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Normally I don’t really like Roger Cohen’s op-eds in the New York Times (and the Times has quickly worn thin on me – as well as Roger Cohen –  with their persistent and pugnacious anti-Israel slant) but every so often he does write up a fairly nice piece.  His op-ed Age of Outrage is particularly good.  In this op-ed, which I will only summarize here (it is left as an exercise for the reader to read the op-ed for themselves), Cohen focuses on the current outrage that has boiled over in the UK into riots and how the Germans have managed to avoid the same level of disaffection with globalization and the shift in the world economy that is now spreading throughout the UK, Spain, Greece and other countries (and which is spreading – albeit not with the same level of furor as in the UK – to the US).

The best part of the op-ed is actually the first comment that was posted by Doug Terry of the Terry Report (Doug, like me, is a resident of the Washington D.C. metro area).  His comment is very apropos:

One of the best ideas need not come from the Germans. It is simply this: let’s not go overboard with the doom and gloom. The UK, and Europe, have surely gotten themselves in a pickle, but let’s not jump in the barrel with them.

There is a terrible dislocation going on in the US in regard to jobs moving overseas, chasing lower wages, longer working hours and a compliant, no benefits workforce. What can we do about it?

1. Find a way to decouple the paydays of CEOs and other top management from the performance of their stock. Require a 50 or even 70% tax rate on stock gains made in a public corporation while an executive is serving and for five years afterward. Compensating people to ruin companies and cash out with hundreds of millions of dollars must stop.

2. Demand that all American founded corporations declare whether they are, or are not, still American companies. If, like GE, they take in over 50% of their revenues from overseas and if they no longer wish to be American companies, then decouple the benefits, tax breaks and protections they get.

3. End “special purpose corporations”, which are little more the sly means of doing secret and/or dirty deals by their large corporate creators.

4. Monitor corporations for compensation relative to total profits and profits as a percentage of revenue. Make the information public, so that citizens know when a corporation is basically getting rich, as Wal-Mart does, by keeping employees on low wage scales.

5. Change the pro-corporate slant of court rulings by changing laws and, if necessary, Constitutional amendment. Balance must be restored between citizen and corporate power.

6. No more free lunch for broadcast companies which pay nothing for television and radio licenses and keep those licenses for generations, unless they sell them for many millions.

7. Develop comprehensive policies to encourage job creation and new business development. Reward companies for creating jobs here.

The above says a lot – and could go further if we mix in the concept of term limits for politicians (no more “careers”), campaign finance reform (to eliminate the power of SuperPACs, PACs, and corporations), and tax code reform (and I mean REAL tax code reform – no more of this band-aid on top of band-aid nonsense).  If we could do what Mr. Terry suggests above from a corporate governance perspective and what we need to do in terms of term limits, campaign finance and tax code reform, we may go a long way to righting the ship that is the United States and to steer it back to a more prosperous future for everyone.

Usually I’m a very patient person with respect to people owing me money. I pay my bills on time, I donate to charity regularly and fulfill my pledges when I receive the invoice. But what irks me alot these days is when people who owe me money don’t give me the same consideration.

Case in point – the State of Maryland. This year I happened to get a refund from the State of Maryland because I apparently overpaid my taxes a couple of years ago (and didn’t realize it). Anyway, this year, instead of owing the state money I was entitled to a refund of around $240. I filed my tax return on April 15th, paid the money I owed the federal government and waited. It’s now June 15th (some two months later) and the state of Maryland has yet to send me a check or deposit the refund in my account. If I owed the state $240 and didn’t pay on time they would tack on interest and fees…but since they owe me they apparently can take their sweet time in deciding when they want to pay me back. What would add insult to injury would be if the State of Maryland didn’t pay me my refund and then sent me a W-2 (yeah, here in Maryland they send you a W-2 for any state taxes that are refunded and you have to declare it as income to the IRS) for the money…hope they don’t try to pull that nonsense.

Perhaps I’m too patient with both the State of Maryland. Perhaps I should start charging interest and fees to them…maybe that will get them to be punctual with paying what they owe…just like I am with what I owe.

Update (June 16th 2010):
After speaking with Syngress Press it turns out that royalties are paid on a semi-annual basis. In previous work I had done for other publishers there was a period of three months before royalties were paid and then they were paid monthly after that (so long as the amount of royalty to be paid exceeded a specific limit). I had assumed that Syngress followed the same schedule. Now that I know the schedule I realize that I jumped the gun on Syngress in the original version of this post. I have chosen to revise this post to remove my complaint against Syngress since it was due to a mis-understanding regarding the royalty payment schedule. My beef with the State of Maryland, however, still remains.

So USAA sent out a real estate appraiser to actually take a look at the house on Monday. I finally received a copy of the report from him and his estimate is that my house is only worth $380,000 which is outright ludicrous. Yes he gets the square footage nearly right but he uses as comps houses that are 400 – 600 sq. ft. smaller than mine and whose property sizes are also half of mine. He gets the room count incorrect — this idiot says that I’ve got a 4 bedroom house when I have a 5 bedroom house but at least he’s got the number of bathrooms right — 3 rather than the 2 that the other moronic appraiser said. This is absolute bullshit…I know of a house that sold just 3 weeks ago that has about 800 sq. ft. less than I do that sold for $450,000. On top of that I have a friend who had his house (the same as the one that just sold 3 weeks ago) appraised last October (during the whole financial meltdown) for also around $450,000. I also know of a house that is around the corner which is also smaller than mine which, as I understand it is under contract for $425,000 — and it’s not in as good a condition as mine and hasn’t been upgraded as I’ve done with mine.

In essence this appraiser, like the other one, is just plain wrong. I’ve had a real estate agent (who built her career on houses in this area) who says that my house is definitely worth more and, depending on the condition, may well be worth closer to my estimate of $550,000 (as determined from zillow.com). This is absolute bullshit. Looks like USAA may have just lost all of my business.

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