Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Are Democrats Finally Admitting Higher Taxes Kill Economy, Jobs, - And Mid-Term Votes?

A commentary by Brenda Bummer with a happy ending.

Has hell frozen over or are democrats finally admitting higher taxes kill the economy and jobs and will likely kill votes for them in the mid-term election? It has been leaking out that keeping, well really extending through 2011 possibly, the Bush tax cuts may be President Obama’s political October Surprise.

If true, is this President Obama’s pragmatic gift to the Democrat congressional incumbents up for re-election in November? If so, is this then a sincere acknowledgment that raising taxes in this economy is not only unpopular with voters but also unsound in a recession? Or, call me Brenda Bummer and cynical, would this simply be political gaming of the American voters as part of the mid-term election strategy?

One thing appears to be sure, the “Recovery Summer” theme is hopeful; yet “Recovery Summer” appears to refer more to many Americans trying to personally recover from the effects of prolonged unemployment and underemployment – late payments, unmanageable credit card interest hikes, lower FICO scores, pending foreclosures, and financial hardships for the first time in their lives.

I try to always be upbeat and see the bright side of life. I hate to be Brenda Bummer, but this economy has slowing growth rates and continued high new unemployment figures. What would make anyone think raising taxes – even by technically letting tax cuts expire – is a good idea for anyone but the political class in this environment? I’m a glass is half full kind of girl, but I also live in reality – the private jobs sector.

Those in Washington, or most that work in the federal public sector in general, realistically need to take into account those not in Washington and those in the private sector when talking about the economy and jobs recovery. How many “permanent” jobs have been “created” or “saved” in the private sector should be the question. And the follow up question to all politicians should be, are all jobs equal in importance? Yes, then why are additional jobs funding bills, or whatever new stimulus spending is now being labeled, only taking into account public employee jobs being “saved”?

These questions have all been asked before, especially lately by fed-up small business owners; but they have never really been answered by politicians, except maybe NJ Governor Chris Christy, with an answer that is realistic and makes sense. If the public sector creates the wealth of a country and the real tax money base, why aren’t economic policies geared toward helping them most? If we have huge deficits, why do we continue spending and why are we not looking at cutting duplicate and ineffective government programs and agencies as a first resort? Why are we committing new money to huge new entitlements at home and huge new international programs before our fiscal house is back in order – meaning in the black and not in the red? Why is raising taxes, instead of cutting spending, the first place politicians always seem to want to look for fiscal solutions?

We need more accountants in Congress than attorneys or academics. We need more representatives that have worried about paying their employees, paying their business taxes, and adhering to business regulations and tax code in Congress. We need more integrity and political guts in Congress.

We may just need more middle class small business owners in Congress or maybe just more middle class Moms that know how to say “no”, know how to stretch the money they have to balance a budget, and know what the difference between a need and a want is.

I don’t have any children, but I watched my twin sister who was a single mom for years. She never went into credit card spending debt; balanced her monthly budget without fail even if it meant increasing her income with 2 or 3 jobs; said no without losing her compassion; did not look to government entitlement programs to make her life easier or solve problems; and raised two wonderful girls. Congress should include the many Moms in America just like her as their economic advisors.

The LinkedIn Success Story – The Jobs Tool for the 2010’s, Part 2 – Getting the Most Out of LinkedIn

Are you looking for a new job or new clients? Would you like access to over 125,000 recruiters and over 125 different industries? The Mountain View, California company LinkedIn, that was started in December 2002, and launched on May 5, 2003, has it all. This explains the LinkedIn success story as the top all-professional social networking site.

LinkedIn has 75 million members as of August 2010 and is in 200 countries on all 7 continents. The company had 600 employees as of June 2010. Members from all of the Fortune 500 companies – many at the senior decision making professional level – are on LinkedIn.

Signing up with LinkedIn is easy and having a basic profile account is free. The additional three upgraded LinkedIn business service levels have extended premium features that are well worth the upgrade cost. You can start with the free service if you are just getting started or you are trying to conserve money because you are unemployed. LinkedIn offers upgraded services in their business account packages for those who wish to expand their networks and take advantage of everything LinkedIn has to offer.

It is human nature to want to do business with people you know and like, and most importantly, that you have confidence in and trust. A standout professional profile along with a strong professional presence on LinkedIn is a great calling card for potential clients and customers to increase familiarity and confidence in you and your company. Did you know the majority of potential employers and customers look at your connections and recommendations in your profile first?

Purposeful and thoughtful networking helps ensure accomplishment of professional goals and business success for anyone in any industry at any level. Consider a “professional profile” to have the meaning of “for all employment levels in any vocation with a desire to network”. A LinkedIn profile is beneficial for everyone, not just white collar or management or degreed.

In an attention economy, the squeaky wheel does not necessarily get the grease – or the job or the new client. It is only positive attention that increases your favorability factors for success. Negative attention can in fact doom your professional prospects just like a poorly written or incomplete resume. Positive professional attention starts with a good public Internet presence that starts with an interesting, honest, complete, and interactive online professional profile.

An online professional profile is your resume “plus” to potential employers, potential clients, and potential networking connections. It is a resume plus, for it includes connections, recommendations, interests, and connectivity in addition to the traditional resume work experience and background.

First, a few overall LinkedIn profile guidelines:

* Be honest and accurate. A profile on LinkedIn is your online resume, and it is a verifiable representation of you.
* Pay attention to the details. Double-check the spelling, grammar, and capitalization and punctuation consistency.
* LinkedIn isn’t Facebook or MySpace. It’s great to have a sense of humor, but keep the presentation of you (profile, statuses, comments, and email) professional at all times. Consider my LinkedIn test – Would you say it to an HR Manager or potential client? It’s a plus to be creative and to reveal a great personality, but keep it professional.
* Provide a full name in your profile. If you don’t want to have a named professional presence, why did you bother to put a profile on LinkedIn?
* Include an email address and phone number whether personal or strictly through your company. Contact availability is an important part of networking.
* If you do not provide input in a format category, that section will not display in your profile. Complete all sections if possible.
* Allow InMail and Connections. No one is too important to not professionally network. If you are not open to connections, why are you on LinkedIn?
* Allow connections to be browsed by others. It is networking after all. Be collaborative and provide two-way networking.
* Set your account privacy to everyone. Unlike the intelligent desire for some privacy on pure social networks, you want as many eyes as possible on your LinkedIn profile especially if you are looking for a job or new clients.
* Ensure your LinkedIn public profile URL link contains your actual profile name to maximize consistency in your Internet presence.

Getting the most out of LinkedIn involves, well, being involved by putting up a great profile, posting meaningful business updates, joining LinkedIn Groups, connecting with people, giving and receiving recommendations, asking questions, answering questions as an expert, and helping people. What do our 3 LinkedIn expert panel members add from real-world experience?

LinkedIn panel expert Ken Nussbaum, our CPA and Consultant, provides lots of expert practical advice:

* Understand LinkedIn is a tool. It can be extremely valuable if used properly. If unused - or underused - it will have little or no impact at all. Depending on the industry, in fact, not having an active LinkedIn presence could easily be viewed as being out of touch with the current trends and create a negative impression.
* Encouraging people to “have the right attitude” about networking carries over to how effectively you use LinkedIn. Joining LinkedIn with the idea of making it hard for people to find you is counterproductive.
* Quality connections are important. Being a "collector" is missing the point. Having connections with which you actually have a personal connection is important, so reaching out to them is comfortable and productive.
* As mentioned above, having a complete profile is not just a good idea - it is vital. This includes school and work history. You never know when a former colleague might stumble upon your profile or information and think that you would be perfect for some project they're running.
* Joining and participating in groups is important. The more visible you are, the more likely someone will be able to find you - even if the person didn't realize that they were looking for you! This also applies to answering questions posted in the group and questions posted to the LinkedIn community at large.
* Don't be shy about asking for recommendations or about writing recommendations for others without being asked to do so.
* Be sincere about wanting to connect with people to help them. It is ok that a by-product of helping someone else is that you are also helping yourself.

LinkedIn expert panelist Debra Forman, PCC of Pinstripe Coaching offers, “The profile listing is most effective when it has been graded "100%" by LinkedIn - this will then signal that you have listed all that you need.”

Debra points out, “LinkedIn is a huge marketing engine. Because of the millions of users, if someone is searching for you or someone with your name online, for example Googling you, your LI profile will typically pop up first because of the huge volume of members in LI. Not having a profile on LI is like leaving money on the table. There are only positives to posting it.”

Debra knows, “Linking with your clients or prospects is an extremely effective way to use LI. You get to stay in touch with/on top of what your clients are doing. They will be able to do the same regarding you.” She suggests these tips for the most effective LinkedIn usage:

* Check your home page daily to see your contacts' activities and to know whom has visited your profile.
* Use the update feature with judgment. Be professional and strategic with your featured news
* Keep your profile fresh. It is your key access point, so keep it up-to-date.

Our LinkedIn series panel expert Phyllis Reardon, President of CoachPhyllis.Com Inc, notes, “If utilized fully, the Profile section has the capacity to give a more concise picture of you than the traditional resume. Make use of all the Applications and update as needed. The Presentation section is invaluable.”

Phyllis utilizes LinkedIn every day, “As a business person, I allot LinkedIn time twice a day, once in the early morning and again late afternoon. I use this time to answer questions, ask questions and join in with my groups’ discussions. This process has several benefits among which are:

* It gets you known as an expert in your field.
* It shows your many strengths and talents.
* It increases your visibility.
* It creates connections to other LinkedIn members.

Phyllis concludes, “LinkedIn offers you the opportunity to put yourself above the crowd through a well defined and structured Profile section. We are most inclined to join groups related directly to our area of expertise, but it is extremely beneficial to check out and join other groups. You will be amazed at how much you learn and the worldwide connections you will make.”

Thoughtful participation highlights your visibility in the mind of potential employers and clients. Being visible and reflected as an expert and top in your field is a vital element in successful branding. Any successful individual or business is a direct result of successful relationships.

Part 1 - Why Use LinkedIn?
Part 3 - Linkedin Member Success
Part 4 - Features & Statistics

Part 5 - International Focus in a Global Economy

Monday, August 30, 2010

The LinkedIn Success Story – The Jobs Tool for the 2010’s, Part 1 - Why Use LinkedIn?


I think everyone agrees the real U.S. unemployment rate is at roughly 14% to as high as 24% depending on location and whether or not those that are underemployed and still looking for a more appropriate position or have become frustrated in their job search and have given up looking for now are added to the official U.S. unemployment rate of 9.5%. On second thought, perhaps the politicians may not agree touting the “Recovery Summer”, yet if you are like millions of Americans, you have faced 2010 unemployed or underemployed and looking for a job.

Even the employed have polished their resumes in 2010 being proactive and prepared if necessary. Yet, thank goodness business goes on in the U.S. in a recession or not. The employed and the business owner are marketing their products and services and always looking to increase their customer base.

Even in the midst of the high unemployment, college students are still going to be looking for internships to gain some needed work experience for their first official resume that begins their after graduation job search. There will always be entrepreneurs starting their own business in any economic climate.

Many have turned to the Internet as a vital tool in their job search. The career type websites have exploded since 2008 with job listings and job seeker sign-ups. As many using these job hunting sites can tell you, this is a good thing and allows easy access for companies looking to hire and for job seekers looking to get hired.

Yet, the job seekers will also tell you, the majority of the job postings are often already filled shortly after being posted, or the positions are being filled with candidates that fit the “exact” keyword criteria listed. There is no room for transferable skill sets from industry-to-industry or face-to-face opportunities for job seekers to sell themselves as an asset to a particular company. Even in the age of numerous career websites, professionals know the majority of positions to be filled at the majority of companies are not listed on a job website.

Most people are familiar with the old saying “It’s not what you know, but who you know in getting a job.” There is some truth to this whether fair or not and whether we like it or not. You may not get a chance to discuss what you know in an actual job interview unless a person you know tells you about an open position at a company.

This saying may also be true for companies looking for new client contracts. A strong professional network is valuable to everyone whether they are looking for a job, looking for an internship, looking to enter the work force for the first time out of college, or looking for clients for their new or existing business. Everyone in the business world knows this, yet many outside of the white-collar world may not make this investment in themselves. This is a mistake.

Anyone in any industry at any employment level will benefit from developing a professional network. Professional networking will always be an imperative element for a successful job search for the unemployed or for an increased professional image for the employed. This is true whether you are in college, just out of college, at entry level, a mid-level manager, or a senior level professional. It is true whether you are blue-collar, white-collar, green-collar, or no-collar.

It is never too early or too late to start professional networking. Everyone you meet is a potential network possibility whether online or in person. Many job and client seekers are turning to social media networking. This is smart and forward thinking.

LinkedIn has emerged as not only the jobs tool for the 2010’s, but also the premiere business tool in the United States and internationally. Time just named LinkedIn to their “50 Best Websites 2010” list.

Why use LinkedIn? LinkedIn answers this question by noting relationships matter, “Your professional network of trusted contacts gives you an advantage in your career, and is one of your most valuable assets. LinkedIn exists to help you make better use of your professional network and help the people you trust in return. Our mission is to connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful. We believe that in a global connected economy, your success as a professional and your competitiveness as a company depends upon faster access to insight and resources you can trust.”

The latest LinkedIn figures back this up in today’s business climate whether members are looking for a new job, a better job, to fill a position, or to expand their client base nationally or internationally:

* LinkedIn has over 75 million members in over 200 countries.
* A new member joins approximately every second, and about ½ of members are outside the U.S.
* Executives from all Fortune 500 companies are LinkedIn members.

LinkedIn answers the question “What is LinkedIn?” with specifics about what you can do with their online business tool. “When you join, you create a profile that summarizes your professional expertise and accomplishments. You can then form enduring connections by inviting trusted contacts to join LinkedIn and connect to you. Your network consists of your connections, your connections’ connections, and the people they know, linking you to a vast number of qualified professionals and experts. Through your network you can:

* Manage the information that’s publicly available about you as professional.
* Find and be introduced to potential clients, service providers, and subject experts who come recommended.
* Create and collaborate on projects, gather data, share files and solve problems.
* Be found for business opportunities and find potential partners.
* Gain new insights from discussions with likeminded professionals in private group settings.
* Discover inside connections that can help you land jobs and close deals.
* Post and distribute job listings to find the best talent for your company.

In this 5-part LinkedIn series, we will be talking with a three member panel to further explore the LinkedIn success story. Each panel member works extensively with LinkedIn personally and coaches and teaches others how to use LinkedIn in the real-world for maximum benefit. All three are members of the “Friends of LinkedIn” by-invitation group exclusively based on an evaluation of their success using LinkedIn.

Series panel member Ken Nussbaum is a CPA and Consultant in Richmond, Vermont. He provides perspective and experience in all areas of financial counseling, focusing on tax as well as non-tax issues to help his clients see the whole picture and make the decision that is best for the particular situation. Ken is committed to giving personal attention to each client, whether they are located across the street or around the globe.

A strong believer in using social media to enhance professional relationships, Ken has presented seminars on the topic to a multitude of organizations, and has been quoted in local and national media, including the on-line version of the Wall Street Journal. He may be reached through his website, on LinkedIn, and on Twitter.

Panel member Debra Forman of Pinstripe Coaching is a certified Executive Coach at the Professional Certified Coach (PCC) level, who collaborates with clients internationally. Debra recently submitted her application to be accredited as a Master Certified Coach (MCC), the next and highest level of coach accreditation.

Building on 30 years of experience, Debra partners with senior executives and attorneys in one-on-one and group coaching sessions to assist clients in attracting new business opportunities, effectively managing their time, developing talent, demonstrating strong leadership and communication skills, and conducting business strategically.

Debra recently launched, with Canadian Lawyer Magazine, Making Rain, the first monthly business development and online video practice management coaching column. She has two Masters degrees, is a frequent speaker and writer, and is a member of the Board of Editors of Law Firm Partnership & Benefits Report. Debra can be reached at her company and on LinkedIn.

Panel member Phyllis Reardon M.Ed., President of CoachPhyllis.Com Inc. is a life coach, author and motivational speaker. She offers her expertise to individuals, groups, and medium/large size businesses. Phyllis specializes in life coaching, career coaching and work/life balance issues. With a focus on the full potential of each and every employee she helps companies improve their bottom line.

Her life coaching process uses a series of powerful questions to help her clients achieve success in life and work. She believes in the words of Socrates; ‘It is not the answer that enlightens but the Question.’ Phyllis can be contacted at her company and on LinkedIn.

We are living in an attention economy. If used correctly, LinkedIn is a serious and important business tool that can help you achieve your professional goals. It can be the start of or enhancement of your professional Internet presence and your professional networking. It allows you to cultivate specific industry contacts and participate in common interest groups and discussions.

The smart job seekers are concentrating on including LinkedIn as a part of their professional networking. The smart professionals use their LinkedIn profile to increase their professional public presence to compete more effectively in today’s most competitive business environment. The smart company participates in LinkedIn to increase their branding network and talent acquisition. As LinkedIn describes use of their site, it is for professionals “to exchange information, ideas, and opportunities”.

With potential customers, professional contacts, and potential employers going to the Internet as a part of their due diligence, a strong professional Internet presence is significant for everyone in the 2010’s to increase their favorable possibilities factor. Our special 5-part LinkedIn success series will include:
Part 2 – Getting the Most Out of LinkedIn
Part 3 – LinkedIn Member Success
Part 4 – Features & Statistics
Part 5 – International Focus in a Global Economy

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Military Votes That Could Decide Mid-Term Election Results May Not Be Counted

10 States Asking for Waiver Exemption from DOD

The majority of Americans and all politicians consistently applaud the men and women of the U. S. military for the sacrifice they and their families make every day in their service to our country. The American fighting men and women stationed in foreign lands and on the battlefield right now in the Middle East are revered for their bravery and honor on behalf of our country.

Can you imagine the irony of military votes possibly systematically not being counted in an American election? Would you consider the possibility of military votes not being counted simply due to a ballot mailing timing issue to not only be a disservice to them but to be the height of hypocrisy in our government’s display of the value of their service? I would.

Ten states – AK, CO, DE, HI, MA, MD, NY, RI, WA, and WI – as well as the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands have asked the Department of Defense for a waiver exempting them from the law requiring ballots be sent out 45 days before an election day. Most are justifying the waiver request for the November 2 mid-term election; because they have late primaries that they say make it impossible to meet the 45-day requirement. If this is the case, and this is the law, shouldn’t the law just be revised before having states have to request and be granted a waiver or just not get the ballots out in time to be within election law? If sent late, are accommodations made to include military votes in the election tally especially since they may have to be hand-counted in some cases?

Beyond the hypocrisy of not putting the warranted value on votes coming from those that are serving the security of our country, hasn’t the “every vote needs to be counted” mantra been a political rallying cry when an election is razor-close in recent elections – 2000 Presidential Bush/Gore and 2008 MN Senate Franken/Coleman as examples? Haven’t both Democrats and Republicans loudly protested when it was felt a candidate won an election only because all votes were not counted?

Americans serving in the military consistently have a higher voter registration percentage compared to the overall population. Military votes often have the potential to determine the result of elections. Many attribute the win of George W. Bush in 2000 to the military votes counted in the deciding state of Florida. In this November’s mid-term election, four states – CO, MD, WA, and WI – are considered to be running so tight a few thousand votes, possibly military votes, could in fact determine the election results.

This is not a new, unknown, or unpredicted vote counting situation. It’s time for American politicians of both parties to put their integrity where their talk is regarding the value and honor they hold for our military citizens. Every accommodation and effort including military absentee ballot requirement law revision and assurance that hand-counting of military ballots are included in the vote counts must be the only acceptable resolution. Real world considerations must be made to uphold the integrity of the voting process so that indeed “all votes are counted” – including those of our military.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Ground Zero Mosque Continues the Divide Among Political Class & Mainstream


Rasmussen Reports poll finds more voters following the controversy and don’t like it.

Photo Credit - Flickr Creative Common
A new Rasmussen Reports poll conducted August 19-22 released August 23 reflects, “A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 85% of U.S. voters say they are now following news stories about the mosque planned near Ground Zero. That’s a 34-point jump from a month ago when only 51% said they were following the story.”

President Obama’s recent comments at a Ramadan gathering at the White House fueled the fire of the Ground Zero mosque controversy staying in the national spotlight as a mid-term election issue. The majority of Americans, if not all, understand the proponents of building the mosque have a right to build it – the controversy lies in whether it is appropriate to build a towering structure to celebrate Islam so close to the September 11 attack on America by Muslim extremists. The mosque debate holds voter interest across all political party affiliation and national demographics.

Opponents to the mosque being built two blocks from Ground Zero see it as insensitive to the families and friends of 9/11 victims as well as New York City residents and Americans as a whole. Rasmussen notes, “Sixty-seven percent (67%) are not confident that the mosque is intended to honor those killed by the terrorists. This includes eight percent (8%) who are Very Confident and 41% who are Not At All Confident.”

The timing of perceived political class support for the mosque over the sensitivity objections of mainstream could not be worse in a climate of deep voter divide over Washington politicians being out-of-step and tone-deaf to the average American voice. Ignored by the average politicians are the polls reflecting the majority of Americans are opposed to the recent health care reform, continued bail-outs including to the underwater states and Union pension funding, continued deficit spending, Cap & Trade legislation, and now the Ground Zero mosque. Almost half, 49% of the Rasmussen mosque poll respondents, expressed the mosque issue is at least somewhat important in their voting with 27% expressing it is very important in their voting decisions.

Americans have always taken pride in a history that was founded on a classless society rewarding each individual with the ability to have the “American Dream” no matter where they started from in their journey. They also value freedom of expression and freedom of religion granted in the 1st Amendment. Americans are aware, whether politically correct or not, those that ask for tolerance and understanding must demonstrate such in return to be considered sincere equal partners in the American landscape and culture.

The founding fathers took great care in crafting a foundation of “of the people, by the people, and for the people” for America. They intimately understood the downfall of a ruling class projecting inequality on those not in that class. The last thing Americans want to feel right now is a President whom lectures them on freedom allowed in the U.S. Constitution while many feel that same President stretches the meaning or completely disregards that same constitution to push through a progressive agenda that takes away their liberties more and more.

Interestingly, the Ground Zero mosque opposition is not divided along party lines, as politicians might want to believe and attribute to their favorite scapegoat – partisanship. Rasmussen details, “Yet while 85% of Republicans and 62% of voters not affiliated with either party oppose the building of the mosque near Ground Zero, Democrats are evenly divided on the question. There’s a similar division of opinion in the president’s party over whether the location of the mosque is insensitive, while Republican and unaffiliated voters believe strongly that it is.” Further noted was “But most Democrats like the majority of GOP voters and unaffiliated are not very or not at all confident that the mosque is being built to honor those who died on 9/11.”

I found one of the most striking revelations in the Rasmussen Report was “Fifty-two percent (52%) of the Political Class, on the other hand, are confident that the mosque will honor those killed by the terrorists. Eighty-two percent (82%) of Mainstream voters don’t share that confidence.”

Politicians may want to note and fully comprehend, “Fifty-eight percent (58%) of Mainstream voters say the mosque issue is important to how they will vote, with 34% who say it is Very Important. Political Class voters say overwhelmingly that the issue is not important to their vote.” Perhaps most politically important in the mosque controversy is the window it provides into what is developing as a political and a non-political class in America. It certainly continues to feed a growing divide among the political class and the American mainstream.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Real Estate Data & Trends Expert Tom Ruff's August 2010 Housing Report - Politics & Real Estate Recovery


Tom Ruff
Let's just replace "hail of shrapnel" and "scar tissue" with "string of pearls" and "raspberry scones".
Elaine, Seinfeld Episode Fatigues

Recently on Meet the Press John McCain referred to Arizona as “the number two kidnapping capitol of the world.” Maybe it’s because I’m a big guy, and I suspect big guys are harder to kidnap, but when I’m on the front porch talking with neighbors, being kidnapped is not a concern. Not once have I heard a neighbor say, “Tom, be careful walking down Central, they’re grabbing people left and right.” We might talk about the weather and agree it’s been a little warm lately, but kidnapping, never. Maybe it’s time we took our dirty laundry off the line and showed the world our Sunday best.

Don’t shoot the messenger, but you can grill the octopus.

The Information Market tracks housing numbers daily. Each morning we chronicle all publicly recorded notices of trustee’s sales, trustee’s deeds, cancellation notices and affidavit’s of value. From these recordings we maintain databases monitoring the existing inventory of bank owned properties as well as the number of existing properties having an active notice. We compile daily metrics showing 30 day, 90 day and yearly running totals.

Couple this analysis with Mike Orr’s in depth tracking of ARMLS (Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service) data, and we’ll see changes before anyone else. Over the past year and half we’ve talked about a bumpy road, a price bottom, a slow recovery, a stabilizing market, year over year gains and now, just as other experts confirm what we’ve been saying, we become the first to break the bad news; the market in July showed weakness across the board.

Don’t shoot me, I’m just the messenger, but maybe it’s time Paul the Octopus met the grill. Just as we were going to press last month I started to sense a shift, the number of active notices had finished June at 42,324 continuing a six month trend of steady declines, by mid July this movement continued falling to 41,570, then; the numbers turned. July finished at 42,152, only slightly lower than where the month began; our beacon of good news was dimming.

The final sales numbers told a similar story, July median resale numbers down from June, $132,900 to $129,900 or 2.26%. July 2010 total home sales declined 26% from 2009; 9,234 to 6,843. While our year over year median resale home comparison was slightly positive, $129,900 to $129,000; one would expect August 2010 prices to fall below August 2009.

What happened?

Quite simply, demand declined across the board. Usually when you see a dramatic change in numbers the first place to look will be government programs, some plan will have just ended or some other initiative or law will be coming into play. In July, we may have seen the effects of both. The federal tax credit ended and SB1070 was scheduled to begin. There are two axioms in life, never talk politics and never talk religion, unfortunately, politics and economics are joined at the hip.

Let’s start with the home buyer’s tax credit. An extreme positive occurred on The Cromford Report on April 29th, pending listings peaked at 15,149. The impact of the housing credit was obvious as accelerated home purchases recorded in May and June. July sales were expected to fall, a parallel similar to the auto industry in the month following the cash for clunkers program. Will housing follow the same path? We’ll know in three months.

SB1070

SB1070 was, by its sponsor’s own admission, written with the intention to make it so uncomfortable for illegal immigrants in Arizona they would no longer want to live here. If SB1070 has its desired results, our migrant population will immediately decline. Demand for housing is directly related to population. If the intended exodus occurs, it’s only logical home prices and sales volume will drop in the neighborhoods being vacated, but unlike Vegas, what happens in Maryvale may not stay in Maryvale.

Polls show 70% of the people surveyed support SB1070; I imagine if a similar poll were taken polling business owners and real estate investors we would most likely get an entirely different result. I know in personal discussions with friends they strongly favor SB1070, but when I’m speaking with business leaders and government analysts they have definite economic concerns.

Ask a real estate investor how he or she feels about SB1070. It won’t matter to them there are great properties available at bargain prices if their current rental properties are being vacated. SB1070 is a hot button; there is no common ground, whether its taste great or less filling, both sides are bunkered in.

In the next month we’ll be keeping a close eye on school enrollment figures and sales tax revenues to see if they indicate a declining population. In the months to come, you may want to keep an eye on the same numbers in New Mexico as well as Albuquerque housing numbers. That went well; I think next month I might talk about religion and the mosque in New York.

Our Fannie is growing.

If you are monitoring our foreclosure spreadsheet you will have noticed residential REO numbers in Maricopa County inching upwards since the beginning of the year. We define REO’s as any single family residence or condo owned by either a bank, mortgage company, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA, VA or FDIC. We ended December 2009 with an REO inventory of 13,713; by August 1st this number had climbed to 17,814. While the number of REO properties has been increasing it’s the composition of the database that is most interesting. Bank and mortgage company numbers have remained flat while “government agencies” are showing notable increases.

By example, in the last thirty days we’ve seen the number of REO’s increase from 17,062 to 18,147. On July 13th there were 17,062 REO properties, 7,916 were held by Banks and 9,140 were held by Federal agencies. On August 13th banks held 7,939 while the government numbers increased to 10,208. Fannie Mae’s inventory alone in the last 30 days has grown 12.5% from 5,538 to 6,233. REO specialists tell me they are not fond of working with Freddie and Fannie due to more hoops and lower incentives, investors don’t like purchasing Fannie Mae properties due to deed restrictions.

Final Thoughts

The last month has given us very little good news. With sale prices declining, sales volume declining, notices of trustee’s sales increasing, REO inventory increasing, and the total number of properties in foreclosure remaining constant; in the near future positive news stories are going to be few and far between. If you want to read positive real estate stories about Arizona you have to look outside Arizona. I’ve seen stories from the East Coast, Canada, England, Australia and Asia referencing the Phoenix real estate market and what incredible bargains are available.

In February of 2008, I recall reading an opinion by Bob Bemis, CEO of ARMLS, where he talked about foreclosures and the collateral damage that would be done to individual credit ratings. The collateral damage Bemis forecast in early 2008 is a major contributing factor to what we’re seeing today.

In closing, I hate gloomy news, and prefer to end on a positive note. Just as 2005 is still fresh in our minds, 2015 will be here before we know it. What happens in 2015? The foreclosures Bemis spoke about in 2008 will leave credit reports. When jobs return, can you imagine the housing boom we’re going to have in 5 to 7 years as the millenniums enter the housing market, boomers retire to Arizona and the people who have lost their homes to foreclosure have their credit restored?

Contact Tom Ruff at The Information Market.

Tom is a graduate of the University of Nebraska. He founded "The Information Store" in 1982 and quickly became known as “The Source” of publicly recorded real estate data in Maricopa County. In August 2005 he formed "The Information Market" specializing in foreclosure data and housing studies. Mr. Ruff is an expert on publicly recorded data and is known for his monthly housing opinion which shares an inside and sometimes irreverent look at the Phoenix Housing Market. He is often quoted in local and national publications.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

New Center for Military Readiness “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” Survey Points to Politics Over Principle in Obama Decision to Overturn Law


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Voters were 26 percentage points more likely to believe that politics, not principle, motivated President Obama’s promise to overturn the law (57%-31%).

But, is the destructive aspect of DADT destroying honorable service and careers being left out of the equation?

Adding to what many Americans see as the politics over priority tone deafness of the Obama administration, many feel Washington is once again putting special interest politics above solving the priority issues of jobs and the economy. A survey of 1,000 likely voters, commissioned by The Military Culture Coalition (MCC), finds support for the status quo on the issue of homosexuals in the military. It also finds little support for the current movement to repeal the 1993 law that is referred to as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT).

In a conference call I attended a few days ago, the Center for Military Readiness President Elaine Donnelly predicted that the opinions of likely voters reflected in the MCC survey should give lawmakers yet another reason to support the current law. “Americans understand that the current push for sexual minorities in the military is motivated by politics, not principle. Instead of seeking favor with a minority of LGBT activists, lawmakers should heed the advice of military leaders who support the current law.”

The Center for Military Readiness is an independent, non-partisan 501(c)(3) public policy organization that specializes in military social issues. Details of the Military Culture Coalition survey, a project of the Center for Military Readiness, are available at http://www.militaryculturecoalition.com/.

Major findings of the MCC survey include the following:

By a margin of 48%-45% voters preferred retaining, rather than repealing, the 1993 law to allow homosexual persons to serve openly in the military.


More people would give weight and deference to the four service chiefs of the military rather than to advocates in the decision to overturn the law.

Only 1% of likely voters said that this should be the top priority for Congress and the President through the end of this year.


Voters were 26 percentage points more likely to believe that politics, not principle, motivated President Obama’s promise to overturn the law (57%-31%).


30% would be less likely and 21% more likely to vote for their Member of Congress knowing that he or she voted to disrupt the status quo.

A majority of likely voters (52%) opposed (and 37% favored) the imposition of career penalties on military personnel and chaplains who do not support homosexuality in the military.


By a margin of 55%-40%, likely voters disagreed that the “military should modify training programs to promote acceptance of openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons in all military colleges, training programs, and schools run by the U.S. Defense Department.”


Voters opposed allowing abortions in military medical facilities by a margin or 49%-41%.

Lawmakers who vote for abortions in tax-funded military facilities do so at their own political peril: 43% would be less likely and 21% more likely to vote for their Members of Congress who do so.

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Unlike other major news organization polls of adults in general, the MCC survey sought the opinions of 1,000 likely voters nationwide. The Polling Company/WomanTrend conducted the poll in mid-July with randomly-dialed phone calls, producing results with a 3.1% margin of error. The extensive survey asked respondents specific questions about the1993 law and the political impact on lawmakers voting to revoke it. It also used terms favored by LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) groups advocating repeal, and sought opinions on controversial proposals that the same activists have recommended for implementation if Congress revokes the law.

Even with respect given to the American opinion reflected in this survey, a couple of days after the survey results press conference call a reason for a more personal affect look of the DADT policy surfaced. With the New York Times article “Officer Sues to Block Discharge Under Gay Ban”; it is obvious the current Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy’s destructive ramifications for career military personnel whom have served with honor and had exemplary military careers is why a review of the policy should be a priority within the fairness of Americans to fellow Americans.

As detailed in the NYT piece, “His lawyers also assert that his case underscores the ways the ban hurts military readiness, the very thing it is supposed to protect. They say that Colonel Fehrenbach’s performance reviews were consistently glowing, including his most recent one, which says he was a “proven leader” who “raised morale” in his unit, according to papers filed by his lawyers.”

Further noted by NYT is “The evidence is that he is a benefit to the Air Force and to his unit,” said M. Andrew Woodmansee, a San Diego-based lawyer who is serving as co-counsel for Colonel Fehrenbach, along with the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a nonprofit group representing gays in the military."

One of the things that is evident in reviewing and resolving the DADT policy once and for all for the fairness to gay and straight military personnel is you won’t get anywhere with politics over principal and with both sides “digging” in with extreme demands. The pro-repeal side demanding a “zero tolerance” to anything but a pro-gay policy ignores the rights of anyone to have an opinion or display a belief even slightly different than theirs which could also result in the unfair destructive career ramifications the DADT policy effects. The pro-retain side demanding a “zero tolerance” to anything but a DADT policy ignores the reality of all Americans having sensible equal rights to having a military career as a choice of vocation without an unequal limitation.

Photo Credit Flickr Common Creative
In doing this article, I found it interesting that the military showed extreme tolerance toward an officer that was known to be a Muslim extremist which resulted in a shooting rampage and deaths on a military base; yet tolerance for Colonel Fehrenbach who flew combat missions over Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan during his six deployments for the United States military appears to be very limited based on DADT policy. While this may not seem to be a priority for Americans to address as concluded in the MCC survey, maybe a better question to ask Americans in a DADT survey is “Should a career of honorable military service be destroyed by DADT?”

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Rep Nadler Wants Carve-Out for “Rich” NYC Residents in Bush Tax Cut Expiration


If Congress Creates Legislation Exempt Class to Minimize Effect -  
Isn’t That Just a Sign of Bad Policy?

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Americans know Congress routinely exempts itself from legislation they enact. This has been going on for decades. These exemptions stick a thumb in the eye of the original integrity of the Founding Fathers mandating laws be “of the people, by the people, and for the people”.

They specifically did not want lawmakers who were above the law. This was to ensure good laws. They wanted to protect Americans from a ruling and a non-ruling class. They knew there was a danger in having lawmakers whom were outside the laws they wrote.

A recent example of our “anyone but me” lawmakers’ arrogance is the legislators’ exemption in the healthcare reform. The law also contains a significant tax hike by imposing income tax on the value of a good insurance plan – a Cadillac plan. Congress expanded the “anyone but me” class to be the “anyone but me and my significant special interest contributors” class. Congress exempted the special interest Union class from this income tax hike.

Did the Unions scream for this carve-out for any reason other than the astronomical cost to their members it would represent? If Congress had to ensure an exemption class for this financial hardship effect, isn’t that a sign of bad policy all around for all Americans?

Congress is encouraging letting the Bush tax cuts expire. Democrats are split on whether tax cuts should expire for all or just for those Americans they have defined as rich. Some Democrats and all Republicans believe raising taxes in today’s weak economy is bad policy. Most prefer to leave the discussion until after the November elections.

In the heat of the discussion, exemption legislation is being put forth by U.S. Congressional members from New York. Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) wants legislation to provide income tax rate adjustments for regional costs of living. Additional Democrats from New York City, Long Island, and surrounding areas are sponsoring the carve-out for their high-income earners - Carolyn McCarthy, Carolyn Maloney, Tim Bishop, Steve Israel, and Nita Lowey.

If this were to pass on its own or be slipped into another bill, the “rich” that Congress and the White House routinely demonize would be exempted from the effect of the tax increase. Are these New York Representatives acknowledging tax increases, even those on the highest income families in the country, would have a devastating impact on all Americans?

Other liberal policy cities like San Francisco would be included in this exemption adjustment for “high cost of living areas”. Who makes up the difference - those in rural areas or more fiscally conservative cities and states should subsidize more fiscally liberal areas? Using this logic, should this adjustment policy be made for the state income tax rates for New York State too? If it costs less to live in Albany or Syracuse, should these residents pay a higher percentage (without adjustment) than those living in Manhattan (with adjustment) per dollar?

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But wait a minute, President Obama and Democrat congressional members have been promoting for two years the Bush tax cuts are what caused the recession. The evil rich have not been paying enough – they have not been patriotic enough right? Doesn’t VP Joe Biden believe it would be unpatriotic for New York Representatives to have their high income voters pay less in taxes?

The premise of Representative Nadler’s argument is wrong. The dollar is worth the same whether you live in Texas or New York. The difference is the costs of things in New York are higher than in Texas as an example. Any city in the country with more regulation, more state and local taxes, higher property taxes, higher legacy pension cost, and more entitlement spending is going to cost more for residents to live there. This is directly the high cost city’s fault.

Rewarding big spending cities by shielding their high income earners from federal income tax hikes is not an answer to bad policy. Ironically these are usually the same cities that have liberal representation in state and federal governing bodies whom enact high cost regulation and big spending policies. Should the people in Texas subsidize the people in New York, so they can continue their more liberal policies without equitable consequences?

High population areas naturally already receive a larger portion of federal monies in reality. Why should someone in Montana or Iowa be penalized by being forced to support destructive policies legislated in states like New York and California? In reality, the federal tax code already subsidizes higher cost states through the deductibility of state and local income and property taxes – well for now anyway.

Apparently some in Washington may just be realizing that if they raise taxes by allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire, their policies are going to impact their voters the most. It will also impact their states in general, because many residents will consider the “overall” tax liability of living in a higher tax state and move them and possibly their business to a lower tax state. Washington is also hot to discontinue current tax deductions like state and local taxes, mortgage deductions, and others in their never ending search for money they feel they rightfully need and deserve.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said unemployment benefits were good for the economy and created jobs. She meant having money in your wallet to purchase goods stimulates the economy. Does collecting more in income taxes put more money in any wallet but the politician to spend? Who knows how to spend money most efficiently for their family?

Tax cuts do increase economic activity which does increase government revenue. History has shown this under President’s Kennedy, Reagan, Clinton, and GW Bush. The bottom line is the tax cut debate is a perfect example of legislation that needs an exemption to ensure the effect is not felt is really just a sign of it being bad policy in general.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Has the Threat of Being Called a “Racist” Lost its Political Bite?

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You are a racist if you were not in favor of the healthcare reform legislation or want it repealed. You are a racist if you are a member of a Tea Party organization. You are a racist if you believe there might be any truth to the ethics charges against Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters. You are a racist, and against immigration, if you support the Arizona SB1070 legislation.

Really?

You are a racist if you watch Fox News. You are a racist if you do not agree with redistribution of wealth or social justice policy. You are a racist if you are against federal deficit spending and for lower taxes. And most certainly, if you believe capitalism and the free market are why America is a wealthy country, you are a racist. You may be a racist simply because you are white or you make over $200,000 per year.

You are not only a racist, but you are also intolerant of other religions, if you oppose the building of an Islamic mosque being proposed with a view overlooking ground zero in New York City.

You have no right to an opinion that is out-of-step with the progressive policies in America, even if that opinion is in-step with the majority of Americans. The only possible reason you could have a differing opinion is because you are a racist. The majority of Americans must be racist.

Seriously?

When an accusation is overused, abused, and becomes the expected first retort in a political policy debate; that accusation ends up losing its political bite. The accusations “that’s racist” and “you are a racist” have now lost what should be their relevant context. For many Americans being called a “racist” by those with an opposing political view has become an expected norm. This expectation has brought acceptance of this being the price of speaking up and having a position that is not progressive or politically correct. It is a price many are willing to pay, and they no longer fear the immediate racist label understanding it is a political tactic to silence them.

The term “racist” has been abused by excessive use for strictly political means. When this happens, the “sting” of what is rightfully a terrible sin and label is minimized, for it has been neutered through the wrongful use of it. When it is recognized that people or groups are routinely accused of being “racist” for simply having a political opinion that differs from the progressives in America, the label is no longer feared no matter how terrible. The effort to defend against the accusation with anything more than a simple denial with no further discussion is no longer seen as necessary.

The racism label accusation is no longer feared, because it no longer has true meaning in the political environment. It no longer has any personal weight, because the weight of it being true before being leveled at a person or group is no longer a factor. Those that have experienced true racism have lost much in the dilution of the racism label for political purposes.

When obvious racism is exposed through political rhetoric, and then this is subject to a “double-standard” of being labeled “racist” depending on what political philosophy or skin color it is coming from - all Americans have lost. Racism is not a color or a political party. Racism is not a political opinion that differs with a progressive or a conservative. Racism is not separately truly defined by discrimination or reverse-discrimination.

Racism is not a blanket catch-all accusation for a race, a political identity, or an opinion. If it is, being called a racist no longer has any true political meaning. It no longer has any true integrity. Without political integrity, being called a racist no longer has any political bite.

We are all familiar with the stories of Henny Penny and the boy who cried “Wolf”. If I remember correctly, they weren’t distinctively white, black, brown, progressive, or conservative. Henny Penny and the Wolf both lost their bite though for the same reason.