Sunday, November 25, 2012

Why Does This Country Allow Such Loans

The Old Testament is replete with references condemning taking advantage of the widowed, the orphaned, and the downtrodden. We can readily understanding why ancient Israel that usury was more than an ethical, it was viewed as a criminal activity. Those who are the most vulnerable, the least educated, the least capable of understanding business matters, and those in the most desperate straits financially, are prime prey for wily people.

Payday loans are a form of usury. I am aghast how those who posture themselves as running for office on “biblical values” look the other way on these loans. Payday and title loans are enticingly packaged as a service, but they are anything but a service for anyone but the lender as the loan terms are designed to keep as many people as possible “paying off the loan” as long as possible. Annual interest rates in excess of 40% are not uncommon, sometimes even greater than 50%. That these firms tend not to freely publish their rates on the net speaks further volumes as to the predatory nature of their loans.  

There is an ad running that targets those who are caught in the payday loan trap by enticing the victims to take out a loan with them so as help them retire their payday loan. The firm is offering to rescue usury victims with another usury loan with an annual interest rate that is excess of 89%.

The ad offers quick loans of $10,000 with payment plan over 84 months at a rate of 89%. The victim would be paying $751 a month. The principle would be recovered by the lender in 14 months, the remaining months are all profit. Comparing this to the common new car loan rate of 6.9%, a $10,000 loan would have payments over 84 months of $150.43. A rate of 26.9% (a high side credit rate) would have payments of $265.38 over 84 months.
That these outragious predatory loans all permitted speaks volumes about the nation's values. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Giving Tuesday

We have Black Friday looming when retailers offer great bargains to draw in shoppers and to launch the holiday gift buying season. On Monday Nov 26 we have Cyber Monday where the emphasis turns to the online shopping experience with retailers offering specials online to attract customers.

To help bring some balance, for the first time we have Giving Tuesday, a day to think about our civic responsibility to help charitable causes.  I would encourage you to take contemplate how you and your family are upholding your civic responsibilities to give to others through charitable causes. I have it on my calendar to do just that this Tuesday. I cut a few gifts that day, and review my charitable involvement. I hope you too will put the day on the calendar.

Besides making a few charitable gifts that day, here are just a few ideas for how you could participate in other ways on Giving Tuesday.  

·         CEOs sending to their employees an email encouraging them to make charitable gifts and volunteer in some way this holiday season.

·         A company announcing that it will match gifts their employees are making to charities this season.

·         Calling a charity to offer to volunteer in some way this holiday season and winter.

·         As a family deciding to send a gift to a charity in honor of someone the family wishes to honor.

·         As a family deciding to set aside a day each quarter to volunteer.

·         Set a day to go visit a charity or two to learn about what they are doing in your community.

·         As a family, count the money that is in your wallets and pockets at that moment and send 10% to a charity that the family selects.

·         A family meeting to discuss two or three causes that are important each member of the family and why they are important to that member.

·         Go on a treasure hunt, looking in your cupboards and closets, and on your shelves for items that you can box-up for delivery that week to a charity.

·         Go grocery shopping, not to buy food for your family, but to buy several days of groceries that you would buy for your family and then take those groceries to a charity.

·         Mark on the family calendar one day every quarter on which the family will plan a charitable gift and activity of some nature. And then keep the appointment to yourselves to follow-up.

·         Start an “empty the change” campaign for the family during which family members place into a charity jar at the end of each day all loose change they have in their wallets, purses and pockets, and once every two or three months send what is in the jar to a charity.

·         Skip a treat a week event in which each member of the family skips a treat/snack once a week and puts what they would have spent in to a jar with the proceeds going every few months to charity the family selects.

·         Taking the personal initiative to arrange for your place of business to do a collecting of food, or coats, or clothing. Most places do not do such activities because someone has not taken the initiative to organize the event.
These ideas may help trigger ideas of your own as to how you can participate in Giving Tuesday.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Drum Corps 2013 Season

The 2013 audition season is well underway. This is the first time since 2007 that we will not have monthly trips to the airports. I will not miss Josh's monthly trips to San Antonio. Though we will not be following the season on a daily basis and as deeply as in the past, we will continue to follow the activity, take in shows when we can, and cheer for the Crossmen.

The amount of work that these young people give to preparing the shows, drilling all day from early morning until they pack to go to a show is demanding to say the least. For three months sleeping on buses and on floors, eating most meals sitting on the grass or at a curb, sweating bucks every day in the glare of the hot sun, and getting oneself psyched up each night for a show is something that only the most disciplined and lover of the activity can endure yearly. While most participants march only for one or two years, the number who march for four, five and six years is greater than I would have imagined.

If you ever get an opportunity to take in a DCI show, do so. Do not only take in the show, but also before or after wonder through the lot containing their equipment trucks and buses. Doing so will help remind you of what these young people give on a daily basis to entertain their audiences.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

President Obama - Short Reflection on Election Day

I am pleased that the current presidential election cycle is coming to a close. This election has been three years too long creating posturing bring about years of stagnation in which the great American founding principal of compromise been replaced by dogmatic stubborn firmness demanding that the other side capitulate all along the board.

Will Obama be re-elected? While the coming hours will tell, I suspect that history will view the last four years as a period of missed opportunities, for the President as well as Congress to work together for the greater good.

Obama’s presidency has lacked consistent clarity and passion. Yes, there has been been moments of clarity, but for the most part his overall plan and direction has not been evidenced. Some of the lack of clarity has been due to him trying to find ways to work with an obstructionist Congress and the Republican's primary agenda of ensuring Obama is a one term President...not a posture of governing for the good of the nation but a posture of doing whatever is necessary to win at all costs. A good part is that the President's lack of passion makes him appear to be detached. I suspect that he understands the anxieties and feels the pains of the common citizen and their plight, but it does not come across as frequently as it should. He has not been selling his ideas with passion and from the framework of addressing the issues felt on Main Street.

Obama was handled a horrible economic situation created by crass and unchecked greed in so many sectors of the economy. Bush, shares the blame, but so does Congress, the mega banks, those realtors who pushed subprime loans and homes they knew people could not afford, the citizens who knowingly bought homes they could not afford, and local as well as state politicians who rather than encouraging the building of modest housing stock facilitated the building of upscale large homes. 

The crass greed and off-loading of risky derivatives around the world continue to be felt by nations around the world. The impact of the economic collapse that was underway four years ago continues to linger in the United States, Europe and Far East.  Obama is commended for calmly guiding the country through an economic minefield and helped prevent the collapse of our major banks, he has not led with a passion and vision a President should project, particularly in troubled times, in terms that the average family can appreciate.    

What drives Obama? We have not evidenced what drives him, his grand vision or ideas. Health-care expansion was not a driving vision or passion. He was not highly engaged in driving the shape of the reform as expanding health insurance and improving health-care was Hillary Clinton’s issue. Healthcare was Hillary passion, a platform he co-opted to secure the nomination. He never argued strongly in favor for it, guide and drive the shape of the reform. Instead he left it to various parties to shape reform apart from his ongoing involvement which resulted in a healthcare reform that is more flawed than necessary.

He rightly extracted the nation from the ongoing morass of Iraq. He is commended for doing so. Other than giving a deadline to withdrawing from Afghanistan he has not given a clear definition of what needs to be done and how it would be done. The withdraw from both countries will help stop the spiraling deficit. His posture on Libya was reasonable, but Egypt was muddier and Syria still merkier. Presenting a cogent vision for the world or how America will be involved in the world has only been articulated in broad terms.  The current strength of international relations more a result of Hillary Clinton, not the President. 

While Obama is an eloquent man who can move hearts on the campaign trail, but we have rarely evidenced the same in the White House. Too often Obama comes across a pleaser who sticks his finger into the wind. We have not evidenced what angers and disappoints him, what are his burning issues that are at the center of his presidency. The lack of ongoing eloquence and burning passions has left him exposed to the attack that he has no plans.

I fear that regardless who wins next week, a presidency lacking passion, burning conviction and clarity will continue for the next four years. Romney is not any better. The earlier months of his campaign lacked passion and miandered due to Romney's lack of passion. He did not define himself well. Further, various positions Romney has held over the years have been all over the map. The ad claiming Chrysler was moving its plants to China was so blantantly false that Chrysler had to refudiate it again and again, so much so that the ad left people questioning his honesty and character. 

Romney's ever shifting positions on various issues is not evidence of a maturing thought process that we should expect for a maturing person as they weigh out issues in light of new information. Rather, for me, it is evidence of him being a pleaser too, an excellent salesman who changes his message to match the audience to whom he is skillfully pitching the sale. In Massachusetts he campaigned for governor and governed as a moderate, taking positions which are contrary to statements over the last two years. Though he postured himself as a moderate, today he claims he was a radical right-wing conservative governor, thereby recasting his history. To gain the Republican nomination required Romney to make the hard right sales pitch, some of which he is today downplaying or walking back somewhat towards the center during the national campaign to appeal to the center. To do so he is highlighting moderate statements made five to ten years before, statements that conflict with positions taken in the primaries.
Given the economy, Romney should be well ahead in the polls and should win with a landside. Alas he is not winning in the polls by a wide margin, partly because a host of positions are out of touch with the center leaning public. If he is the victor, I fear that his presidency too will lack a clear well defined vision and passion. I also fear that under his presidency that the public debt will continue to grow significantly over the next four years.

The only positive is that regardless of who is in the President that according the federal Office of Budget and Management that the economy will continue to get stronger and employment will move below 6% by 2016. Romney’s projections of 12 million more jobs outlined in his plan is what the OBM forcasts to take place of the next four years. Of course, a President Obama or a President Romney and Congress could unravel those projections by doing something drastic or remaining engaged in unproductive gridlock.

The nation needs a President who has passion and a vision that is more than a slogan. Hopefully who ever is the victor will discover the passion.