01/9/14

Manopoly

Janet Yellen broke it.

Up until her confirmation this week, the Federal Reserve System was chaired by a long line of these guys:

pennybags

But, our obsession with demographic firsts is pretty stale. Numbers don’t really care.

You go, girl.

yellen now

Performed by the ipoetlaureate. Music produced by djclutch.

Homemaker Equity

09/30/13

Bright Side

Trust me, it wasn’t for lack of trying. To contract it, I engaged in all the traditional and recommended activities. But, apparently I’m impervious to mononucleosis. I mean a month off from shool?? I would have made it with Mrs. Fink and drank a bottle of baseball team back wash, for 30 straight days of Rocky IV and Sega Genesis.

sega-genesis

Same with this whole government shutdown deal. As a federal employee, I’m sort of eyeing a little unpaid vacation. Like a snow day. Not a week or month. A couple days. Of course, my boss thinks I’ve been “shutdown” for years.

Unfortunately, I perform a lot of what they call “essential” constitutional functions, like web-surfing and email-checking and reading internal administrative memorandum about what might happen if we do shut down.  Stuff that can’t be ignored.

But, I’m just saying, government shutdown = more news raps.  You guys do the math.

Performed by ipoet. Music produced by dj elder and dj etch-a-sketch.

Today’s song blog here:

On Pause

08/20/13

Two Evils

So my wife and I have been trying to get our own finances in order. You would think that counting $6 would be pretty straight forward. The real obstacle to making additional room in your budget is the “fixed” costs. Those are the costs that can’t be eliminated or easily reduced. Think your mortgage or lease. Medical insurance. Wild skee-ball binges down at Frankie’s Fun Park. Because these costs are “fixed” so to speak, they are not typically a good source of potential savings or cost cutting. You have to look to more discretionary spending like shopping or entertainment or your kids’ underwear. Non-essentials.

Egypt’s President Mohommed Morsi, not-long-ago the benefactor, himself, of a cultural and political revolution, was recently displaced by the Egyptian military, in what they staunchly would reject as anything like an illegitimate coup. Since that time, the military has been at literal war with the Muslim Brotherhood, who support Morsi. Nearly a thousand dead. In the middle of this human tragedy, is the geo-political crisis of our own financial aid to Egypt and the military in particular. Our Congress is divided over whether to choose between two fairly poor options in continuing to give aid to the Egyptian military or substantially reducing, or withdrawing, it, altogether. (There is a third option, but it involves Brendan Fraser and 6 fabric bolts of embalming gauze. Or maybe it’s Nicholas Cage and a precious national heirloom. The alternatives are all running together.)

We are slated to provide, in mostly military, but some economic, aid, for fiscal year 2014, $1.55 BILLION dollars to Egypt. In 2013, we are budgeted to provide, globally, $37 billion, between $23 billion in humanitarian aid and $14 Billion in military aid, like that provided to Egypt. Stunningly, however, this is still less than 1% of our national budget. And .0003% of what it costs to buy, a medium-sized family, popcorn and soda at the movies.

In 2012, we spent 107.6 billion on education. That’s only 3 times more than what we do for other countries (but is still, on a percentage of total budget basis, number one in the world). It is also half as much as we spend on those car window stickers that tell you how many people and of what kind, star wars or zombie, you have in your family.

star wars family car

So is foreign aid, and the $1.55 Billion to Egypt, specifically, a fixed cost? Is it non-negotiable, in other words? For the importance of the Suez Canal and the instability of the entire region, the answer is probably yes. We need to maintain our influence. But, as our own country struggles to pay its debts and create real jobs, it sure would be nice to not have to flush 2 billion dollars down a war-torn sink hole. It’s like when times are tough, you go to a smaller cable package. Or buy Dr. Bob’s instead of Dr. Pepper. Or stop flushing. I mean. Like every other time or so.

But, so it is with public policy. Typically it turns on a lesser of two evils. Either we continue to prop up an Egyptian military, guilty of relatively heinous human rights violations, but who, at least, doesn’t envision a fully dedicated eighth century Muslim state or we pull the plug and allow continued chaos and possibly the emergence of an eighth century Muslim state. (Actually, relatively speaking, an eighth century Muslim state would be a shining beacon of tolerance compared to modern Egypt.)

As usual, I don’t really know what I’m talking about. I can’t seem to keep up with the government’s version of its own foreign “aid” to me, my federal paycheck. The other day, I tried to make a deposit using my smartphone bank application. No luck. But, now I have a startlingly high new personal best on Temple Run 2.

Oh, and as a disclaimer to the song, no offense to little people or female athletes. Sometimes, you just have to obey the rhyme scheme and the comedy.

Written and performed by theipoetlaureate. Music produced Haralduz7.

Today’s blong here:

The Lesser Of

01/31/13

Como say huh?

So the bipartisan Gang of 8 has proposed an immigration bill that would provide a “pathway to citizenship,” as they say, for many undocumented workers already in the country. To the extent it has some Republican support in the Senate, this represents a kind of reverse course. The November election, among other lessons, has conservatives revisiting their immigration views, in tone, at least, if not in substance. But, the gesture might not be as altruistic as it seems.

An interesting Congressional Weekly article discusses the boon, to the economy, alien legitimization might bring. A similar 1986 immigration act had the effect of raising wages of formerly undocumented workers by 15.1 percent. The Cato Institute has speculated that this present bill might add as much as $1.5 trillion to the gross domestic product over 10 years. But, critically, the article didn’t speculate as to whom specifically such benefits might actually inure — previously undocumented workers or the country as a whole.

So, does anyone recall why Emelio built you a fire pit last fall and not, let’s say, Jimbo Jones?

Anybody?

Nope, it wasn’t his outgoing personality.

Anyone else?

No, I don’t believe you preferred his automated help desk.

Another?

Good thought but I don’t think hair product was dispositive.

What did you say? Speak up.

You say he was roughly 20% cheaper than Jimbo? Huh. Interesting.

[As an aside, my wife and I lived next to an actual Jimbo Jones during law school. Every time you tried to pet his terrier it would unexpectedly choke up a mouthful of pine cone apparently having been lodged in its throat for hours.]

All things being equal — with respect to cost and quality, I suspect that most people are picking the guy who looks like them and who employs a language whose grammar rules recommend placing the modifier in front of the object not the other way around. “A plane of the air!” Not racism just sort of human.

So, what is actually being lauded about the new bill, in the prospect of higher wages, might not ultimately benefit these newly legitimized workers. It would seem that if wages of these laborers equalize with the wages of those already in the marketplace it will just make for a more crowded marketplace. And, as already implied, non-English speaking laborers may not continue to be the workers of choice, once all else is equal. Moreover, and I’m not any kind of economics anything, but it seems that this likely glut of new workers will drive down, generally, the market value of wages for all such workers in any particular industry. I think that’s just called supply and demand.

So, there are a couple of possible outcomes when they make Emelio “official” and the price for the services he traditionally rendered goes up.

1. Less fire pits are going to be built, overall.

2. Less fire pits are going to be built by freshly legitimized Emelio but more by Jimbo Jones.

3. Less fire pits are going to be built by legitimized Emelio but more by Estevez, Emelio’s, let’s just say, “less legitimized” nephew newly over from the motherland.

See a pattern? No Emelio.

So, ironically, this “pathway to citizenship” is really a kind of primrose one. I’m not accusing anybody, but in a sense, certain Republicans could be seen as co-opting undocumented workers in this move. Illegal aliens presently get the work because they benefit from less overhead — no taxes or labor laws. Their cost of doing business is less. Legitimization, however, would get them all on the grid, so to speak, especially their wages.

There are a lot of reasons to provide opportunities for amnesty and legitimization to so many of the individuals who have come to our country, including moral, political, and, yes, financial ones. It certainly might be a boon to our economy.

Just maybe not theirs.

victor cruz

Performed by ipoetlaureate. Music produced by Sundance.

Today’s blong here:

Victor Cruz

DOUBLE BLONG DAY! I’ve reposted Outskirters, below, from off my last full length record, Prince With a Thousand Enemies, which is loosely themed on Richard Adams’ literary classic, Watership Down. The song, itself, concerns our mounting attitudes and hostilities towards immigration in this country and the hispanic community in general. So, I thought I’d pull it out for an encore. The album and song can be purchased here or on itunes. Actually, I meant to say should be bought at one of those two places.

Outskirters

12/3/12

Cliffhanger

They’ve dubbed it the fiscal cliff. The simultaneous expiration of the Bush era tax cuts and decreases to critical government spending. It would result in higher taxes for nearly everyone and almost certainly a new recession, say the experts.

To reduce the deficit and avoid the cliff, the President wants to increase taxes for the wealthiest two percent.

Republicans, however, want to freeze taxes for everyone and instead make more dramatic spending cuts.

So now the White House and Congress are deadlocked in a staring contest to see who has the greater political pain threshold. In thinking about it all, I was reminded of our national defense budget.

Apparently we spend some $700 billion dollars on defense annually.

This is a pretty startling sum. And, as it turns out that is more than the defense budgets of the next 17 countries COMBINED. Do you know what countries that includes? China, Russia, India, Israel, Great Britain, France. These are the most militarized places in the world.

As a general rule, I’m strongly in favor of strategic proliferation and armament. I want us to have more, and more powerful, things that shoot, than anyone else. It’s the old karate quip: if you can, maybe you won’t have to.

But, you know what happens when you want a big national defense? Well, for starters, you spend a whole bucket load of money. Maybe even rack up a deficit. Who knows. But, something else interesting happens too. You suddenly feel obligated to justify the expenditure. In other words, you want to use the stuff you bought. I’m not talking about down at Ricky’s Ammo and Shootin’ Range, either. Like, on battlefields and in other people’s countries. That sort of thing. And, this brings karate back to mind. The more people learn self-defense techniques, the more likely they are to conveniently “discover” the need to defend themselves.

Guns and money are the same in this respect. Whatever you have, you use. No cliffhanger here, folks. I’ve seen this one before.

So in our search for a compromise, cuts to the defense budget seem a really efficient start because they serve two ends: (1) improved financial health and (2) decreased incentives to fight.

Probably, too logical, though, right? I know, I know. I’ll keep brainstorming.

[P.S. Speaking of cliffhangers. You saw the mid-season finale of Walking Dead tonight, right? Just as a heads up. If ever I get a glass shiv in the eye, I’m going to be out of commission for a while. Probably not rallying the troops in the center of town.]

Written and performed by theipoetlaureate. Music produced dj transform.

Today’s blong here:

No Suspense

05/15/12

In the Conservatory with the Wrench

Look. Our house is a mess. I think I saw my kids using full stalks of celery to spoon peanut butter from the same tupperware our cats use. In the bathroom. The crunchy. I’m just saying. I’ve worn an oven mitt to do yard work. And, to groom the aforementioned feline. And, to bake Tollhouse. Honest: I’m staring right now at a diet Mountain Dew can on top of a silver-sequined dress on top of a Fed Ex overnight box on top of a lampshade on top of a wicker bowl on top of a pile of laundry. It’s like squaller Jenga.

Our finances are about the same. We run roughly 13 small business and a cash-for-gold scam out of our home. I couldn’t balance a checkbook on J. Lo’s backside.

All this to say, when JP Morgan admitted recently that it lost 2 billion dollars, I was like, “Hey, guys, I get it.” You put it down. You’re grabbing the keys. The kids are screaming. Your late for ballet. The baby has a poop diaper. Your wife is nagging (I mean, I’ve heard that that sort of thing can happen to some husbands.) You drive off, and the 2 billion cold ones slide from the hood of the Honda Odyssey onto the lawn where your neighbor’s yard stuber accidentally mulches it into a confetti pile with the riding lawn mower.

It happens. I personally make it a rule not to throw stones at a JP Morgan when you live in a glass JP Morgan Chase financed house. Nah mean?

Wait.

TWO BILLION DOLLARS???

Oh, that’s messed up, man. You guys are seriously effed.

That’s more than the GDP of like 37 countries. Although, only twice the amount Jerry Jones spent on the Cowboys God forsaken football stadium. But, still.

No, seriously. What are you going to do? I lost $83 and a Frankie’s Funpark Rewards Card once and I thought my wife was going to kill me.

How are you going to explain this to your shareholders? The SEC? Congress?

Huh? What? You already did? Today? And, it took under 50 minutes to meet with your shareholders? And, you just said, “We lost it. Super sorry”? I’ve given a longer apology for a flatulent.

Anybody still think that the modern economy can be managed by the bodiless, invisible hand of Adam Smith anymore? It wasn’t really his hand. Just his metaphor.

The quality of both capitalism and democracy is determined principally by one thing: information. If people have it, they can make informed decisions with their dollars and votes and hold business and politics to account. If they don’t, they get hosed. And, ironically, we live in an age of unprecedented access to information. The internet, smart phones, Wikipedia, Tosh.O, Andy Cohen’s Watch What Happens Live. But, that’s the problem. Having ALL the information in the world available actually makes none of it available.

And, so we don’t know what JP Morgan is doing. They don’t know what JP Morgan is doing. Apparently, the $2 Billion dollar loss was the unforseen product of another exotic derivative gone wild. Another topless algorithm shaking it for the camera. JP Morgan was apparently trying to manage their non-client fund assets but may have run afoul of something called the Volker rule. Or maybe it’s the Vulcan rule.

Live long and prosper.

I did some new math in the blong today. All the numbers check out. The 2 bills is definitely gone.

Performed by ipoet. Music produced by dj clutch.

Today’s song blog here:

Cookbook

04/16/12

A Cheeseburger in Paradise

Wait. Not the same Buffett?

Don’t lie. You thought that the “Buffett Rule” had something to do with prohibitions against trips to Margaritaville or otherwise getting drunk and turning repeatedly. Didn’t you? And, some, hopefully smaller, percentage of you thought it was a ban on one of any of the various forms of acquiring food along an alloy rail of successive vats of gelatinous food product. (Honestly, I thought it was a pro-shoeshine lobby. One too many? I know.)

So Obama has been stumping for the Buffett Rule, named for billionaire Warren Buffett. In short, the proposed legislation would set a minimum requirement that anyone who makes over 1 million dollars would be required to pay taxes at a minimum 30% tax rate. The Senate rejected the proposed legislation today.

I’m not an economist. I’m not even the dopest economics-conversant rapper, unfortunately. In fact, it could safely be said that rap has produced the most inexhaustible and salient library of songs touting our economic model at work the world has ever known. For its ubiquity, think C.R.E.A.M by Wu-Tang; for issues of the glass ceiling and gender equality, think Golddigger by Kanye; for monetary policy, think In Money We Trust by Bun B; for wage and hour policy, think Paid in Full by Eric B. and Rakim; for venture capital and hedge fund management, think Dead Presidents by Jay-Z; um, and, of course, for retail and marketing, consult The Ten Crack Commandments by the Notorious B.I.G. Keynes and Smith are turning their coffins into a from-the-beyond-kaleidoscope for the number of times this blong has made them roll over.

As usual, but maybe today more than ever, this site should not be the last word on the subject of the Buffet Rule in your life. In truth, it probably shouldn’t be the first or any of the interim words either. But, I think this is worth noting.

When we think about the “rich” evading taxes, we imagine a carnival of clever accountant clowns tandem-bike riding stacks of cash through a fiery loophole. As well we should. But, much of the perceived “evasion” enjoyed by the rich is actually a function of how they make their money rather than some sort of unknowable trickery. When rich people get a paycheck, that money, certainly at the marginal dollars, is actually taxed at a much higher rate than most of the income made by people reading this blog (except of course, for you Mr. Billy Gates! My man.) (You probably hear the term “marginal dollar” or “marginal tax rate” all the time without explanation. Most people’s money is not taxed uniformly. For example, and just to make it easy, let’s say $10 is a LOT of money in our hypothetical news rap economy. And, trust me, it is. The first 4 dollars might be taxed at 20%. The next $3 at 30%. The next $2 at 40% and the last dollar at 50%. That last dollar is your marginal dollar and 50% is your marginal rate.) But, rich people make MOST or at least a LOT of their money from interest and dividends and income made off of capital assets, like stocks and bonds. Some of that taxable income is called a “capital gain.” Because it is generated from money that has already been taxed once, i.e. your paycheck, the capital gain tax rate is lower than the regularly applicable rate. So millions of dollars of income for the wealthy are often taxed at this lower rate. I don’t think I’ve ever been out so far on a limb of ignorance. To my HBS friends, please, please show grace.

Anyway, like everything, there are two sides. Our current and graduated tax system recognizes a type of fairness that says people with little discretionary income, should not be taxed comparably to those who have a lot of it. The Buffet Rule is an extension of that idea. It effectively raises the capital gains tax for certain people and not others. At the same time, we understand that the wealthy in our country fuel the economy that gives the rest of us jobs and wealth. Their capital gains make our Capital gain. Of course, this is also all kind of political. And, in the ideological exchange, you can imagine that there are hopes for just good ol’ fashioned (U.S.) Capitol gains as well.

So, choose sides wisely, Blongorians (just coined that). Because, “I spent four lonely days in a brown L.A. haze and I just want you back by my siiiiiide!” Wait, that didn’t make any sense at all.

Performed by ipoetlaureate. Music produced by pumpknFoot.

Today’s song blog here:

The Capitol Gains

11/3/11

Cradle to the Casket

So, the Greek economy has been on the verge of collapse for months. The European Union (EU) this past week approved a bailout that would for the foreseeable future allow them to continue to participate in the EU and the euro. In an apparently unexpected move, Greece’s Prime Minister, George Papandreou, plans to put the proposed eurozone bailout to a referendum, ostensibly in response to the widespread protests by many Greek citizens concerned about the austerity demands that the bailout will impose on the country in return for the debt relief. In other words, less javelin throwing and Artemis worship. I kid; the Greeks no longer recognize Artemis as a viable deity. And, javelin tosses are down almost 70% from the 8th century B.C.E anyway. So no real loss there.

Anyway, the EU and many other observers have demonized Papandreou for the move, which will almost certainly jeopardize the bailout for its unpopularity among Greek citizens and, thereby, throw the EU and much of the modern financial world into alleged turmoil. (See today and yesterday’s stock activity.)

In that vein and as a brief frolic from the main point, I have also used today’s song to sound like a crazed hobo offering you financial advice (read “Jim Cramer”). Your money does not effect the stock market. Your, your neighbors’, and my money pooled together times 25, carry the 5, injected with steroids, wearing a Prada cash clip, lacquered in crystalline Trump sweat doesn’t affect the stock market. There are a handful of institutional investors who move the needle. Period. Those same people are not effected by all these pretextual economic calamities. Instead, they use them as cover to get out and back in the market at a benefit to themselves. You know how they tell us not to freak out and sell when things go bad?? Then why do they sell (because trust me, and let me repeat, your and your yahoo neighbors’ combined panic is not crashing the market)?? Oh, I know why — maybe to artificially and swiftly force down the prices for the opportunity to buy at a better value!!!! I know these things. And, by “I know them,” I mean I made them up because I’m so mad. [Disclaimer: To the extent I am ever under any consideration for judicial or public office, the opinions expressed by me in this blog are not approved by, neither are they the opinions of, me. They reflect exclusively the views of not me.]

Back to Greece. So, Papandreou swears the referendum will pass. And, it better, because all indicators are that other EU participants will vote to excuse Greece from the party if it doesn’t. But, the crazy irony of the criticism is that Papandreou is doing something quintessentially democratic. (It may also be political (although he’s losing seats fast and faces a confidence vote of his own tomorrow).) But, here in the cradle of democracy, Greece is being criticized for elevating to a place of priority the voice of her people. And, in that way, it’s almost as if the reaction to these ideals, in the very place of their birth, is also now their casket.

Performed by ipoet. Music produced by pumpkinFoot.

Today’s song blog here:

Stack Dough (Like Baklava)

05/19/11

I.O.U.s

I was on the road when I originally made this post. My laptop battery was literally within seconds of failing when I uploaded the two songs. I may or may not have been in a strip mall parking lot at about midnight pirating a certain well-known, Northwestern-based coffee bean company’s wi-fi to get it done. It’s all conjecture.

I normally do a Monday and a Thursday song but for various reasons couldn’t. So I owed you two. Thus, the title of the post. In retrospect, however, it was also apropos considering that the main song, “Raising the Roof,” is about debt, and I didn’t even realize it at the time. I owed you and America owes countless others.

To that point, we stood completely upright this week and hit our financial head on the impossibly high debt ceiling of 14.294 trillion dollars, the limit on the amount of money we can borrow as a country. Geithner has petitioned Congress for more. A bi-partisan group of senators unoriginally named the Gang of 6 (is there not any other synonym for “group” other than “gang” which might be used to describe these roving and heroic bands of congresspersons?). The gang has been meeting for literally months in anticipation of this event attempting to find ways to cut entitlement and other spending but recently lost Tom Coburn (R) and fell apart. Apparently, Biden has stepped in, as a final emissary. We’re doomed. The debt crisis is way above my pay grade. But, suffice it to say, on both the corporate and personal level, it feels like EVERYTHING is leveraged. I mean the value of “money” or exchange is necessarily an agreed upon fiction and debt is simply a fictional subsection of that fiction. A fiction within a fiction. But, at some point we’re all like the D-List celebrity on the red carpet whose whole wardrobe is leased. Or maybe that’s just rappers in rap videos.

The second song, Deadline, I did in about 17 minutes and it’s just a song about doing news raps. I owed you a second one, not a masterpiece. IOU.

Performed by ipoet. Raising the Roof produced by Sundance. Deadline produced by Diaz from Hungary.

Raising the Roof (Red Carpet Rental) Deadline

04/7/11

WE ALL GONNA DIE!!

Look, I’m horrible with my own money. Nation-state budgets are preposterously complex. Debt is a real and permissible leveraging tool for towering economies. All the same there is surely some balance. Paul Ryan (R) has proposed one such compromise. He and his confederates see this impasse as a fiscal and ideological “cause” and not simply a budget. Democrats think the proposal is a continuing slap in the already drawn faces of entitlement beneficiaries.

A shutdown looms.

Luckily, the ipoet laureate is here. Today’s installment provides a complete list of federal services which will, and will not, persist during any time when the government is closed. Let’s just say that it doesn’t look good, guys. I’ve seen a number of media outlets forecasting that government websites may not be regularly updated. It’s disturbing to say the least. The DOT’s site in particular will be missed. Their copy is always sharply witted.

Fortunately, this site receives no federal grant monies. So rap news blogging will endure even as the world falls into apocalypse. Like the cockroach of news media.

Performed by ipoet. Music produced by dj elder and dj etch-a-sketch.

Today’s song blog here:

On Pause