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photo by Sheri Dixon

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Good News- Business In America Is Stronger Than Ever

Now, don't get too excited. That doesn't mean that more people are working, or paying bills or not packing their stuff to move out of foreclosed-upon homes.

All THAT stuff has nothing to do with business, except as a measure of how successful the businesses actually are.

As stated before on a piece dedicated to the health insurance companies (and they deserve it- being a stellar example of marvelous financial acumen), if we think back to Econ 101 in high school, we'll remember that a business' job is to make money for the owner(s).

It's that simple, and one reason I felt justified to skip out on most of that class and instead head for the nature preserve to sit in the sunshine and listen to the birds and the frogs in Root River.

But now, years later, I'm thinking "What's the matter with people? Why don't they get it? I know most of the rest of the class stayed put in school and most of those went on to college while I opted to have babies and milk goats. What on earth makes people believe that any of those mortgage companies, banks, insurance companies and the like are anything BUT businesses?"

Well, the obvious reason is TV.

Thanks to clever marketing, all the above businesses spend millions of dollars on TV commercials that show happy people whose lives are made even happier with the assistance of some big corporation. Or- worse to the point of despicable- the commercials show people in distress who are gently plucked from the maws of disaster by one of these companies.

Here's the thing.

These fairy tale advertisements are generally bracketed with very real news stories of foreclosures, bankruptcies, denials- a trail of financial tears for faux-middle class Americans, who attain such status on wings fashioned of plastic and other credit sleights of hand.

Personal story- we've got a home equity loan. No first mortgage per se, since we had a paid for home before all our medical mess started up. I've never been more than 10 days late on a payment, and if I'm going to be late, I call them so it's notated on the account. When the financial institutions got their bailouts, our loan company sent us a letter telling us we were eligible to re-write our loan at a lower interest rate due to our good payment history.

I called and told them we didn't want to re-write (because the fees to do that would've eaten up any savings it would've afforded- see definition of "business" above) but asked if there was anything we could do temporarily with all the latest medical expenses. They gave us a 1 year lowered payment- no penalties, which helped.

Quick on the tail of that, our home owners' insurance company suddenly took a keen interest in canceling our policy. We've never submitted a claim. Never been late in paying. But in the last year, they've sent out multiple photographers to try to find reasons to cancel us (ONE cracked shingle on the edge of the 8 year old non-leaking roof, no railing on stairs to a door that doesn't even open, etc.) They've never done that before, and we've been in our home for 15 years.

All I can think of is that by changing to a 'temporary payment plan', our file was red-flagged as a foreclosure risk (even though we've never had a late payment) and they are trying to dump us before we, I dunno, burn the place down to get insurance money instead of being evicted.

The banks are not lending- we've had no luck getting a mere $50,000 loan to build our desired very simple smaller home with 2 adults on Social Security/VA Disability and myself on the job for 15 years and being paid SALARY, and nary a late payment between the three of us.

But in Tyler TX, our nearest closest "big" city, I can point out at least 6 new bank branches being built in just the tiny section we frequent. Guess we know what they're doing with THEIR bailout money...

Back to Econ 101.

The health insurance companies are doing a bang-up job. They are taking in more premiums than paying out in claims. That to do that they must deny people the care they need for increasingly more obscure and morally obscene reasons is just a casualty of doing business.

The home insurance companies are being fiscally astute in anticipating possible problems. The fact that if they drop my home owners' insurance my house loan will come due in full and immediately, making it a self-fulfilling prophecy is not their problem and they hold me in no personal dislike, but that's just a casualty of doing business.

That Tyler Texas currently has an official unemployment rate of 10% even though the real unemployment probably stands closer to 20% is unfortunate, but the industries are 'consolidating resources' to stay in the black. That it looks alot like firings, layoffs and forced early retirements is just a casualty of doing business.

Businesses are not our friends. They are not "with us for the Journey".

We've let the shiny pretty catch-phrases and images on the TV overshadow what our boring old parents and grandparents told us, which was, in effect "If you don't have it, don't spend it". With the exceptions of homes and autos, which were till recent years financed by locally owned banks and credit unions, that's what they did.

We DON'T Deserve a Break Today. Having the newest clothes, toys, gadgets, cars, furniture, houses and what have you does NOT make us happier, better or even truly Upper Middle Class.

Time to hunker down, pay shit off, and concentrate on being human again instead of working so desperately hard to attain and maintain an image.

And an aside to those who are rabidly, frothing at the mouth screaming to keep private businesses in charge of America- to let the Capitalist Way of Life determine our future and not the Socialist Agenda they think is afoot by our nefarious current administration?

You'll have plenty of time to rethink that position while standing in the unemployment line next to your shopping cart full of what's left of your possessions.

And if you think that could never happen to you, personally?

Ya. Good luck with that.

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