Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Explanation of my NYTimes Letter

Back in October I had a letter posted in the New York Times about a bunch of people in Los Angeles who were fired by a clothing company because they could not prove that they were here legally. My letter was in favor of the firings, which could probably lead to some confusion for people, since I seem unfailingly liberal, and it has been a stereotype that liberals love illegal aliens for some reason.

Here's the deal: I don't hate immigrants. I do very much differentiate between legal and illegal immigrants. My wife is from the Philippines, and came here legally. We were married in Manila almost 14 years ago. At least in part, due to the Republicans shutting down the government several times that year, it took 13 months to bring her here to this country. That was a royal pain, but it was done legally. We later were able to bring both my mother-in-law and sister-in-law here legally. The government's metering of immigrants helps to make sure that our job market is not oversaturated. Why would this be of any interest to me? Because when the job market is oversaturated, as it is now, salaries suffer and we see companies, like the one I work for, start pressuring managers into firing experienced employees in order to hire cheaper inexperienced ones (I'm not joking.) In short, allowing unfiltered and unmetered immigration into this country, even in good times, means a kind of constant recession for our labor force, and in a recession things become depressionlike.

By setting some kind of basic employer sanctions for hiring illegal immigrants we help our economy. Yes, I know that many conservatives will claim that by lowering payroll we improve the economy, but there is absolutely no truth to that myth. The economy of the United States is NOT a Capitalist economy, it is a Consumerist economy. Without consumers buying the items sold by corporations you cannot support those corporations. No amount of capital sunk into a corporation will save it if consumers can't or won't buy it's products. And employees are the consumers.

So, illegal immigrants are saturating the jobs market and depressing the average income in the country, which decreases buying power of the consumers and contributes to a depressed economy. Got it?

In addition, there's the safety issue. My family didn't put themselves or anyone else at risk when they came here, which can't be said of illegal immigrants crossing the Sonoran Desert, many of whom die each year out there. Why would someone risk their lives to come here? Is it the health care system? Are you kidding? How about the welfare? Not eligable. Could it be the income they can get here, even depressed as it is, is still better than what they could get at home? Bingo.

So, what is the best way to keep these people from risking death and depressing our economy? Employer sanctions are the key. If nobody will hire you once you've gotten here, why bother coming? Canada does it and has no serious illegal immigrant problem. Is it possible to emulate a system that works?

Maybe, if the firings in Los Angeles are any indication.

[12-16-2009] Paul Krugman has blogged about a proposed decrease in minimum wage and it's likely effects over at the New York Times. Very timely.
-Ed Smallwood

Sunday, October 4, 2009

My letter to the NYTimes got published!

For the last couple of years I've been reading the New York Times online, mostly because of economist Paul Krugman (I believe I've mentioned him a couple of times here.)

Today I finally bought a copy of the Sunday New York Times. That thing cost me almost $7 at my local grocery store!

The reason I bought it though, is because I've been writing letters to the editor for the last several months, and they finally published one of them today.

The letter was in response to an article about American Apparel being forced to fire 1,800 people who could not provide adequate documentation proving that they are eligible to work here.

I will go into my reasoning for my opinion soon, but I stand behind it.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Nine Most Terrifying Words in the English Language

Back in 1980, when he was running for President, Ronald Reagan said one of his most famous quotes: “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”

I don’t know why, but I’ve been thinking about that quote a whole lot in the last couple of weeks. For the life of me, I can’t understand how it was that the Democrats could lose back then against that slogan. The counter-ads simply write themselves. Imagine a series of Firefighters, Police Officers, National Guardspeople, Marines, FBI Agents, CDC Scientists, Search and Rescue Workers, and Coast Guard Officers, all one after the other coming on screen and saying: “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” Not quite so terrifying now, is it?

Maybe it took nearly 30 years of perspective for those words to seem as silly as they do now. They really are ridiculous. Think about it, when your house is on fire, how badly do you want firefighters (all government employees) to come and extinguish the fire? Isn’t it more terrifying to think that they might not come? At the theater where I work, we have Police Reservists work there every Friday and Saturday night. When I have a belligerent drunk customer in my lobby, you bet I hope that the Government Employee is coming to help me. And they have, many times.

Really, now it seems that the nine most terrifying words in the English language are: “The Insurance Company called. Your health insurance’s been canceled.” Yeah, I know I cheated a bit back there, but that’s how you’d say it.

I think that it is well past time for our government employees to take those nine words that terrified that old man so much and wear them as a badge of pride. Why? Because they’re there to help.

So, to all of those Government Employees out there, current or retired (including both of my parents), thanks for the help!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Jon Stewart is right on

I saw this one on Daily Kos:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Baracknophobia - Obey
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic CrisisPolitical Humor

I love his summary at the end, especially this part:

I think you guys might be confusing ‘tyranny’ with losing…But when the guy you disagree with gets elected, he’s probably going to do things you disagree with…That’s not tyrrany, that’s democracy…See, now you’re in the minority. It’s supposed to taste like a s#17 taco. And by the way, when disagreement was expressed about [G.W.’s] actions when ya’ll were in power, I believe the response was: ‘Why do you hate America? Watch what you say! Love it or leave it! Suck on my truck nuts!’

I think that pretty well sums up my thoughts on the weird way the Blight have been acting lately. Guys, you lost. It’s not the end of the world. Get over it. Stop acting like children. Acting that way doesn't make people like you more. It makes them wonder what's wrong with you. That’s experience talking, by the way. If you want to be heard, you have to stop whining and start acting like adults. Even Newt Gingrich seems to be saying this, and he was very well known for using outrageous statements in his days before becoming House Speaker.

Think about it.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Going against the CW

I should mention to you that I probably write three blog/diary entries for every one I post. One common reason for not posting something I’ve written is that the situation I was writing about has changed. The other common reason is because I’ve lost interest in the subject. I would guess that eventually my hard drive is going to become clogged with unfinished blog entries. I do expect to finish this entry, because it’s important to me personally. [Note: I was pretty much finished writing this entry a month ago, but because I lost my internet connection during my self-imposed editing period, I have not been able to post it until now.]

If you read my bio you’ll notice I’m a manager at a large movie theater in Silicon Valley. I’m not going to mention which one, or what chain we belong to, partly because I need the job, partly out of respect for my employer. We don’t always agree on things, sometimes by a lot. I’m hoping this is not one of those times, because this entry is all about something I did at work.

One of my personal traits that often causes me trouble is that I’m pretty good at focusing on what needs to be done now to the detriment of things that need to be done later. Short description: I procrastinate a lot. I’m especially bad about paperwork. This doesn’t necessarily make either my boss or my employees happy. It’s probably a good thing I don’t do hiring at my location, because we’d probably only have three employees and a hamster running the place if it was up to me to get the paperwork done.

My boss had to give me a deadline to get my employee reviews finished because I was procrastinating like heck about getting them done. However, I did get to thinking about it a lot.

I tend to follow the New York Times. I find that the economic coverage is quite good, especially Paul Krugman’s work. I’m sure it’s no surprise to you that we’re in an economic “downturn,” which is the tepid way of saying that the economy is going down in flames at the moment. For once (make note) I’m not going to assign blame to any politician or political party, okay. This might be the only time, so pay attention. This has affected the theater where I work in surprising ways. I wouldn’t have been more than marginally aware of them if I hadn’t been paying attention.

Several of the major theater chains have gotten together in a consortium to borrow money in order to buy digital 3D projectors for their theaters. Often banks will be more willing to lend money to consortiums, thinking there’s less of a likelihood of them defaulting on the debt if you have several of the majors involved. This hasn’t completely been the case this time. Although the banks have loaned some money to the theaters for digital 3D roll-outs, the theaters have had to cut back on the rate of installs because the banks just aren’t willing to loan as much as the theaters need for the ambitious plans they had. Dreamworks Animation head Jeffrey Katzenberg is definitely aware of this if industry emails are to be believed, and is trying to get the banks more motivated into loaning the money.

If you’ve read some of my past entries, such as the one about my financial situation (which hasn’t changed much at this time,) you’ve probably read my speculations that bankers are so freaked out about the economy that they’re just psychologically shutting down. To me it seems that they’ve traded out years of a “lend any amount of money to anyone, regardless of ability to pay!” attitude to replace it with a “don’t lend anything to anyone, regardless of who, why, or ability to pay!” attitude. They don’t seem to realize that neither attitude is going to help them. You can’t make money as a lending institution if you lend it out to people who don’t repay it, or if you refuse to lend it out to people who can. Basically, bankers, and a whole lot of other businesspeople have decided to hunker down, save as much as they possibly can, and hope for the best. They can hardly be expected to do differently, since the common wisdom (or CW) says that’s what you’re supposed to do. Professor Krugman calls this “Irving Fisher’s theory of debt deflation.” In his blog at the New York Times, he says: “As everyone tries to work off excessive debt, the combination of a contracting economy and falling prices puts everyone deeper in the hole.”

Professon Krugman describes this more fully in his editorial in the New York Times on Monday, Februrary 16th, 2009:

And as the great American economist Irving Fisher pointed out in the 1930s, the things people and companies do when they realize they have too much debt tend to be self-defeating when everyone tries to do them at the same time. Attempts to sell assets and pay off debt deepen the plunge in asset prices, further reducing net worth. Attempts to save more translate into a collapse of consumer demand, deepening the economic slump.

The CW also says that movie theaters tend to thrive in bad economic times. People want to go out for entertainment, and if concerts and other promotions get to be too expensive, well, movies are still a good bargain. There has been some speculation that this time is different, that people will instead stay home and watch TV on their new big-screen HDTVs. I decided to analyze our box office for the month of January for both 2008 and 2009 a little while ago on a lark. In fact, I didn’t even have a reason in my mind for doing so other than I found out how easy it was to do it a few weeks ago while playing around with the company software in the office. My discovery was that, at least for our location, the CW was right. Year on year we saw a significant increase in attendance and box office gross. I feel that I can’t say exactly how much the increase was, but the percentage difference was in the low double digits. This is remarkable to me considering how much weaker I feel the movies were this January over last (that’s just my opinion.) I’m at least partly attributing the increase to having two different 3D titles that month at our theater. The industry as a whole is also reporting a record month this last January, so I know it’s not just us. Also, the increase isn’t just in gross or net income, it’s in overall attendance as well, so we know more people are coming to see movies.

So, in my opinion, and with the limited data I have at hand, the bankers are making a bad decision in deciding not to loan more money to the theater chains to install these projectors.

Reading the New York Times online has gotten me thinking a bit differently about how my actions affect things and people around me, especially the economy. As I started working on my employee reviews I found that I had to make a choice about how much of a raise I was going to give them. My opinion has been, and this is just my opinion, that if someone is doing a bad enough job that they don’t deserve a raise at all, I should fire them. That means that everyone I give a review to gets some kind of a raise. Confronted with the information above I had to then make a decision on how much of a raise to give my people.

The theater is doing pretty well right now, but that could change if the economic situation gets worse and people decide to stay home and watch TV. So, it might make sense to lower the minimum raise amount I give my employees so we can save payroll in case of a downturn in receipts later this year or next.

But what effect would giving my employees a smaller raise have?

My employees tend to be younger. Most are college age (with some of them going to college, and many not), with a few high-school age employees (some going to school, some not), and a few of them shooting for retirement. What is likely to become of the extra money my employees make?

The ones that are retirement bound are likely to save the extra money, or use it to pay off debts. That’s not such a bad thing. If they save the money in bank accounts, that means the banks have more money to work with which is likely to calm them a bit. They are just a little bit more likely to start lending money out.

Well, the ones that are high-school or college age are likely to spend that money for the most part. That money doesn’t disappear. It is mostly going to go into the local economy. That could mean that some local businesses that may be on the brink of bankruptcy, especially restaurants near the theater, may avoid that fate. Their employees could keep their jobs and continue to see movies at my theater.

That’s a big plus for my company.

So, what did I decide to do? I decided to increase the raise I gave to my employees by a lot. The employee that did the worst (which isn’t saying much since I have a good staff right now) is going to get a larger raise than I gave to my best employee last year. My best employee is getting a raise nearly twice what they got last year. And now my employees are going to have more money to plunge into the local economy. In addition I hired more employees in my department to deal with upcoming movies.

And this year the company changed from yearly reviews to biannual reviews, so in six more months I’m going to be doing this all over again. So, even if I go back to my usual raise amounts they’ll have gotten a nice one already this year. But hopefully I won’t have to, especially for the sake of the new employees I’m hiring who will be getting their first reviews at that time.

Here’s the thing, though. Even if I do this, and it has a small stimulative effect on my local economy, it’s not going to be enough to really get the economy out of the doldrums. One theater can’t stimulate the economy by itself. In order for this to have much of an effect more people will have to do the same thing. I’m sure there are a lot of middle managers out there who, like me, only have spending authority over their employee payroll and maybe some petty cash. Those of us that are looking at a good year, which should include almost all movie theater managers, should strongly think about increasing the amount that we pay our employees. If we don’t, we risk Irving Fisher’s theory coming back to bite us.


Paul Krugman’s Editorial, Monday, Feb. 16th, 2009: “Decade at Bernie’s”, link: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/16/opinion/16krugman.html?_r=1

Paul Krugman’s Blog, Sunday, Feb. 15th, 2009: “Debt in Wartime”, link: http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/02/15/debt-in-wartime/

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Republican Hypocrisy Continues…

I’m going to keep this one short. I’ve got a much longer post that will be coming soon (I was working on the longer post, but a computer failure brought it to a standstill for over a week.)

On February 25th, the New York Times published an article on how the Democrats wanted to push the President’s agenda forward. In response, Mr. John Boehner (pronounced “BAYnor” not “BOHner”, no matter how much we wish it were), the MINORITY leader of the House, said the following at a meeting with reporters sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor:

You’ve all heard all the talk about fiscal responsibility. And based on everything I’ve seen, it looks like the era of big government is back. My questions for my Democratic colleagues are how are you going to pay for this?

My questions for Mr. Boehner are these: Why didn’t you show one tiny little bit of fiscal responsibility in the six years that the Republicans had control of all three branches of the federal government? Why did you let Mr. Bush increase the size of our government more than any previous President, even Mr. Reagan? Why didn’t you oppose the largest deficit in the history of the country, more than all previous Presidents combined? Why did you spend using credit like there was no tomorrow while decreasing revenue (taxes) for six straight years, and what did you expect the outcome to be?

And last, but not least, what makes you think you or your party have any credibility at this point?

New York Times article:

Democrats Vow Swift Action on Obama’s Agenda, By CARL HULSE

Published: February 25, 2009. Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/26/us/politics/26web-obama.html?hp

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Bad Assumptions—“The Invisible Hand of the Marketplace” Edition

It’s past time to go over some of the bad assumptions that have been made that allowed some of us to make bad decisions, and why these assumptions are so wrong. I’ll tackle two of the biggest ones in this essay.

For several years now I’ve been saying that Communists and Free-Marketeers (often Neo-Cons) make the exact same fundamental error in their respective basic assumptions. Both are great theories, but completely fail in real life. They fail because they both make the assumption that everyone will do what is best for everyone all the time, instead of taking advantage of anyone, and that policing is not necessary. Communists claim that the government, once in control of the marketplace, will police itself. Oddly, Free-Marketeers claim that once the government gets out of the marketplace, the marketplace will police itself. Both are completely, and very obviously, wrong.

The big problem with a completely free market, and Adams’ “Invisible Hand of the Marketplace,” is that it requires transparency in order to work. If you have no policing mechanism, or one that is ineffective for any one of dozens of reasons, then all you need is one person near the top, or a few lower down, to be dishonest or incompetent to bring the entire system down. Just ask Bernard Madoff’s investors. Communists put that trust into the hands of just a few people in political power, which is why the Soviet Union is no longer with us. Free-Marketeers put that power into the hands of corporate heads without supervision, which is why we’re in our current economic mess, not to mention the last several economic messes, including the tech bubble, the S&L collapse, the Great Depression, and so on.

The assumption by the Free-Marketeers is that “The Invisible Hand of the Marketplace” will punish the dishonest, corrupt, or incompetent through the customers and investors that would avoid them. The reality, which any neutral observer would report, is that the people that the “Invisible Hand” is supposed to punish when they are incompetent or corrupt are the ones in control of the information that the investors and customers need to make sound decisions. Distort the information and prevent the punishment until it’s too late.

Another important assumption of the Free-Marketeers that is wrong is that increases in efficiency are always a good thing. You often hear when one company takes over another that the increase in efficiency by eliminating redundancy will improve things. Often you won’t hear what things will improve. What it really translates as is firing people that have the same job at the other company will improve the bottom line of the combined company. That’s true, it probably will. If this kind of combination happens when the economy is in a boom cycle, the effect of people losing their job can even be fairly benign. However, this isn’t always, or even usually, the case. Often the effect of people losing their job is that these people have less money to throw around to buy things—like the things their former company made, or services they provide, and decrease their participation in our economy.

Let’s just take the efficiency argument out to it’s logical conclusion. An increase in efficiency is an attempt to reduce the capital outflow while maintaining income, or in other words, you don’t pay as much out as you get paid. This sounds good at first. Companies can increase efficiency by using less material or by eliminating jobs that don’t help the company as much. The problem is as a company starts getting significantly more efficient, the economy starts to feel the burden. More money from the economy tends to go to the company, and less comes out. In fact, a company that is 100% efficient has no capital outlays, just income. It would have no employees, even executives (hence, no payroll) and would produce nothing (so no cost of manufacturing or providing a service,) while paying no taxes or dividends. This kind of company would simply suck money out of the economy without contributing anything, being a kind of economic black-hole. Conservatives would argue that Government fits this description, but a company of this kind has no employees and produces nothing, and the government does not fit either definition by a large amount. A religion might come closer, but still doesn’t hit that target (too many employees.)

This is what most companies strive for. One of our problems that we are facing is that we won’t have a sufficient proportion of our population working and participating in our economy to keep it going, meaning fewer people are buying products and services, making companies get rid of employees, causing our economy to spiral downward. As large companies consider downsizing, or whatever they are calling layoffs today, the executives need to be asking themselves the question Henry Ford (yeah, I know) asked when someone pointed out to him that he didn’t have to pay his workers so much: “Then who would buy my cars?”

The reality is that the economy works best with a certain amount of inefficiency, and the hardest part of this to explain to people is that the amount of inefficiency that economy works best with is a constantly moving target. Most people want to hear a specific number, but that number will change depending on economic circumstances, specifically the ratio of jobs to labor. If there are a lot of jobs openings going unfilled, you can have an efficiency level that is high, because most people who want to work are doing so. If there are few jobs available, a greater amount of inefficiency will help to absorb these people and keep them participating in our economy. This may involve taking pay cuts at the executive level, or giving up hours or benefits at the worker level. Flexibility is key.

So, what are the solutions to these issues? Giving money without strings attached to corporations is not going to make the situation better. The New York Times has reported several times that the original bank bailout money is being used not to free up the credit market for either homeowners or businesses, but rather to pay off debt, buy other banks, and hang onto for later. We need more than this to improve our situation. We need money to be used to create jobs and improve our country. We need oversight of our corporations. The SEC and FDIC need to be doing their jobs, and we need to be certain that the next time money is handed to these people that it goes to where it is needed by our definition, not theirs.

To constantly keep the correct efficiency level of our corporations, the best way is to pass the “Employee Free Choice Act.” Negotiations are the best way to make sure we have the right staffing level, not simple corporate decision making, because corporations will always try to reduce staffing levels and payroll. Unions prevent that, but sometimes even they get out of hand. The best way is for Unions and businesses to negotiate often, at least yearly. This may seem a waste of time, but how else are you going to make sure employment levels are optimal?

In addition we need to be investing money as a country. This is what most conservatives, whether crackpot Free-Marketeers or not, would say individuals do when they get tax breaks, while failing to acknowledge that Governments can invest as well. Most of them fail to see that putting money into infrastructure or education is the way governments invest. We all benefit when we can contact each other more easily, when we can travel faster and with less damage to our vehicles, when power sources are steady, and when someone who otherwise couldn’t afford an education gets it and invents something we need, like a new cure. We have to fix our roads, bridges, communications, and educate our people. In short, corporate aid needs to have strings attached and can’t by itself be expected to pull us out of this depression.

Higher education is a good solution both short-term and long-term to our problems. Giving people grants to stay in school in the short term reduces the labor pool, increasing wages, and in the long term increases the number of job options for those people and their wages when they attain them. It also makes them a bigger asset to the company that employs them. This is a win-win for the country.

Most importantly, we need to call those who insist on sticking to the completely free market idea crackpots, just as we do with Communists. Brand them with a catchy name, such as the “Free-Marketeers” as I have (feel free to copy me.) They have been completely discredited in the last couple of years, and we need to make sure they do not try to regain their respectability, or they will. Theirs is a simple and seductive chant. If we don’t make sure our children are aware of the dangers, then they will surely try to repeat our mistakes under the spell of these snake oil salesmen.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Odd Financial Situation I'm In

It's hard for me to believe that it's been over a month since I've updated this blog. In that time I've been entering a diary over at The Daily Kos, mostly because most of those entries fit better there, but also because more people check out my entries there. I will, for now, continue to update my blog here, but I will also continue to evaluate my using this blog from time to time.

Now, here's my most recent entry. It's also probably my most personal one.
I’m going to do something I haven’t done before. I’m going to open up about my current financial situation. The main reason I’m going to open up here is because in all of my years, I find myself in a bizarre situation that I haven’t ever been told to expect.

Whenever I’ve committed thoughts to keyboard, I’ve always held back a little bit from my private life, which I understand includes ones financial life as well. I’ve not understood why this should be the case, since politicians and celebrities seem to have so little financial privacy, but I’ve held back in order to protect those around me from some… unknown, unseen, possibly legal liabilities.

So, with no further beating around the bush, here’s the background of my situation. Like many Real Estate Agents in the last few years, I got duped into taking one of those toxic loans out in order to buy a nice new home that I should have known I wouldn’t be able to afford once the loan recast. I can’t really remember the reasons why I would do something that seems so dumb in hindsight, but I’m betting the banks are thinking the exact same thing right now, only from the other side (“Why did it seem like such a good idea to loan money to people while making such a point to make sure we knew nothing about their finances?”)

So, about a year ago, under mounting financial debt and looking at a home value about 2/3 what we paid, we looked at our choices. We could file for bankruptcy, go through credit counseling, have the counselors tell the judge that we couldn’t pay the debt, have the court auction off everything, etc., or try something else. The something else that seemed most honorable to us was to pay off our credit cards, which in hindsight seems like the best thing we could do (Citibank recently increased their lowest credit card interest rate to over 20%!) while negotiating with our mortgage company in order to see if we could change the terms of our mortgage.

I’m going to do something I really didn’t want to do at this point: Name the bank. I think you’ll understand why later. To the credit of Indymac Federal Bank, even while they were going through all of their problems, they kept working with us. At least they did until last September. They asked us to get our financial information together for them and call them back with the information. I got the information, just as they asked, and called them back at the number they gave me, and ended up leaving them a voice-mail message. Next day, I left them another one. I waited a few days, called them back, and left another voice mail message. Then I did the same the next week. The week after that, I did the same thing. No replies came. No calls, no letters, no emails, no faxes, nothing. I called again the next week. I kept this up until around the middle of October, figuring they were backlogged, and would get back to me when they had the time.

Then came mid December. I got a letter from Indymac telling me I owed them roughly half of our joint household income by January 19th, or they would start foreclosure proceedings. I called them back at the number provided…and left them a voice mail message. And another one. Same thing the next week.

I figured it was time to up-the-ante, so I contacted my Congresswoman’s office and left a voice mail for her assistant who handles these things…and got no response.

So last week, we contacted a company that supposedly will negotiate with our mortgage company for an up-front fee, and I was going to go with them until I went to the California Attorney General’s webpage and found out that it was illegal for them to take a fee from us until after they had provided the services. Yesterday I called Indymac and after leaving my voice mail message in disgust, I called the Consumer Credit Counseling Service in my area, as suggested by the AG’s office, and was surprised to hear only confusion on their end. They suggested that I try to find a branch of Indymac and go in and talk to them, even though there are no branches in my area (in fact, the nearest branch is an 8 hour drive away). That was their best suggestion after a roughly 20 second phone call. No service from them was suggested or provided to this consumer regarding credit or counseling, so I’d say they failed completely.

To me, this is a bizarre situation. In my experience, and in all of the classes I’ve taken from high-school on, I’ve been told that the person who is owed money is the one that constantly tries to contact the person who owes them money. This is completely the opposite of my current situation. I’ve been calling them for MONTHS, and I haven’t even gotten any kind of confirmation that I’ve contacted them. I feel like I’m hounding them. I imagine them cowering in some room someplace, saying “Don’t answer the door, that guy owes me money!” It’s nuts. We hear all the time that if you’re in financial trouble that the worst thing to do is to stop talking to your lenders. That’s not my problem. They have stopped talking to me, even before we could talk about a possible solution! Is this the Indymac Federal Bank who was supposed to be a model of working things out with their customers, as was reported just a few months ago?

I hate to say it, but the real feeling I have is that this problem is so large for these people that they actually have no idea how to tackle it. Indymac can’t figure out what they can do, Congress can’t figure out what they should do, and the CCCS doesn’t know who they are, what day it is, or remember how they got to work (“What’s that ringing thing? What happens if I pick this thing up?”) The problem of foreclosures has gotten so huge that they are unable to figure a way out, and have decided to simply shut-down all thought and hope the automatic systems take care of the problem, or that by some miracle, it simply vanishes; the nightmare over with the dawning of a beautiful new day. Unfortunately, the dawning morning is the dream, and the financial crisis is real.

My family and I would like to keep the house, but we have completely lost our investment in it. The question is: “Should I keep plunging money into an investment that is currently, and probably always will have a negative return on my investment?” The businessman in me says no. Any further investment is money lost, unless Indymac can reduce our payments to a reasonable level. No offense intended, but that’s the right business decision. However, this is about family. If I could work out something else, I would, but it’s going to require Indymac to at least return my phone calls. The question for them is: “Do you want to definitely lose 2/3 of your investment, or find some way to lose ¼ or less (or possibly nothing, but no more than 2/3)?” Their current actions say they would rather definitely lose big than risk losing small. They know where I live and have all of my contact phone numbers.

I would love to hear from other people. Do you have any suggestions on what to do next? Are you in or have you been in a similar situation? Do you work at Indymac and know what is happening? I’m completely at a loss, and for once in my life, I have no idea what to do next.