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Wells F*rgo

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In Wells Fargo’s latest massive criminal activity, they stole people’s identities to open new accounts, in many cases stealing money in the process. In most cases this would adversely affect the victim’s credit score as well. They have admitted to committing identity theft at least 2,065,000 times, by opening 1.5 million deposit accounts and 565,000 credit card accounts. They were fined $185,000,000 for these activities.
185m / 2.065m = $89.59
 
So identity theft, fraud, and possible outright theft carries a total fine of under $90, and not a single minute of jail time for anyone.
(If you are a TBTF corporation.)
 
In Minnesota, this is considerably less than the fine for expired license tabs on your car.
 
Wells Fargo also has an extensive criminal history over the past several years. From February 2009 through December 2013, Wells Fargo Bank paid over $22.9 billion in 30 separate fines or settlements due to criminal activities.
 
Imagine if you or I committed these crimes just one time, with a rap sheet like that. Would the penalty be more than a $90 fine?
 
 
Sources:
 
 
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Thoughts on Bernie

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The only vote I would ever cast for Hillary is ‘guilty as charged’.

Trump is a moron and an asshole, among many other things. (Racist, tasteless, tactless, self-centered, hypocritical, hateful, stupid….) The only vote I would ever cast for him would be to vote him off the island.

I voted for Jill Stein in 2012. The world did not end.

Strong showings by candidates who are not republicans or democrats can help instigate change, even if the candidate loses that particular election. It can be easier to get on ballots in the future, public funds can be freed up, private interests may feel better about donating money, good candidates could be encouraged to run in future elections, etc.

The President is only one person. 30 Senators and 100 Representatives working together could arguably effect more change, for example. (Ideally non Republicrat ones)

I have been on the Bernie train since the day he started running, and have been a fan of his for years, but probably more a fan of most of his policy positions, and his honesty and conviction. Out of the 320 million people in this country I would bet there are at least a few thousand who would be very similar to Bernie in their beliefs, principles, ability, and actions. Lets get them into state, local, and national offices and see what happens.

I decided in 2012 to never again vote for a republican or a democrat running for national office (President and Congress) and voted for several ‘third’ party candidates for state and local offices in 2012 and 2014. If 20 or 30 million more people did this, it would certainly shake things up a bit. Imagine Trump / Hillary winning with only 36% of the popular vote. This is not a playoff football game, one loss does not mean everyone has to go home sad.index

Notes From Bernie Sanders Town Hall Meeting in Rochester, MN This Morning

I noticed some things during Bernie’s speaking engagement today that you probably won’t see in many media stories about him, and thought I should share one person’s first hand account.

Bernie spoke for a few hundred people at 9 AM today, after drawing 10,000 in Madison, WI last night. I was in the front row about 20 feet from the podium.

One thing that stood out was the respect Bernie showed for his political rivals in Washington. He repeatedly used the phrase “my Republican colleagues”. No name-calling, belittlement, or disrespect shown, even though he fights, disagrees, and / or argues with them on many issues on a regular basis.

Another thing I noticed many times today was Bernie’s use of “we” and not “I” when speaking of past events or future plans. There were several times when he said we, and I thought ‘don’t you mean I?’ For example: ‘We accomplished this’, or ‘We need to fight for these changes in the future’. Many times he used ‘we’ when most normal people would have said I, not to mention what most politicians would say. Whether this is the way Bernie really feels, or just a planned strategy, I still found it notable, as compared to how other politicians speak.

Bernie stood at the podium for well over an hour, no glass of water, no pauses, lots of hand gestures, very energetic passionate, and sharp. During the audience questions, he was very respectful, gave direct answers to the questions asked, and did not cut anyone off, even if they rambled on a bit. No wishy-washy answers, or ‘I’ll look into it’.

* beeeerrrrrnieWill add to this post when I can.

Welfare Queens ?

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Welfare is often derided as payment to people for doing nothing, or people getting paid not to work. The recipients are called freeloaders, lazy, etc. I would like to apply this definition to selected government programs which are not generally considered ‘welfare’, compare the spending of these activities to the spending of programs traditionally defined as welfare, and see which parties are actually the biggest freeloaders on taxpayer money.

Unless noted, all figures being used are from the White House Office of Management and Budget, and cover the period from 2009 through 2013, with annual figures being the average of these five years.

The total cost of the following federal programs averaged $203,554,000,000 ($204 billion) over the past five years:

  • All food and nutrition assistance (food stamps, etc.)
  • Unemployment benefits
  • Supplemental Security Income (not Social Security)

While not accounting for the total spent for all programs where it could be argued that individuals receive money for doing nothing, the total spent for these items makes them the three most expensive programs which make direct payments to individuals, and covers the lion’s share of what is traditionally defined as welfare. I am leaving Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid out of this section, as these programs are paid for by workers and employers, and not generally considered ‘welfare’.

$204 billion per year is a lot of money. But is it really, when compared with other federal government programs which literally pay individuals and organizations for doing nothing?

The net interest paid by the U.S. Government over the past five years has averaged $211 billion per year. The people who collect this interest are getting paid for doing nothing. Just sitting on the couch, eating Cheetos and watching Oprah, while collecting interest payments. Some of them are probably using these proceeds to buy drugs or liquor, the lazy freeloaders. The annual cost of this one program is more than the fore-mentioned traditional welfare programs. Foreign and international organizations hold close to half of outstanding U.S. Treasuries, accounting for approximately $100 B of the 211 B annual average interest paid. At least most funds spent on traditional welfare immediately re-enter the economy in America, when they are spent on food, rent, or anything else, which in turn benefits other Americans. Conversely, interest money going to foreign countries may never make it back into the U.S. economy.

National defense and veterans affairs cost $793 billion per year, on average, over the period we are analyzing. Obviously, the taxpayers are receiving some value for the money spent here, but a great deal of this amount can certainly be considered welfare. Any profits realized by contractors providing goods and services to the Defense Department is also the amount the government was overcharged for said goods and services. These overcharges are then given to the shareholders of contracting corporations as profits. Overcharging is not work, so this is welfare. One could also argue that money spent by the government for which no benefit is realized by American citizens can be considered welfare, whether any actual work was done or not. Most of what the U.S. military has done in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries could and should have been done by native police, military, or other organizations and paid for by the people of these countries. These goods and services are welfare benefits received by the people of these countries, at least for the ones on the ‘right’ side. Any jobs ‘created’ by this activity in Africa, Asia, and the middle east are not likely to be filled by unemployed Americans, taking them off the welfare rolls. Any business opportunities or advantages realized as a result of the U.S. Military murdering various people are welfare benefits realized by the corporations which gained said opportunities. The U.S. Government has also spent obscene amounts of our tax money for building schools, sewer systems, and other infrastructure in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Because we don’t need any of those things in Detroit or Newark or Atlanta.) The people using these items are getting free stuff. Bribes paid to politicians and weapons fall into the ‘welfare’ category as well. If the U.S. Government had not pursued illegal, imperial wars of choice based on lies in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, and several other countries over the past five years, the $793 billion annual “defense” cost could have easily been $400 billion less. With all of this taken into account, a $400 billion per year war welfare amount for war seems reasonable, if not too small.

For our five year time period, total corporate profits in the U.S. were $9,589 billion, while corporate federal income tax receipts were $1,027 billion, for an overall tax rate of 10.7%. From 1967 – 1971, the actual corporate income tax rate was 34%. Applying the 23.3% difference in rates between the 1967 – 1971 period and the past five years gives an annual average of approximately $447 billion in lost tax revenue. Forty-five years ago is ancient history, you say? The period from 1996 through 2000 saw an actual corporate income tax rate of 24.8%, or 14.1% greater than the that of the past five years. These two periods are only separated by 8 years. This 14.1% difference, when applied to the past five years profits, averages $270 billion per year. This lost revenue, by itself, is much more than the total cost of traditional welfare. One could argue that a tax decrease cannot be considered welfare, as the recipient does not receive money, but pays less in. Many corporations not only pay no tax, but get a refund to boot. These instances can certainly be considered welfare, and are part of the reason the overall tax rate is so low. All corporations paying one-third to half of the total tax rate they have paid in the past, and a much lower rate than that which many individuals pay, can arguably be considered a form of welfare.

From just the three areas of government activity and amounts presented here, up to $1,058 billion per year has been spent on welfare for these programs, with most of these benefits going to corporations, wealthy individuals, and foreigners. Are these welfare activities a better use of funds than helping people in the U.S. who need assistance? Are they worth over five times as much? Would you prefer some of your tax dollars go toward feeding your neighbor’s kids, or give five times that amount to the government of China, corporations, billionaires, warlords, and regular people on the other side of the planet?

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(Previous article revised for my newspaper column.  –  –  reverb.mn/news?)

Feeding Hospital Patients From On-Site Greenhouse

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     A hospital operating an on-site organic greenhouse to grow its own produce for patient meals. To me, this idea seems like a no-brainer, and should have been common practice 30 years ago. A while back I ran across the story of the Henry Ford hospital near Detroit, and their new, million dollar, hydroponic, organic greenhouse which is being used to feed patients and provide educational opportunities. One of my first thoughts was ‘Mayo needs to do this in Rochester’. Other people seem to feel the same way, and felt I should write an article about it, so here we are.

     In researching this article, (OK, a 5 minute internet search) it appears the Henry Ford greenhouse is highly unusual, if not the first of its kind in the U.S. This surprised me somewhat. I am not a doctor or a medical professional, but I have grown produce, I eat produce, and I have been a hospital patient way too many times, so I feel qualified to at least make a few observations on this matter. If anyone in the medical profession actually reads this, please feel free to call me on any inaccuracies.

     I am pretty sure the items a person eats and drinks have a great impact, if not the single largest impact on overall long term health, as well as recovery from an injury or illness. I am also pretty sure that sick people tend to fare best in environments with the least amount of impurities (chemicals, germs, air pollutants, etc.). A hospital having more control over these things is probably in the patient’s best interest. Produce grown in a controlled, on site environment, with no pesticides or processing chemicals, from the best available seeds, fed with pure water and not exposed to outdoor air pollution would seem to be the best possible food to for sick people.

     Fresh produce tastes better. Very fresh produce tastes better yet. Anyone who has ever pulled a carrot out of the ground, rubbed or washed the dirt off and eaten it will likely back me up on this. Better taste than the best produce at any grocery store at any time of the year. Imagine making hospital lunch (or smoothies, even) with veggies or fruit picked that morning. MMMM.

     Any medical or scientific research gets more accurate results with control of, or better control of more variables. Right? Right. Enough said.

     Patients are often required to change their diets due to illness. I would think growing food within the hospital itself could help with this in some way or another.

      Many sources over the years have indicated to me that all people benefit from being around plants and in sunshine. Maybe have some open spots to put patients for 20 or 30 minutes to help with recovery. How about one greenhouse for downtown, and one at St. Mary’s? Maybe put on the roof of a lower building, so the plants could be seen by patients and staff?

           I have attached some articles on the Henry Ford greenhouse, which may have some points I have not covered. Please share this article with anyone you know who works at any hospital, if you feel it is a good idea.

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http://www.henryford.com/body.cfm?id=46335&action=detail&ref=1713

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http://www.ryot.org/growth-industry-hospital-greenhouse-producing-food-and-wellness/4024

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Article by the person running the Ford greenhouse:

“The greenhouse has begun to host school field trips, and the demand for the daily tours is high. Bringing in children to show them how food is grown helps them to learn better nutrition, which can prevent childhood obesity and many chronic diseases.

Gardening therapy allows patients to help their recovery while learning how to prevent or manage chronic diseases through healthy growing and eating practices. Space is available for physical, occupational and behavioral therapy, as well as a restful place for staff and people visiting loved ones.”

http://www.freshfruitportal.com/2013/01/11/opinion-greenhouse-helps-keep-u-s-hospital-healthy/?country=united+states

 

Welfare Queens

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Welfare is often derided as payment to people for doing nothing, or people getting paid not to work. The recipients are called freeloaders, lazy, etc. I would like to apply this definition to selected government programs which are not generally considered ‘welfare’, compare the spending of these activities to the spending of programs traditionally defined as welfare, and see which parties are actually the biggest freeloaders on taxpayer money.

.

Unless noted, all figures being used cover the period from 2009 through 2013, with annual figures being the average of these five years.

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The total cost of the following federal programs averaged $203,554,000,000 ($204 billion) over the past five years:

  • All food and nutrition assistance (food stamps, etc.)
  • Unemployment
  • Supplemental Security Income (not Social Security)

 .

While not accounting for the money spent for all programs where it could be argued that individuals receive money for doing nothing, the total spent for these items makes them the three most expensive programs which make direct payments to individuals, and cover the lion’s share of what is traditionally defined as welfare. I am leaving Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid out of this section, as these programs are paid for by workers and employers, and not generally considered welfare.

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$204 billion per year is a lot of money. But is it really, when compared with other government programs which literally pay individuals and organizations for doing nothing?

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The net interest paid by the U.S. Government over the past five years has averaged $211 billion per year. The people who collect this interest are getting paid for doing nothing. Just sitting on the couch, eating Cheetos and watching Oprah, while collecting interest payments. Some of them are probably using these proceeds to buy drugs or liquor, the lazy freeloaders. The annual cost of this one program is more than the fore-mentioned traditional welfare programs. Foreign and international organizations hold close to half of outstanding U.S. Treasuries, accounting for approximately $100 B of the 211 B annual average interest paid. At least most funds spent on traditional welfare immediately re-enter the economy in America, when they are spent on food, rent, or anything else, which in turn benefits other Americans. Conversely, interest money going to foreign countries may never make it back into the U.S. economy.

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The U.S. Federal Reserve Bank increased its assets by approximately $3 trillion from October of 2008 through the end of 2013. Most of this was due to an activity known as quantitative easing, or QE. There are several reasons that a good percentage of this $3 trillion amount will likely never be recouped by the Fed. Approximately $2 trillion of this total has been used for purchases of mortgage backed securities (MBS). Any loss realized on these assets when they are eventually sold is effectively welfare for the parties these assets were purchased from (banks, other corporations, hedge funds, pensions, governments, and individuals), as a full price paper value was paid by the Fed at the time of purchase. The people and organizations which sold the assets have passed any potential losses on these assets to the U.S. taxpayer. Due to a litany of problems with the valuation of the assets underlying these MBS, as well as a likely decline in the overall market, which is currently overpriced, a marked loss on these purchases is likely. Assuming a 40% loss on these MBS purchases when they are eventually sold by the Fed, $160 billion per year will be lost on this endeavor, in addition to the interest cost, as the Fed has been working with borrowed money. The people running the organizations receiving this free government money did not need to be smart, hard working, or well educated to collect this welfare. Generating the assets required to purchase these MBS securities may have required those traits, but selling dodgy assets to the Fed at top dollar in a bubble market is a no-brainer. In fact, purchasing said MBS securities in the first place may not have been such a bright idea, until the Fed came to the rescue, buying the questionable assets while simultaneously artificially inflating the market valuations.

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National defense and veterans affairs cost $793 billion per year, on average, over the period we are analyzing. Obviously, the taxpayers are receiving some value for the money spent here, but a great deal of this amount can certainly be considered welfare. Any profits realized by contractors providing goods and services to the Defense Department can be considered the amount the government was overcharged for said goods and services. These overcharges are then given to the shareholders of contracting corporations as profits. Overcharging is not work, so this is welfare. One could also argue that money spent by the government for which no benefit is realized by American citizens can be considered welfare, whether any actual work was done or not. Most of what the U.S. military has done in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries could and should have been done by native police, military, or other organizations and paid for by the people of these countries. These services are welfare benefits received by the people of these countries, at least for the ones on the ‘right’ side. Any jobs ‘created’ by this activity in Africa, Asia, and the middle east are not likely to be filled by unemployed Americans, taking them off the welfare rolls. If the U.S. Government had not pursued illegal, imperial wars of choice based on lies in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, and several other countries over the past five years, the $793 billion annual “defense” cost could have easily been $300 billion less. With all of this taken into account, a $300 billion per year war welfare amount seems reasonable, if not too small.

.

For our five year time period, total corporate profits in the U.S. were $9,589 billion, while corporate federal income tax receipts were $1,027 billion, for an overall tax rate of 10.7%. From 1967 – 1971, the actual corporate income tax rate was 34%. Applying the 23.3% difference in rates between the 1967 – 1971 period and the past five years gives an annual average of approximately $447 billion in lost tax revenue. Forty-five years ago is ancient history, you say? The period from 1996 through 2000 saw an actual corporate income tax rate of 24.8%, or 14.1% greater than the that of the past five years. These two periods are only separated by 8 years. This 14.1% difference, when applied to the past five years profits, averages $270 billion per year. This lost revenue, by itself, is much more than the cost of traditional welfare. One could argue that a tax decrease cannot be considered welfare, as the recipient does not receive money, but pays less in. Many corporations not only pay no tax, but get a refund to boot. These instances can certainly be considered welfare, and are part of the reason the overall tax rate is so low. Also, all corporations paying one-third to half of the total tax rate they have paid in the past, and a much lower rate than that which many individuals pay, can arguably be considered a form of welfare.

.

From just the four areas of government activity and amounts presented here, up to $1,118 billion per year has been spent on welfare for these programs, with most of these benefits going to corporations, wealthy individuals, and foreigners. Are these welfare activities a better use of funds than helping people in the U.S. who need assistance? Are they worth five times as much? Would you prefer some of your tax dollars go toward feeding your neighbor’s kids, or give five times that amount to the government of China, warlords on the other side of the planet, corporations, and billionaires?

 

QE is a Massive Gift to the Rich – Dallas Fed President

March 21 — Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas President Richard Fisher speaks at the London School of Economics. (Source: Bloomberg)

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“I don’t think there’s any doubt that quantitative easing enabled the rich and the quick. It was a massive gift.”

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On the ‘wealth effect’ created by QE:

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“It was deliberate in that we were hoping to create a wealth effect.” … “There was a more concentrated effect. And you see it in the kind of earnings that are announced by certain private equity groups and individuals and so on.” … “the distribution of the wealth effect was heavily concentrated” … “We don’t work for the rich and the quick. We work for the American people. So that’s been one of my bigger disappointments.”

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Quoted comments start at 52:20

http://www.bloomberg.com/video/fed-s-fisher-on-monetary-policy-asset-purchases-l1Yg9oh2Ri2R5_Vyv5KGtA.html

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http://www.valuewalk.com/2014/03/dallas-fed-president-says-qe-massive-gift-wealth/

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-03-21/qe-was-massive-gift-intended-boost-wealth-fed-president-admits

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