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Author: Subject: Okay, What Happened?

True Peach





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  posted on 11/21/2008 at 10:00 AM
This is my first Whipping Post post in over 3 years. If you choose to read this long post, please bear in mind that my questions are serious. I'd appreciate serious replies only.

RB

OKAY, WHAT HAPPENED HERE?

I am a worker ant. I get out of bed every day and go to work. I’m not exactly what you’d call a miser, but I spend thriftily. I also make efforts to invest and save toward my own future and old age.

Like many other American worker ants, I have invested in stocks and bonds over the past 20 years. Perhaps what separates me from the other American worker ants is that I do not quite understand or appreciate how this investment system works. I guess you could argue that I am a victim of blind faith in the American (and world) economic systems.

I guess you could also say that I am guilty of being a “good American investor”.

Let’s rewind to September 11, 2001.

At this point, I had a pretty decent portfolio. Back when we were both 30 years old, my wife and I decided that we wanted to retire by age 50. We decided to bank and/or invest one of our salaries and live on the other. This certainly seemed like a good idea.

We decided to live BENEATH our means. The house that we live in is a very modest 1950’s ranch style dwelling. With our combined incomes, we could easily have moved into one of the “Mac Mansion” style houses that many of our friends and contemporaries opted for.

Along came 9/11, another date that will live forever in infamy. The stock market began to spiral downward. Many investors started selling their stocks and bonds. The plea from our government came to “stay the course”. Being good and responsible Americans, we left our investments where they sat.

I know many more astute, yet less patriotic investors who pulled out of the market. In retrospect, this would’ve been the thing to do. I did not want to be one of the ones collectively to blame (in any way or fashion) for the demise of our economy. I chose to stay the course and was rewarded in kind.

The market did rebound and I was present for the two or three days when the rebound was at its highest. Though it took a while, our investments returned. Not being an investment strategist, I cannot say that we ever got back to where we might’ve been had we followed the more astute and taken our money out. We were trying to do what was right for our nation’s economy.

As of this past September (7 years to the date after 9/11), our investment value was right at the number typically associated with being “wealthy”. It seemed that we had rebounded enough to set a new early retirement age of 55.

Somewhere during the past several weeks, somebody seemed to have pulled the lever on the financial toilet. Our investments have been decimated once again.

Can somebody please tell me how this happened? All of us worker ants have been doing exactly what we had been doing for years – working, saving and investing. We haven’t spent irresponsibly or taken money out of our investment accounts.

Lately, the financial reports tell us that our money has been lost.

Lost? Forgetting where you put something is losing it. Leaving your cash piled on the backseat of your car while speeding down the interstate and having it blow out the window would be losing it. All we did was put our faith and trust in the American and World financial markets. Can somebody please tell me where our investments went?

As near as I can figure, the financial institutions have made loans of my hard-earned money to individuals or companies who now have no way to repay it. Why were these risky loans ever even made?

In the news I see companies conducting mass lay-offs, while paying their CEO’s and other board members exorbitant bonuses. Many of these same CEO’s have taken to flying to Washington, D.C. in their private aircraft to beg for bail-outs (they call them “bridges”) from our government.

These CEO’s and the politicians that they seek these bail-outs from seem to all forget one key fact. This money that they seek belongs to the tax-payers.

I was watching a FOX news report the other evening. Neil Cavuto was grilling a representative from one of the “Big Three” and asked the man, “Why should I give you my money to save your company?” I was astounded by the audacity of the man’s reply. “It’s not your money”, the man retorted angrily. Cavuto did jump back, reminding this drunken ship captain that yes, it is indeed his (our) money that is being begged for.

Perhaps the American automobile industry is merely a single card in this falling house. However, their own mismanagement cannot be ignored. Too many years of union labor and building the types cars that Americans who live their lives to the point of excess are certainly factors in their failure.

The blame for our current mess goes squarely on these (and other) CEO’s and the labor unions. Union labor has simply driven the price of American made cars to the point where they cannot manufacture a product competitive with imports.

Since the inception of acts like minimum wages and laws that prevent the abuse of child labor – unions have just outlived their usefulness in this economy.

This morning, the birds have come to roost a lot closer to my own home.

As I type this long diatribe, I am awaiting an e-mail that will tell me if I am to be among the many workers to be released by my company this morning.

As a worker ant, I have seen many e-mails and heard many lectures advising me and the other ants to cut our costs and watch our spending. All of these lectures have come from higher-ups who spend money in ways that would embarrass drunken sailors in port.

Our expense reports get scrutinized to the point where we are asked to justify a lunch that cost more that ten dollars, while our leadership sit in 5-star restaurants eating hundred dollar meals and having exotic drinks that cost $85.00 a shot. I have actually been privy to some of these dinners. I know of what I speak.

So this morning, I sit at my desk awaiting a fate that I had no hand or choice in. I fully expect to arrive home an unemployed man this evening. I hope that at some point between $85.00 shots of liquor that our board of directors will give us a passing thought. I hope these expensive quaffs afford them all a good night’s sleep.

 

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Bill Ector, Randy Stephens, Dan Hills and a guy named BobO who I never met - Forever in my heart!

 
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Zen Peach



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  posted on 11/21/2008 at 10:09 AM
I hope you don't get that email Rusty. Ever, and set these son of a bitches straight.

 

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Zen Peach



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  posted on 11/21/2008 at 10:24 AM
Funny. I'm reading Rusty's post and this is the song that comes on the radio...

I take my card and I stand in line
To make a buck I work overtime
Dear Sir letters keep coming in the mail
I work my back till it's racked with pain
The boss can't even recall my name
I show up late and I'm docked
It never fails
I feel like just another
Spoke in a great big wheel
Like a tiny blade of grass
In a great big field
To workers I'm just another drone
To Ma Bell I'm just another phone
I'm just another statistic on a sheet
To teachers I'm just another child
To IRS I'm just another file
I'm just another consensus on the street
Gonna cruise out of this city
Head down to the sea
Gonna shout out at the ocean
Hey it's me
And I feel like a number
Feel like a number
Feel like a stranger
A stranger in this land
I feel like a number
I'm not a number
I'm not a number
Dammit I'm a man
I said I'm a man

 

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Extreme Peach



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  posted on 11/21/2008 at 10:28 AM
Rusty - I pray that the email never arrives. good luck.
 

Zen Peach



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  posted on 11/21/2008 at 10:30 AM
Bastids. I hope you don't get that email, Rusty.

[Edited on 11/21/2008 by Bhawk]

 

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Zen Peach



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  posted on 11/21/2008 at 10:39 AM
I'm with you the whole way here, Rusty.
Praying you arrive home an employed man.

 

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Quit!

 

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  posted on 11/21/2008 at 10:43 AM
I don't know the foundational origins, but I do think it's from a perverse, twisted sense of entitlement that's been festering for decades, and now the zit is ready to be squeezed into the bathroom mirror we face as a nation.

Whether it's bailouts for entitled homeowners, for bloated businesses, or anything else like this, it all gets down to the same idea -- the government will take care of us. The delusional CEO who assumes that he (or his business) is somehow supposed not to fail -- and that it's the gov'ts role to save him -- is a case in point. He ignores the reality that the tax money he's hoping to see is the government's. It isn't, but rather it ultimately belongs to the people who put it there.

The real tragedy is that thousands of workers and investors will lose. I think that f any gov't is to get involved, it should be the individual state gov'ts (read the Constitution), not the feds, until an amendment changes this.

Buying a house, starting a business, investing in the stock market -- these all involve risks. Our plans don't always play out the way we want them to. Whose responsibility is it to salvage us? If we made bad choices (buying a house we should have researched relative to our income; wildly projecting sales for a startup business; ignoring the fact that investing can lead to loss), it's our responsibility. Sometimes we don't have a voice, as was the case for the folks who lost badly after 9/11. But the market eventually rebounded.

A while ago I posted my foreclosure/bankruptcy story. I screwed up, I didn't expect the gov't to cover my butt, and I used the gov't's bankruptcy laws only to buy time to pay back what I owed, all $30,000 of it. I screwed up, and I took full responsibility for it.

"Jesus...said...,"Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.'" (Luke 14:28-30)

Most people don't think matters through as you and your wife did because they take it for granted that the hardworking ants will bail them out, either directly or through the government. Even though the gov't may take your money and redistribute it (thanks, Obama), it's still as much theft as if a thug had mugged you to grab your money to cover for his own stupid choices.

If I sound angry, it's because I am. As a society we're going down the toilet, and the gov't keeps pushing the plunger to speed up the flow.

Billastro

 

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Zen Peach



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  posted on 11/21/2008 at 10:49 AM
quote:
I don't know the foundational origins, but I do think it's from a perverse, twisted sense of entitlement that's been festering for decades, and now the zit is ready to be squeezed into the bathroom mirror we face as a nation.

Whether it's bailouts for entitled homeowners, for bloated businesses, or anything else like this, it all gets down to the same idea -- the government will take care of us. The delusional CEO who assumes that he (or his business) is somehow supposed not to fail -- and that it's the gov'ts role to save him -- is a case in point. He ignores the reality that the tax money he's hoping to see is the government's. It isn't, but rather it ultimately belongs to the people who put it there.

The real tragedy is that thousands of workers and investors will lose. I think that f any gov't is to get involved, it should be the individual state gov'ts (read the Constitution), not the feds, until an amendment changes this.

Buying a house, starting a business, investing in the stock market -- these all involve risks. Our plans don't always play out the way we want them to. Whose responsibility is it to salvage us? If we made bad choices (buying a house we should have researched relative to our income; wildly projecting sales for a startup business; ignoring the fact that investing can lead to loss), it's our responsibility. Sometimes we don't have a voice, as was the case for the folks who lost badly after 9/11. But the market eventually rebounded.

A while ago I posted my foreclosure/bankruptcy story. I screwed up, I didn't expect the gov't to cover my butt, and I used the gov't's bankruptcy laws only to buy time to pay back what I owed, all $30,000 of it. I screwed up, and I took full responsibility for it.

"Jesus...said...,"Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.'" (Luke 14:28-30)

Most people don't think matters through as you and your wife did because they take it for granted that the hardworking ants will bail them out, either directly or through the government. Even though the gov't may take your money and redistribute it (thanks, Obama), it's still as much theft as if a thug had mugged you to grab your money to cover for his own stupid choices.

If I sound angry, it's because I am. As a society we're going down the toilet, and the gov't keeps pushing the plunger to speed up the flow.

Billastro




Aren't you forgetting greed in the scenario?

The mortgage/real estate engine was powered by greed and success by nearly every single person that got involved in it. One would be hard pressed to find a time in history when so many people made so much money or got something out a scenario as this one.

I think a lot has to do with the fact that mortgages and therefore, millions of American homes were traded on Wall Street. While I do agree with much of your take on a long time coming, I also believe that this particular situation has some pretty specific causes.

 

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  posted on 11/21/2008 at 11:00 AM
We're screwed.

 

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  posted on 11/21/2008 at 11:12 AM
quote:
Aren't you forgetting greed in the scenario?

The mortgage/real estate engine was powered by greed and success by nearly every single person that got involved in it. One would be hard pressed to find a time in history when so many people made so much money or got something out a scenario as this one.

I think a lot has to do with the fact that mortgages and therefore, millions of American homes were traded on Wall Street. While I do agree with much of your take on a long time coming, I also believe that this particular situation has some pretty specific causes.
You're right, there was greed. But there was another factor: the mortgage companies were forced to provide mortgages to people they knew wouldn't be able to maintain the payments. If the companies failed to do so, they'd be in trouble for red lining (I think that's what it's called), racism, etc.

I think and hope we'll get back to the older standards of a substantial down payment being mandatory, and a retreat from all the ridiculous mortgage concepts (ARMs, etc.) that conned people into thinking anyone could have a house.

Billastro

 

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Zen Peach



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  posted on 11/21/2008 at 11:14 AM
Rusty - your post really struck home with me and I'm sending all positive thoughts your way, praying you don't get that email. And I honestly couldn't even begin to answer the question in your topic. I think it's a multitude of things that have happened.

I am another worker ant and have been with the Fortune500 corp I work for around 24 of my 35+ employment years. I have a great job and make a good wage but have also lived within or below my means. My house is nothing grand but perfect for me - I didn't go for the ones that cost triple what I paid because although I might have afforded it I wanted a life in addition to the house. I go to work every day and have been diligent about putting a good portion of my income into 401K and savings so that I could retire at 55, be able to live comfortably, and be self-sufficient and not a drain on my family or anybody else. I've also made sure to celebrate my lifes blessings by giving back to my community through both time and my pocketbook. I've tried to do the good and right thing in my life.

My company has been going through the layoff process, also, and it's scary. I have a lot of time in here and am liked by my bosses and users but I've seen that doesn't necessarily count since some of those that have been laid off have been here as long as me and are as good or better at their jobs as me. I went to the restroom about a month ago and when I came back the guys on either side of me had been 'let go' (luckily one of them did find another job within the company). It's nerve wracking and although my remaining team mates and I have been assured that our jobs are safe, none of us feel that there is any safety net out there for us anymore. I'm the Sr. analyst in my area and do not want to be looking for jobs in my 50's but because of the recent economic downswing have had to change that retire-at-55 goal (only a year away!) to 59. I just hope to make it.

I'll be thinking about you today, Rusty, and about Donna. Hope everything works out in your favor.

[Edited on 11/21/2008 by lolasdeb]

 

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  posted on 11/21/2008 at 11:19 AM
Hoping for all the best for Rusty and Donna, two of the nicest people on the planet. Add me to the list of people who don't want you to get that e-mail today, Rusty.
 
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  posted on 11/21/2008 at 11:29 AM
May the board if directors drink swill !

 

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  posted on 11/21/2008 at 11:33 AM
We need to take responsibility for the people we have elected to serve us for the last few decades and admit they were, for the most part, extremely irresponsible to worker ants. The massive failure of supply side economics and the ideology that espoused it as 'good' is why we are all in this spot we are in. How such a one sided economic theory became populist is worth analyzing to learn lessons on how to avoid being manipulated by forces that are about exploiting working people.

You did everything right, Rusty. Everything you were counting on turned out to be nothing but a pack of lies. The true strength of this country are its people, and until we force politicians to enact policies that benefit everyone equally, expect the slide to continue. I see a move to the left an inevitable consequence of the ruling class acting like alcoholics locked in a wine cellar, drunk with greed. The philosophy of Ayn Rand, when moved to a field such as politics and government and banks, is a philosophy that will ruin a country. Blame Ayn Rand and her followers, such as Alan Greenspan. Time to go to a more stable system. There will be less immense profit, but it is at least sustainable.

I will be keeping my fingers crossed for you and Donna, Rusty. You did everything right and it pisses me off no end we let this country get led down the garden path by fools such as Reagan, the Bushes, and their followers.

 

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  posted on 11/21/2008 at 11:34 AM
quote:
But there was another factor: the mortgage companies were forced to provide mortgages to people they knew wouldn't be able to maintain the payments.


Which mortgage companies are you referring to? Private lenders weren't forced to do a thing, and private lenders made 60% of subprime loans.

 

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  posted on 11/21/2008 at 11:56 AM
http://www.portfolio.com/news-markets/national-news/portfolio/2008/11/11/Th e-End-of-Wall-Streets-Boom/?refer=email&print=true

This is a very good article about how the housing market collapsed. It goes to the assertion of Billastros about 'forcing mortgage companies to loan money'.

 

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  posted on 11/21/2008 at 11:56 AM
Rusty... I am in your corner and hoping no email arrives with bad news and your job is still safe.. and mine as well.

The posts here are an extraordinary exhibit in articulation... and the concern for all of us ANTS is beyond my comprehension that we are in the position that we are in.. and asking the same question Rusty is asking .... WHAT HAPPENED ???

We have always been fed lies from the government . The American people are angry... and have been angry since 9/11 or even further back. We have been in a downward spiral and nothing to grab onto . Except all the BS coming from every commentator on every news channel..It's all BS and more lies

Like Rusty and many other posters here ... we have worked and lived with in our means and are now being victims of our own careful judgement on retirement.. and all the loses we are all experimenting in out 401K... We the middle class hard working people...

If you are employed , hope to continue to be employed.. there is no hope of "really" retiring at any age in this country... That is a pipe dream... full of more BS. Which is hitting home to all baby boomers

Very Good question Rusty.... WHAT HAPPENED ?????????????


[Edited on 11/21/2008 by rainy]

 

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Zen Peach



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  posted on 11/21/2008 at 12:03 PM
quote:
http://www.portfolio.com/news-markets/national-news/portfolio/2008/11 /11/The-End-of-Wall-Streets-Boom/?refer=email&print=true

This is a very good article about how the housing market collapsed. It goes to the assertion of Billastros about 'forcing mortgage companies to loan money'.


EXCELLENT article.

I actually know (knew over the phone) of some of those direct events and a couple people peripherally involved. Non-disclosure agreement, I can't say any more. (Drat! )

 

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  posted on 11/21/2008 at 12:27 PM
Excellent posts by all! Rusty - hang in there. I feel your pain. Am wondering everyday what is going to happen here. Can't understand why I only have 2/3's of the money I used to have in my 401K. What do I get for having my bills paid, no credit card debt, owning my home and cars and not living above my means? A swift kick in the a$$ to bail out big shots and others who live beyond their means and want us to pay for it.

 

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  posted on 11/21/2008 at 12:59 PM
Sad part, Rusty, is that you're not alone. I have self employed friends who are having to close their businesses and others watching their retirement portfolio drop to half its value. Others are having to put off retirement that was just around the corner.

Say what one will about the mortgage crisis.....I think it all started going down the tubes with the creed of the 80s....Greed is Good!

Here's hoping you don't get that email today.

 

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  posted on 11/21/2008 at 01:29 PM
Wishing you Rusty and everyone else the best. I say just hold on tight. The market has always come back so far. It almost forces you to hang in there hoping for a come back. I think if you look back their has always been uncertainty in the markets between election time and swearing in time.

This crisis hopefully will bottom out at some point. We are still in the ripple mode and hopefully less than two years our waters should become much calmer. I hope!!

 

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  posted on 11/21/2008 at 01:58 PM
I would like to add, that I use to make about 3 times the amount of money I make now. Then, I was doing a lot of things, charging this, charging that. I was in a lot of debt. I cashed in most of my savings/retirement and paid off all my debts except my home. The important part of that is that I was very unhappy, stressed out, ready to punch out of this old world. Now, making a lot less money I have never been more happy in my life. Its nice making a lot of money, but I am much happier making less. I have found there are a lot of things that can make you happy in life and they are Love Family and Friends and with that comes Happiness. If you have that, you don't need anything else in life.........

 

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Peach Extraordinaire



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  posted on 11/21/2008 at 02:02 PM
Primarily Corporate greed and Corporate influence over our elected officials is what has gotten us to this point. My best wishes to Rusty and anyone else who finds themselves in this type of dilema.

 

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  posted on 11/21/2008 at 02:11 PM
Rusty, I am one of those people who got laid off by a company infected by greed. They are even going so far as to trump up false company policy violations to avoid paying long faithfull employees a severance package. Others were offered 2 weeks pay to quit, or be expected to meet outrageous standards in 30 days or be fired.


POINT BLANK: THESE GREEDY COMPANY EXECS. NEED TO PAY FOR THIS FOOLISH WAY OF RUNNING A BUSINESS.

AM I PISSED AS HELL? DAMN RIGHT I AM!

 

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  posted on 11/21/2008 at 02:12 PM
quote:
I have found there are a lot of things that can make you happy in life and they are Love Family and Friends and with that comes Happiness.


Well said, brother. Once the basic needs are met, add good friends to that mix and you have a winner.

 

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