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Stucknation

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Stucknation: States Broken While Billions Float Off-Shore

Monday, February 28, 2011

American multi-national companies continue to hoard as much as a trillion dollars off-shore from profits they attribute to their foreign subsidiaries overseas. Back in December, the Obama administration got the message that US multi-nationals were not inclined to repatriate that cash into the US economy because of the federal government's 35 percent effective tax rate. They want a tax holiday.

It would bring in new tax revenue, but opinions are mixed on whether it's a good idea.

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Stucknation: Our Debt Service Time Bomb

Monday, February 21, 2011

When President Obama released his 2012 budget proposal, he spoke of hard choices and investments. What he left out were the real jaw-dropping numbers contained in an obscure Department of the Treasury Report from the Office of Debt Management that was released two weeks earlier.

The 24-page document in charts and graphs dispassionately lays out the explosion in costs associated with just servicing the nation's rolling multi-trillion dollar deficit.

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Stucknation: Less Cops, More Drones?

Monday, February 07, 2011

President Obama and House Republicans are working hard to find ways to cut America's discretionary spending. They both want to take the high ground over the looming debate over raising the federal debt ceiling.

Yet prospects for the states, counties and local governments where America lives have never been grimmer. The continuing foreclosure crisis and jobless recovery bites down harder and harder, driving more and more people to local officials for help who have less and less to work with.

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Stucknation: Disclosure, Democracy, and the Federal Reserve

Monday, January 31, 2011

In Tunisia, Wikileaks’ disclosures of State Department cables describing the self-dealing  of former Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali's regime greased the skids for his exit. Sunlight may be a great antiseptic, but it is also a lubricant to move stuck history right along.

In a few days, the passion of the Tunisian Jasmine Revolution had swept across the Maghreb as far east as Egypt, touching down in Yemen and even the Sudan. The whole world watched as long-suffering people were inspired to put their life on the line to make their own history.

Nowhere has there been a greater need for Wikileaks than at the Federal Reserve. The Fed was created by an act of Congress in 1913 to regulate banking, but it has long been a captive of that industry.

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Stucknation: Cashing Dr. King's Promissory Note

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Ridgewood, NJ—It was Palm Sunday in 1968,  just 72 hours after Dr. King had been murdered. My parents thought it was important that I go with my father to attend an impromptu eccumenical service at the Mount Bethel Baptist Church at the center of the African American section of Ridgewood. 

Even though I was just 12, it was one of those formative moments that helped convince me that I had, even as a pre-teen, some social obligation to a sphere that extended beyond my family. What we all did mattered. The world would become only what we made of it.

When we arrived there was a massive multiracial crowd that the local Ridgewood News put at 2,000. We could not get inside and so I looked up at the front of the church as I listened to eulogies and impassioned sermons. The call to action over the loudspeakers felt taller than the church's towering brick facade.

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Stucknation: Another Round in the Mortgage Mess

Monday, January 10, 2011

For months now, the banking industry has been dismissing the fact that they may have been pursuing tens of thousands of home foreclosures with deficient paper work as mere technical glitches.

Last week they got a wake-up call when Massachusetts highest court ruled 6-0 in favor of two Springfield homeowners who had been foreclosed on three years ago. The high court let stand a lower court decision that both foreclosures were invalid because the two banks trying to seize the homes did not actually have the legal standing to do so.

Gary Klein, a Boston based lawyer who wrote a friend of the court brief on behalf of the victorious homeowners, says he has a pending class action involving almost 10,000 families that he says were victims of improper foreclosures. “We need to sort out these faulty foreclosures,” says Klein because the underlying defective paper work will haunt the “future property owners years from now who will have a hard time getting a clear title” to the land they think they own. The Boston Globe quoted one of the banks tried to put the best spin on the ruling by suggesting it only created a "standard legal process" going forward for mortgage companies to follow.

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Stucknation: After the Blizzard, Let's Look at Our Weakened Foundations

Monday, January 03, 2011

Even as the giant snow piles melt into memory, the inadequate response to the blizzard of 2010 presages some of the great trials ahead for many Americans, their local town halls and their state capitals.

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Stucknation: Quality Assurance Not Very Reassuring

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A decade ago, the FBI announced plans to upgrade its IT systems and create a computer-based case management system. The so-called "Trilogy" project was subcontracted out to defense giant Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC).

By 2005, it was a red-faced FBI Director Robert Mueller in front of a Congressional oversight committee explaining how the FBI had blown a half billion dollars over five years — and didn't have much to show for it.

In his testimony, Mueller blamed the well-connected defense giant, whose board includes former military and Pentagon types. For its part, SAIC insisted it had delivered as required, and that it gave taxpayers value for their dollars despite ever-changing FBI needs.

But the Government Accountability Office reported when it came to overseeing the details of the contract, the FBI was missing in action. GAO wrote that the FBI relied "exclusively on contractors to account" for the Trilogy assets that had been purchased by taxpayers. The G-men subbed out technical oversight and could not locate millions of dollars in computer components it had purchased.

In a parallel universe, toward the end of the Giuliani era, New York City was hyping an early version of "CityTime," the payroll miracle software. It was going to revolutionize New York City's municipal payroll process with the wonders of biometrics to keep tabs on municipal employees.

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Stucknation: Albany In Between

Monday, December 20, 2010

It is the between-time. The old regime has just days left. Control in the Senate is expected to shift to the Republicans and a Democratic governor is coming in promising to  cut government. There are cardboard boxes and blank nameplates.

Ironically, as the new incoming Governor and legislative leaders try and marshall the political courage to restore the state, they will do so in a building that itself continues to be under going a major makeover to repair decades of neglect and deferred maintenance.  

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Stucknation: Global Capital Eclipses Nation-States

Monday, December 13, 2010

Why isn't America working for Americans?

Because we are in the era of post-nation-state feudalism. Wealth and capital are the only global sovereigns and nation-states are mere "opportunities". Around the planet, nations are desperately competing to appease capital and the local social cost is just collateral damage.

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Stucknation: Mom, Apple Pie and Bonded Indebtedness

Monday, December 06, 2010

While Washington Democrats and Republicans fret over the federal deficit, scant attention is being paid to the debt explosion on local municipal balance sheets in all 50 states.

The federal government is by no means the only big spender and big league borrower. Local governments have been on their own spending and borrowing binge.

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Stucknation: Finance Fines and No-Fault Deals

Monday, November 29, 2010

We have yet to recover from the devastation wrought by the credit-default swap global caper. Now, we can look forward to sorting through the allegedly fraudulent robo-mortgage signings that helped "secure it." And stay tuned, for the perp walk generated by the latest insider trading probe that prosecutors say "may be the biggest yet."

Oh, joy.

The attentive observer might ask just how much of American "high finance" is actually a string of yet-to-be-discovered criminal conspiracies?

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Stucknation: Debt and Denial in New Jersey

Monday, November 22, 2010

Fallout from the recession still haunts budget makers in more than 500 of New Jersey's local governments. Scores of communities are resorting to layoffs. School systems, county agencies and long-insulated public authorities are all feeling the squeeze. On January 1st, a state-mandated two percent cap on local property tax increases kicks in. But local officials say none of the key reforms designed to help them cut costs — like reforming the civil service law — have been enacted yet. Those are hung up in a partisan debate in Trenton.

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Stucknation: The Sad Saga of 130 Liberty

Monday, November 15, 2010

On September 11th, 2001, when the World Trade Center's South Tower fell, it tore a 15-story gash into the 41-story Deutsche Bank building, letting in the World Trade's  whirlwind of toxic waste and human remains. Diesel tanks that held the fuel for the building's Emergency generator helped feed a fire that flared for days.

Now, almost ten years later, workers are finally dismantling the fifth and fourth floors at 130 Liberty, as the site is now known. Sunlight is finally replacing what was a highrise headstone that cast a shadow over Ground Zero. But the demolition is costing hundreds of millions of dollars and it is not scheduled to be complete until early next year.

The reasons behind the delays and the $400 million (and counting) price tag illustrate the stuck in stucknation

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Stucknation: Economic Mess Continues after Midterms

Monday, November 08, 2010

Last Tuesday most Americans stayed home. It was a slight majority of the minority that turned out to redirect the nation's course.

Republicans bragged about winning. Democrats whined about losing. Meanwhile, more and more Americans worried about just surviving.

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Stucknation: Our Stalled Rowboat Needs More Oars

Monday, November 01, 2010

For decades I have been accosting total strangers about their electoral choices and have always come away learning something. This year, I staked out a mall on Route 46 in Parsippany, New Jersey while my wife went crafts shopping.

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Stucknation: The Challenge for NY's Next Governor

Monday, October 18, 2010

The next governor will have to balance social contracts with bond covenants. How do you shrink government to bring tax relief to homeowners and businesses without laying off so many public workers you contribute to undermining the very recovery that is needed?

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Stucknation: Tunneling Through Muck and Mire

Sunday, October 10, 2010

If you’re going to build anything in the Meadowlands you got to add in the swamp factor. Since the grand plans by the Colonial Dutch to dam the swamp for farming, the Meadowlands have been confounding men and depleting their fortunes.

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Stucknation: Advance Notes For Your New Jersey Trip, Mr. President

Monday, October 04, 2010

Dear Mr. President,

I heard that Wednesday evening you are coming to a fundraiser in Cresskill, New Jersey. I know you have been working overtime to get our economy unstuck, but I just wanted to outline some local conditions for you about how jammed up we are in these parts.

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Stucknation: 21st Century Recovery Can't Take Flight with 20th Century Baggage

Monday, September 13, 2010

Congress returns to Washington this week as "Recovery Summer" withers  to "Flatline  Fall.” Both parties have their scripts for the off-year election campaign well-rehearsed. Stage left, there is President Obama with a hastily assembled $50 billion dollar infrastructure bill. And stage right, the Republicans fight to keep Bush era tax cuts ...

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