You are now officially part of the economic downturn

My employer sent out a communication essentially declaring that we are f*cked much like everyone else, and it’s my impression (and has always been my impression) that building new shit still takes precedence over paying people.

While it’s still arguably a “stable” place to be employment-wise, I aspire to something more in a career than stability. (This being said, I won’t actually be surprised if, at any time, I am told that my job is going away. I do not trust any evidence that might point to the security of my job).

It’s probably easy to generate an “at least you have a job” reaction from my whining. I actually think be canned from my job could be a blessing right about now, although I will not going into why. I do know, and I feel quite emphatically, that when I am told at work that we have to “start doing more with less” as a way to potentially preserve our jobs, this is really a no-win situation, as whoever decides to ultimately cut a job doesn’t have the foggiest clue what is needed to do more or do less about anything.

I think that just made me sound like an asshole; I don’t care.

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38 versus 7500

That’s my federal refund for 2008 after an initial run-through with TaxACT, which I’m new to after many years of TaxCut and Turbo Tax. TaxAct is either free or very cheap if you want the Deluxe version, and, for my purposes, seems to have all the functionality of the mainstays.

$38. I suppose I should pat myself on the back for doing well in 2008 at the game called “Mess With Your Payroll Deductions”. To come out basically even means I got to keep the money that I’d otherwise get back in a hefty refund. With that money I got to do things like go to one-and-a-half Journey concerts and purchase orthotics.

I did pretend, briefly, that I did actually qualify for the very generous first-time homebuyer tax credit that Congress passed last fall in response to the housing crisis. It gives new homeowners up to a very nice $7,500 as a credit. Unfortunately, you had to have purchased your home after April 7, 2008 (and you have all of 2009 to take advantage of it, I believe). I bought my house in September 2007.

So many credits and deductions in the tax code have graduated phase-outs. This credit has an income phase-out but no phase-out with regard to the date of your home purchase. If you had closed on a home on April 8, 2008, you may get $7,500 back from Uncle Sam. If you closed on April 7, 2008, you will get $0.

(I didn’t mean to get too technical, but if anyone is really interested in this credit, note that it is technically a 15-year zero-percent interest loan. You are supposed to pay the government back through your federal withholding over the next 15 years–$500/year if you’re getting the whole $7500).

On the bright-side for me, getting $38 back from the government is a heckuva lot better than owing money.

JP Morgan Chase Hates Pets

Dear Valued PetSmart PetPerks Visa Cardholder,

As you may know, certain assets held by Washington Mutual, our partner for the PetSmart® PetPerks® Visa®, were purchased by JP Morgan Chase. This transaction included all of the credit card accounts that were part of the PetSmart PetPerks Visa program. Chase has decided not to support the PetSmart PetPerks credit card.

That means no more credit card with a a picture of Aremid. Well, it might be the one expired credit card I keep around as a souvenir.

U.S. Economy circa January 2009

The U.S. Economy circa January 2009

The storm metaphor is just too easy, but this is what I saw when I left work today, from the parking deck of American Tobacco, overlooking University Ford. Apparently, Durham has the lowest unemployment in the state of North Carolina, at just 5.8% compared to 7.9% for the state and 6.7% nationwide. Ford isn’t doing too well, however. Their December sales are down 32% from a year ago. (They actually fared better than G.M., Chrysler, BMW Toyota, and Honda).

Douchebag Lifetime Achievement Awards

To all of these tools in the video below, except for Peter Schiff, who bravely tries to warn the douchebag financial pundits and the greedy Fox News and CNBC audiences that they’re all dead wrong and that the economy is headed into a tailspin.

It is clear that you should NEVER believe a word you hear from these smug douchebags you see telling you what you should and should not invest your money in.

(For the record and the Googlesphere, the specific douchebags in the video below are Arthur Laffer, Tom Adkins, Mike Norman, Ben Stein, Tracy Brynes, and Charles Payne).

(via Michael Scherer’s post in Time’s Swampland blog)

John McCain’s gas tax holiday

John McCain wants to suspend the federal gasoline tax, the 18.4 cents per gallon, between Memorial Day and Labor Day. This is going to save Americans a whopping 5% on their gas fill-ups. It hardly seems like a bold initiative, considering prices have gone up 22% in the past year. That road-tripping family of four will be able to eat at Applebees instead of McDonalds once or twice. They can stay one night at a Comfort Inn instead of a Sleep Inn. Meanwhile, there are a couple of free do-it-yourself actions to take to save over 5%.

Go 55 miles per hour. Your choice. Do it, and save 20% on your gasoline costs (versus going 75 MPH). Don’t do it, in the interest of saving time, taking advantage of the power of your vehicle that you’d otherwise waste, or perceived safety. Your choice. I find it difficult to go 55 on the highway for the latter reason. Everyone else on the road gets pissed when you go 55. If I could just find one other vehicle going 55 to tail, I’d feel a lot better.

Properly inflate your tires. There’s a 5% savings right there. Go to Sheetz in RTP; their free air pressure machine will automatically inflate to your specified PSI with the touch of a button.

You still want a gas tax break? I hope it’s not your car going over that collapsed bridge.

Bailouts for homeowners

ABC News just featured a Clayton, NC couple who had an adjustable mortgage on home they put no money down on that went from 9% to 14%. They expect the world to be sympathetic. They expected the mortgage company to say, “Hey, 9% is plenty; we won’t raise it!” Because ABC News called the mortgage company, the company lowered the rate significantly. So the Clayton couple gets to stay in the house that they clearly couldn’t afford in the first place. Lesson learned? Find someone important to complain to, and you can avoid responsibility for a mistake you made.

I bitch about a lot of things but, I hope, try to be mindful when much of the fault lies with my own actions.

Why are we getting $500 (or $800)?

I really don’t know what to make of the tax rebate that both sides of the aisle want to give to every American. My gut reaction is that the government is just feeding Americans’ spending addictions. The country overall is in a ton of debt, and most individuals and families are, too. I know we got one of these back in 2002. Did it do any good? And by that, I don’t mean did it help big corporations make more profits that mostly went to executives. Did it really create more jobs? Did it help incomes for most Americans go up?

In 2008, unemployment is not a big problem. We really don’t need much job creation. Reliable measures say that the median income in the U.S. has been stagnant over the last 30 years or so while productivity has increased enormously. (You will find measures that say median income has increased slightly, but much of that has to do with more older Americans in the workforce). So, giving everyone a big, fact check might technically ward off or put a quick end to a recession, but will it really do most Americans much good?

If most Americans used the $800 to pay down debts, that would be great and probably what most Americans should do, but it wouldn’t help the economy at all, would it? And it ain’t gonna happen, is it? The government wants us to spend, spend, spend!

If most Americans spend their $800, isn’t it likely to go towards frivolous things like new TVs (especially with the digital mandate approaching) that wouldn’t otherwise be purchased, where these items are purchased at big-box stores and the “investment” will just go towards the company’s bottom-line?

Is it even possible that a group could start a movement for everyone to take their rebate and put it towards one noble cause? The government is about to borrow $100-150 billion to essentially drop greenbacks from a blimp like Jack Nicholson’s Joker. Isn’t there some huge problem, whether it be education or healthcare or roads or poverty that could be almost completely solved by such a sum, but normally politicians claim the solution is too expensive?

If you tell me that I can give my rebate to you since I’m sounding like I don’t want it, you miss my point. Of course, I’ll take my rebate. I don’t know if I’ll pay down debt, buy something frivolous, or donate a good deal of it to some worthy cause. I just feel like the government is doing something very irresponsible, like if Citibank suddenly gave everyone, regardless of credit history, a limit increase, which is the kind of behavior that has gotten us in this whole mess in the first place.

And yet lots of economists say a “stimulus package” is needed.

Someone help me understand this…

While you’re at it, freeze drug and gasoline prices

White House nears plan to freeze subprime rates – Dec. 5, 2007

Similar to my last post, I’m looking at the headline, not thinking about an individual family who may have been hoodwinked into taking out a mortgage they couldn’t afford…

My gut reaction to this “bailout” is WTF? Americans are acutely sick with financial irresponsibility, spending way beyond their means on cars, clothes, iPods, and homes. Now the government is going to say, “Don’t worry; we’ll bail you out!” This Republican administration that decries government intervention in the regulation of commerce is going to do this? I realize the true motivation is to help the financial institutions who don’t benefit at all from a deluge of foreclosures. In either case, the administration’s deal-brokering leaves me with a few questions:

– Why not freeze drug prices for everyone who can’t afford their necessary medications?
– Why not freeze gas prices?
– Why not freeze college tuition rates?

NOBODY needs to OWN a home. It would be nice if the government would help bail out those whose basic needs aren’t being met instead of Mr. and Mrs. Our-FICO-is-520-but-we-own-a-Chevy-Tahoe-and-a-McMansion.