Monday, February 21, 2011

Budget Gaps

Among all the bad news about state budgets, there are four bright spots: North Dakota, Alaska, Arkansas, and Wyoming. Those are the only states that say they can balance their budgets for 2012 fiscal year without slashing spending, raising revenues or changing the collective bargaining rules. Total estimated fiscal year 2012 shortfalls for all states: $124.7 billion. Most states fiscal years begin July 1.

Top five states shortfall as a percent of FY 2011 Budget:

1). Nevada – 45.2% shortfall = $1.5 billion
2). Illinois – 44.9% shortfall = $15.0 billion
3). New Jersey – 37.4% shortfall = $10.5 billion
4). Texas – 31.5% shortfall = $13.4 billion
5). California – 29.3% shortfall = $25.4 billion

11.9% - The percentage of American workers in unions last year, the lowest proportion in more than 70 years, according to the government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

It began over a year ago in Greece, then Portugal, Spain, Ireland, Britian, now the United States. Is everyone giving up their fair share in these budget battles? Are the rich getting richer at the expense of the shrinking middle class? Gasoline, food, clothing prices are all going up every month and corporations are making profits while cutting benefits and pay for their workers. Private Universities claim increased freshman classes while public universities decrease services and debt loads for financing education for families increase to record numbers. The political and social implications of this “post-recession” world are endless.

WHERE IT GOES - Wall Street Journal's calculations of proposed funds by Federal department, compared with 2010: "Education, +21% ... Energy, +18% ... Veterans Affairs, +11% ... State and other international programs, +8% ... Treasury, +4% ... Interior, no change ... Defense, -3% ... Health and Human Services, -3% ... Housing and Urban Development, -3% ... Homeland Security, -4% ... Labor, -5% ... Transportation, -9% ... Agriculture, -14% ... .Justice, -25% ... Commerce, -34% [census has passed]."

CONGRATULTIONS - To Scottish deerhound Foxcliffe Hickory Wind, best in show at Westminster and winner of Rink Rats award for most insufferable dog name of all time.

AMERICANS SLASH DEBT - The recession that just rocked the U.S. economy happened in part because Americans were borrowing and spending more than they could afford. Now, three years after the downturn began, families are moving faster than many analysts had expected to put their finances in order by paying down debt and boosting their savings. ... Compared with the summer of 2008, when consumer debt peaked, Americans now have 7 percent less mortgage debt, 12 percent less in auto loans and 15 percent less credit card debt, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Loan payments last year were at their lowest level in a decade. Meanwhile, Americans are saving at nearly triple the rate they did between 2007 and 2009, setting aside 5.3 percent of their disposable income in December.

HOCKEY UNIFORMS – Did any one see the Heritage Game on Sunday, February 20 between Montreal and Calgary? Did you notice the uniforms on the Calgary Flames? They looked like they should be in a Harry Potter film. There was an expression used when growing up in Suburban Detroit – “He dressed like a Canadian.” No better example on Sunday.

ROYAL WEDDING – To those who think they might be on the invitation list, invitations went out this past week for the Royal Wedding on April 29 between Prince William and Kate Middleton.

SIGN OF THE TIMES? - An L.A. County employee apparently died while working in her cubicle on Friday, but no one noticed for quite some time. 51-year-old Rebecca Wells was found by a security guard on Saturday afternoon. She was slumped over on her desk in the L.A. County Department of Internal Services. "I came in Saturday to do a little work, and I saw them when they were taking her out," co-worker Hattie Robertson told KTLA. The exact time of death is not clear, but detectives say that, at worst, she had been dead for a day before her body was discovered. The last time a co-worker saw her alive was Friday morning around 9:00 a.m., according to Downey, CA police detectives.

VOICE OF REASON - Alan Simpson, the former Republican senator, says the real fiscal threats to the U.S. are entitlements and defense spending, which should be cut, not programs for low-income Americans. He singled out a Defense Department health insurance program that costs taxpayers $53 billion annually.

Dear Rink Rats:

“My husband is a liar and a cheat. He has cheated on me from the beginning, and, when I confront him, he denies everything. What’s worse, everyone knows that he cheats on me. It is so humiliating. Also, since he lost his job ten years ago, he hasn’t even looked for a new one. All he does is smoke cigars, play golf, cruise and pal around with his buddies while I have to work to pay the bills.”

“Since our daughter got married he doesn’t even pretend to like me and hints that I may be a Republican. What should I do?”


Dear Clueless:

Grow up and dump this loser. Good grief, woman! You don’t need him anymore. You’re Secretary of State. Act like one.


fain \FEYN\, adverb:
1. Gladly; willingly. adjective:
1. Content; willing.
2. Archaic: Constrained; obliged.
3. Archaic: Desirous; eager.

The professor would fain have lectured all night, and grudged every halt for refreshment, so as almost to run the risk of making the students mutinous.

embutidos, noun
cold cuts
No comemos muchos embutidos.

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to Drew Barrymore (36), Tricia Nixon Cox (65), Julius Erving (61), Steve Jobs (56), Ralph Nader (77).

COLLEGE HOCKEY GAME OF THE WEEK – Saturday 2/26, 17th ranked Western Michigan Broncos (15-9-10) at 9th ranked University of Notre Dame (20-9-5), 7:05 ET, HGTV. With only two weeks remaining in the regular season every game is crucial. This CCHA contest at South Bend will be a test. Western Michigan is led by Rancho Santa Margarita, CA native Chase Bailey who leads the team in scoring as a freshman. The “Domers” will prevail in this one, ND to win.
Season to date (2-5)

GOOD BYE – Len Lesser, 88, passed away this past week. “Jerry! Hello!” Mr. Lesser, as Uncle Leo, would cry whenever he’d encounter his nephew in a social situation on “Seinfeld.” His greeting was usually accompanied by an elaborate palms-up gesture of welcome, and followed by a meandering digression of increasingly unbearable inconsequentiality, often involving his son, Jeffrey, who worked for the New York City Parks Department.

PART II: GRANADA, SPAIN REPORT – Niece Alex B. continues her reports on her studies in Spain with the University of Colorado.

“The geography of Granada is beautiful and pretty eclectic. Being that the Moors (or Moops according to George Costanzia) were the first to rule, there is a very strong Arab influence especially in the older part of the city called the Albaycin. It is on the side of a hill and is full of Middle Eastern shops, tea restaurants, flamenco shows and gypsy people. There is even a section of caves where some of the gypsies live which we have yet to go to but is supposed to be beautiful but not the place you want to go alone at night. The city center, where I live, is more modern with a Catholic influence amazingly beautiful and vibrant. All of the streets are made of stunning cobblestone and there are countless alleyways filled of tiny tapas bars and shops. Also, Granada has 4 main areas that are different plazas that are filled with outdoor cafes and beautiful architecture. There is no better hang over cure than 30 minutes on our balcony and then a café con leche at a café in one of the plazas that is filled with families and couples out with their dogs enjoying the day.”

“However, before you can get to the afternoon you have to make it through Granada’s nightlife. Though not as crazy as my friends’ evenings in Barcelona, Granada has a very big “fiesta” scene. The average Thursday-Saturday starts at about 10 o’clock. You go out for drinks and tapas with friends for dinner and then around midnight you go to something called the Botillion which is essentially the largest display of public drunkenness you’ve ever scene. The word itself basically means “to drink from the bottle” and is a huge open street filled with about 1000 locals passing bottles around to save money on alcohol and meet up for the night. It is pretty ridiculous to see but very fun and a great way to meet Spaniards (not that I can talk to them but whatever.) Then, at about 2 or 3am, you go to the clubs and don’t leave till sunrise. We left a club at 5am the other night and there were people just getting there--pretty crazy. Finally, at about 7 or 8am you go for churros con chocolate which are not anything like Mexican churros. They are just long sticks of batter basically; kind of like a long, skinny funnel cake with a cup of thick, thick hot chocolate that you dip them in. Not really my thing but they are very popular. From there you head home around early morning and sleep till 3 pm…rough life, right? I am still getting used to the schedule but I am learning to tough it out.”

Thank you Alex B. next week another story from her adventure.

Next week, Jack Ass of the Month and our monthly finance commentary.

Until next Monday, Adios.

Claremont, CA
February 21, 2011

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