Alabama’s Historic Economic Prize!

Along with this state’s recent headline grabbing immigration policies rearing its ugly head the most populous county in Alabama is destined for the record books as well, in a story of greed and corruption.

Jefferson County, Alabama has filed for Bankruptcy and if the case is allowed to go ahead it will be the Largest Municipal bankruptcy filing in United States History.

When combined the water and sewage rates in this county of 658,466 residents the rates for these must have services has increased 329% over the last 15 years.

As with most of the gut wrenching economic hardships of our recent recession the poor are the unwarranted recipients of most if not all of the consequences. They are now being forced to bathe in bottled water and use portable toilets as they have been cut-off from these basic necessities through no fault of their own.

While disturbing it’s not surprising that local government officials and Wall Street financiers have been implicated again in another case of financial wrongdoing.

All of this stems from the debt the county took on to finance a new sewer system for Jefferson County residents. Initially the cost was to be $300 million dollars however that initial projection soared to $3.1 Billion dollars and the county is drowning in debt.

JP Morgan Securities along with two of its prior directors have already been fined as they were accused of offering bribes to local politicians to guarantee they would win business financing the project. Six former members of Jefferson County’s commissioners have also been found guilty of corruption as well as fifteen other government officials for accepting bribes.

The new local county commission has seen no other alternative other than to file for chapter nine bankruptcy protections in November as the only way to try to bring the county out of this current financial hole.

However the banks and bondholders who stand to lose $4.5 million dollars per month in repayment charges are fighting the commission’s decision and a bankruptcy judge will give the last word on whether the Jefferson County commission can proceed.

The local residents have absorbed rate hikes of 8.2% a year to attempt to deal with repaying the escalating debt. According to John S. Young the court appointed receiver the rates are projected to be 10% per year up to a whopping 25% for the cash poor citizens of the county in the future.

Along with the prospect of bankruptcy filing for the sewage project the country is also projected to have an extra $40 million dollar budget shortfall.

As five hundred county workers were recently laid off and are living off of unemployment insurance the county’s ability to finance local services is further called into question as tax revenues will most certainly fall.

Tony Petelos the new county manager believes it will be years before the county might be able to turn the tide. He stated, “The public has lost confidence in Jefferson County over the last decade and a half, because of the mismanagement, because of the corruption. We have got to rebuild that confidence” and that there is, “light at the end of the tunnel”.

However in regards to any relief the citizens might realize in their water and sewer rates he was quoted as saying, “When you look at the amount of debt, and you  look at the revenue that is produced from the rate payers, there is no way it is going to come down,”.

Mr. Petelos who was the former mayor of Hoover city, Alabama recalls a Wall Street presentation about the same type of bonds that were used to finance the Jefferson County sewage project. After the presentation he recalls talking with his finance director in dismay and how they were both in agreement that they did not want to have anything to do with the type of financing that was presented.

One resident has found it is cheaper for him to pay a portable sanitation company $14 dollars a month to deal with his household sewage. His previous sewer and water bills sometimes reached $300 dollars per month this in a county whose citizens average income was $19,724 dollars per year according to the most recent census figures.

As most of the citizens of Jefferson County live off of meager Social Security income in this predominately poor community it is abundantly clear they cannot afford to pay these rate increases brought upon them by greed and corruption.

As the current Republican mindset in Washington is to gut most if not all of our governments regulation or oversight of the financial sector or corporations. This current situation in Alabama is the poster child for why we Do Need Regulation of banks and corporations that cannot be trusted to conduct themselves in a responsible honest fashion.

The meteoric rise of the debt from $300 million to $3.1 billion has been tied to construction issues and a series of bad bond and derivative deals that went sour during the 2008 financial debacle which has landed us in our current economic recession.

While for now as Jefferson county may be filing the largest Municipal bankruptcy in the history of our country. How many other cities and counties across the country are also reaching the breaking point remains to be seen.

Again Wall Street is being implicated in more financial crimes with few if any of the perpetrators being brought to justice. However as is usually the case the poorest citizens of the U.S. are being asked to suffer the brunt of the damage.

When will the poor citizens of the United States catch a break or at least be treated in a fair and equitable fashion and when if ever will the financial sector be held accountable?

U.S. Obesity and the Destruction of the Family Unit or a Different Ending

Recent data from the CDC 1985-2010 on obesity is a cause for concern by all Americans. As of 2010 there were approximately 33.8% adults classified as obese and 17% or 12.5 million of our youth ages 2-19 that fell into this classification. In showing that this is a national issue no state in the union had an obesity rate below 20% and 36 states had obesity rates higher than 25% also 12 states had a rate of 30% or more.

In 1990 the statistics were quite different when 10 states who participated in the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System reported obesity prevalence at <10%. Also no state reported a rate higher than or equal to 15%.

Jump to the year 2000 where no state had an obesity prevalence lower than 10%. While 23 states reported 20-24% and no state reported a rate over 25%.

By 2010 there were no states who reported an obesity prevalence below 20%. Thirty-six states were now reporting rates of 25% (equal to or greater).

The statistics were only reporting what society was already witnessing in their everyday lives. As these statistics grow so does our concern for our children, society and the economic impacts being found in hospitals and clinics nationwide.

In the U.S. Obesity is now estimated to cost $147 bill per year. Approximately 9% medical spending can be tied to this phenomenon. It is also estimated that the obese American spends $1500 more than the average or 41% more than what is considered the average medical cost of everyday U.S. citizens (Note approximately 2009 data).

Future Dire Consequences for the Human Race

In a study done by the Endocrine Society published March 23, 2011 it was found that the hormone Ghrelin is found to be low in obese females. The study while done on mice found that lower levels of this hormone reduced the fertility of the test subjects. While Ghrelin’s specifically cannot be tied to fertility of humans it does fall into the family of hormones involved in regulating reproductive functions in humans and animals.

The lead author of the report Hugh Taylor MD. of the Yale University School of Medicine stated, “While our study involved mice we believe our findings have significant implications for women. Our results suggest that low ghrelin levels could program the development of the uterus in the female children of obese women. These women may then be less fertile as adults”.

A recent study performed by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) recommends that young people should participate in physical activity of at least moderate intensity for 30 to 60 minutes each day. It is estimated that 300,000 Americans die annually as a result of a sedentary lifestyle and poor eating habits. This is more deaths than that from the result from infectious disease, firearms, motor vehicles, and illicit drug use combined

In some regions school age children receive gym classes only once every two weeks or once a month, when a holiday or a school assembly interferes. Prior to cost cutting measures being instituted only around 33% of students were considered obese this has now climbed to over 50% as standardized educational testing has taken on as the program of more importance versus physical education.

While the lack of physical activity is now being classified as a Major Health Risk little if anything is being done to address the issue. Yes bills are being brought forth across the country however they are gaining no traction and never reach fruition.

Sedentary lifestyles are predisposing Americans for diseases such as stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, various cancers, diabetes, depression, obesity, and much more.

American males watch on average 2 hours of television per day versus 2.4 hours for females. On top of this there is an average of 2 hours per day using computers, gaming and other social media.

Children and teenagers report on average spends 2.2 hr each day watching television, 1.9 hr each day reading or doing homework, 1.4 hr daily on the computer/Internet, 1.2 hr playing video games, and 1.1 hr daily talking on the telephone.

However the above stated data is self-reported and as with other studies of this type the figures are extremely questionable and have a higher propensity for underreporting by the study participants.

For instance another study reported found that time spent watching television, videos, DVDs, and movies averaged slightly over three hours per day among children 8 to 18 years old.

As our recent history shows we are an overly materialistic nation with to much emphasis being placed upon social status and conspicuous consumption. With two working parent households and also a 50% divorce rate all of this must be factored into the matter, however it does not point to a strong and engaged family household. Each and every day this is placing more and more responsibility on America’s children to raise themselves.

Our government via subsides and the like, reduces the overall costs for what are unhealthy foods while fruits and vegetables see none of these government incentives. We as a people want instant gratification and fast food with super-size proportions having their establishments on every street corner are not helping matters.

Can parents be expected to become more engaged in their children’s lives including proper diet and exercise, it doesn’t look promising.

How can parents restrict or control their child’s dietary intake, television viewing habits, computer, video games etc, when they are almost never around the children. Can they become involved in their children’s PTA or other school activities when their jobs will not allow for such involvement as they consume more and more of their time?

Is there any way to improve our lives and those of our children

Maybe American society can consider modifying their lifestyles from todays present mindset. If our children are one of the most important facets in parents lives as is so often spoken of possibly if this is in fact true there may be a sliver of hope.

Is it possible a more expensive or larger home, car, electronic gadget, clothing and high paying or all-time consuming jobs could be of less importance in our lives in the future. Could the family unit again become just that, where parents are actually engaged in all facets of their child’s life. If a little less income where brought into the family household could the parents then lead by example on diet and exercise among many activities, as they might then have the time.

Americans are given one shot on this planet will wealth and materialism be their legacy. Or maybe the legacy could be that of an engaged human being living life to the fullest even though one’s bank account or house might not be as large or they drive a cheaper car? Could two or even (Gasp) only 1 child that could receive more of a parent’s time and love than 2 or more be a consideration?

One can only hope and I only hope the best for all Americans and God bless all of the parents ( of which I am one) on this planet your job is more difficult than any CEO. Sometimes ideas may be unrealistic however in this case can we afford not to take some chances?

U.S. Income Inequality is Destroying the USA for the rich & Poor

During the 1970 period 15% of American’s lived in either poor or affluent developments. When we look at the data for 2007 a full 35% lived in one of the two neighborhood types. Between the 2000 and 2007 period there was a surge of Income Segregation for black and Hispanic family units while this was not as rapid as the 1970 to present era it was dramatic. This recent phenomenon Income Segregation has been only increasing in the last four decades crossing all racial boundaries without regard or concern it is just a merciless drum. There are those With alongside those Without and in the end we will all suffer for it as it will only greatly contribute to the decline of the United States of America.

While for some, those not having to share their affluent schools and social systems with others this may look promising to them. However it does not look promising for our or other countries poorer citizens or for the USA as a whole in the long run.

Also funding attitudes may change as further segregation continues with the affluent less likely wanting to fund programs that were funded in more segregated communities of times past.

The Brookings institution found that those American’s living in Extreme poverty rose by 1/3 from 2000 to the latter half of the decade. Those in the suburbs did not fare well either as there was a 53% increase in those living in poverty from 2000-2010.

Even those of the affluent classes are showing growing concern for this phenomenon as it will continue to be detrimental to the United States as a whole until it is addressed, yet this is mostly seen in Economists who really have a grasp of the big-picture. In a September 2011 study done by the International Monetary Fund it found that greater income equality positively correlates with a nation’s economic growth.

We are constantly told by our elected officials in Washington that the U.S. must reduce environmental regulation and reduce taxes. This in a country where the effective corporate/business tax rate is 17% not 35% as the thirty-five percent figure does not take into account all of the tax loopholes used by those corporations that do pay taxes. Many corporations pay little if any taxes via the use of offshore tax-havens, the figures estimated to be in the trillion dollar range. The top 1% has seen their income increase by 270% versus 19% for the bottom tier of Americans from 1979-2007.

CBO 2007 data

In the CBO report it was also found that between 2005-2007 that the after tax income of the top 20% of the U.S. population exceeded the remaining after-tax income for the rest of the nation. It was also found that the top 1%’s share of total market income increased from 50-60% while all other income ranges saw a decline.

Two factors were cited as the reason for this inequality one being an increase of each individual source of income; labor, business income, capital gains, capital income etc. The report noted that these sources of income were less evenly distributed in 2007 than in the 1979 period. For instance labor income has been more evenly distributed versus capital and business income with even more of a disparity in regards to capital gains. For the period 1979-2007 the share of income derived from capital gains and business income showed increases while labor income decreased furthering the economic divide which contributed to the greater distribution of wealth inequality in America.

Again our Washington government officials tell us that entitlement programs which benefit the under-classes must be cut while the taxes and regulations which favor the rich must be eliminated or reduced to tackle our $14 trillion dollar deficit.

This chart to the left shows a different picture where the Bush-Era tax cuts which primarily benefited the wealthy are in fact the driving force.

While the current Washington Republican stance that reducing taxes, environmental regulations and reducing or returning banking/investment regulations to per-recession levels totally contradicts the opinions of the World’s leading economists.

The International Monetary Funds 2007 report finds that Income Equality Positively correlates to Stronger economic growth. It was found that a mere 10% decrease in inequality increased the expected duration of economic growth by a full 50%. The comprehensive study using data collected between 1950-2006 found countries with more income equality stayed in or fell into deeper recessions. It was also found that countries with a more equal distribution of wealth, that their economic growth lasted much longer.

It was also found that income equality was of more importance  and corresponded more strongly to sustained economic growth than other economic factors. Restoring or attempting to address income inequality was further shown to be of a much greater importance than the lowering of debt levels.

The study authors stated, “Sustainable economic reform, is possible only when its benefits are widely shared.” The breadth of income inequality in the United States now more closely resembles the economies of Iran and Russia versus other developed countries.

Economists have attempted to explain that stagnant(not rising) wages for the last four decades as a part of the widening income inequality while the upper class have been those who have seen benefits increase over the more the forty year period.

Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz stated, “An economy in which most citizens are doing worse year after year — an economy like America’s — is not likely to do well over the long haul,” in an article he wrote for Vanity Fair.

So as the hard numbers from the most recent data point out along with a Worldwide consensus of economists.

Our Republican Washington legislators and followers of Grover Norquist have all gotten it Very Wrong.

Or is the reality that our politicians are really just bought and paid for by the top 1% who are only interested in one thing Money$$$ and the rest of the United States of America can go straight to hell.

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Barren Oceans Predicted by 2050 if Over Fishing is not Contained

Species of Cod and Tuna which were once plentiful in the world’s oceans are being brought to near extinction. As one-quarter of all the fish species are being pushed over the edge towards extinction there is another full 50% which are being completely exploited worldwide. As the oceans are being raped to feed our growing population there is no one who can predict the upcoming dire consequences for the citizens of the world so dependent on the once bountiful harvests brought from the ocean depths.

A German environmental Minister Sigmar Gabriel that by the middle of the century the world’s oceans will become barren of the lifeblood of billions of inhabitants who receive their nutritional sustenance from the sea.

If some action is not taken worldwide to stem the ever decreasing tide of disappearing fish species the consequences will be catastrophic. The United States just last week for the first time in history has imposed a ban on salmon fishing for the entire Pacific coastline. This coupled with the European Union placing a ban on tuna fishing in the Mediterranean small steps are being taken.

Experts in the field are calling for further actions to be taken such as banning cod fishing in the North Sea.

The Institute of the German Economy viewed as a conservative right wing organization and not an environmentally friendly association at that has taken to issuing urgent warnings. The consequences are in their view dire and their belief is that the fishing industry is nearing the brink of being threatened with Extinction.

As our society has grown so has the appetite to feed the masses across the globe and technology in the fishing industry has become more efficient at harvesting the coveted species needed to feed the ever growing world’s populations with devastating effects.

While certain species have been endangered for about fifty years in certain over-fished regions primarily the Baltic and North Sea areas where even during the 1960 period herring populations were in a steep decline now the reality is beginning to emerge.

Even during these chaotic times various countries are still on the hunt as they compete for the largest quotas issued by the European Union as one region dries up and maybe another is found the competition rages on with little regard to the future of our planet.

Scientists and Environmentalists are doing their part by attempting to implement restrictions and educate the public at large as well as foreign countries and the fishing industry to try to stem the growing tide of dwindling fish species.

Yet the beat goes on as growing wealthy countries buy up the catch of the week to feed the growing mass of human beings inhabiting the planet which is rapidly approaching the 7 billion population mark.

As health experts applaud the nutritional accolades of a diet rich in fish the populace has listened in Germany there has been a twenty percent increase in just ten years.

The technological advances of today have allowed fishing fleets to keep up with the world’s thirst for fish by delving to depths unheard of until now, almost one mile deep into the ocean bottom.

There has also been a consolidation of the fishing fleets and with that consolidation the remaining conglomerates have become more powerful as well as more global. Today only 1% of the world’s fishing fleet is responsible for 50% of the fish caught worldwide endangering the smaller less powerful fishing operations.

Even now the drive to fill these ever larger vessels with the catch of the day are turning violent with rudimentary Molotov cocktails being thrown into the mix.

Pirate fishermen are also plying across the ocean and they answer to no one and are responsible for a full one-third of the annual catch. These Pirate fishermen have no restraints or cares and are not willing to abide by any environmental preservation policies that might be in place to lessen man’s impact on dwindling ocean species of fish.

While some maritime organizations are attempting to regulate the industry there are many more that deliberately enforce no rules whatsoever, the pirates fly no flag other than the thirst for monetary gain with no thought to the consequences.

Political concerns are also in play from historically strong fishing regions of France and Spain where the government is fearful of a political backlash if they implement any type of fishing regulations on the countries maritime industries.

While some in the game have inspection programs in place there are too few inspectors and the world’s oceans are to massive police properly without a worldwide concerted effort which has yet to materialize.

Germany does have programs in place however Greenpeace states that the programs and inspections are inadequate. The environmentally conscious organization believes that the worldwide fishing catches should be reduced by 50%. They are also calling for conservation zones to be created were fishing would be banned allowing species time to regenerate rather than face extinction.

Greenpeace has its presence felt in the Mediterranean where it sails the fishing vessel the Rainbow Warrior II where Bluefin Tuna in now nearing extinction thanks to the appetite for Sushi.

Even organized criminal syndicates are in the act with the Italian and Japanese mafia battling it out on the high seas as they destroy what Tuna are left in the region. There are stories circulating where European Union Fishing Inspectors have arrived in Sicily and upon checking into their rooms they find a Return ticket to be used the same day. World Wildlife Fund WWF activists have found a White Lily on their beds in their hotel rooms as well, the White Lily is considered to be a mafia death threat.

Unregulated fish farms have begun to sprout across the region where young specimens are fattened up for the slaughter and later sale on the market. However mystery surrounds many of these farms as no clear line of ownership can ever be found.

Nevertheless the term Aquaculture or artificial fish farms where species are raised for the seafood industry may be the savior for the rapidly dwindling worldwide fish population. These fish farms have grown 10% annually since the early part of 1990.

There are those that are hopeful that what was done in the field of agriculture can be replicated with the advent of Aquaculture. It has been shown food production quadrupled when advances in agriculture came into play during the 1950’s era.

One can only hope that the fishing industries across the globe along with their governments can come up with a viable relationship that will benefit everyone including the endangered fish species of our planet.

So before you throw away those leftovers or clear your plate by throwing the excess into the garbage can think twice about what you are about to waste.

Up till now you have blessed with being brought into existence and have had the joy of experiencing life as we know it.

Please think of future generations and your children and loved ones as well. Remember that meal that you are about to take part in is because another living entity gave its life so that you could continue to exist.

Please don’t take that sacrifice lightly, cook less food so you don’t have to throw away unwanted surplus food. Maybe on occasion you might think how that chicken, cow or fish whose life was taken so that you could live on and be thankful for their sacrifice.

Human beings consider themselves to be on the top of the food chain however if we eat all of the food whatever shall we do then?

Bailout Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, thanks George

It is looking more and more like the Chicago school free market economic policies of Milton Friedman are once again costing the Unites States it’s once cherished market dominance. The policies of the Republican Neo-Con administrations are on a one way ticket to destroy the American dream and the poor people who are not politically connected.

Unless you were born into or inherited enough money to weather the current economic storm you have been feeling the effects of Mr. Friedman and his cronies in the last few months. Billy Kristol of course could care less Friedman is still his idol as well as with the other moneyed and politically connected of his sect.

Friedman believed in almost no government intervention or regulation and that if left to it’s own means the market would correct for any irregularities. As it was posited by Friedman the market had it’s own equilibrium and would adjust and self correct as needed. As history has now shown again this is a severely myopic view with devastating consequences for the public at large.

While the government is only looking at a $300 billion dollar bailout or excuse me extension of credit which the American taxpayer is on the hook for a realistic loss of $30 billion with Fannie and Freddie, the free market does not seem to be correcting itself.

Lax banking standards coupled with lax investment house oversight are digging a hole deeper and deeper for the American taxpayer while the wealthy of this country are still making a killing. Even today with the financial mess that has been created the wealthy investment and banking houses are fighting any government oversight changes to protect the American populace.

The aggressive derivatives and mortgage markets coupled with the greed of banking executives hell bent on destroying the financial lives of it’s customers has brought us to this economic realization. The mortgage brokerages knew that the financial history of their client did not bode well yet they sold them into ARM hell and are now asking for bailouts from the government. Maybe now someone might think that the government should be a little more involved in regulating various industries.

Banks, investment houses and our rapidly deteriorating airline industry, wow this deregulation thing doesn’t seem to have worked out like we were told it would. But not to worry the after all the money has been bleed dry the government will bailout the banks after they destroyed hundreds of thousands of Americans of whatever dreams they may have had.

Yes it does cost money for the government to operate and sometimes they are not the most efficient entity to be found. But at least they will be consistent with their oversight and that is sorely needed right now and into the future. Deregulation was not the best of ideas and re-regulation is the pill we must take to correct for the wild west attitude now in place in the American economic system. The far right will cry no more taxes and Rush Limbaugh will crumble up his papers and yell into his microphone with his daily diatribe.

Well just remember that while we are in a war estimated to cost into the Trillion’s of dollars our President gave tax breaks to the ultra rich even as the dollar declined in value which has contributed to our current state of affairs.

There is little if any regulation in investment houses and mortgage companies with their get rich quick schemes that have sold us down the river for the foreseeable future.

I for one do not enjoy paying taxes either and would prefer the government wasn’t on my back however I will take the financial hit now rather than pay the price we are going to be paying even after I am gone. Rather than just thinking about yourself and screw the rest like the Neo-Con Republican mindset, why not look just a little further ahead and realize the government has to be engaged so that all Americans have a shot at the American Dream.

No you can’t put all of the blame on our current inept disengaged President it took some time to straighten out the lack of policy of the Reagan administration remember the S&L crisis when the leveraged buyouts and hostile takeovers were occuring right under his nose and he did nothing.

Well we finally got on the right track with Clinton in office who besides having some sexual endeavors in office was a great President.

Then came George who didn’t really get the government thing and he just did what his advisers told him to, well those advisers were from the Chicago school and look where we are now. Not to mention we did add fuel to the fire with a trumped up war and our illegal occupation of a couple of foreign nations.

So now the time has come for a change and hopefully we will not re-elect another Bush term under the guise of John McCain I for one don’t think this country can take four more years of failed policies.

So cry over your spilt milk eat some crow and digest some taxes so the dreaded government can step in and try to straighten out this mess again thanks to the Chicago school principles which have failed us again. It might not be what you wanted but at least the American public will get a fair shake even those without moneyed pasts and politically connected pasts.

So ask yourself do you care about your children and their future or do you only care about what is best for you and the rest of the nation be damned.

Disease knows no Socio-Economic boundaries

Disease knows no Socio-Economic boundaries and these diseases will infect anyone regardless of wealth or stature. Diseases only want to infect, grow, mutate, multiply and live on to infect another host without regard to social stature. So for those Americans who say I have mine the hell with the poor, remember that by not addressing the healthcare crisis you or your child may die. Read more of this post

On Monday President Bush submitted his latest request for the many wars and spy programs

On Monday President Bush submitted his latest request for the many wars and spy programs he has on his plate to the tune of a paltry $46 billion dollars!

This brings the total monetary requests for the annual budget year beginning October 1st to $196.4 billion for the continuing debacles in Iraq, Afghanistan and the departments of State and Defense. The Defense Department will receive $189.3 billion and the State Department will garner $6.9 billion of the requested funding. Read more of this post

Screw the Uninsured working class poor let them get a job!

There are so many American citizens that will recite that they have made it and have a home and health insurance. They will often say that the uninsured are not their problem and they do not want to pay increased taxes to deal with the 46 million uninsured Americans. They will say that they worked hard to get what they have and the uninsured are lazy and need to get a job so they will quite complaining all the time.

There is a problem with this argument as disease knows no Socio-Economic boundaries and these diseases will infect anyone regardless of wealth or stature. Diseases only want to infect, grow, mutate, multiply and live on to infect another host without regard to social stature. So for those Americans who say I have mine the hell with the poor, remember that by not addressing the healthcare crisis you or your child may die. Read more of this post

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