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Bob Meade - Be careful what you wish for

I think we need to make politicians pass some sort of common sense test before they're put on a ballot. There are a few "givens" they must recognize. First is that American people are addicted to low prices, for everything. Everyone is always looking for the next sale or the best deal they can find. That addiction has led to jobs being moved overseas where less costly labor markets are available.

In my lifetime, jobs have migrated from New England to various southern states because of a less costly labor market. Then, those jobs in the south lost the labor market competition to other countries . . . Guatemala, Bangladesh, China, India, and others. For the most part, the quality of the products didn't suffer as many foreign providers followed the quality control processes of W. Edwards Deming and Joseph Juran. (The outstanding contributions to society of these two men may appear in a later column.)

The stimulus in creating job migration to other labor markets is easy enough to understand . . . it is the cost of producing the finished product. And, as we all recognize, the single greatest contributor to the cost of producing a product is the cost of labor. Labor, in this country, also includes the cost of matching Social Security and Medicare taxes to be paid by the employer, along with the employer's contribution to health benefits, a variety of employee "perks" such as holidays, sick days and vacation, and, of course, either employer provided retirement plans or employer contributions to the employee's 401K plans.

We recently read that Seattle, WA, is going to implement a plan to raise their minimum wage to $15.00 per hour. While that may make some people jump for joy, their joy will be short lived. Before going into the various consequences of such an action, let's look at the numbers.

If the minimum is $15.00 per hour, that is $600.00 per week, $31,200.00 per year. The employer then incurs these other costs:

— The employee and the employer each must contribute 6.2 percent of that amount for FICA (Social Security), and 1.45 percent for Medicare; $45.90 each per week; $2,386.80 per year.
— The employer benefits may include a two week vacation, five or more holidays, and perhaps a sick day allowance of five or more days; $2,400.00 per year.
— Under the new health care laws the employer must offer and contribute to the employee's healthcare insurance. A fairly modest plan may cost about $500.00 a month, or $6,000.00 per year. At 60 percent, the employer's share would be $3,600.00.
— Many employers provide matching funds for an employee's 401K retirement savings plan. As an example, if the employees contribute 6 percent of their salary, and the company offers a 3 percent match, the employer would incur another $936.00 in benefit costs.

These costs amount to $9,322.80, which is to be added to the $31,200.00 annual minimum wage . . . 30 percent more in costs to the employer.

The minimum wage was intended for entry level jobs, not for skilled labor. Young people get paid to "learn to earn" so they can develop their skills and move up the compensation ladder. The consequence of demanding the so-called "living wage" for entry level jobs will result in a further migration of jobs to other countries . . . where that additional $9,322.80 in costs would not be incurred, nor would the gross wage of $31,200.00 be paid. And part of that is because Americans demand their addiction to low prices be satisfied.

Another consequence will be an increase in automation. Companies will find that there are some jobs being performed by unskilled labor because that is less costly than making a capital investment in machinery or equipment that could perform those jobs. With higher wages and overhead costs, companies will re-look at their options and, in many cases, will make decisions to automate, not hire.

An additional likely consequence will be that companies will expect, demand, more maturity and more productivity from their workers because the minimum wage in cost and benefits will exceed $40,000.00. The days of high school kids being paid to "learn to earn" will be a thing of the past.

The truism is, if you make something cheaper, or if you make it easier to do, more of it will happen. The corollary is that if you make something more expensive, or if you make it harder to do, less of it will happen.

Be careful what you wish for.

(Bob Meade is a Laconia resident.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Sanborn — Deeds, the good and the bad

Let's talk about deeds. There are good and bad deeds. First, a good deed is something that you might do to lend a hand to someone in need. You know, like helping that old lady across the street even though she hit you with her purse and yelled at you all the way over. A bad deed is something you might not be proud of or even illegal. That's when they say "the deed is done!"

In real estate there are also good deeds and some deeds that are not as good as others and you might want to know the difference. After all, the deed you receive when you buy a property is what describes your property and transfers the ownership or title to you. You might wanna read it!

The best kind of deed to get is what is called a Warranty Deed. This is not because you get a 5 year/50,000 mile warranty with the property! That would be nice of course, especially if it covered free maintenance and oil changes. A warranty deed does, however, give the buyer (called the grantee) the most extensive assurance of good title that is possible. A warranty deed comes with the implied promise that the seller (or the Grantor) has lawful title to the property and has the right to sell it. It also means that the property is being conveyed free of encumbrances (other than those stated in the deed) and that the seller warrants and will defend the grantee's title against all claims. The sellers, therefore, are providing a warranty.

Another common deed is called the Quitclaim. This type of deed offers just limited warranty for claims arising during the time of the grantor's ownership. It seems like we see these deeds used mostly between family members, in divorces, or between business partners. That has always seemed a little strange to me. We guarantee that the property is free of all encumbrances to a total stranger but not to a family member. That could make for a nasty Thanksgiving dinner someday.

Another kind of deed is the "fiduciary" deed. A "fiduciary" is a person that is appointed to handle the affairs of someone deceased or someone incapacitated by an extended major illness, dementia, or who is deemed "incompetent" by the courts. A fiduciary deed is used to sell a property on behalf of the owner. Obviously, if the owner has passed away or is incompetent, there is no warranty of title unless somehow the former owner has an internet connection and scanning capabilities on "the other side."

The foreclose deed, unfortunately, has been prevalent for the past few years as a result of all of the foreclosures. This deed is different than other deeds in that it is not a voluntary transfer of the real estate. It is a deed by which a lender takes title to the property away from the homeowner that failed to make his mortgage payments. While lenders must clear all known liens in order to resell the property, they just aren't going to warranty anything beyond the short time they were in possession of the property. Do you blame them? They will generally issue a Quitclaim Deed to transfer the property to a new owner.

If you are getting a loan to buy a property, the bank is going to require that you purchase what is called title insurance to cover their investment in your property. At the same time, you should strongly consider owner's title insurance as well. This is your extended warranty, so to speak. While it doesn't cover oil changes and brake pads, it does cover claims against your title due to things like errors and omission in deeds, fraud, forgery, undisclosed heirs, or improperly recorded documents. Title insurance is very affordable, is a onetime fee paid at closing, and is something I encourage all my clients to purchase. It may be the cheapest insurance policy you will ever buy....

As of June 1, 2014 there were 1,139 single family residential homes for sales in the Lakes Region in the twelve communities covered by this report. The average asking price was $581,412 and the median price point was $264,000. The median price point of $264,000 means that half the homes available were below that price and half were above. That means there are a lot of affordable homes out there! The inventory level has jumped up from the 973 available as of May 1 and but is lower than the 1190 on the market last June. The current inventory level represents a 13.5 month supply of homes on the market.

Please feel free to visit www.lakesregionhome.com to learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market and comment on this article and others. Data was compiled using the Northern New England Real Estate MLS System as of 6/1/14. Roy Sanborn is a realtor at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-455-0335.

Last Updated on Friday, 06 June 2014 06:54

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Jim Hightower - Wall Street takes care of its own: Ben & Tim

Not only has the Wall Street bailout restored the banksters who wrecked (and are still wrecking) our economy to full prosperity but it's also paying off very handsomely for the bank overseers who orchestrated the bailout. Perhaps you've been wondering: How are good ol' Ben and Little Timmy doing these days?

Extremely well — thank you very much.

As chairman of the Federal Reserve for six years, Ben Bernanke presided over most of the 2008 financial crash, the Wall Street bailout that poured trillions of public dollars into Wall Street's vaults, the Great Recession that followed, and today's "recovery-that-isn't," since 90 percent of Americans still have not recovered. Now that he has stepped down as head of the Federal Reserve, Ben is on a global "Show Me Some Love" tour. Going to bankster gatherings to bask in their glowing gratitude — and collecting his cut of the bailout loot. Pocketing as much as $400,000 for each speech he delivers to the financial giants he rescued with our money.

In one week in May, Bernanke was in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, Johannesburg on Wednesday and Houston on Friday, speechifying to global bankers, hobnobbing with hedge fund billionaires and sharing his special brand of insider insight with economic titans. Each of these private chats put $200,000 or more into Ben's deep pockets. He's doing beaucoup of these cash-on-the-barrelhead BenFests for the likes of JPMorgan Chase, Blackstone Group and Morgan Stanley. In conferences and in small dinners at four-star restaurants, Bernanke is offering his "words of wisdom" to the barons of high finance he bailed out, in exchange for a ridiculous fee that most could not have paid without those rescue funds that the Fed chief extracted from you and me.

But here's an irony that's gotta be chapping Ben's butt — some of the banksters he saved are refusing to play the payback game.

Not because they're bothered by the totally corrupt ethics involved, but because they're balking at his sky-high fees. Goldman Sachs, for example, which got a $10 billion bailout and whose CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, took $23 million in personal pay last year, says Bernanke's $200,000 tab is too steep of a price to pay.
Is there no honor among thieves? What's this world coming to when the robber barons won't toss a couple of hundred thousand bailout crumbs to Ben, their loyal servant?

But don't worry about poor ol' Ben. He'll be just fine because the revolving doors in Washington keep turning.

Just take a look at little Timmy Geithner, whose chief responsibility as head of the New York Fed had been to regulate Wall Street's reckless banks so their monstrous greed wouldn't cause a nationwide financial crisis. But — oops! — they did just exactly that on Timmy's see-no-evil, speak-no-evil watch. Still, having proven himself a real banker's man, Geithner was promoted to be America's top financial policy maker as President Obama's Treasury Secretary. There, he insisted that the government's priority must be rescuing greedy bankers with our taxpayer dollars, rather than saving the millions of American homeowners stuck with bloated mortgages, facing wage cuts and joblessness, and who were sinking deep into debt and plunging into poverty.

But, being a good banker's man, Geithner was not punished for his inept and morally deplorable policies. Rather, he was richly rewarded with a top executive position as — what else? — a Wall Street banker. Now, he has published a book about his years of public screw-ups. Oh, sorry, I meant "public service." Concluding that his policies were correct and courageous, Geithner's book should've been titled: "Heckuva Job, Timmy!"

So, Wall Street hucksters are prospering and Ben and Tim are wallowing in wealth — and the real economy remains mired in the ditch of joblessness, low wages, heavy household debt ... and rising anger at the Wall Street/Washington cabal of self-serving elites who shoved them into that ditch.

(Jim Hightower has been called American's most popular populist. The radio commentator and former Texas Commissioner of Agriculture is author of seven books, including "There's Nothing In the Middle of Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos" and his new work, "Swim Against the Current: Even Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow".)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Michelle Malkin - The story you haven't heard about Bowe Bergdahl's desertion

Five years ago, I publicly raised questions about Bowe Bergdahl's desertion from Blackfoot Company, 1-501 Infantry (Airborne), 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division.

A few weeks after his so-called "capture" in late June 2009, three conflicting accounts surfaced: U.S. officials told the Associated Press Bergdahl had "walked off" the base with three Afghans; the Taliban claimed on its website that "a drunken American soldier had come out of his garrison" and into their arms; and Bergdahl claimed in his Taliban "hostage video" that he had "lagged behind a patrol" before being captured.

I asked on my blog: Were the AP's sources mistaken? Or is the disturbing first account the right one? What about the "three Afghans" Pfc. Bergdahl reportedly "just walked off" with after his shift? Who are they? What's going on?

Five years ago, one of the brave soldiers who risked his life to search for Bergdahl answered my questions, and I published his statement on July 20, 2009: "I know the story and the accounts that he was drunk or that he was lagging behind on patrol are not true — this soldier planned this move for a long time. He walked off the post with a day's supply of water and had written down before that he wanted to live in the mountains. ... He is an embarrassment to everyone who has worn the uniform."

After news broke this weekend of President Obama's trade of five high-level Taliban commanders at Gitmo for Bergdahl's "freedom," I heard from another soldier who served on the search team. "Many of my brothers died because of Bergdahl's actions, and this has been a very hard day for all Geronimos," he told me after documenting his proof of service. Other journalists ignored his attempts to get the truth out. My source still holds a highly sensitive position, so you won't see him all over the cable news shows. But he wants all of you to know the hell he and his comrades have been reliving:

"I was assigned to 1st Platoon of Blackfoot Company," based out of Forward Operating Base (FOB) Salerno in Khost, Afghanistan, he said. "Bowe's platoon was assigned to conduct security and stability operations out of FOB Sharana and other locations in Paktika. The untold background that led to Bowe's situation involves an article and pictures published by Guardian reporter Sean Smith." One of the battalion leaders punished soldiers, including Bergdahl (who had been photographed snoozing in his armored vehicle), with extra guard duty assignments for conducting operations in an unprofessional manner at Outpost MEST (OP MEST).

"Bergdahl was already disenchanted with the war effort," my source said, "and I think the extra duty was the last straw for him." On the morning of June 30, 2009, "Bergdahl completed a guard shift, removed his equipment, weapon and sensitive items, and left OP MEST with several Afghan security forces personnel. He took a compass, a couple bottles of water and two knives and his journal. His exact intentions may never be known, but he willingly walked off OP MEST and was secured by enemy forces not long after."

My source, who had been up the previous night on a separate raid, was "shaken awake" on the afternoon Bergdahl disappeared. "We were told there was a DUSTWUN (Duty Status Whereabouts Unknown), and to pack for a three-hour assault. We received a brief that Bergdahl was missing, and we were going to get him. ... Sometime after dark we boarded CH-47's to assault an objective thought to contain Bergdahl. We never made it to the landing zone, as the helicopters took very heavy fire on approach to the objective and had to divert."

The soldier's Focused Targeting Force (FTF) platoon was not told that it was being diverted to OP MEST. When they landed, he said, "We thought we were in enemy territory, so I recall my friends and I screaming 'Vehicles' and preparing to engage with the LAW and SMAW-D rockets we carried.

We soon realized the lights were from RG-31 and Maxpro MRAPs, friendly vehicles, and de-escalated the situation. The CH-47's had dropped us off at OP MEST and did not relay that information."
With that near-disaster over, the soldier recounted: "We averaged 18 to 22 kilometers a day on foot, clearing house to house, room to room looking for Bergdahl. ... We even went as far as rappelling down wells and crawling through tunnels to look for him." The standard procedure for recapturing Bergdahl was not "normal," the soldier noted. "He was very good with knives, and trained to throw and fight hand-to-hand with knives. We did not know the mental state of Bergdahl at the time. All we knew was he left on his own, he caused us lots of hardship, and if we entered a room and saw him, we would put him down because he could attack us."

On the morning of July 4, 2009, the soldier recalled, "we assaulted several objectives looking for Bergdahl. ... We executed the mission without incident and were waiting to be exfiltrated. Our aircraft were in sight when they turned and flew in the opposite direction. At the time we did not know why, but we were stranded. The enemy took advantage of Bergdahl's capture and attacked numerous outposts that morning."

"Combat Outpost Zerok was almost overrun, multiple soldiers were wounded, and PFCs Justin Casillas and Aaron Fairbairn lost their lives fighting that day," the soldier told me. (I wrote about their deaths in my July 8, 2009, column, not knowing they were related to the Bergdahl mess.)

My source continued: "We learned later that our exfiltration aircraft were diverted to support COP Zerok, and that the situation there was so dire that at one point there were two Apache gunships on station that went Winchester, meaning they expended all ordinance and ammunition, but they would not abandon the soldiers still fighting, so they resorted to low-level unarmed passes to distract the enemy. Bergdahl's actions undoubtedly caused these events. We spent the remainder of Independence Day walking in the desert ... waiting for aircraft that did not come for many, many hours."

He continued: "A few days later, we (FTF) conducted a daylight raid on some tents looking for Bergdahl. We took heavy small arms and RPG fire on approach and ran off the CH-47s in contact. Our entire element engaged the enemy, who turned out to be a Taliban shadow governor and his bodyguards. ... Multiple people died that day. ... All of this happened because Bergdahl got tired of playing soldier. The remainder of that deployment was focused on recovery efforts. Countless members of the brigade were wounded, and we lost good friends, among them PFC Matthew Martinek and 2LT Darryn Andrews. I have no doubt these great men would be alive if Bergdahl did not leave."

In addition to Andrews, Casillas, Fairbairn and Martinek, PFC Morriss Walker and Staff Sergeants Clayton Bowen, Kurt Curtiss and Michael Murphrey died as a result of Bergdahl's abandonment. That's eight dead American soldiers (not six, as the rest of the media have reported) betrayed by selfish Bergdahl and reckless President Obama.

My source did not mince words: "The fact that our government negotiated with terrorists and our enemy is incomprehensible. The fact that they exchanged five war criminals for a traitor is sickening. The worst part for those of us that suffered through that time is that PFC Bergdahl is being hailed as some kind of hero. He was automatically promoted to Specialist and Sergeant, ranks he does not deserve and did not earn. I have no doubt he will receive back pay for these past five years, a substantial sum. There will be book deals, and his family are celebrities. I am glad he is safe, and happy for his family, but he should return home to face a court martial."

Are you listening, Capitol Hill and America? The Bowe Bergdahl mess isn't just a story about one deserter, but two. There's the muddle-headed lowlife who left his post and brothers behind. And there's the corrupt commander in chief who has jeopardized more American soldiers' lives to "rescue" Bergdahl by bowing to the Taliban, while snubbing the surviving heroes and the eight dead American soldiers who lost their lives because of him. This cannot stand.

(Syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin is the daughter of Filipino Immigrants. She was born in Philadelphia, raised in southern New Jersey and now lives with her husband and daughter in Colorado. Her weekly column is carried by more than 100 newspapers.)

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

Hits: 282

Froma Harrop - Not much to lose in move from coal

Barack Obama need not ask how well he's doing in coal country, because the answer is always the same: Not well.

A cerebral black man never had much of a chance in poor, rural white Appalachia; let's be honest (though we don't have to like it). In 2012, Obama lost to Mitt Romney in West Virginia by a 27-point margin. So Obama had little to lose politically in proposing new rules to cut carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Some Democrats worry that coal country could deliver some vulnerable seats to Republicans, perhaps handing them the Senate majority. That could happen, but the fate of the planet should be more important than the 2014 midterms.

People in the Appalachian coal region don't have much to lose, because they've already lost. The coal jobs started vanishing in the '50s through mechanization. In just the past three years, Kentucky's already-shrunken coal employment has fallen by half.

And even the coal is disappearing. Because the thicker seams are already mined out, Appalachia can't compete with cheaper coal from the West and the Illinois Basin.

Anyhow, electric power plants were already replacing coal with cleaner, relatively cheap and abundant natural gas. The new rules would only speed the process.

"When policies and other factors cause serious economic problems for a region or group of Americans," Jason Bailey writes in the blog "KY Policy," "there is precedent for federal investments to help workers and communities adjust and transition."

The operative words here are "adjust and transition." That's something the region's politicians have largely failed to do, preferring time and again to rail against the "evil" Environmental Protection Agency and decry a "war on coal."

That served the resource extraction industries but not the people, Ted Boettner of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy told me. The people lost opportunities to parlay environmental legislation into federal help for getting out from under coal.
Back in 2009, there was talk of a cap-and-trade bill to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. "A lot of money from the cap-and-trade system could have flowed back into West Virginia as investment in clean energy," Boettner said.

There were proposals to help workers hurt by climate change legislation. The American Worker Transition and Community Assistance Act would have provided communities with grants to encourage entrepreneurs. It didn't go anywhere.

Boettner remembers asking an energy staffer for Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., about it. The response, Boettner recalls, was, "Coal miners don't want handouts." Boettner came back: "This isn't a handout. West Virginia has been a sacrifice from its very beginning. We powered America, but we got very little in return." He goes on: "The coal thing is entirely frustrating. The bad part is that the political leaders in West Virginia are telling people that if you get the EPA off our backs, the era of milk and honey will return."

As we speak, Democrats in coal country are running in circles, denouncing the proposed rules. Rep. Nick J. Rahall of West Virginia called it "devastating" at best, a "death blow" at worst.

Boettner does see some rays of light, however, on the political side. For example, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, and Rep. Hal Rogers, a Republican, talk openly about helping coal-producing counties diversify their economy — and propose directing severance tax funds paid by the coal industry to coal-producing counties for economic development.

Rogers went as far as to say, "Our best resources" are not coal. "It's our people."

There's no soft economic landing for this region anymore — but it can be made less hard. Fortunately, the people are tough.

A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 June 2014 07:24

Hits: 199

 
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