Tuesday, December 05, 2006

pinions of buddy don: seein cunnexshuns everwhar

mayhap tiz jes me, but duz innybidy else see sum cunnexshuns twixt the follerin stories?
  • Wal-marting and wealth:
    A single parent with two children working at minimum wage earns $10,700 a year, which $4,700 below the U.S. poverty level. Forbes magazine reported there are now 374 U.S. billionaires who have more wealth than the bottom 95% of the U.S. population.
  • Number of billionaires surges:
    The number of billionaires surged this year, as did their collective pile of cash, according to Forbes magazine's annual billionaire list.

    The magazine said the number of billionaires worldwide increased by 102 people in 2006 to 793, a record number, largely due to bullish global stock markets. Their total net worth jumped 18 percent to $2.6 trillion.
  • U.S. Army Battling To Save Equipment:
    Equipment shipped back from Iraq is stacking up at all the Army depots: More than 530 M1 tanks, 220 M88 wreckers and 160 M113 armored personnel carriers are sitting at Anniston. The Red River Army Depot in Texas has 700 Bradley Fighting Vehicles and 450 heavy and medium-weight trucks, while more than 1,000 Humvees are awaiting repair at the Letterkenny Army Depot in Pennsylvania.

    Despite the work piling up, the Army's depots have been operating at about half their capacity because of a lack of funding for repairs. In the spring, a funding gap caused Anniston and other depots to lose about a month's worth of work, said Brig. Gen. Robert Radin, deputy chief of staff for operations at the Army Materiel Command at Fort Belvoir.

    "Last year we spent as much time trying to find available money as managing our program," he said. "We don't want to go into the next rotation . . . with equipment that's at the far end of its expected life."
  • GSA Chief Seeks to Cut Budget For Audits:
    The new chief of the U.S. General Services Administration is trying to limit the ability of the agency's inspector general to audit contracts for fraud or waste and has said oversight efforts are intimidating the workforce, according to government documents and interviews.

    GSA Administrator Lurita Alexis Doan, a Bush political appointee and former government contractor, has proposed cutting $5 million in spending on audits and shifting some responsibility for contract reviews to small, private audit contractors.
  • Gilded Paychecks; Lure of Great Wealth Affects Career Choices:
    A decade into the practice of medicine, still striving to become “a well regarded physician-scientist,"Robert H. Glassman concluded that he was not making enough money. So he answered an ad in the New England Journal of Medicine from a business consulting firm hiring doctors.

    And today, after moving on to Wall Street as an adviser on medical investments, he is a multimillionaire.

    Such routes to great wealth were just opening up to physicians when Dr. Glassman was in school, graduating from Harvard College in 1983 and Harvard Medical School four years later. Hoping to achieve breakthroughs in curing cancer, his specialty, he plunged into research, even dreaming of a Nobel Prize, until Wall Street reordered his life.

    Just how far he had come from a doctor’s traditional upper-middle-class expectations struck home at the 20th reunion of his college class. By then he was working for Merrill Lynch and soon would become a managing director of health care investment banking.
  • Everybody's Business; In Class Warfare, Guess Which Class Is Winning:
    NOT long ago, I had the pleasure of a lengthy meeting with one of the smartest men on the planet, Warren E. Buffett, the chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway, in his unpretentious offices in Omaha. We talked of many things that, I hope, will inspire me for years to come. But one of the main subjects was taxes. Mr. Buffett, who probably does not feel sick when he sees his MasterCard bill in his mailbox the way I do, is at least as exercised about the tax system as I am.

    Put simply, the rich pay a lot of taxes as a total percentage of taxes collected, but they don’t pay a lot of taxes as a percentage of what they can afford to pay, or as a percentage of what the government needs to close the deficit gap.

    Mr. Buffett compiled a data sheet of the men and women who work in his office. He had each of them make a fraction; the numerator was how much they paid in federal income tax and in payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare, and the denominator was their taxable income. The people in his office were mostly secretaries and clerks, though not all.

    It turned out that Mr. Buffett, with immense income from dividends and capital gains, paid far, far less as a fraction of his income than the secretaries or the clerks or anyone else in his office. Further, in conversation it came up that Mr. Buffett doesn’t use any tax planning at all. He just pays as the Internal Revenue Code requires. “How can this be fair?"he asked of how little he pays relative to his employees. “How can this be right?”

    Even though I agreed with him, I warned that whenever someone tried to raise the issue, he or she was accused of fomenting class warfare.

    “There’s class warfare, all right,"Mr. Buffett said, “but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”
  • Protecting the Military? Just “Junk” Says Bush Court Nominee:
    On Friday, the American Bar Association hosted a conference in Washington on national security. Among the speakers was Scott Stucky, General Counsel of the Senate Committee on Armed Services and President Bush’s nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. When the subject of the amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill that protected military families from payday lenders, according to someone in the audience, Stucky dismissed it as “junk.”

    The Department of Defense had asked Congress to cap interest rates to military families at 36%, effectively outlawing the 400% loans and other high priced lending practices that the military said “undermine military readiness, harms the morale of troops and their families, and add to the cost of fielding an all-volunteer fighting force.” Sorry, Mr. Stucky, but this isn't just “junk.”

    DoD had done its best to make clear that predatory lending affects troop readiness. The Center for Responsible Lending estimated that the payday lenders had one in five military families in their clutches. After the DoD report came out, statistics also showed that there had been a nine-fold increase in the number of troops who have lost their security clearances because of debt problem, further undercutting our ability to field an effective fighting force.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Seems like a lot of the same reasons that some people in Europe left for the new American frontier a couple hundred years ago.