A prepper’s holiday season

The patches and crest of the US Army Special Forces- the "Green Berets"

The patches and crest of the US Army Special Forces- the “Green Berets”

The United States Army spends at least a million dollars on every guy (and yes- it’s still a guys-only club) they train to wear a green beret. Don’t get caught up in the Rambo fantasy- the Special Forces isn’t the same as SEAL Team 6, Delta, the Ranger Battalions or Marine Force Recon.  Sure- they can go in and do amazing damage relative to their size- since they are highly trained, well equipped and typically well supported, but direct action isn’t their main mission.

Their main mission is to train and organize others to go overturn their government, or to keep their government in power- depending on which way the political wind blows.

Send in an A Team of 12 guys (no, it’s not anything like the “A-Team” TV show either) and out should pop a well trained, organized and equipped group that’s anywhere from Company to Battalion size – depending on where and what the team is given to work with. Translation- give them a literate group of French young men behind German lines in WWII (pre-Special Forces example) and you could have a team easily run a battalion- give them a bunch of semi-literate dope farmers in Afghanistan- and they’ll be lucky to have a few effective squads. Garbage in- Garbage out.

We have no problem at all sending these men all over the globe to “take care of problems” in third world nations where elections are non-existent or questionable, or where “civil rights” are being violated, or where plague and famine are winning a war caused by poverty and disconnected economies. We’ll even send them on humanitarian aid missions- where SF medics do dentistry and demolition guys blow up things to make damns, or set up water purification systems.

My question to you- is at what point is some other country going to look at our country- at Ferguson MO, or the latest shooting of a black kid with a pellet gun, and decide to send their Special Forces here to organize the disowned underclass to rise up and fight? Sounds crazy right? What makes it any different when we do it in places from as far and wide as Nicaragua to Somalia? Liberia to Libya?

And, why do we think that one day, one former Green Beret isn’t going to decide to do it in his hometown?

I look at the insane peaks of the U.S. stock market- and know that the company’s values aren’t rising because of higher real wages, higher real employment, higher standards of living, a better or stronger economy- and think, didn’t we learn a damn thing since 2009- or even since 1928?

Is the real reason “Black Friday” sales were down because you could shop on Thanksgiving? Or is it that people sense something isn’t quite right- and it’s not just riots, gas prices swinging, or temp jobs pushing numbers in the right direction.

All those people who laugh at “preppers” stockpiling water, fuel, guns and ammo? Do you really want to bet on you an economy built on lies anymore than a democracy that’s elected by a minority well schooled in stupidity?

When the mountains of cash printed and shoved into the economy for the rich to use to fill their bank accounts, which then purchase the best politicians money can buy, all become semi-worthless (which is what typically has happened when money supplies grossly outstrip the actual needs by real users of it)- you end up with the only real value being in things needed to survive: clean water, fuel, food and bullets.

We are not facing a zombie apocalypse- which is made up of mindless dead people roaming the streets- we’re waiting for the mindless sleepwalking wage slaves to wake up and demand to take back the streets.

You are free to return to your holiday cheer. Don’t say you’ve not been warned.

note: For the record, I don’t think most preppers really have a clue on how to survive. I lay better odds on those who live in a tight-knit community, than any people thinking they will make it alone. Also, while I only served with Special Forces units while in the Army and the Army reserves, I never completed the Q-course. I have never served in a line unit- or with anyone who wasn’t at least a paratrooper. My official Army MOS was 05B-1A4P, which means I’m a radio operator, who knows morse code and is Airborne qualified.  I  served on an A-team for over a year in the reserves while in college. I have the utmost respect for the training, the mission and the Beret.

 

 

The unintended side effects of the anti-Obamacare dolts

You’ve heard about businesses, big and small, threatening to move workers to part-time so as to avoid having to pay for Obamacare. Big business claiming that they can’t afford to pay for having full-time healthy workers, ones who are more likely to show up for work on time because they weren’t up all night with a bad sinus infection that is going untreated because they couldn’t afford a doctor’s visit. Yeah. So, instead, we’ll just hire more people (or more problems as any small business owner will tell you) to try to do the same work- and of course, none of those part-timers will have cured their sinus infection either- so your remaining full-time workers will be getting exposed to these sick legions of part-time drones.

What is this ultimately doing? Thanks to these dolts, they are going to drive unemployment to an all-time low, making the president look like the greatest hero to the working class ever. Jobs for everyone. Granted, it may mean you are working two part-time jobs, instead of one, but, many are already doing that. Wages for the best part-time worker will slowly rise as companies realize that turn and churn is costing them even more (my biggest expenses in hiring new people is the training time it takes to make them effective, not taxes or health care).

The rising tide of full employment and the increased circulation of money (remember people with less money spend a much higher proportion of their income, as opposed to rich people who often let it languish in the stock market, real estate or other big-dollar investments) will push new opportunities for entrepreneurial growth, including lower cost options in health care clinics as some physicians realize that there is a market for health care run like an assembly line now that everyone is covered. Imagine mini-health clinics that have five doctors working with one person to file standardized claims instead of one doctor with four people to handle filing claims. The entire health care industry will boom, needing new facilities, new nurses, new therapists (occupational, geriatric, physio etc).

In two years of high job growth, the Dems will recapture the House of Representatives, Republican governors who’ve made their mark by shifting taxes to local n00bs who can’t manage it effectively will fall as well, and an entire new generation of leaders will step forward riding on the wave of real jobs for real voters.

Thank you, you greedy bastards, you’re going to make Obama into the most popular president ever, or go out of business trying to prove your point.

The problems with property taxes: taxing investment

Considering The Tax Shelter
Photo Credit: JD Hancock via CompfightThe reason Mitt Romney pays so little income tax is that he makes most of his money from investments. This is supposed to be a way to “incentivize” investment. So he invests in companies that supposedly create jobs and spread the wealth around.

Mitt is most definitely part of the 1%. For the rest of us, our biggest investment is our home. The government gives us a mortgage-interest deduction to help us out, but mortgage interest is a fixed known cost in the equation, our wild card is property taxes- something our government seems to play fast and loose with.

For most Americans- the only long-term investments they make are their home and their retirement accounts. Both are supposedly backed by our government. Mortgages were backed by Fanny Mae and Sallie Mae or FHA and our pensions (unless you worked for Delphi) are backed by the Federal Pension Guarantee fund. Government regulations are all over the place- with rules on 401Ks, IRAs and the mutual funds that much of our retirement planning is predicated on.

But your home is different- it’s the one that is tangible, a direct reflection on your choice of where to live and you are the manager. You decide if it’s time to paint, put new gutters on, how you landscape, if you want to invest in granite counter tops or just use Formica. And here is the rub, at any time, someone hired by the county comes around every few years and decides what the value is and raises or lowers your tax bill totally arbitrarily.

How do I know this? Quite simply- I own four pieces of property and have watched the bills get played with over the years and despite going in to dispute the values last year- end up with mixed-up bills again this year.

Case in point: I bought two virtually identical cottages across the street from my house in 1995 for $19,500 each to try to improve the quality of life on our block. They were owned by a slumlord, whom the city has made very wealthy by overpaying for rent for years on a priority board office in a building he owned on the West Side. He was renting them out as Section 8 homes, I wouldn’t let a junkyard dog sleep in either one when I bought them. When entering for the first time the one my parents now live in  (I bought them without inspection) a lump of dirt fell on my hat – when it started moving, I realized that it wasn’t dirt- but cockroaches. The house was so infested I even found them inside the toilet tank. The other house was involved in drug sales- but wasn’t much better. I totally gutted both, put all new everything inside them, and then went to the banks to refinance and get my money back. They’ve been solidly rented ever since.

The tax values on these two homes, despite me telling the county that they are identical- is different. It’s also based on a number pulled out of a hat. It is so confused that they don’t even tax you on “the value” but on a percentage of value. The value goes up and down over time, based on what others in the neighborhood do, based on what you do, based on whim and whimsy.

This is bullcrap. The value of the homes was established when I bought them. What I choose to do with them is none of government’s business. If I fix them up and rent them for more, how is this any different than what Mitt Romney does in buying stock and hoping it goes up? Why does my investment get “appraised” a market value by someone who has no real way of telling what the value is? Concrete numbers like rent received aren’t counted. Concrete numbers like sale price aren’t considered. If you wonder why our housing market started fluctuating like the stock market- it’s because we allowed the banks to change the way they made money from concrete numbers to a numbers game (like a casino would run- where the “house” always makes money- and the irony of that expression is noted).

Banks used to make a majority of their money by lending money to people to invest in their home or business- and they had to hold those notes to get paid. Now, they make their money by investing money that we let them “create” with dubious products that they started selling based on packages of loans that they handed off. Banks no longer had any responsibility to make sure their investments were protected- since they sold off the loan as fast as possible to someone else and moved on to the next loan. Churning mortgages by banks is the same as churning stocks for stockbrokers- who only make money on the transaction- not on the outcomes.

So here I sit in my house. Bought for $14,500 in 1986, across the street from my office, bought for $2,200 and $2,400 in back taxes in 1988 and my two cottages (which I paid too much for)- paying taxes on property that is now worth a lot- according to the tax man, despite being written off by everyone else, including the banks when I bought it. Every property I bought I had to pay cash for, since they were all worth “below” the loan threshold for banks. Yet, here I am being asked to pay $2,000 a year  on both my office and my house and $800 a year on each cottage. I am being penalized for investing. Mitt Romney isn’t.

To add insult to injury- the house nearby, which is bigger than mine (it’s 2 stories over the back of the house, while mine isn’t), but the same basic footprint, was sold in foreclosure 3 years ago for $14,000. Not only are their taxes only $600 a year, they haven’t paid them and have been the frequent entertainers of police, fire and truancy officers.

How much money could we save if we didn’t have to pay for “re-appraisals” every so many years- and based tax value only on the purchase price by the owner? How about treating the real estate investor the same way we treat the stock market investor? It’s time for real-market valuation system and taking the arbitrary valuation of property out of the equation. Never mind the effect this has on seniors on fixed incomes (where we have to put “homestead” protections in place).

Why shouldn’t those who buy low and don’t sell, be allowed to profit from their investment in the community? Why do we abate property taxes for businesses that are “going to invest” but not for those who actually did invest? Considering that my investment in the office building brought jobs to an empty storefront- saved the city from having to tear down another vacant building and turned a shithole into a preservation award winner- why am I getting penalized with a growing tax bill? Consider that the cottages have been rented to people who have jobs instead of being on welfare or either on the way in or our of prison, haven’t I added value to the community and deserve to be rewarded instead of taxed? My home had sat on the market for over 2 years, starting at $22,900 and sold for $14,500 because the banks wouldn’t lend (despite all the BS about Community Reinvestment Act – CRA lending protocols), and yet 25 years later, because of banks’ new found freedoms of not having to be held accountable for loans- the nearby home sold for $500 less- despite being worth much more?

How come on almost every other level, investment isn’t penalized, but on property, it is? If there was a reason for a tea party revolt over taxation without representation, shouldn’t this be the case? My home was valued at one time by a bank at $130,000, but now according to Zillow it’s only worth about $62,300 and interestingly enough, Zillow is what the government is turning to for valuations for the “Making Home Affordable” program- not our local tax man’s appraisal.

There is only one honest way to value real estate, by the purchase price. Do you agree?

If you like this article- please share with a friend. If you like having this kind of material on esrati.com please consider donating to the campaign, because, even if my voice can’t be heard in Congress- it can continue to be heard in our community. These 1900+ posts come with a price and I’d appreciate your support. Thank you.

 

Aborted at three and a half, the $2.2 billion C-27J

Photo of USAF C-27J

The C-27J

If you wonder how our military budget is the largest in the world, it’s because politicians get involved protecting their babies. In the world of military programs all politicians are decidedly pro-life if they have a piece of it in their state.

The C-27 is an attempt at a smaller version of the venerable C-130 Hercules which has been one of the most reliable  aircraft in our arsenal. When comparing the two- it appears that there are marginal differences where the C-27 is more useful than a C-130. At this point, the $2.2 billion purchase contract is probably going away. You probably can guesstimate that to even get to the point of the contract- the U.S. spent at least $2 billion agonizing over the plan- which started in 1995 with the contract awarded in 2007 for 78 planes.

We won World War II in about the number of years that we actually had the plane before it was cancelled. During that time we not only from scratch came up with planes like the B-29 Superfortress, the P-61 Black Widow and the P-51 Mustang. We built thousands of planes and won the war. Now, we can barely deploy a plane in 20 years.

From the Dayton Daily News- remarking on how WPAFB has come through the  budget-cutting process “relatively unscathed” we even quote a taxpayer-supported illegal  lobbyist, referred to as “Michael Gessel, a Washington-based vice president of the Dayton Development Coalition” as a reliable source:

President Obama’s 2013 defense budget, released on Monday, appears to leave Wright-Patterson Air Force Base relatively unscathed as the administration gets started on $487 billion in defense spending cuts over the next 10 years….

“From what we’ve seen of the budget documents released so far, Wright-Patterson seems to be facing level funding in the next fiscal year, under the president’s budget,” said Michael Gessel, a Washington-based vice president of the Dayton Development Coalition. “Of course, Congress can and does change some of these numbers.”…

Republicans have said they think Obama’s defense-spending reductions will undermine the military and its current capability to fight more than one war at once. Obama has said his goal is to build a smaller, more agile and technologically capable military ready for future warfare.

Still, Congress required the $487 billion in defense spending cuts over a decade, as part of the Budget Control Act enacted in 2011….

House Speaker John Boehner, R-West Chester, said Monday that the overall budget — not just the defense portion — reflects Obama’s “failed policies.”

“Our nation needs Washington to demonstrate some courage with a budget that honestly addresses the near- and long-term challenges we face,” Boehner said. “Instead, the president offered a collection of rehashes, gimmicks and tax increases that will make our economy worse.”…

The administration also proposed to cancel the C-27J, a twin-engine turboprop cargo plane that the Defense Department had said in 2007 would provide a needed airlifter for both the Air Force and the Army. Because the Ohio Air National Guard’s Mansfield base is home to C-27Js, Ohio politicians are concerned about the future of that base.

via Wright-Patterson relatively unscathed in Obama defense budget.

A squadron, btw, is typically 4 planes. To make matters worse, the C-27J is yet another attempt to solve a general’s wet dream of having a cargo plane be a helicopter. The V-22 Osprey fits this category- and has cost U.S. taxpayers billions and too many Marines their lives. That program also started at $2.2 billion and now has run over $27 billion and estimates call for at least that amount again to complete the program.

We could have bought a lot of semi-disposable helicopters instead. The venerable Bell Huey which served as a work horse in Vietnam cost about $5 million each, the cost of the new version, the Sikorsky Blackhawk, $6.4 million each. Each C-27j is $53 million for comparison’s sake. We used to just drop combat engineers in places to build big enough airfields when we needed a plane to land, now apparently, we still seem to think a different plane is the answer.

War is no longer like chess. It’s not waged symmetrically. It took 20 people to hijack four civilian airliners to start the current wars, not billion-dollar bombers or multi-million-dollar cargo planes. The new world order isn’t going to be maintained by a bigger military hammer, but through smaller, unconventional forces trained in special operations. Diplomacy isn’t improved by bombs and bullets, but by smarter use of all of our resources to build peaceful relationships.

Al-Qaeda won’t go away because we have a C-27, or a V-22, it will go away when people across the planet hate someone else worse than America, or they become hated more than us by the people around them.

If we want to solve the budget problems, we need to stop trying to turn all our chess pieces into Queens at a cost-is-no-object price tag and learn to use what we have available more efficiently.

The C-27 program is doomed. Anyone talking about saving it, or putting more money into the short takeoff and landing cargo plane category should have their heads examined. The answer isn’t a different plane, it’s either a helicopter or a longer, better runway- live with it.

When you read the paper and see politicians and lobbyists defending our defense spending, it’s your duty to do your homework, because, our politicians are all dependent on donations from these defense contractors. That’s why I’m running for Congress and work so hard trying to deliver the facts you need to make a good decision.

The next question is why we need an air wing in Mansfield in the first place? It’s a transport squadron right? Shouldn’t they be able to fly planes from WPAFB to Mansfield to pick up the troops for drill weekend in their C-130’s and hold drill here?

[Note: go look at any other candidate’s website for the OH-10 including Congressman Turner for a position on this issue]

[update] I wrote this article on Feb 14, 2012, on Feb 18, the Dayton Daily News started promoting a Sunday article by John Nolan about “Mission Aborted” featuring the C-27J debacle, story not available online, without giving me credit for either the headline, or the questioning of this military program that Congressman Turner voted for. Here is the ad they ran in the print edition yesterday[/update]

Dayton Daily News promo ad for upcoming article mirroing this post

"Missions Aborted" - the word "aborted" came from somewhere.

 

Let’s examine “job creation” – and a solution

The news about the economy is good (according to Nan Whaley and Matt Joseph and national statistics) with very modest job growth. But the real question is what kind of jobs are we creating?

I have a friend with a terminal degree in his field, working two jobs, one at Wright State, another at UD as a professor. Neither offers health-care benefits for him or his wife. She is working as a barista, a “career: she has held off and on for the last 8 years. They get their health care from another job he has- working 25 hours a week as an office manager for a small professional services firm.

Four jobs, 2 people, just to get health insurance. These aren’t “jobs”- they are rentals of personal services. We don’t need more jobs in this country- we need careers- with job security. We used to have them, right here in Dayton. We had people who built trucks for GM, car parts for Delphi, ran a  pet food business at Iams, created the systems for financial services management at NCR to name a few. You could go to work at any of these places and never have to write a resume or go on a job interview.

Some say those careers are forever gone- that our country has become a free-agent nation. I say horse hockey.

As a small business owner, I can tell you the most valuable assets you have are your people. It doesn’t matter what your business is – selling burgers in fast food is a job that is designed for low skills and high turnover is expected, but the best in the business will tell you that having good, reliable, committed, dedicated workers whom you may have to pay a little more is well worth it compared to having to train someone new every 90 days. Real businesses are best when real people are treated with respect.

Respect is what’s taken a leave of absence in our country. We’ve stopped caring about our workers and become slaves to the corporate line- the bottom one. There is no connection between our leadership and our rank and file. There is no accountability from the top to the bottom. Laying off people, ending careers is something that actually increases the benefits to those at the top. There is no reward for paying people more, unless you are at the top of the food chain.

It’s time, especially when our country has been at war for a decade, to require civic duty to trump the corporate quest for profit.

It’s a sad country where for many, the only option to support a family or to be able to afford college, is to have to volunteer to risk your life in the armed services to protect the people who won’t protect your family’s welfare one iota. While the CEO of Premier Health Partners has no problem making $4 million a year (that’s $77K a week) while running a “non-profit” health-care company, your job in “housekeeping” is something to be bid out to some subcontractor on an annual basis to see if they can save a few bucks.

Yet, Premier Health Partners can’t deliver 3 stitches to an uninsured contract laborer for less than $1,400? A procedure that should cost no more than $250 if done by a doctor in a private office. Instead, Premier claims that they provided “services to the indigent” and write off the exorbitant bill (while pursuing payment from the poor working stiff with the cut hand for years). Yet, the major source of income for these “non-profit” shysters is our tax dollars- through payment from Medicaid and Medicare.

Until we put America back to work, with real careers with real pay and real benefits, it’s time for some shared sacrifice. It’s time to bring accountability back to the spending of our tax dollars.

The United States government is the biggest purchaser of goods and services in this country. We’re horrible at controlling costs, if you need proof, just look to the F35 program for the military- a plane to fight other planes that don’t exist in a type of battle that disappeared with the propeller age. It’s doubled in cost in the last 10 years and it wasn’t cheap to begin with.

So instead of all our fancy Federal Acquisition Guidelines that make every bid proposal to the government look less like a contract and more like a bible, let’s just put a rule in place that we, the American people, won’t do business with any company that pays their top people more than 35x what they pay their average U.S. worker. And if you are a non-profit, the ratio is 20 to 1.

Un-American you say? Limiting the “American dream?” That’s fine. Don’t do business with the citizens of the United States. If the company’s average U.S. worker’s paycheck is $50K a year, the  CEO can make $1.75 million a year. That’s pretty good spending money.

We’d have to stop doing business with the Wall Street banks and do business with the remaining small banks in the country. We’d stop doing business with insurance companies, hospitals, defense contractors. We’d not be able to buy any cars from American car companies, or computers from American computer companies- but, that would only be a for a few days, because none of these companies can afford to survive without our money.

When employment is back to 95% and we’re not fighting wars that cost billions a day, we may relax this policy, but, I’m not sure we’ll find a need to. Because when all is said and done, you can’t spend $77K a week, even if you tried- that is unless you keep having to buy off all the politicians who’ve put us in the mess we’re in. These political campaigns are getting more expensive by the day- and it’s the only tax, the political campaign donation tax, that the richest people running this country aren’t complaining about- yet.

We’ll only see politicians accountable to us, when their price tag falls as fast as our earnings have. I’m David Esrati, and I approve this message.

Our tax base is shrinking- so we’ll have to tax you more?

Today, the Dayton Daily News “investigative team” let you know the bad news: dropping property values means you will need to pay more taxes to support the schools and public services funded by property taxes. This is how the Republicans in Congress can claim “no new taxes” from them- they pass the pain to local school boards, libraries, parks and public services.

Here’s how it happened: the banks screwed up and had to be bailed out by you, The American Taxpayer. They gambled and lost on their funny money financial paper that they started creating like crazy after they were deregulated and we tossed Glass-Steagall onto the floor and stomped on it like a crystal glass at an Orthodox Jewish Wedding (don’t ask me why they do that).

Now that your property values dropped from 10 to 40%, without anything you could do about it (if a drug dealer moves in- you can fight it, if the bank forecloses and lets the house next door turn into a vandalized dump- there is little you can do) the taxes that fund local services based on property values- are bringing in less money- so now, schools, parks, libraries and public services are facing huge funding cuts or having to ask you to raise your taxes again. Not only that, cities are seeing less come in overall, as houses go from assets to liabilities that require additional maintenance- and  demolition.

From the Dayton Daily News:

Ohio House Bill 920, passed in 1976, created a system where each voter-approved levy would raise a predetermined amount every year. For example, Dayton Metro Library officials were confident their 1.75-mill permanent levy passed in November 2009 would always raise $13.6 million in taxes per year, based on estimates from the Montgomery County auditor.

The purpose of the law was to protect the taxpayer. It prevented schools, libraries and governments from automatically collecting more taxes on each levy when an individual’s property value rose.

At the time the law was written, and in the 30 years since, most cities and townships were growing, and property values were rising, so there was an always-increasing tax base to pay the amount each levy required.

But Montgomery County Auditor Karl Keith says lawmakers didn’t anticipate a scenario like the past three years, when existing home values dropped, and there was little new construction to make up the difference. Today, most local communities have a smaller property value base than they did in 2009.

In the library’s case, the 2009 levy’s tax rate legally can’t go above 1.75 mills. But the county tax base has fallen enough — from $28 billion to $26 billion — that 1.75 mills of tax can’t produce $13.6 million anymore. The levy only raises $12.5 million….

State Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, was surprised to hear of the “capped levy” impact Friday.

“Obviously, it’s a very serious unintended consequence of legislation written years ago that has never been tested in this fiscal environment. I think the legislature needs to take a close look at this,” Lehner said.

Lehner specifically pointed to the Montgomery County human services levy losing $8.75 million as a crucial issue.

“That money has to come from someplace, because those are critical human services,” she said. “But if the choice is asking taxpayers for a new levy, or fixing a problem with the law on the old levy, I’d rather fix the old levy.”

via Schools, governments lose millions after housing crisis.

This is why the bailout failed. The banks are still in business, paying their failed executives huge paychecks as they continue to squeeze the small banks that have managed to weather the storm, while our neighborhoods and local public services suffer.

Instead of bailing out the banks, had we put some controls back on banking, and forced mortgage resets and principle reductions on homes at risk, the bottom wouldn’t be falling out now. Having the sheriff do collections for the banks- without holding them responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of their newly stolen properties has wreaked havoc on our meager personal wealth. Homes have traditionally been where most Americans store their wealth and have always been able to count on real estate to at least hold its value over time.

Not that any of the people we’ve elected to Congress would understand. Most of them don’t have a mortgage. Mike Turner certainly doesn’t (or didn’t last time I checked). It’s this kind of disconnect that’s destroying the fabric of our community.

Raising local taxes to make up for the mistakes of the billionaires who have profited wildly and  are still playing fast and loose with the financial stability of our country is criminal.

In the past, the only way your neighborhood would lose value was because drug dealers moved in, or people lost faith in their neighborhoods value and let it deteriorate. Now- it’s no longer within your control. A few neighbors lose their jobs, or gas prices go to $4 a gallon and they get behind on their mortgage and next thing you know- you’ve got a shell of a home next door instead of neighbors. It’s why I made the first video of my campaign about the foreclosure crisis. It’s why it’s even more important that we look to prosecuting the criminals on Wall Street and re-regulating the banking industry.

How many times are the American people going to be asked to pay for the mistakes of the Wizards of Wall Street?

In the next election- it’s time to send new representatives to Congress to stop this madness. I plan on being your voice OH-10. Please consider a small donation to help me fight for you.

First campaign commercial- addressing the foreclosure crisis: Esrati: My Neighborhood

No matter where you live in OH-10, you have had it happen. A neighbor loses their job (GM, NCR, Iams, the list goes on) or a family member gets a terminal disease, or gas prices go up to $4 a gallon and begin the slow process toward foreclosure.

The banks refuse to renegotiate the loan, lower interest rates or even rent the house back to the former “owners”- they file paperwork (sometimes with a robo-signer) and ask the government to do their collections (I can’t get the sheriff to collect for me).

The homes in nicer neighborhoods (like Mike Turner’s gated community) are carefully maintained and secured. Ones in my neighborhood- are vacated and left in limbo as the looters or the speculators do their thing and the house loses value faster than my kids eat ice cream.

Because we’ve allowed loans to be sold off and traded like commodities- our communities are at the mercy of the Wall Street Casino. My loan has been sold off more times than I care to count: US Bank to GreenPoint to CountryWide to Bank of America to IBM to SETERUS where they now are trying to claim that I owe them for insurance that they bought on their own without checking with me at a rate of at least 3x what my policy cost.

Foreclosure affects us if we want to sell our homes- dropping the comps that are “necessary” for the banks to lend. They have also made it a great opportunity for real estate speculators who buy and flip homes- often without doing any improvements thanks to inside connections to the banks and access to capital.

It’s time to change the discussion of who is to blame for the mess- to what are we going to do about it. The banks haven’t done a fraction of the refinances that they were told to do by Congress through the “Making Home Affordable” program. Often times after the banks kick the people out- they turn them over to a subsidiary and write off the loan, hoping to show a profit when the subsidiary flips it. It’s time to stop the madness.

Here’s my first campaign spot: Foreclosure

Once people leave, entropy sets in and the value begins to drop. Let’s make the banks think twice before they uproot our neighbors, forcing them to either rent back the property- or maintain it in the same condition as when they kicked the people out.

That way, the bank shares the pain with you, instead of foisting the burden off on you.

If you like this video- and want to see a voice in Congress that isn’t being subsidized by the banking industry, please consider donating to my campaign using the widget on the right or going to www.electesrati.com and making a donation.

I want to be the candidate of the Democratic party to take on Mike Turner in OH-10. I believe my skills, both as a special operations soldier, a small business owner, a blogger and community activist and last but not least, an advertising pro, can make me the best choice to face the incredible money-raising skills of our current corporately owned congressman,

Fear will screw us. The truth on Iran’s threats and their impact on the USA

It’s time to stop the lies. It’s time to stop legitimizing the commodities traders’ main weapons- fear and disinformation. In fact, it’s time to end the trading of commodities by anyone who doesn’t actually take delivery of whatever it is that they are manipulating prices on. If you don’t buy and use jet fuel- you can’t write a contract on it. If you don’t actually need a billion bushels of corn- you can’t manipulate its price for your personal profit.

The people who trade in petroleum are fanning the flames with the news that Iran is threatening to close the Straight of Hormuz- and the media is buying it. Gas prices are going up, and we’re going to be in a world of hurt as soon as gas hits $4 a gallon again. From the NYT:

If Iran were to follow through with its threat to blockade the Strait of Hormuz, a vital transit route for almost one-fifth of the oil traded globally, the impact would be immediate: Energy analysts say the price of oil would start to soar and could rise 50 percent or more within days.

via Oil Price Would Skyrocket if Iran Closed the Strait of Hormuz – NYTimes.com.

Let me ask you something. Do you really believe that Iran has a chance against our military? How fast did we get to Baghdad? The Iranians and the Iraqis fought a war for ten years- both are incompetent and impotent. The Iranian people have no interest in picking a fight with the U.S., or any of the other Arab nations who also depend on the strait for their economic vitality. The only people who can say this are the pathetic rulers of Iran, who are one short “Arab spring” away from losing power. They are baiting the U.S. to become the bad guy, to rally their people against us and hold on to power- by making reckless threats.

The real question is why our leadership hasn’t said point blank, you’ll do nothing of the sort- and reached out to the Iranian navy with a chance to break away from the posturing politicians. We don’t need to kill anyone to end this “crisis”- but, we need to make it very clear that ANY military action by the Iranians is a hollow last-chance bluff that will bring swift and exacting deadly force.

The Iranian Navy doesn’t have a death wish- nor do any of the largely youthful population of Iran who are sick of the games of the old men in turbans.

In the meantime, we need to make clear to anyone speculating on the price of oil based on this manufactured crisis that they’ll will be put in jail. It’s time to put a freeze on all futures trading on petroleum products until the crisis is resolved. It’s time to use the military that we’ve paid for to show these idiots in Tehran that we won’t play their game. As to the argument that by strangling the country’s economy by embargoes is somehow going to end their quest for nuclear weapons- didn’t we learn anything from North Korea? Instead, we need to start flooding Iran with rap, Marlboros, Jack Daniels, Budweiser, Levi’s and Chevrolets and let the people go about their business. The only people who reach for nuclear weapons are the ones who feel that they’ve been pushed into a corner (that was our excuse for dropping two on Japan- even though the Japanese were already running on empty and desperation and unlikely to have lasted too much longer).

America’s economy has been brought to its knees once by $4 a gallon gas, to let this happen again would be a disaster.

We need our leadership to step up and put a stop to this “crisis” now.

 

The new fairness doctrine as proposed by Congressional Candidate David Esrati

I believe the first thing we need to do if we want to have the representation we deserve, is change the way we elect Congress. We have to change our auctions for office into elections.

There are two parts to leveling the playing field and balancing the power of the Congress with the power of the people.

The first is to take the money out of politics- entirely.

Rootstrikers, are looking to get to the root of the problem- by introducing a new way to finance political campaigns. Their leader is academic superstar Lawrence Lessig who has a new book out: Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress–and a Plan to Stop It

1. Provide that public elections are publicly funded;

2. Limit, and make transparent, independent political expenditures, and;

3. Reaffirm that when the Declaration of Independence spoke of entities “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” it was speaking of natural persons only.

via Rootstrikers – Fighting the corrupting influence of money in politics.

One of the proposals is to allow unlimited donations, but they have to be routed through the Federal Elections Commission so that candidates have no indication of who supported their positions.

Another brilliant solution is the so called “Patriot dollars:”

The best solution we have heard of is called the “patriot dollars” plan, put forth by Yale law professors Bruce Ackerman and Ian Ayres. Basically, it eliminates all hard contributions to candidates. Period. Instead, each voter is given a $50 ATM card so that he or she can literally vote with their dollars and contribute their $50, in part or in whole, to their choice of federal candidates. Simple enough. Let’s do the math. We spend about $5 billion to $6 billion collectively on all federal elections. If the approximately 131 million who voted in November also had voted with $50 worth of patriot bucks, the donations would have equaled — surprise — $6.5 billion! That money would cover presidential, Senate and congressional races.

via ‘Patriot dollars’ to reform politics – latimes.com.

Both of these solutions would transform our current system that creates a culture of congressional corruption- where our representatives spend at least half their time either begging for money- or spending it campaigning.

Republic, Lost from Daniel Jones on Vimeo.

Once we’ve solved the influence-peddling conundrum, we need to look at bringing some sanity back to our economic ecosystem. There is wealth and there is greed. Having a nation with a small number of people who control most of the wealth creates a system that is unsustainable. This isn’t a new phenomena, Justice Brandeis talked about this at the turn of the last century- his thoughts have been revisited with another solution (and it also mentions the problems of bought elections):

Over the last three decades, income inequality has again soared to the sort of levels that alarmed Brandeis. In 1980, the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans made 9.1 percent of our nation’s pre-tax income; by 2006 that share had risen to 18.8 percent — slightly higher than when Brandeis joined the Supreme Court in 1916.

Congress might have countered this increased concentration but, instead, tax changes have exacerbated the trend: in after-tax dollars, our wealthiest 1 percent over this same period went from receiving 7.7 percent to 16.3 percent of our nation’s income.

What we call the Brandeis Ratio — the ratio of the average income of the nation’s richest 1 percent to the median household income — has skyrocketed since Ronald Reagan took office. In 1980 the average 1-percenter made 12.5 times the median income, but in 2006 the latest year for which data is available the average income of our richest 1 percent was a whopping 36 times greater than that of the median household.

Brandeis understood that at some point the concentration of economic power could undermine the democratic requisite of dispersed political power. This concern looms large in today’s America, where billionaires are allowed to spend unlimited amounts of money on their own campaigns or expressly advocating the election of others.

We believe that we have reached the Brandeis tipping point. It would be bad for our democracy if 1-percenters started making 40 or 50 times as much as the median American.

Enough is enough. Congress should reform our tax law to put the brakes on further inequality. Specifically, we propose an automatic extra tax on the income of the top 1 percent of earners — a tax that would limit the after-tax incomes of this club to 36 times the median household income.

Importantly, our Brandeis tax does not target excessive income per se; it only caps inequality. Billionaires could double their current income without the tax kicking in — as long as the median income also doubles. The sky is the limit for the rich as long as the “rising tide lifts all boats.” Indeed, the tax gives job creators an extra reason to make sure that corporate wealth does in fact trickle down.

Here’s how the tax would work. Once a year, the Internal Revenue Service would calculate the Brandeis ratio of the previous year. If the average 1-percenter made more than 36 times the income of the median American household, then the I.R.S. would create a new tax bracket for the highest 1 percent of income and calculate a marginal income tax rate for that bracket sufficient to reduce the after-tax Brandeis ratio to 36.

This new tax, if triggered, would apply only to income in excess of the poorest 1-percenter — currently about $330,000 per year. Our Brandeis tax is conservative in that it doesn’t attempt to reverse the gains of the wealthy in the last 30 years. It is not a “claw back” tax. It merely assures that things don’t get worse.

via Don’t Tax the Rich. Tax Inequality Itself. – NYTimes.com.

While any combination of the above ideas would be game changing, the real issue that needs to be addressed first and foremost is how to create living wage jobs in this country and get people back to work.

It’s not going to happen by lowering interest rates, government spending or by crony capitalism/corporate welfare, nor is a “payroll tax reduction” going to solve any long-term systemic problems.

What we need to look at is linking the ability to gain wealth directly to how many jobs you create in this country. It’s time to stop rewarding corporate raiders like Mitt Romney and the Wizards of Wall Street who think that owning a stock for less than 12 seconds is “investing.”

There are two ways to do this: one is to limit all compensation in publicly traded companies to a ratio of highest to lowest paid employees and or payroll. A formula would be put in place that requires at least 51% of your payroll be spent in America for you to have patent protection and other rights, and that the top compensation be directly tied to total payroll and a ratio. The more people you employ, and the higher their average wage- the more you can take home. No more billion dollar plus salaries for creating new financial junk paper- the only financial paper that would count is your payroll report.

The second option is that the Federal Government, the largest purchaser of goods and services no longer does business with any company that breaks the ratio. Things would change very quickly.

The costs of inequality and poverty will destroy our country. When people can’t find meaningful honest work, survival mechanisms kick in and crime kicks in as civility walks out.

Without approaching our problems in a new way with new thinking as outlined above, democracy as we used to believe in it, is doomed if not already dead. It’s why I’m running for Congress in OH-10, and hope that you will support me.

The most important American stock exchange: your neighborhood housing stock

Last night, around 6o South Park neighbors got together at Hope Lutheran Church for our annual “Hot Toddy” party- food, desserts, alcohol, kids, a raffle for some amazing gift baskets and South Park Family Feud game- where the survey said: we’ve built a pretty special neighborhood. South Park is reportedly one of only a few Dayton neighborhoods where the property values went up in the last appraisal.

Sure we have some vacant homes that could be torn down as nuisance structures and we’ve also got some homes occupied by nuisance people, but the real difference (besides the recent crime spree which can be directly related to the aforementioned nuisance people) is that we truly have built our social capital by relentlessly working on quality of life issues, so that the tagline “where neighbors become friends” actually means something. The “social network” of our neighborhood is more real than virtual and the value is very tangible.

Last year I met a nice couple who were starting a business through my Veterans Owning Businesses group- VOB108.org When they visited my office, a building I bought in 1988 for $2,200 plus taking over $2,400 in back taxes, they fell in love with what I had done with the old corner grocery. I informed them of another old storefront that was available down the street. They now own 4 buildings in South Park, are residents and even have his parents investing in some other homes in the neighborhood. These values aren’t like stock prices at the Wall Street Casino and these investments aren’t short-term bets, because real housing markets have real transactional costs and real values attached to them.

Earlier this week, the Dayton Daily News reported that the Feds weren’t too happy with our demolition-happy policy pushed by Commissioner Nan Whaley (who accepted huge donations from “unknown demolition contractors”)

The city of Dayton, already losing ground in its war on urban decay, is slashing its housing inspection department after the federal government said it spent millions in taxpayer dollars with “no reportable accomplishments.”

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said the amount of seriously dilapidated housing exploded between 2005 and 2009 in all four neighborhoods it studied.

It questioned the city’s long-standing policy of funding its housing inspections with HUD Community Development Block Grant money, and called on city officials to re-evaluate how it is spending the federal money.

via Feds criticize city’s proposal to trim housing inspection program.

Had the millions been spent improving quality of life (CDBG money has been used in South Park for park improvements, street closings, new lighting, wrought iron fences for public spaces etc) perhaps the value of the investment of our tax dollars actually brought a return. You don’t build value by tearing down, you just subtract negative value. There is no incentive for new investment, no growth. Empty lots are very rarely tangible assets in a country going through a disastrous slide in real housing values thanks to the non-existent Federal oversight on the FIRE industries (Financial, Insurance & Real Estate) with their play money secondary markets and the trillions of dollars stolen from the working-class people of this great country.

From today’s Dayton Daily News we find that Ohio is particularly hard hit by the double whammy of higher vacancy rates and lower tax revenues:

Ohio’s housing vacancy rate jumped 50 percent between 2000 and 2010, the 10th largest leap among the states and far above the U.S. average of 33 percent, the Government Accountability Office said last week.

The increases in vacancies are costly to taxpayers, the GAO noted, straining community services like police and fire protection and sometimes requiring taxpayer-funded maintenance and demolition. The impact of vacant homes on surrounding property values also may reduce communities’ tax revenues.

Across the nation, the number of vacant housing units, excluding units for seasonal migrant workers, climbed from 6.8 million in 2000 to 10.3 million in 2010, a change of 51.2 percent.

Ohio’s vacancy rate — the amount of vacant property as a percentage of total housing stock — rose 49.8 percent from 2000 to 2010, going from 6.1 percent to 9.1 percent, the GAO said. That’s the 10th highest, but better than the top three: New Hampshire (77.4 percent), Minnesota, (75.8 percent) and Michigan (73 percent).

Ohio ranked in the top 20 states in three other indicators related to vacancies: the 2000-2010 percentage change in the number of vacant residential properties (13th), the unemployment rate (18th) and the percentage of loans in foreclosure (eighth) as of December 2010, according to the GAO report, issued Tuesday.

via Ohio’s housing vacancy rate up 50 percent in past decade.

The focus on the wrong “Stock Markets” by the media and the politicians has allowed the greatest crime in history to be carried off which has filled the pockets of the super rich while draining those of the rest of us. This is the transfer of wealth and the huge income gap that brought the Occupy Wall Street movement to the forefront. The giant sucking sound will continue as community after community goes bankrupt- all while the fat cats on Wall Street continue on their merry way playing with your money on their play market. Had we bailed out the homeowners instead of the robber barons by:

  • Forcing down interest rates on loans instead of bailouts for banks
  • Capping pay for publicly traded companies’ executives (forcing distribution to shareholders instead of to executive pay)
  • Placed transactional taxes on financial trades to stop volatility and bring real value back to stock pricing
  • Funded the unpopular wars with higher taxes (wars do tax society and voters would react differently if they saw a war tax coming out of every paycheck)
  • [update](updated later, same day)Place compensation ratio limits on any company that does business with the Federal government.[/update]

There are some other issues of fairness that need to be addressed in the United States if we want to build a relatively fair and level economic playing field including:

  • A flat rate federal internet sales tax (which would fund universal high speed access nationwide and fund technology for education)
  • The ending of all tax-funded corporate welfare at any level less than national (no more luring of jobs from one community to another with public tax dollars).
  • Funding all election campaigns with tax dollars giving a level playing field to all candidates who would be rated on the value of their ideas, not the size of their campaign kittys. We need real elections instead of auctions in our county again.
  • Universal access to affordable health care (note- no mention of insurance) because good health is a mandatory part of being able to work and be a net contributor to society (if anyone can prove the value of the health insurance industry as middlemen sucking up 35% of all health care spending in this country, I nominate you for the Nobel Prize).
  • Re-evaluating our system of higher education which has seen huge price increases without creating equal value in economic return for students over the last 30 years.

The real stock value in America has never been on Wall Street but on Main Street. It’s time we aligned our Federal policy with good sound financial policy. Only then, will we be building value in our country instead of allowing the few to profit from the collective labors of us all.

On Tuesday, December 13, 2011, I’ll find out if I’m on the ballot to run for Congress in OH-10. If you like what you read in this post, please consider visiting www.electesrati.com and signing up to volunteer or donate to a campaign that will be funded by the people who built this great country- not the ones who are trying to steal it.