It is what it is

It is what it is.

Ted Folkert – October 10, 2020

Wow, what a brilliant statement! The coronavirus “is what it is.” This is the way our fearless and compassionate president expresses his concern for this devastating pandemic. Where do we start in listing the coronavirus-initiated chain of events and employment impacts in some of our major industries?

According to news reports airlines have cut more than 400,000 jobs in the last few months. These are not minimum-wage jobs. These are middle-class jobs. The chain of events to follow is coming. This amounts to 400,000 people who are now limiting their spending to basic necessities. They have to have food and shelter, but what about clothing, entertainment, education, insurance, transportation, and all the other budgetary items on the list? The full impact of this has not yet reached the economy, getting some help from benefits from employer-provided and government-provided unemployment programs. But the full impact is coming because these programs have time limits. And the fear for the economy is that many of these jobs and those of other effected industries will not soon, or perhaps ever, be restored.

Disney just announced the layoff of 28,000 employees from their theme parks. So, obviously the devastation is not limited to airlines, it affects all businesses which rely on crowds or lots of customers, situations which provide places for distribution of the virus as customers interact face-to-face or in close contact with each other.

These are just a few examples. How about employment at other forms of transportation, housing, household furnishings and goods, entertainment, elective healthcare – all of the other industries which employ us? The labor department has reported that the US has experienced 22 million job losses over the last six months due to the virus and that less than 50% of them have been recovered to date, and that perhaps 5 million workers could face long term joblessness. Unfortunately, in situations such as this, some of these job losses are never recovered as companies realize that they can survive without them or have scaled back operations with limited profitability.

The Real Deal magazine posts a story call “Rent Relief for Retailers is Expiring. Now What?” This could be an unmanageable situation for the retail real estate industry and the retail industry. The industry as a whole is still far from a back-to-normal condition and in an unlikely position to pay agreed rental amounts let alone the backlog of deferred payments.

The term “nonessential” has suddenly taken on a more threatening meaning. No one wants to be determined nonessential when their industry is declared nonessential and starts eliminating nonessential jobs or nonessential employees. Nonessential is the term state governments use to require certain industries to cease or curtail operations in order to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

As the employees from bars, restaurants, movie theatres, gyms and other industries determined to be nonessential hit the job market or join those seeking unemployment compensation the spending must follow the same pattern. Those affected must determine what is nonessential for them. Some eliminate some entertainment expenditures, visits to friends, unnecessary vehicle trips, events which draw crowds, any unnecessary exposure to others.

These events must ultimately take a toll on discretionary spending throughout the economy. It could be tempered by government grants to all US citizens such as some of those already implemented, but this is temporary relief and cannot go on indefinitely. And what happens to the government debt incurred in this process, which will forever require interest payments since the debt will not likely ever be repaid.

The assumptions of some of our prognosticators regarding the declining impact from the virus seem to be missing the mark as predicted. Now those who had forecast a decline and ultimate end to the crisis have backed off and have become mum to the subject. The answer is that nobody knows and all prognostications are merely speculations or wishful thinking. They all come with a lack of certainty and parameters which tend to protect one from miscalculations. So why listen?

Like our debt-ridden, dishonest, embezzling, lying, stealing, and cheating president says when he has no answer or seeks a way to duck blame: “It is what it is.”

I guess that explains it. But don’t try to take that one to the grocery store when your unemployment compensation runs out. And don’t try to lay blame of this on our dear president even though he ignored the crisis in the early stages and declared it a simple case of the flu which will disappear very quickly, ignoring the warnings from our most trusted healthcare advisors, such as Dr. Deborah Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci. I wonder which medical school Dr. Trump graduated from?

A Fish Story – A Baseball Story

A Fish Story – A Baseball Story

Ted Folkert – September 28, 2020

You know how fish stories go. In the sequence of the fish economy the tiny fish is eaten by the small fish, the small fish is eaten by the big fish, the big fish is eaten by the shark, the shark is eaten by the whale and we kill the whale and scavenge the parts we can use. And, as fish stories go, the fish-story teller usually has an exaggerated memory of the size of the one which got away.

A fish story could help to describe the predicament we are in as a struggling economy. The same pattern of consumption is apparent in the economy of a would-be democracy such as ours. The smaller ones get eaten by the bigger ones and so on up the line, certainly not a democratic process, but one which prevails.

Most of us realize that many small businesses are experiencing an unanticipated slowdown due to the corona virus and the sagging economy. This is a problem with limited solutions for struggling small entrepreneurs. It is also a problem for the real estate industry throughout the country. Some entrepreneurs and realtors have not experienced this but it is almost certain that they will. Unforced closings of small businesses due to lack of business, or forced closings due to municipal government actions or financial failure, obviously cause substantial financial hardships for the business owners and consequentially for the real estate owners who lease the facilities. As a third victim, the lenders for much of this real estate are, or will be, adversely affected due to some property owners being unable to service their loans in a timely manner due to the default of timely rental payments.

Of course, the normal course of action on such defaults for a property owner would be legal steps for collection of delinquent rents or eviction of the delinquent tenants. And the normal course of action for the lender upon default by the property owner would be collection of delinquent loan payments or foreclosure of the property. It is easy to understand such actions in normal times. However, in times like this there are other considerations perhaps should be considered in many cases.

A lender who forecloses on a loan for commercial space will ultimately end up with the property with which the loan is secured. This would be a normal process. But in a time such as this, when everyone in the industry is experiencing cash flow difficulties, what are the chances of the lender re-selling the property or the chances of the real estate owner re-leasing the property in a timely manner and at a rental amount commensurate with the property value and adequate to support the mortgage payment?

Well, the answer to both questions is that the chances in many cases are “not very good.” Who would want to jump into the market when it is collapsing or declining significantly? There are always bargain shoppers or bottom-feeders for troubled real estate in such times as this but such a resolution may not be the most prudent outcome for any of the parties.

If the tenant defaults and the property owner forecloses who will be ready, willing, and able to lease the property at a comparable rental amount?

If the property owner defaults and the lender forecloses who will be ready, willing, and able to buy the property at a comparable valuation?

Perhaps everyone should understand the position of the other party, sometimes referred to as walking in someone else’s shoes. Establishment of a “workout” plan could minimize the financial impact for all parties. Just the cost of litigation, foreclosure, eviction, and re-occupancy would be substantial or perhaps not recoverable for any or all parties – the business operator, the property owner, and the lender. Taking the legal expenses and future occupancy of the property into consideration, perhaps the only prudent decision would be to work it out. Perhaps all must share in the unfortunate condition of the economy. All of us will probably be better off by willingly sharing the pain – pain which will probably be shared whether or not any of the parties are unwilling. Sometimes it is necessary to share the downside when times are difficult just as we are able to share the upside when times are favorable – taking the bad with the good.

Consider baseball as an example. Times at bat are not always successful. They vary according to skill of the batter, the skill of the pitcher, luck, and unexpected consequences. A long fly ball can be a home run or just a big out, but the redeemable part in any case is that the batter will probably get another time at bat. Perhaps unfortunate business owners should get another one too. A batter who hits the ball safely one time out of four, a 250 batting average, is often considered a superstar. Maybe a business owner should get another time at bat. For many small business owners a batting average of 1000 is required, allowing for no do-overs, no second chances, no more times at bat. The question in a foreclosure is “who wins.” And the answer is often “no one wins.”

It seems that it would be more promising to consider a struggling business like a baseball game and give the entrepreneur another time at bat. With the right swing and the right pitch it could be a home run the next time at bat. It happens quite often in baseball. And it could happen often in business during difficult economic times.

The debacle for the consumer as this fish story evolves in the business world is the elimination of competition. Competition is perhaps the most effective element of price control, thereby serving as a check on monopolization. Eliminating competition drives prices higher invariably, much to the obvious advantage to the behemoth business and to the obvious disadvantage to the consumer who has no leverage in an non-competitive market.

This process is easily confirmed by acknowledging the enormous increases in the share values of the behemoth corporations and the enormous increase in executive salaries based on corporate income and growth in recent years, both of which have increased substantially while worker income has declined.

The owners of the behemoth corporations don’t have to talk about the one which got away. They fish they hook, the American consumer, is captured game, only partially protected by the fleeting laws of free enterprise which are legislated and frequently re-legislated in favor of those who provide a substantial portion of campaign funding, sometimes referred as “pay to play.” In baseball, “pay to play” would require paying the umpire to make a call of a dropped fly ball or a tag on a runner in favor of the higher bidder. Our system doesn’t seem to provide a redress of grievances affordable by the American consumer that is commensurate with the financial ability of the corporations who finance the campaigns of our fearless leaders who legislate according to their principles or perhaps their instructions.

Our system of free enterprise certainly follows the principles of a fish story, a process which flies in the face of democracy, that term we cherish and strive for, and it certainly flies in the face of a baseball story, about a game we all cherish as the great American pastime, which is administered on democratic principles. We acknowledge and tolerate “pay to play” in the business world but we certainly wouldn’t tolerate in the baseball world.

A dishonest politician seems to prevail unchallenged. A dishonest umpire would probably be hung from the nearest flagpole.

Go figure!

Sanctioned Criminality – America’s Demise

Sanctioned Criminality – America’s Demise
Our Empirical President!

Ted Folkert – September 1, 2020

The Trump family is accomplishing its primary goals of attaining financial stability by hijacking the American economy. Every action taken, promoted or taken by Donald Trump and family is designed to enhance the personal wealth of the Trumps. The evidence is hiding in plain sight. It is obvious in his every action.

Every event which draws attendees who need a place to sleep is steered toward a Trump hotel property. Trump thumbs his nose at the emoluments clause of the constitution which bans the president from pursuing or accepting financial gain during the term of office.

Every affiliation which Trump encourages or cherishes involves the leader of a country of which Trump believes he can gain some financial benefit through one of his properties.

He kisses up with Vladimir Putin of Russia, Kim Jon Il of North Korea, and Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, all murderous dictators.

You ask “how can he get away with this.” Well, it is easy when he has the cooperation and approval of the US Senate and the Republican Party. Like he said, he could murder someone on 5th Avenue and get away with it. Does that tell us anything about his assurance of a total free ride while breaking every practice, every tradition, and every unspoken generally-accepted method of preventing him from receiving financial gain from his office?

And he has plenty of accomplices. They are all related to him, his sons and his daughter. They are the horses and he is holding the reins and the whip. Do any of them have gainful employment other than the Trump organization or through him with the federal government? A rhetorical question, of course not.

There will be no progress toward equality of opportunity under this regime. How much longer are we to wait for equality of opportunity for those who have been hampered for centuries? As much of the progress as possible that was made during the Obama presidency has been or is being reversed or stymied by this president.

Reelecting him could be disastrous. This may be the most important election of our lifetimes. His current plan is to serve 4 more years and then either attempt to remain in office or enable the election of his daughter to office for 8 years – completing a Trump dynasty and providing riches to his crumbling empire.

It is always amazing that so many people can be convinced to vote against their own best interest. Let us hope that it won’t happen this time – a critical time for the salvation of our attempt at “Democracy in the USA.”

John Lewis – Great American, Great Humanitarian

John Lewis – great American, great humanitarian.

Ted Folkert – July 18, 2020

What can we say about John Lewis, the great humanitarian and civil rights leader who marched alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. Lewis, born in poverty, one of ten children, became an activist and organizer as a teenager and was a dominant voice for racial equality his entire life, serving 17 terms in congress. Of course this was after his career as a prominent civil rights leader who was said the have been beaten and jailed more than 40 times but never deterred from his innate mission of “we shall overcome.”

He was Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He was a leader in the Edmond Pettis Bridge March where he was beaten over the head and nearly killed. He was again injured in the Selma March which was an inspiration for President Lyndon Johnson for the civil rights movement which inspired the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act. Lewis grew up in cotton country in Alabama where he couldn’t get a library card because they were for whites only.

Lewis was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.

His message was quoted as: “If you see injustice, stand up and speak out.” And that is what he did.

What can you say about him? Here are some of the words describing him: courageous, tenacious, compassionate, orator, minister, chairman, patient, distinguished, honoree, inspirational, activist, congressional leader, and great American.

If we could all live up to a few of the terms describing John Lewis it would truly be a better world – which was all he wanted and all he strived for.

May he rest, in peace.

Death and Taxes

“Death and Taxes” by Kevin Drum, Mother Jones – July 2020

The track record of taxation policies over the last 40 years, as outlined by Kevin Drum, paints a commanding picture of the fallacies of such taxation policies and provides convincing evidence of failures of fiscal policies promoted and imposed by Republican administrations.

  • The Trump tax cut failed to deliver for all but the very rich. The GOP thinks this is the perfect time for more.
  • In 1980 Ronald Reagan promised to cut taxes for everyone, especially for the rich. He insisted that it would trickle down to everyone and supercharge the economy, which included slashing some social safety net programs. Well, the rich got lower taxes, but the economy flat-lined and the deficit skyrocketed.
  • In 1993 Bill Clinton passed a tax increase to reduce the deficit. The Republicans insisted that it would cripple the economy. Instead, the economy boomed and the deficit soared into a surplus.
  • In 2001 and in 2003 George W. Bush passed a tax cut. The Republicans said it would supercharge the economy. It produced the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
  • IN 2013 Barack Obama forced the Republicans to accept a tax increase on high earners. The Republicans insisted that it would cripple the economy. The deficit declined and Obama produced the longest economic recovery in American history, which continued until the coronavirus pandemic killed it.
  • In 2017 the Republicans passed another tax cut which primarily a benefit for the corporations and the rich, insisting that it would supercharge the economy. They were wrong again.
  • The Republicans’ big donors only care about lower taxes, nothing else matters. Every single economic indicator that they said would go up, didn’t.
  • At the end of 2017 Republicans passed a $1.5 trillion tax cut, cutting taxes personal and corporate income.
  • Republicans have long been devoted to the strategy called “starve the beast” which has a simple goal: cut taxes, watch revenues fall, and insist that spending be cut to avoid budget deficits. The rich get most of the tax cuts and the spending cuts are aimed at the poor and middle class.

There you have it. We need to elect Democratic government in November so we can get on a path to a more stable and equally beneficial economy for all Americans.

No Where to Sleep

No Where to Sleep

Ted Folkert – July 2, 2020

As we know so well, the rich and powerful own the gold and make the rules in this country. We enabled this at the polls and we assure its continuance when we go to the polls to vote without being properly informed and without fully understanding the intent of the candidates. This seems to happen much too often as our political system enables the vultures to control the country due to a failure of our electoral process to assure the voters knowledge of the background and intent of the candidates. And it happens by the lack of controlling the financial moguls who amass fortunes while the workers are discriminated against. And it happens due to the lack of legislation to protect the populous – legislation such as that which occurred during the Obama presidency, with the Dodd-Frank Act which created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Unfortunately, this act has been weakened from its intent by Republicans whose intent is to enhance and protect the wealth of their campaign contributors while ignoring the plight of the working-class in the country.

For far too many of us the average wage no longer will cover housing, groceries, auto expenses, insurance, healthcare, education, recreation and other basic necessities of living a comfortable life.

Information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in the fourth quarter of 2019 the median income for a full-time wage or salary worker on a weekly basis was about $950, which would amount to a yearly income of nearly $50,000.

The website: https://dqydj.com (i.e. “Don’t Quit Your Day Job”) tells us that in the United States in 2019 the median individual income was about $40,000, the average individual income was nearly $60,000, and that the top 1% average was more than $300,000. (https://dqydj.com/average-median-top-individual-income-percentiles/)

A study by Statistica.com 6/28/2019 tells us that someone in San Jose, California requires nearly $100,000 per year to live comfortably, while someone in San Antonio, Texas requires nearly $60,000 per year.

What this tells us is that someone making a median income or less will be either unlikely or unable to live a comfortable life in this country. It tells us that, if San Antonio represents one of the lowest costs of living in the country, anyone making less than $60,000, the average income, cannot live comfortably in this country. This, of course includes an unfortunate percentage of US workers.

So, this explains why the total of credit continues to rise out of control. The valuepequin.com website tells us that:    (https://www.valuepenguin.com/average-credit-card-debt)

  • The average American Household Debt is $5,700.
  • The average credit balance for households is $9,300.
  • Total Outstanding U.S. Consumer Debt is $3.9 trillion.
  • Total revolving debt is $1.03 trillion.
  • 2% of all households carry some sort of credit card debt.
  • Households with the lowest net worth (zero or less) hold an average of $10,000 in credit card debt.

 

Of course, this debt problem is worsened due to the generosity of our irresponsible leaders who enable the financial vultures by allowing them to dangle “easy-credit” to lure in victims, then charge egregious fees, interest rates, and late fees to those unfortunate victims who have nowhere else to turn, no place to go, no place to sleep, no place to live.

And this explains why the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimates that there are 553,000 people experiencing homelessness in America, more than half a million people, some in the streets and some in homeless shelters. This is in the so-called richest country in the world. It’s hard to imagine how much worse it could be in all the poorer countries of the world. If you live in a part of the country such as California, where you can live outdoors all year, it becomes apparent every time you drive down the street in Los Angeles and other major cities. There are numerous homeless encampments all over Los Angeles and all over Southern California and they seem to be growing on a daily basis.

Discussing this isn’t meant to complain about the presence of homeless encampments, it is meant to emphasize the critical nature of the problem and the continuous struggle of those who have no place to go, no place to sleep, no  place to live.

The amazing part of all this for some of us is the number of egregious lenders that are so willing, so anxious, such vultures, as to lure the helpless victims into their net like a hungry spider. How can they sleep at night thinking about driving their victims into insurmountable burdens of debt with which they are trapped for life because the interest rates increase the debt balance faster than they are able to reduce the balance due, which ultimately forces them into bankruptcy, leaving them with a lack of financial worthiness to qualify for any future availability of credit. They lure their victims with the offering of low interest or no interest teaser rates for loans, after an initial period or on one late payment the interest rate increases to levels which make the loan virtually permanent due to the inability of many borrowers to reduce the loan amount.

The term debt-trap has become a common term now, a term which explains the plight of too many working-class individuals who are trying to provide a comfortable lifestyle for their families and ending up in a hole without a way to climb out. This is exacerbated of course because wages have not kept pace with inflation, which is due in large part to the gutting of right-to-work laws, enacted by Republicans beginning in the 1980s, which rendered labor organizations powerless to protect the workers they represented.

The question is how bad can it get, how far can it go, how long can it endure? It’s like a merry-go-round cliché – round and round and round it goes and where it stops nobody knows.

Recognizing this dilemma of all dilemmas underscores the value and importance of changing the leadership in this country which can be initially accomplished at the polls in November of this year. If we lose this opportunity to initiate critical change in leadership we may not get such an opportunity again for some time.

The need for change is imminent for improving the plight of working people and setting the stage for economic prosperity for everyone. If the working-class have no money in their pockets, we have no economy. That is a fact, pure and simple.

How Much Longer?

How Much Longer?

Ted Folkert – June 11, 2020

When will the lynching’s end?
George Floyd was lynched.
It’s been 400 years, so far.
How much longer?

When will equal rights be implemented?
It’s been 400 years, so far.
How much longer?

When will those denied be compensated?
It’s been their peril for 400 years, so far.
How much longer?

When will the reparations begin?
It’s been 400 years, so far.
How much longer?

I’m not black, brown, red, or yellow,
No, I’m white.
Whites are not unaware.
But being aware isn’t enough.
It’s has been 400 years, so far.
How much longer?

Our fearless leaders have been aware.
But being aware isn’t enough.
What have they done?
It’s been 400 years, so far.
How much longer?

Sam Cooke sang us “Change is Gonna Come.”
We sang “Change is Gonna Come.”
We passed the Civil Rights Act.
We passed the Equal Rights Amendment.
We elected a black president.
When will civil rights be implemented?
When will equal rights be implemented?
It’s been 400 years, so far.
How much longer?

We allowed control by the rich and powerful.
They control without paying their fair share.
Their money can now elect those they prefer.
And that is what we got, those they prefer.
It’s been 400 years, so far.
How much longer?

When is “Change Gonna Come?”
When will there be civil rights?
When will there be equal rights?
When will the lynching’s stop?
It’s been 400 years, so far.
How much longer?

British Description of Trump

Words of Jason Miciak, British author, March 8. 2020, quoted from Political Flare

 Trump lacks certain qualities which the British traditionally esteem.

For instance, he has no class, no charm, no coolness, no credibility, no compassion, no wit, no warmth, no wisdom, no subtlety, no sensitivity, no self-awareness, no humility, no honour and no grace – all qualities, funnily enough, with which his predecessor Mr. Obama was generously blessed. So for us, the stark contrast does rather throw Trump’s limitations into embarrassingly sharp relief.

Oh, and the old boy was just getting worked up.

After all, it’s impossible to read a single tweet, or hear him speak a sentence or two, without staring deep into the abyss. He turns being artless into an art form; he is a Picasso of pettiness; a Shakespeare of shit. His faults are fractal: even his flaws have flaws, and so on ad infinitum.

God knows there have always been stupid people in the world, and plenty of nasty people too. But rarely has stupidity been so nasty, or nastiness so stupid.

Smiling all the way to the bank!

Smiling all the way to the bank!

Ted Folkert – February 26, 2020

If you should perhaps be concerned about the welfare of the business merger and acquisition market, that market whereby the big companies acquire each other with the excess capital they have garnered by bilking the general public with excessive profits, you can rest assured that they are alive and quite healthy.

During 2019, as reported by Mergers and Acquisitions magazine, there were more than 200 acquisitions with values of between $650 million and $1 billion dollars each. They apparently ran out of space and failed to report the much larger number of deals less than $650 million each.

It has been reported that there were more than 12,000 merger and acquisition deals in the 2019 fiscal year. So, the market is healthy with lots of excess cash lying around. We need not wonder where all that excess cash came from. We know the answer. All of us consumers contributed to this excess with high consumer goods prices, high housing costs, high education costs, high healthcare costs and wages that have not kept pace with inflation.

The inflation we are talking about is the mandatory increase in earnings that all corporate executives are required to demonstrate each year to justify their enormous salaries. It is a continuous spiral in which the wage earners are not allowed to participate.

MLK, Jr. – Comments of Tom Steyer

This isn’t the America Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for.

For too many Americans, racial justice, economic equality, livable wages, fair working conditions, and a secure future with opportunities for growth and prosperity are still out of reach. More than 50 years after his death, we’re still fighting for these same things. They are key drivers on this campaign, guiding our policies and vision for our nation. This isn’t a fight we can just give up on.

We honor the contributions of Dr. King — a leader who forever changed our history by calling for the recognition of African-American civil rights, equality and equity — by embodying his values of service and sacrifice today, and every day. African Americans built this nation and shaped our values without receiving any gratitude or recompense. So it’s on all of us — but especially those who continue to benefit from whiteness and privilege in society — to get out and give back.