Monday, March 14, 2011

Weekend Links


1. King County (Seattle) has seen a slight uptick in the unemployment rate from Feb to Mar. As goes King County, so goes the rest of the state.  Since our region was probably hit last in the “Great Recession” we’ll also probably be last to feel the slow economic recovery. Overall, the unemployment rate has improved slightly over the past year.

2. The Washington State Legislature has tried in vain for several years to raise taxes on us but have failed miserably every time as residents have defeated legislation efforts with initiative. But I think Olympia has finally found a way to raise some tax revenue that won’t upset the residents too much. They are going after the Canadians.

3. While this news is terribly surprising to me, the man arrested for attempting to bomb the MLK Day parade in Spokane earlier this year has ad links to a white supremacist group. Kevin William Harpham, a former Fort Lewis soldier, has been arrested by authorities in Spokane and has been linked to the Neo-Nazi group, the National Alliance.

Northern Idaho and NE Washington have had a history of these groups operating “bases” in the region. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that tracks “hate” groups (focusing on those with supposed ties to the right), the group has experienced a rapid decline in recent years due to the death of its founder.

4. Budget battle in Olympia is about to get a little tougher. There exists the possibility that there may be an additional $500M to $1.5B in funds shortfalls for the two-year budget. The shortfall is a result of a miscalculation in tax revenue projections over the next two years. The continuing ailing economy is bringing in less funds to the state coffers.

 Makes me wonder if the battle between the state workers unions and lawmakers is about to heat up around here. One thing that works in the unions favor is that the state house in Olympia is control by democrats, a union boss’ best friend.

1. Nationwide, a staggering 23% of home owners owe more on their mortgage than what their home is worth.  As you would expect, the states with the worst housing markets (most decreased value) also have the most homeowners underwater. Two-thirds of Nevada homeowners owe more than their house is worth, with California, Florida, Michigan, and Arizona experiencing a 50% underwater rate.

This will continue to be a drag on the housing market until we reach a point where banks are loaning money again. Once that happens, investors and first time buyers are going to see a brief period when they can buy homes at rock-bottom prices.  You could get into this market, but you have to have money available since the banks are understandably being tight-fisted with their money.

President Obama is trying to get banks to ease their requirements somewhat (10% down as opposed to the 20% banks are requiring now). This is a concern because the government forcing banks to loan money to everyone who could breathe was what got us into this situation to begin with.

2. An anti-tax increase pledge is causing some heart burn. Republican governors and legislators across the nation have signed a pledge not to raise taxes. This is seen by democrats and moderates as getting in the way of the debate for flexibility on how to best handle the crushes budget deficits now being experienced by many states.

California is $27B in the hole right now and Gov Jerry Brown wants to put a measure to the voters that would extend the temporary tax increases that were done two years ago. He is calling on California Republicans to support his effort since:

 …he is not asking for a tax increase directly. Rather, he wants them to put the question to the voters so they can decide.

He is basically trying to entice the Republicans into allowing this to go before the voters. If the voters do elect to have themselves taxed more, does it mean the Republicans held firm? I guess if the voters of California are dumb enough to raise their taxes, then I don’t think it would be fair to hold the Republicans accountable.
SIDE NOTE: This is one of the things I love about Washington (and Oregon for that matter). These places are hotbeds for liberal; in fact, they can be quite stupid about it. But I can tell you this, folks in Washington and Oregon wouldn’t dream of raising their own taxes. This history proves otherwise.

3. The corruption of the Obama administration knows no bounds. It is the duty of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to look after employees and employers, whether the “shop” unionized or not and that commerce is not affected by union practices.  But Obama and the unions are tied together like that yellow ribbon that old oak tree.
It is declared to be the policy of the United States to eliminate the causes of certain substantial obstructions to the free flow of commerce and to mitigate and eliminate these obstructions when they have occurred by encouraging the practice and procedure of collective bargaining and by protecting the exercise by workers of full freedom of association, self-organization, and designation of representatives of their own choosing, for the purpose of negotiating the terms and conditions of their employment or other mutual aid and protection. (Section 1, fifth paragraph)
Note this paragraph protects both the employer and employee

They are also charged with ensuring that unionization elections are conducted fairly and they are to remain unbiased. Well, when one of the reasons why you got elected was because the unions filled your election coffers, you have to pay them back in some fashion. This story over a Red State clearly shows that the NLRB is firmly pro-union.

3. Facing increased scrutiny on their foreclosure activities, many banks have scaled back taking back homes that are in delinquent status.

4. You always hear from liberals and progressives about how evil corporations are when they merge and then reduce overhead by laying off workers. I wonder if the progressives and “workers of the world unite” will actually unite over the news that AOL is going to cut back 20% of their workforce due to overlap caused by the recent merger with the Huffington Post. One, two, there…everyone hold their breath. I’m turning blue now.


1. The quake in Japan was beyond devastating. 10,000 souls may have lost their lives.  Go here, here, and here. These satellite images show the impact with before and after comparisons. These are not the usual side by side shots before and after shots. You can really get a feel for the tragedy the Japanese people are experiencing.

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