Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Saving Our Way to Prosperity

Yes. You Can.

- By: Larry Walker, Jr. -

According to Barack Obama, "We can’t simply cut our way to prosperity." Prior historical references: None. Upon hearing such an absurd statement, and being of the homo economicus persuasion, my first instinct is to define what it means to me, and then to determine whether it has any relevance in my life. If we are honest, we must each define what the word prosperity, or rich, means to us. Only after we have defined its meaning are we able to chart a course.

In the WikiHow.com article, “How to get rich,” there are seven steps, the first of which is to define the word “rich.” Obviously it means different things to different people. According to Obama, the word rich means making more than $250,000 per year. A more formal definition of prosperity is “to be fortunate or successful, especially in terms of one's finances.” For others it means achieving a certain level of prestige, or being able to afford a comfortable retirement, neither of which necessarily involves making $250,000 in a year. How would you define prosperity?

Homo Economicus

The term Homo economicus, or Economic human, is the concept in some economic theories of humans as rational and narrowly self-interested actors who have the ability to make judgments toward their subjectively defined ends. My definition is that men and women are primarily interested in making judgments which will improve their own economic condition. My goal is not to be a millionaire, although that would be nice. My goal is to be able to meet my obligations in life and to remain self-sufficient upon retirement.

In John Stuart Mill’s work on political economy, in the late nineteenth century, he further defined this economic man as “a being who inevitably does that by which he may obtain the greatest amount of necessaries, conveniences, and luxuries, with the smallest quantity of labor and physical self-denial with which they can be obtained.” I have to admit that my goal is also to get the most out of life with the least possible amount of labor, but that’s not exactly how it’s been working out. I work much too hard. What’s your goal?

Yes. You can.

Notice that Obama uses the words, “we and our”, as in, “We can’t simply cut our way to prosperity.” Exactly what does that mean? The last time I checked, "we" wasn’t responsible for paying my bills. Actually, you and I just might be able to cut our way into relative prosperity. But I don’t believe that the federal government can tax and spend us into a utopian paradise. If this were possible, wouldn't we already be there?

Returning to “How to Get Rich,” the 4th Step is entitled, Delay Gratification, under which we find the following guidance on the path to prosperity:

  1. Are you spending money on things that won't get you rich?

  2. Are you sticking with a job that doesn't make that much money to begin with?

  3. In order to get rich, you're going to have to give up some of the things you enjoy doing now, so that you can enjoy those things without restriction later. For example, you might like having free time, so you give yourself a few hours a day to do nothing. But if you were to invest those few hours into getting rich, you could work towards having 20 years of free time (24 hours a day!) with early retirement. What can you give up now in exchange for being rich later?

  • Cut expenses
  • Get a job that pays more or get a promotion
  • Downgrade or give up your car
  • Downgrade your apartment or house
  • Reallocate your spare time

Although there is an element of truth in the statement, "we can’t cut our way to prosperity", the fact is that you and I can, individually. The act of cutting, or reducing, my personal expenses causes me to save money. So to cut means the same as to save. By substituting the word 'cut' with 'save' in Obama’s original comment; what he is really saying to me is that, “We can’t simply save our way into prosperity.” Why, that’s preposterous! It’s as if he is implying that I should empty my emergency fund and retirement savings, spend it all today, and I will be magically ushered into prosperity. But if I did that, then I would be forced to borrow huge sums of money when ready to invest in furtherance of my dreams. But this won’t work out too well, especially since banks normally require a down payment.

The 5th Step in How to Get Rich is entitled, Save Money. It states, “You've heard the phrase "It takes money to make money." So start socking away the extra money you're making now that you've delayed gratification as outlined previously. After all, what's the point in giving up the stuff you like if you have a hole in your pocket? Start building a "get rich fund" at the bank. Always pay yourself first. This means before you go and blow your pay check on a new pair of shoes or a golf club you don't need, put money aside in to an account that you don't touch.” This makes much more sense to me than the idea of squandering my savings, as implied by Obama. So for me, yes, I can save my way into relative prosperity, and so can you. The federal government could do the same, after paying off its massive $14.4 trillion debt, that is. This ought to be Obama’s goal. Yes. You can.

No. Government Can't.

He jabbers on, "We need to do what’s necessary to grow our economy; create good, middle-class jobs; and make it possible for all Americans to pursue their dreams."

There he goes with that “our” stuff again. We need to do what's necessary to grow our economy. That sounds appealing, but fortunately my economy is not yours, and yours is not mine. My economy is comprised of my household, my family, my business customers, vendors, lenders, employees and other obligations. I don’t know where Obama is coming from, but there is one way that the federal government could help to grow my economy, and that would be to stop taking as much of my hard earned money in taxes. That would help quite a bit. If I didn't have to pay any taxes at all, my economy would be doing pretty well. Try that one on for size! If the government concentrated more on how to take less of my money, then my economy would improve, and so would yours. This simply requires cutting the size of government.

Next, he says that we need to create good, middle class jobs. What exactly is a good, middle class job? Does it require picking up a shovel? The idea of having a good, shovel-ready, middle class job doesn’t exactly mesh with prosperity, at least not in my book. Thanks but no thanks. I don’t really want a middle class job; I would rather have more freedom and prosperity. I don’t believe that group effort is required in job creation. I believe that one economic man can create many jobs. In fact, the true economic man is going to need a lot of help upon reaching his own prosperity. He’s going to need employees, suppliers, accountants, attorneys, financial planners, housekeepers, gardeners, service people, travel agents, retailers, restaurants, auto dealers, gas stations, chauffeurs, etc. It seems to me that Obama’s goal should be to inspire more economic men and women, and greater prosperity, rather than higher taxes, and more mundane, government-manufactured, temporary, shovel-ready, middle class jobs.

Finally, Obama says that we need to make it possible for all Americans to pursue their dreams. But all that’s required here is freedom. Are we not free? As long as I am free, I can do anything, and so can you. Nothing can stop me from pursuing my dreams, yet my dreams are not yours, and yours are not mine. Maybe your dream is to manufacture a product, while mine is to provide a good quality affordable service. Someone else’s dream might involve freeloading off of the toil of others. Just as the word prosperity means different things to different people, our dreams are not all the same. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The federal government didn’t give these rights to me, and it can’t take them away. You sir, cannot spend our way into life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, they are the gift of God.

The bottom line: Yes we can save our way to prosperity. That’s how it works in this Universe. It takes money, to make money. Here are a few more steps we can follow along the path to prosperity. Step 1: Cut discretionary government spending back to 1996 levels. Step 2: Force the federal government to start making principal payments against its debt. Step 3: Abolish every new governmental regulation established since January of 2009. Step 4: Get rid of Barack Obama and his queer notions about the economy.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Want Tax Hikes? Push the Reset Button

Cut Government Spending Back to 1996

- By: Larry Walker, Jr. -

Dialing the top income tax bracket back 15 years without a reciprocal cut in government spending does nothing to preempt the debt bubble. However, if the Golfer in Chief and his inept cohorts remain stuck on reinstating those bygone tax rates, then all taxpayers must necessarily stand as staunchly fixated on cutting the size of discretionary government spending, back to 1996 levels if necessary. Those not willing to regress on government spending really need to stop kidding themselves into believing the silly notion of resurrecting 15 year old tax brackets as a serious solution. If you are confounded, then more than likely you have never heard of inflation, don’t purchase goods and services with your own money, and lack the skills required to balance a simple checkbook. In other words, those who don't comprehend would better serve the public by resigning from government and returning to their own ruinous private lives.

The fallacy of anointing $250,000 as the top tax bracket of the 21st Century is actually based on 20th Century income tax tables. What worked in 1996 won't work today. What Barack Obama and fellow democratic party residue from the last shellacking are really talking about is reimposing the top income tax brackets of 1996, which applied some 15 years ago. Omitted from this quandary are two key factors: inflation and the level of discretionary government spending in 1996.

  1. Inflation – As far as personal income, $250,000 in 2011 had the same buying power as $175,085 in 1996. And $250,000.00 in 1996 has the same buying power as $356,969.06 in 2011. Annual inflation over this period was 2.40%. Thus $250,000 isn’t what it used to be.

  2. Discretionary Government Spending – Discretionary spending in 1996 was $532.7 billion compared to the 2012 budget estimate of $1,340.3 billion ($1.3 trillion). If they want us to acquiesce to 1996 tax brackets, then shouldn't the government backtrack to 1996 discretionary spending as well?

In terms of both inflation and discretionary government spending, the budgeted 2012 discretionary spending level of $1,340.3 billion had the same buying power as $938.6 billion in 1996. And the $532.7 billion actually spent in 1996 has the same buying power as $760.6 billion today. If democrats insist on hiking taxes on those making over $250,000, then a simple compromise would be for them to agree to cut discretionary government spending by $579.7 billion in 2012 ($1,340.3 minus $760.6). This would bring both government spending and income tax rates in line with the late 20th century. But the right thing to do under Obamanomic theory is to simply return to actual 1996 discretionary spending. This requires cutting the federal budget by $807.6 billion, as shown below.

From General

This means cutting National Defense by $463.9 billion, International Affairs by $46.1 billion, General Science, Space and Technology by $15.3 billion, Energy by $10.2 billion, Natural Resources and Environment by $19.2 billion, Agriculture by $2.9 billion, Commerce and Housing Credit by $557 million, Transportation by $3.5 billion, Community and Regional Development by $14.2 billion, Education, Training, Employment and Social Services by $66.8 billion, ... etc…

Don’t worry about who gets hurt or rewarded, just cut it, and then tell governmental agencies, “Here’s your budget, now you figure out how best to spend it.” Problem solved. Next question!

"Knowledge is an inherent constraint on power." ~ Thomas Sowell

“Collecting more taxes than is absolutely necessary is legalized robbery.” ~ Calvin Coolidge

Related:

Keeping It Real: Obama's $250,000 Fallacy

Obama's Unfunded Consumption

References:

http://www.dollartimes.com/calculators/inflation.htm

http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BUDGET-2012-TAB/xls/BUDGET-2012-TAB-8-7.xls

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Off Grid Solutions 2: The Adjustable Principal Mortgage

~ By: Larry Walker, Jr. ~

My previous advice proffered the simple concept of a Mortgage in-Kind Exchange. If you didn’t like that notion, perhaps you will like this one. An Adjustable Principal Mortgage is a solution that would allow a mortgage company to temporarily write down the principal amount of a mortgage to an amount comparable to the contracts original debt ratio, and subsequently make adjustments every third year as home prices fluctuate. Once the value of the home equals or exceeds its original cost, no further adjustments are required. Neither the length of the loan or its interest rate is adjusted, nor may monthly principal and interest payments ever exceed the original amount.

An Adjustable Principal Mortgage would spread risk equally between mortgagor and mortgagee. When housing prices return to normal, both the lender and homeowner will have met their objectives; for the former a trustworthy return on investment and the latter a reasonable debt ratio. If housing prices continue to slump, mortgage companies and their investors will lose an amount comparable to the decline in value of the underlying asset, while homeowners losses are likewise mitigated. The value of all mortgage backed securities will be known at any point in time, rather than the present state of uncertainty. The idea is modeled after the Biblical proverb of the unrighteous steward.

The Unrighteous Steward ~ Luke 16:1-9

(1) “There was a rich man who had a manager, and this manager was reported to him as squandering his possessions. (2) “And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an accounting of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ (3) “The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig; I am ashamed to beg. (4) ‘I know what I shall do, so that when I am removed from the management people will welcome me into their homes.’ (5) “And he summoned each one of his master’s debtors, and he began saying to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ (6) “And he said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ (7) “Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ And he said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ (8) “And his master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light. (9) “And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings.”

It’s purely a matter of survival for homeowners, bankers, investors, the U.S. economy, and the nation as a whole. The unrighteous steward did what he had to do to survive. Presently, no one in the United States is doing anything to address the underwater vortex threatening to destroy the livelihood of millions of American homeowners. To date, the actions taken by both government and the private sector have done nothing to avert a looming global economic collapse and worldwide depression.

The Problem

Jane is a 50 year old Georgia resident. She is married with two children. Jane purchased her home six years ago for $333,333. She initially made a down payment of $33,333 and took out a 30-year / 5% fixed rate mortgage of $300,000. She currently has an outstanding mortgage balance of $270,290, and the appraised value of her home has fallen to $150,000. If she were to sell the home today, she would incur a loss of $183,333, which is not deductible for tax purposes. Jane is not in default and can afford her mortgage payments, but one of the things bothering her is that her debt ratio, which started out at 0.90, has risen to 1.80. A debt ratio is calculated by dividing the amount of mortgage debt by the value of the home. A debt ratio of less than 1.0 is considered healthy, while a debt ratio greater than 1.0 is indicative of a loan at risk of default.

Jane feels cheated. By the sixth year, her debt ratio would have been 0.81, but for the decline in the value of her home. Her blood especially boils when she reads stories about homeowners cutting deals with lenders to stay in their houses literally for free, or of others who are in default yet have remained in their homes even after missing a year or two of payments. Jane has a bad, bad feeling that home prices won’t be improving within her lifetime, and fears that she may be foolishly throwing her money away. She would love for her mortgage company to reduce the principal balance of her loan, but that’s probably not going to happen, at least not until after a foreclosure.

So I will pose the same questions that I did last time, even though some of you took issue. “Does it make sense for Jane to sit there, stuck in a home that she can’t sell or refinance; making a payment every month on what she knows is a bad investment?” “Would you continue to invest $333,333 in an asset that you thought would be worth less than half in the future?” Although housing prices may rise over time, they didn’t reach their previous peak overnight, and life is finite. Jane is 50 years old, and doesn’t have another 30 years to waste. Since Jane doesn’t qualify for a loan modification, what options does she have? Presently, there doesn’t appear to be any solution other than to close her eyes, mask her feelings, keep paying, and go down with the ship.

Solution: The Adjustable Principal Mortgage

An Adjustable Principal Mortgage would allow the mortgage company to agree to temporarily write down the principal amount of a mortgage to an amount comparable to the contracts deemed debt ratio, and subsequently allow the principal to be adjusted every third year as home prices fluctuate. Once the value of the home equals or exceeds its original value, no further adjustments are required. Each time the principal is reset, it is re-amortized over the number of years remaining in the original term. The home is re-appraised at the end of each third year, and a new principal amount is calculated based on the ending debt ratio, multiplied by the current value of the home. At the end of the original term, any remaining balance is cancelled and the debt is considered paid in full.

The home may not be sold until its value equals or exceeds its original cost, without incurring a prepayment penalty. The penalty is calculated by subtracting the amount of all principal payments made to date, from the amount of debt owed prior to commencement of the Adjustable Principal Mortgage. In other words, anyone who opts out early will not be able to escape without having to make up the difference between the original debt and the adjusted principal. When the value of the home equals or exceeds its original cost, the homeowner may sell without penalty, paying off the balance at that time.

How it Works

A home appraisal is required at the beginning of the term, and every third year thereafter. At the end of the sixth year, Jane’s home had a fair market value of $150,000 based on a 55% decline in value. That being the case, the principal amount of the loan is written down to what Jane’s debt ratio would have been in that year had her home not declined in value. In this case, had the home not lost value, Jane’s debt ratio would have been 0.81 (see ‘Year 6 Base’ in the table above). The principal amount of the loan is thus reset to $121,631 (150,000 * 0.81) [see note regarding rounding at the end]. Not only is the principal reset to $121,631, but the loan is re-amortized over a 24 year period (the original 30-year term minus the first 6 years). This results in a monthly principal and interest payment of $726 for the next three-year period.

Jane feels better already. There is no longer any reason to doubt. With her monthly payments reduced from $1,610 to $726, she now has an extra $884 to save or spend, both of which will help out her family and the ailing economy either way. At the end of the ninth year, Jane’s debt ratio is a healthy 0.75, and a new home appraisal is required. The new appraisal concludes that the home has increased in value by 50% to $225,000. Thus, the principal will be increased in the subsequent year.

In the tenth year, the principal is raised to $169,703. This is calculated by multiplying Jane’s ninth year ending debt ratio of 0.75 by $225,000 (the current value of the home). The loan is then re-amortized over the remaining 21 years, resulting in a monthly principal and interest payment of $1,089 for the next three years.

Although Jane would not be allowed to sell without incurring a prepayment penalty, she can see on paper that by the end of the twelfth year her debt ratio has declined to 0.69 with roughly $70,000 in home equity. Jane doesn’t mind the increased monthly payment because it is still lower than her original payment of $1,610, and because it was fairly determined based on the value of her home. At the end of the twelfth year the required appraisal determines that the home has increased in value by another 25% to $281,250, so the principal must rise again.

Since Jane’s debt ratio at the end of the twelfth year was 0.69, and the appraised value is now $281,250, the principal amount of the loan is stepped-up to $193,628 (0.69 * $281,250). The loan is re-amortized over the remaining 18 years resulting in a monthly payment of $1,361 for three years. Once again, Jane doesn’t mind the increase because she now has almost $110,000 in home equity, plus she is still paying less than her original payment.

The required home appraisal at the end of the fifteenth year results in another 20% increase in valuation, making the home worth more than its original cost. Since the terms of an Adjustable Principal Mortgage cap any increase in valuation to the home's original cost, the new mortgage principal is limited to $204,018. This is calculated by multiplying the debt ratio of 0.61 at the end of the fifteenth year by $333,333 (the original cost of the home).

In the sixteenth year, Jane’s adjusted loan principal of $204,018 is re-amortized over the remaining 15 years, resulting in monthly principal and interest payments of $1.613. Jane doesn’t mind this at all because her payments are essentially the same as they were under the original loan, plus she now has over $138,000 in home equity. The biggest bonus is that because her home has returned to its original value, Jane may now sell it free and clear at any time. If Jane keeps the home and it maintains an equal or greater value over the remaining 14 years, her monthly payments will remain $1,613, and her debt ratio will continue to decline.

In the example above, Jane is a winner. If I were her, I would quit while I was ahead by selling the home in the sixteenth year, but that’s her call. If she remains in the home for the full 30-year term, and if existing home prices continue to rise, Jane will have reached her original objective. Now let’s see what happens to the mortgage company.

With an Adjustable Principal Mortgage, at the end of the 30-year term, the mortgage company will have earned $240,583 in interest income and will have recovered $278,235 of the original $300,000 principal. The reason that the principal repayments are short by $22,000 is because the mortgagor shrewdly wrote off a portion of the loan in order to keep the homeowner happy. The mortgage company still receives $218,818 over and above its original investment.

In comparison, had the terms of the original loan been fulfilled, the mortgage company would have received $279,767 in interest and the full amount of the principal. Overall the lender has given up $60,942 in interest and principal payments in order to help out a borrower whose underlying asset had declined by 55% in the sixth year of the contract. The alternative would be to risk foreclosure and an immediate loss, most likely in excess of $120,290 with the additional loss of interest income. In this respect, both the lender and borrower are winners.

Goals / Terms
  1. Temporarily reduce the principal amount of underwater mortgages to the product of the homeowner’s target debt ratio and the home's current market value.
  2. Require a new home appraisal at the end of each three-year cycle.
  3. Re-amortize the loan over the remaining life of the original term every third year.
  4. Reset the principal amount of the loan every third year based on the homeowner’s ending debt ratio times the new appraised value.
  5. The original length of the loan may not be increased.
  6. The original interest rate remains fixed at the original rate and may not increase.
  7. The value of the home may not exceed its original cost, for purposes of adjusting the loan principal.
  8. Monthly principal and interest payments may not substantially exceed the amount of the original contract. Substantial is defined as meaning within $10 per month.
  9. The homeowner may sell the home at any time, however if it is sold before reaching a valuation equal to its original cost, the homeowner will incur a prepayment penalty. The prepayment penalty is calculated by subtracting the amount of all principal payments made to date, from the amount of debt owed prior to commencement of the Adjustable Principal Mortgage. (Exceptions may apply where reasonable cause exists.)
  10. Once the value of the home equals or exceeds its original cost, the homeowner may sell without penalty, only required to payoff the balance of the Adjusted Principal Mortgage.

Benefits / Costs

Lenders – By implementing the Adjustable Principal Mortgage lenders would potentially eliminate foreclosure losses such as may occur in the example above, multiplied millions of times over. If every underwater borrower decided to walk away tomorrow, it would spell the end of the mortgage industry, the end of the U.S. economy, and a sustained global depression. The costs of home appraisals, origination, and processing fees are passed on to homeowners. Although lenders will recover less than the amount stated in their original contracts, the amount forgone will be entirely based on how quickly home prices rebound, while failure to act would be catastrophic.

Homeowners – Borrowers will have a renewed confidence in the housing market. They will also receive the benefit of lower mortgage payments while their houses are underwater, allowing them to save or spend money that they otherwise would not have. This will result in an extraordinary amount of economic stimulus, at no cost to taxpayers. Homeowners will be responsible for the cost of home appraisals, loan processing and origination fees. Such fees may be paid for preferably out of pocket, or added to the principal.

The Economy – The resulting increase in economic activity will mean restoration of jobs for loan officers, administrative assistants, accountants, real estate appraisers, and others. By reducing the number of foreclosures, abandonments, and short sales, the housing market will improve. As real estate prices begin to stabilize and then increase, home builders and real estate agents will also return to work. Under a capitalist system there are winners and losers. Without changes everybody loses, but by taking action, by spreading the risk and by making the system fair, everyone’s a winner.

“And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings.”

It’s time to implement solutions designed to solve real problems. While politicians have wasted time covering the loses of some private sector risk takers, lambasting others, and imposing more restrictive regulations, it has never once occurred to them to propose a real solution. Meanwhile, as private sector lenders have been mired in Congressional hearings, attacked with new regulations, and in many cases forced to accept government bailouts, they have likewise not taken time to resolve the real problem.

Note: All figures are rounded up to the nearest value. The approximation above is not intended to be a cure-all, it's just an idea.

Related:

Off Grid Solutions | Mortgage in-kind Exchange

Upside Down In America

Data: Original Workbook
Sunday, June 12, 2011

Off Grid Solutions | Mortgage in-kind Exchange


~ By: Larry Walker, Jr. ~

The first step in any recovery is acknowledging the problem. The second step is having faith that a power greater than oneself can restore sanity. Joe purchased his home four years ago for $300,000. He currently has an outstanding mortgage balance of $270,000. The appraised value of his home has fallen to $150,000. If he sells it for $150,000 today, he will eat a loss of $150,000 which is not deductible for tax purposes. Joe can afford his mortgage payments and has not missed any. Since he doesn’t qualify for a loan modification, what options does he have?

For one, he can continue to pay off the $270,000 debt, plus interest, on a home which has lost 50% of its value, thus incurring more than a $150,000 loss spread over time. Or if he finds this distasteful, he can simply walk away from the home and let the bank and the wizards of DC deal with it. Other than that he really doesn’t have many options. I say he doesn’t have many options, because I know some folks who have already walked away from their homes, renting them out to others while they rent elsewhere, with the idea of dumping them for a loss if things don’t improve in a couple of years.

Does it make sense for Joe to sit there, stuck in a home that he can’t sell or refinance; making a payment every month on what he knows is a bad investment? Would you invest $300,000 in something that you thought would be worth half in the future? Although housing prices may increase over time, they didn’t get to where they were overnight, and life is finite. Joe is 50 years old and doesn’t have another 30 years to waste. So what can the government or private sector do for Joe?

Solution: The Mortgage in-kind Exchange

One of the things eating away at Joe everyday is that he sees House B, a bank owned foreclosure which had an original cost of $600,000, still has an appraised value of $300,000, but has a selling price of just $150,000. Joe would love to purchase House B but he is not able to get out of his current mortgage without incurring a $150,000 loss. Joe would have to come up with a $120,000 payment to get out of his present mortgage, plus make a down payment on the bank owned home, which would make him even worse off.

A Mortgage in-kind Exchange is a unique idea that would allow Joe to sell his home for a loss and rollover the remaining $120,000 loan balance into a more valuable home. It would allow Joe to purchase House B for $150,000 with a $270,000 mortgage. House B would have an appraised value of $300,000 and a mortgage debt of $270,000, thus making Joe whole.

How it works – Joe is allowed to hold an option to purchase House B for a small earnest money deposit of $1,000 which will take the home off the market for up to a year giving him time to sell his old home. If the old home doesn’t sell within a year, Joe may either extend the option by making another deposit, or forfeit.

Benefits and costs - Joe would be better off by being allowed to purchase a more valuable home for the same amount owed on his underwater home. The banks would be better off because they will have reduced their REO inventories without incurring as big of a loss. The economy will improve by allowing faithful homeowners a chance to improve their personal debt-to-equity ratios. Housing prices will improve by removing homes selling for less than fair value from the market. The cost to taxpayers would be zero.

The banks can get involved by matching up faithful homeowners with qualified properties. The government can get involved by getting out of the way, and encouraging the free market to push solutions rewarding those who deserve it the most.

***Revised***

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Upside Down In America

~ By: Larry Walker, Jr. ~

Obama’s economic theory appears to be a hodgepodge of both supply-side and demand-side theory based primarily on a belief that if the government rewards special interest groups who vote for the chief executive’s political party, then said party will get re-elected. In other words, Obamanomics is nothing more than a selfish power play. Missing from its objectives are the goals of economic growth and wealth creation. Inherent in its objective is the idea that there is already enough wealth in the nation to divide many times over until everyone is on an equal playing field. Once met, this objective will lead to the end of all economic activity in the United States.

Obamanomics is a theory that works best if the employees of an automaker are its only customers. It also works well if unionized school teachers are the only taxpayers within their respective school districts. In other words, Obamanomics works if the same money earned by an entity’s employees is reinvested in full back into the same entity. If giving incentives to employees is better than giving them to employers, then Obamanomics has nailed it. One can only wonder why those gosh darned employees aren’t hiring more workers.

For example, the Obamanomics version of auto industry bailouts was made with the assumption that if the government helped automakers, then they would produce more and better quality cars which someone would buy, thus returning the industry to profitability. What the theory failed to consider was that the reason American automakers were facing bankruptcy was due to the lack of demand, not supply. It wasn’t that U.S. automakers weren’t producing enough, or the right cars, it was that no one was buying them. And why did the demand for automobiles suddenly come to a screeching halt?

Upside Down

There’s a lot of talk these days about the decline in housing prices, but what does that really mean at a personal level? What are its effects on the economy as a whole? I’ll tell you how I feel about it. Every waking day, I feel as though I’m mortgaged to the hilt, which is, through no fault of my own, a fact. It’s not a good feeling knowing that it will take many, many years, if ever, for the value of my home to return anywhere close to the amount I owe. What this does to me psychologically is make me not want to spend a dime on anything other than bare necessities. Everything is basically on hold until my personal debt-to-equity ratio returns to a healthy level. This spills over into decisions I make for the business. ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ That means purchasing a new vehicle, new equipment, new appliances, or for that matter anything related to the house is out of the question. Wants are out of the question; needs are the priority. They say, “Cheer up, live a little, go out and spend some money and don’t worry about it so much.” I say, ‘Mind your own blanking business.’ For me, until this situation is corrected I will continue to live below my means, and if you mess with me, you do so at your own risk.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government continues to spend us all into oblivion, thus assuring that if I ever do get my head above water again, the government will be there to make sure I drown. What politicians don’t realize is that none of their spending has done anything to improve the personal debt-to-equity ratio of any American, but has rather destroyed that of the entire nation. As politicians from both major parties stare hopelessly into the abyss on a daily basis, none of them seem to have a clue as to how to fix the real problem. Some politicians have become so discouraged that they have resorted to exhibitionism, while others have convinced themselves that the way back is through incurring more debt. It doesn’t get any more delusional than, “We have to spend more to keep from going broke.” While many have chosen the path of insanity, that’s not the way for me.

Let’s face facts, when the amount of ones debt exceeds a healthy level (a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.5 to 1.5 being deemed healthy) there are only two ways out. (A) Reduce all unnecessary expenditures to a bare minimum applying the savings toward debt reduction. (B) File for bankruptcy and make a fresh start. Some have chosen the latter, while I choose the former. Others don’t own a home and thus have no idea what I’m even writing about, which is the dilemma of most politicians. Most politicians don’t feel as though they own the national debt, and they plan on being long gone before any tough decisions have to be made. However, most of them will find themselves long gone by November of next year, if a serious effort isn’t undertaken soon.

It doesn’t take three years to solve America’s most pressing problem. I made my decision as soon as the crisis hit. There are only two options: A or B. No. Increasing income taxes on an upside down citizenry, increasing the amount of government regulations upon them, and imposing new health insurance mandates are not solutions to the real problem. It’s time to fix the problem of this era. It’s time to pass a budget. It’s time to pay down the national debt. It’s time to reduce the size of government. It’s time to end excessive government regulation. It’s time to overthrow an unconstitutional government mandate. It’s time to make a decision, or get out of Dodge.

“If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Obama on Jobs: Created 0, Lost 2.5 Million

Jobs Created, Saved, Recovered or Just Lost?

~ By: Larry Walker, Jr. ~

Hours after the White House received a disappointing jobs report, Barack Obama told autoworkers at a Chrysler Fiat Plant in Ohio that, "Even though the economy is growing, even though it's created more than 2 million jobs over the past 15 months, we still face some tough times. We still face some challenges. There are still some headwinds that are coming at us. Lately, it's been high gas prices that have caused a lot of hardship for a lot of working families. And then you have the economic disruptions following the tragedy in Japan."

So his latest excuses are high gas prices, and the tragedy in Japan, neither of which were a problem for Obama when the March and April jobs reports were more favorable. First of all, Japan was hit with a tsunami on March 11, 2011, and the crisis over there has nothing to do with job creation or economic growth in the United States. Secondly, gasoline prices have been on the rise since February of 2009, primarily due to a decline in the value of the dollar. And the decline in the value of the dollar is primarily due to the federal government’s padding of the money supply to cover its out-of-control spending.

On the same day, the Italian automaker Fiat SpA agreed to purchase the U.S. Treasury's remaining 6 percent interest in Chrysler for $500 million. This gives Fiat a 52 percent stake, otherwise known as the controlling interest, in Chrysler. Although Obama has spoken negatively of US companies that open plants overseas, he just sold the taxpayer bailed-out automaker to Italy. Nice going chief.

Even more troubling is Obama’s statement regarding jobs. He said that the economy has “created more than 2 million jobs over the past 15 months”. Which economy was that, the global economy, or the U.S. economy? According to data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the economy has lost nearly 7 million jobs since the recession began in December of 2007, and 2.5 million of those jobs have been lost since February of 2009. Did I miss some sort of fundamental transformation of the definition of words, or something?

A more appropriate statement by Obama would have been to say to autoworkers at the old Chrysler Plant that, “I’m sorry I sold you guys out to an Italian automaker, but what can I say, we needed the money. The economy has shrunk further under my presidency. Even though the recession officially ended in June of 2009, the economy has lost around 2.5 million jobs since I became president, which brings the total number of jobs lost since the recession began, in December of 2007, to around 7 million. I now understand that I have been leading this nation in the wrong direction, so my plan is to bring in a new group of advisors who have a better understanding of how the American economy works.” But instead, what we heard was more of the same.

Perhaps Obama would do well to heed the words of Abraham Lincoln who once stated, “I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.” Obama has yet to bring us the real facts. Everything he says is biased in a way to make it appear as though he has accomplished something great, when in reality his policies are not even capable of fostering economic growth.

Created, Saved, or Recovered?

The word ‘created’ means to originate. Jobs are created when new jobs are added on top of existing ones. After a jobs market goes into recession (a period of sustained job losses), it enters into a state of recovery in which jobs that were lost are recovered. Once the jobs that were lost have been recovered then any additional jobs added are considered to have been created.

The word ‘saved’ means to preserve or guard from injury, destruction, or loss. Jobs are saved when they are prevented from being lost such as through the automotive industry bailouts. If one can prove that (x) number of jobs would have been lost but for some kind of intervention, then one can make the case that those jobs were indeed saved.

Then we come to that elusive word 'recovered'. The word recovered means to get back, regain, or to return to a normal condition. Since the Great Recession began in December of 2007, the U.S. economy has lost nearly 7 million jobs. Once those 7 million jobs have been recovered, and only then, can Obama, or any other politician, start talking to us about the number of jobs created.

The Real Facts

To be precise, since the recession began, we have lost 6,493,000 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Household Data, or 6,940,000 according to BLS Establishment Data. And that’s including Obama’s alleged creation of “more than 2 million jobs in the last 15 months”. In reality, the economy has merely recovered 1,081,000 jobs in the last 15 months according to BLS Household Data, or 1,797,000 according to BLS Establishment Data, neither of which exceeds 2 million. And further, since February of 2009, the month after Obama’s inauguration, the economy has lost a total of 2,422,000 per BLS Household Data, or 2,520,000 per BLS Establishment Data. In other words, we are a long way from a jobs recovery, and a lot further away from job creation.

From Employment Statistics May 2011
From Employment Statistics May 2011

As indicated in the chart below, per BLS Table A-1, when the recession began in December of 2007, there were 4,659,000 American workers not counted as part of the labor force who wanted jobs, and another 7,664,000 who were counted as part of the labor force and unemployed, bringing total number of unemployed persons to 12,323,000. As of May of 2011, there were 6,227,000 American workers not counted as part of the labor force who wanted jobs, and another 13,914,000 who were counted as part of the labor force and unemployed, bringing total number of unemployed persons to 20,141,000. That means there are 20,141,000 Americans, or 7,818,000 more than the pre-recession level, literally sitting on the sidelines waiting for “change you can believe in”.

From Employment Statistics May 2011

As indicated in the chart below, per BLS Table B-1, at the beginning of the recession 137,963,000 Americans were employed. By February of 2009, the number had fallen to 132,837,000. When the recession ended, in June of 2009, the number had fallen further to 130,493,000. As of May of 2011, the preliminary number of employed Americans stands at 131,043,000. No matter how you slice it, not one job has been created during the Obama presidency. Although it’s true that some jobs have been recovered since the trough, the number of jobs has declined by 2,520,000 since Obama’s inauguration.

From Employment Statistics May 2011

References:

Images, Data 2, Data 3

Related:

Jobs, Jobs, Overthrow Libya