Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Good Tuesday to you all.  Last Tuesday of April.  So far it is sunny and calm.  And the temperature is supposed to rise to about 70.  See what I get done in the gardens today.  Have to keep reminding myself that we are still three weeks away from our average last frost date.

Last night NHK news (Japan--English language) had a segment on the Miharu-Takazukura in Miharu, Fukushima Prefecture, a waterfall cherry tree thought to be over 1,000 years old.  I found this Asahi Shimbun article with a picture of this amazing tree--designated a living treasure.  The city has received numerous inquiries about the health of the tree that survived the earthquake.

I have been totally irritated by the news coverage this morning of the latest report from the Social Security/Medicare trustees which says that the 'trust' fund will run out of money three years earlier than previously projected.  This article was on MSNBC and it simply increased my irritation.  I notice that the reasons listed for the predicted shortfall include: increasing baby boomer retirements, longer life expectancy, longer unemployment periods which lowers the amount of funds coming in, increased Medicare costs which will necessitate transfer from the trust fund, and the fact that the Treasury bonds the Social Security holds will have to be redeemed from the general fund.  What really pisses me off is what not a one of the accounts mention: the fact that the so-called tax holiday for workers came from the Social Security tax and it has been extended once so far.  I asked when they put that in what the effect on Social Security would be.  Now we know--this is simply another way to kill the program the Repthuglicans have never liked.  Crooks & Liars has a similar take on the coverage.

Just saw another segment on CNBC this time that has me a bit irritated.  Evidently there is a controversy over recent attempts by some politicians to allow write downs of mortgage principle or allow forgiveness of student loan debts.  Rick Santelli railed against either on the grounds of 'moral hazard' or the notion that such forgiveness basically encourages future bad behavior.  I might agree with him except for a few very uncomfortable facts.  First, the notion of 'moral hazard' or fiscal responsibility or any other such ethical notion is applied so unevenly.  The banks were bailed out in spite of arguments against on those very grounds.  Why the banks and not others?  Second, student loans are among the few that are not dischargeable in bankruptcy.  So the lender is protected first by government guarantees and then by the fact that the student cannot get out from under short of dying.  Santelli brought up the notion of 'tough love' and I would say "Fine.  But for both the lender and the borrower."  The first step is to reduce the mortgages to the current value of the house and forgive whatever is underwater.  Second step would be to enforce the criminal penalties on mortgage originators who falsify information on a mortgage loan and on applicants who knowingly supply bogus information.  Third step is to forgive student loans for those who have no reasonable possibility short of winning the damned Megamilions lottery of paying the loans back, allow bankruptcy discharge and remove government guarantees to lenders.

I had a couple of comments on the meaninglessness of the employment statistics last week.  Joshua Brown at Reformed Broker makes similar comments on the housing data.  Our government statisticians have been reading 1984 way too much.  Double think done with numbers!!!!

No comments: