Two Pages In The Wall Street Journal

Two pages in today’s Wall Street Journal encapsulate, for this observer, the dilemma our politicians face as federal spending spins out of control. 

Page A4:

Jobless Rate is Key to Fate of Democrats in 2010

…But one item may prove key: the national unemployment rate, which hit a 26-year high last month at 9.8%

…President Obama and the Democrats are all the more exposed on the jobs front because they touted the $787 billion economic-stimulus bill as a way to curb job losses.

 

It has been noted that the real unemployment rate in this country is currently 17%. Given the horror of that statistic, and the implications of long-term unemployment that crosses all demographic lines, one would think that getting people back to work immediately would be paramount.

Another article:

Arizona Sheriff’s Powers Cut

The Obama administration is curbing the powers of an Arizona sheriff who has led one of the most contentious fights against illegal immigrants.

Under an agreement involving local enforcement of federal immigration laws, Shefirr Joe Arpaio’s deputies will no longer have the authority to arrest suspected illegal immigrants in the streets in the course of their duty.

Unlike other participating in the program, Mr. Arpaio will be restricted to determining the immigration status of inmates booked into Maricopa county jails.

…Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano ordered a comprehensive review of the 287g program shortly after taking office.

So the Feds are arbitrarily defining police powers in local jurisdictions. Hhhmmmmm

Page A5

Violent Deaths Shock Chicago Into Action

…Derrion Alberts, 16 years old, was beaten to death seven blocks from his school last month. A recording of the attack was posted online and widely viewed.

…Between September, 2008, and September, 2009, 398 Chicago students were shot…

…In response to the violence, Chief Executive Officer of Chicago Public Schools…announce a safety and security strategy that will target nearly 10,000 high-school students identified as at risk of becoming shooting victims. The project will connect some of them with mentors and part-time jobs in hopes of keeping the teens off the streets. The $30 million annual cost will be paid for by federal stimulus grants.

Stimulus grants for shovel ready projects? For infrastructure? Already committed, just not spent? Sounds like there is a pool of money sitting in a secret vault in Washington where certain social goals can be funded, regardless of their stimulatory (or not) effects.

FAA Stimulus Recipients Got Low Priority Ratings

More than $270 million in stimulus grants awarded by the Federal Aviation Administration have gone to projects that scored below the agency’s own threshold for weeding-out low-priority proposals…

The FAA typically steers grants to projects scoring above 41 on a scale from 1 to 100. For stimulus grants, the FAA raised the threshold to 62.

See above. This stinks, to me, of earmarks. Yet again, our elected officials cannot resist the urge to plunder our national wealth to reward their parochial minions.

From this man’s perspective, we have not learned from the lessons of the economic collapse.

Santayana was right…

 

Globalization – An Illustration

A new semester means another opportunity to rant about textbook prices – but we’ve been over this before, so I won’t waster our readership’s time. Instead, a tale of global business, intrigue, and, hopefully, happiness.

Some background. That great engine of entrepeneurial opportunism, E-Bay, also operates as another company called Half.com. Half.com specializes in selling used textbooks to poor, desperate students like me at prices that  typically undercut our local "college bookstore" by about 30%. Hey, every dollar counts.

I found out about Half.com from a buddy earlier this year; I ordered a book and the seller turned out to be his ex-girlfriend who had just taken the class. The price was right, the service impeccable, she sold the book for more than our "local bookstore" was willing to pay for it, and I saved about $25. As Steven Covey would say, it was a win-win.

Naturally I upped the ante for this semester. I decided to order as many books as I could; in the end, the grand total was 3 books. Patting myself on the back for being thrifty and ingenious, I moved on the next items of the preschool checklist.

School started today and only one of the books is on my bookshelf. It came from Jacksonville, FL. This morning, my mailman dropped off a card telling me that an items is ready to be picked up at the post office, and, by the way, the postage due is $7.00. That order has come from Banning, CA. Still no sign of the third book, although I do have some email correspondence with the "vendor".

The missing book is "Understanding Financial Statement", published in 2009, in the USA.  I sent an email to the "vendor" on August 24, and got this reply:

Hello Agricola,

Hope you must be doing good. As per our order book, the order for the book ‘ Understanding Financial Statements’ was placed by you on August 18,2009. I am glad to tell you that the book was shipped on August 21,2009 using the "DHL" shipment service. You may track the book’s status by putting in the tracking number ‘1329118663’ in the required field of the link ‘http://dhl.com‘.

Sorry for the inconvenience. Hope to serve you in a more efficient manner in the future.

Thank You,
(name hidden)

 

Alarm bells immediately rang. First, broken English. Second, DHL. Aren’t they that Dutch company that ships everything via Air in all of the countries of the world except the US? WTF?

So here is the tracking info:

Tracking history…   Help 
Date and time Status Location Service Area
8/25/2009      1:23 am Transit through DHL facility   Cincinnati Hub, OH
8/24/2009    10:37 pm Depart Facility   East Midlands, United Kingdom
                    10:36 pm In transit.   East Midlands, United Kingdom
                      5:33 am Scheduled to move   East Midlands, United Kingdom
8/23/2009      5:46 pm Depart Facility   London-heathrow, United Kingdom
                      9:05 am Processed at DHL Location.   London-heathrow, United Kingdom
                      8:45 am Transit through DHL facility   London-heathrow, United Kingdom
                    12:44 am Depart Facility   Delhi (new Delhi), India
8/22/2009    11:12 pm Processed at DHL Location.   Delhi (new Delhi), India
                      1:08 pm Transit through DHL facility   Delhi (new Delhi), India
                      3:23 am Depart Facility   Mumbai (bombay), India
                      3:18 am Processed at DHL Location.   Mumbai (bombay), India
                      1:48 am Departing origin.   Mumbai (bombay), India
8/21/2009    11:38 pm Shipment picked up   Mumbai (bombay), India

 

Yes, you read the report correctly. My $65 textbook (used) is coming to American from Bombay, India. Somehow, this entrepeneur will sell a book, published in the US in 2009, ship it back to the US, paying the air freight charges, and make a profit. Is this a great world or what?

I just hope it is written in English…

TaxMan

The first day of classes for the fall semester. A heavy load of business oriented classes, mostly as a requirement for my minor. The most daunting is Taxation, an upper level accounting course. The professor is a seasoned veteran of the public accounting wars who returned to the (relative) safety of academe to earn her PhD. in Accounting. Tax, she proudly proclaims, is her baby. To set the tone, she provides in the syllabus her most favorite quote:

People think taxation is a terribly mundane subject. But what makes it fascinating is that taxation, in reality, is life. If you know the position a person takes on taxes, you can tell their whole other philosophy. The tax code, once you get to know it, embodies all of the essence of life: greed, politics, power, goodness, charity. Everything is in there. That is why it is so hard to get a simplified tax code. Life just isn’t simple. – Sheldon Cohen, former IRS Commissioner

I open the book and see 29 chapters, 13 appendices, tables on inside front and back covers, a glossary that’s about 15 pages, all written in a font that requires my most powerful reading glasses.

She also points out that accountants learn, on the one hand, to maximize wealth in order to impress bankers, while simultaneously minimizing income to deter the IRS…

This ought to be good.