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Archive for the ‘finances’ Category

My brain works in bullet points on mornings I haven’t had enough sleep but, for whatever reason, can’t go back to sleep. Consider this a cleaning session.

  • Gross-out: My dog woke me up by vomiting. On my armpit.
  • Every time I see the word “Pain” I first think I see “Palin.” Oh, the beautiful irony.
  • I said a very stupid thing in yesterday’s blog post. In order to be optimistic and/or happy about a single public issue, I apparently need to block out everything else. Like the banking crisis which, I presumed, didn’t really affect me. Riiiight. What I had was a failure of comprehension. It didn’t really make sense to me at that point, and I didn’t understand that the Fed taking on bad debt (or even the rumor of it) is another example of cronyism and bailing out the big guys. Does the fed step in to save a failing small business, or all those near-mythical family-owned businesses destroyed when a big-box store comes to the neighborhood? No–only when mega-conglomerates implement extremely poor business practices and operate at the edge of a proverbial cliff, and that cliff crumbles beneath them do the feds step in. And yet there’s no consensus about what caused this bubble. Who is running this f-ing government, anyhow? At least Krugman’s article in the Times today shows a basic understanding of the financial system–and the government’s involvement in it–so start there, I guess. I don’t understand!

See? That’s my brain waking up, and there’s typically anger involved in the clearing of the fog. Kind of like learning.

Okay, now I need to edit, edit, edit, work, get hair cut, go to library, go to bank, etc. etc.

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Congress Does Something!

I know, shocking, isn’t it? The Times is full of good articles today*, including one on an amendment to the Americans with Disabilities Act from 1990. The way the law was originally set up placed the burden of proof of disability on the disabled person, and if that person managed her disability well–with or without the aid of medication or other services–the government could argue against the claim of disability, particularly in a case of employer dicrimination. Here’s a brief exerpt from the article:

Lawmakers said that people with epilepsy, diabetes, cancer, multiple sclerosis and other ailments had been improperly denied protection because their conditions could be controlled by medications or other measures. In a Texas case, for example, a federal judge said a worker with epilepsy was not disabled because he was taking medications that reduced his seizures.

In deciding whether a person is disabled, the bill says, courts should not consider the effects of “mitigating measures” like prescription drugs, hearing aids and artificial limbs. Moreover, it says, “an impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active.”

Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, the chief sponsor of the bill, said: “The Supreme Court decisions have led to a supreme absurdity, a Catch-22 situation. The more successful a person is at coping with a disability, the more likely it is the court will find that they are no longer disabled and therefore no longer covered under the A.D.A.”

This is such a positive step. Much of the body of laws and agencies set up to protect and assist people who need help are skewed against those who want to help themselves, but still need a safety net. Representative Jim Langevin calls the bill “one of the most important pieces of civil rights legislation of our time.”

Hooray for good news!

*I know, the financial crisis. I don’t have a damn dollar invested in these failing banks, mutual funds, etc., and like high gas prices, this development will only be good in the long run. Read Roger Cohen’s Times article today, titled “The King is Dead,” for one perspective on potential effects of the meltdown.

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Movie Week: Day #5

In which I get on track and blog a total of seven movies…

I made the mistake of watching Maxed Out right before going to bed. I don’t know why I didn’t assume I’d be angry and anxious–and unable to sleep–after viewing it. After watching it, I’m officially naming August “Financial Aneurysm Month.” A while back it was food (un)safety. Lately, though, I’ve been feeling like I (as well as most of the people I know) am a couple of steps away from financial destitution. And the cards, for all of us, are stacked in destitution’s favor.

Before I get too ahead of myself, the film explores the explosion of credit and the failure of the government to regulate it. Reminds me of the tagline for another movie I’m going to blog, Chinatown: “As little as possible.” Seems to be what the government is doing in all matters domestic, but allowing the banking industry the kind of freedom from regulation that they have is unconscionable. The film goes beyond individual financial woes, however, to show that a government that, itself, operates on credit has already bought into the ideology. We all know that credit isn’t a good thing, and the intelligent–and capable–ones among us do all we can to avoid it, but sometimes you just can’t. And the system is rigged that way.

Here are a few things I learned from the docko:

  • The average American has over $9,000 in credit card debt. And I haven’t seen a card that offers lower than a 14% APR. It’s much higher if you have any debt. You don’t even need to do the math to see the problem here.
  • About those check-cashing firms: regular banks own them. In fact, banks make the most money off of their poorest customers. And race is, most certainly, a factor for banks.
  • Pawn shops are basically banks, too. At least people use them that way.
  • Not a new idea, but the film reinforced the fact that there is really no such thing as “business ethics.” An oxymoron, really.

Now I don’t ever want to buy a house. Or, if I do, I’ll have at least 20% of the cost as a down payment. Which should happen in about…128 years.

There’s a lot more to say about the film and the causes of Americans’ credit woes, but I have to stop now, as I’m again feeling the way I did the night before last when I watched the thing. And if this couldn’t sound more boring to you, then you should definitely watch it: it’s good for you, like fiber and history.

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