $5.90 per $1000 of gross receipts, not profits. Los Angeles is part of the County of Los Angeles where the sales tax is 9.75% in the state of California, which is deep in debt equaling more than the value of the Hollywood and Disneyland combined. The state is considering raising the rate on the state income tax from 11% to 14% for the wealthy. Add this package up and put it into the United States of America which owes more now than it ever did, continues to spend and of course feels the need to raise taxes, especially on the rich (see above). We, of course, know that the current rich are everybody's target and all I can conclude is: GOVERNMENT IS NOT THE ANSWER!

What is my state doing to solve its monetary short fall? The City of Los Angeles is in debt and is warning the State not to try to balance the budget with the city's money; in other words, hands off! The county is stretched as far as Jane Fonda in her prime and the state, under the soon to be Terminated, is rumored to be taking bids on the capital, the governor's house, and is looking for name sponsors of the freeways and the prisons. How does Yahoo State Prison sound?

Is there an answer to the situation these public institutions face? I think there is: the private sector. Many believe that the private sector got us into this recession and I agree they certainly were part of it, along with the government. I believe we have at least four top business schools in the state; several dozen Fortune 500 companies and enough top executives to run most of the companies in almost any European country. If government isn't the answer, could business be? I am a big believer in business, business leaders and those who teach those who aspire to run businesses. If you study the public companies, you will find that those who are either showing profits or at least getting by in this recession are doing it primarily by cutting costs. This is a concept so foreign to government at any level that it isn't surprising that most governments are continually in debt up to their eye balls. Their answers are to talk about cutting costs, loudly, and then raise taxes and fees as fast as possible, quietly.

So why not put some job experience requirements on the government officials that continually take us down this spending road? Do you think it is asking too much of those who lead to understand the laws of supply and demand, what a balanced budget looks like and that cutting the deficit in half in five years isn't an objective, but a disingenuous hackneyed statement that we have heard too many times before?

Unfortunately, in California, it is a totally different proposition. First and foremost, we must know how the candidate stands on gay marriage and then what theatrical credentials the would be official has, and finally what future aspirations they might have. Once that is out of the way, we can possibly consider how in the hell are we ever going to get out of debt! We used to have a part time legislature and we never had these problems. Come to think of it, we might still have one, although they are being paid for full time work. It doesn't appear to me that full time attempts to right the ship would yield such poor results. I write about California because I have lived here all my life and my family planted their roots here 100 years ago. I am sure we are not the only state in the union that is trying to catch up to the federal government's deficit spending. If that is true, we are hopelessly short of wealthy people (those who make over $200,000 a year) to fix the problem, even if we take all of their income!

I write this because of what I see happening in the mortgage industry. First, we have been burdened with new regulations which were initiated to fix the problems that brought us down. These were proposed and passed by the same people who told us the old system was okay. They didn't have the experience or the knowledge of the industry before and they still don't. Until we can change people's inclination to mislead, lie and simply steal (mortgage professionals and borrowers included), we might as well continue to listen to the next explanation about CIA lying from Nancy Pelosi.

Add to the difficulty for a large number of Americans to get mortgage financing who haven't missed payments, the enormous debt load the government has created is in danger of sending interest rates to record peaks even as we sit at records lows. Something has to be done!

When was government changed from an honor to serve, to a chance to accumulate wealth and supply a largess of benefits for retirement? While millions of Americans are setting back their retirement clock because of the losses sustained in the 401(k) accounts and other pensions as well, our legislatures, especially on the federal level, are looking forward to very comfortable retirements. If it hasn't come to mind, perhaps everyone elected to office shouldn't start with the same income as those who have some experience. The good part of that thought is those who were running to make money won't. Just an idea to force those who make us accountable by ever increasing taxes and fees, to be accountable themselves. It is easy to say we can elect someone to replace them, but that would take somebody to "cook the books" to make me believe that an incumbent doesn't win almost all the time. It is time for us to speak up before we all get laryngitis.