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Law change will cost you

As of today, the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act expires, as it was not renewed by Congress. This is a HUGE problem for underwater homeowners. Let me explain:

Underwater homeowners often try to negotiate with their bank so that
they can sell their homes for less than they owe in a short sale or have
their mortgage balance reduced. But the difference between what the
homeowner owes and the lower sales price approved by the bank is
considered income for the homeowner and subject to tax by the Internal Revenue Service.

For example, someone with a $100,000 mortgage who is allowed to sell
their house for $80,000 is supposed to pay taxes on the remaining
$20,000.

But the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act saved such homeowners from the tax burden. Last year, Congress rushed to extend the law during negotiations about the fiscal cliff but only through the end of 2013.

They did not do so this year. This means that the IRS will consider a short sale to be INCOME, even though the homeowner took a loss in selling his home for less than what he paid for it.

So let’s say that you borrowed $240,000 for your home in 2007. The bank allows you to short sell it in 2014, and you get $100,000. That $140,000 difference will count as income, and if you are married and each earn around $45,000 a year, you are now considered subject to the taxes that the evil rich must pay. Your tax bill will be about $45,000 higher than it otherwise would.

Hope this doesn’t keep you up at night.

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Show me more money

Anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis knows that I think traffic tickets are a form of extortion. I talk about this enough that I have assigned the topic its own label.

The last time I got a ticket was in 2001. I paid the $184 fine. Eleven years later, I began getting letters saying that the court miscalculated the fine, and I actually owed another $32. I refused to pay it. I pointed out that the statute of limitations has passed, and they can’t do a thing about it.

So they sent me to collections. Now I get letters from a collection agency, and have been since last August. So far, I have received 22 letters. Now they are claiming that I owe $45. The letters have been increasing in frequency: from one a month last August, to one a week now. I have repeatedly told them that they can’t put it on my credit report because it is over 7 years old, they can’t do a thing about it legally, so I have no intention of paying. Since I am not going to pay it, they might as well save their money and stop contacting me.
 
Nope. Still getting the letters. Even though collection agencies are legally supposed to stop when you tell them to, in this case they are not required to, because they are collecting for the government. Another case of the government exempting themselves from the laws that the rest of us must follow.

Still not going to pay them. Still, how desperate is the government for more funding when they are reviewing cases that are a dozen years old?

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Good and compelling: Be rich

So in Maryland, the rule to get a concealed weapons permit was that you need to have a “good and substantial reason” to carry a weapon, and reading this article, it appears that a good reason would be “I am an attorney and carry large amounts of cash.”

This indicates to me that if you are rich and need to protect your money, it is OK, but if you are poor and only wish to protect your life, then you deserve to die.

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Greedy harpies.

So I was at school today, and I overheard a conversation between two female grad students, and they were bragging to each other that they were having their school paid for by their ex-husbands, as a part of a “maintenance order.” One then bragged to the other, “I told him to take the TV and the shotgun, because he had cheated on me. I told him if he didn’t take the gun, I was going to kill him. I got to keep the house, the dog, and the money, and he still has to work two jobs to pay for my school.” All of the other women in the area were in agreement.

I brought this up to my friends, and not one of the women  saw the double standard. If a man ever threatened a woman like that, he would have a domestic violence order on him, and probably be in jail the next day for domestic violence. He certainly wouldn’t be a winner in the lottery.

I’m sorry ladies, but cheating in a marriage does not entitle anyone, man or woman, to free money for the rest of their lives. To claim so reduces women to the class of prostitutes with a payment plan. If women ever expect to be equal in the eyes of the law, they have to be willing to be treated equally in ALL areas of the law.

That is why I cannot believe that there is a popular country music song where the woman talks about all of the violent things she did to her man and his truck because he cheated on her. If this were a song where a man talk about destroying a woman’s property, the outrage would be immediate.

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Unions and elections

My opinions for Unions have been expressed before. In fact, I have done so on more than one occasion. I have worked in two different workplaces that would be considered a union shop. One of the biggest problems with a union shop is that they are run as a democracy, with the majority making decisions that everyone must abide by. Another big problem is that certain members of the union use power and influence to control what the majority thinks and votes for. This can result in some pretty underhanded dealings.

The most recent union shop is the one that I am about to retire from. The issue that has brought this to light is a recent vote that was taken by the union at my current employer. Let me begin by saying that I am retiring in 5 weeks, and will not be affected by this vote, but that doesn’t mean that I approve of how it was done.

The vote is to change the fire department schedule from a 24 hours on, followed by 48 hours off, to a schedule where firefighters work 48 hours on duty, followed by 96 hours off. This topic has come up for debate every year at contract time, for about the last five years and has not ever been approved. There are a lot of conflicting opinions on this, and I will not debate or air them here. Instead, I want to talk about HOW the vote was done.

There is a core of firefighters that want the schedule to change, and they have been pressing for it for a few years now. An election was recently held for union president, and the new president is in the 48/96 camp. As his first act, he decided to lobby everyone for the schedule change and held a vote, which he said would require a 65% supermajority to implement. Everyone would be able to vote, even employees who would be affected by the change, but were not even union members. Sounds fair, right? I thought so too, but the devil, as they say, is in the details.

The vote was done by secret ballot. Each voter was given a piece of paper and told to write which schedule they preferred. There are 90 firefighters who work for the fire department, and the vote was close to not passing with the required 65%: There were 60 votes for, and 27 against, meaning that the new schedule was approved by one more vote than was required.

There is a catch: At least three votes were not counted. Mine, another firefighter who has said that she is leaving in February, and a firefighter assigned to a 40 hour work week in the front office. The excuse for that is because two of us were quitting, and the third was not going to work that schedule, our votes shouldn’t count. Additionally, there were people who wrote “I don’t care” and another who wrote “I have no opinion until I see details” and both of those were counted as “yes” votes.

Complicating things further, the president, who was the one pushing for the new schedule, was the one who collected and counted the ballots, which he claims to have thrown away after counting them.

This whole issue is like our elections process in miniature.

And before anyone comments here about how unions are evil, stuff it. Corporations are no better: Enron, Citigroup, GM, and many others have proven that people are the problem, not the organizations that they create to gain power.

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Mortgages and politicians

More evidence that politicians of all parties are corrupt and lacking in morals. This article shows that the Republicans in general, and attorney general Pam Bondi in particular, were taking bribes campaign contributions from the mortgage industry in exchange for overlooking the fact that the banks were committing fraud and forging legal paperwork, so that they could steal foreclose people’s homes.

If you look at campaign contributions to Bondi, a certain address comes up a lot: 601 Riverside Avenue in Jacksonville. It’s the home of Lender Processing Services, its subsidiaries, and the company it recently spun off from, Fidelity National Financial.
Altogether, those companies gave $6,500 to Bondi’s campaign directly. They also gave $78,000 to the Republican Party of Florida – which was itself a major funder of Bondi’s campaign
Finally, Lender Processing Services recently hired a new senior vice president for government affairs – Joe Jacquot, who until recently was an assistant attorney general for Bondi.

In exchange for these “contributions,” Bondi fired the attorneys who were investigating claims that the banks were “creating” documents out of thin air and using them as evidence in foreclosure proceedings.

People were signing documents with fake names. They didn’t have the required witnesses. And they weren’t reading the documents they were signing.

Even though they were sworn statements, that the signing party has personal knowledge of the facts. So much for investigating.

It’s OK, it was just legal technicalities, anyway:

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Big Business runs the show

This morning, I read the Orlando Sentinel’s local news page, even though I don’t usually read that anti-gun rag. When I got to the Osceola County page, I found same articles that I wanted to post on, so this is the second post in that thread. This is yet another example of how the big corporations are controlling the access that small businesses have to a level playing field.

Transportation impact fees that a new business must pay are cost prohibitive. [pdf alert] To build a business in Osceola County, that one impact fee can be up to $25,558 PER SQUARE FOOT, to be paid over five years. This fee is in addition to all of the other taxes and fees that must be paid.

For example, if a 24,000-square-foot bowling alley were to be built in St. Cloud, for every 1,000 square feet of building, the transportation impact fee would be $10,178, according to examples the city provided. The total transportation impact fees for the bowling alley would be $249,000.

My brother was going to open a ten lane bowling alley in that town, and he determined that opening this bowling alley would cost him over $1 million in taxes for the first five years of operation, not including payroll taxes, sales taxes, and not to mention the cost of building, operations, and personnel expenses for the 20 people that he would have hired. How can a small family business operate with such a heavy burden?

Of course, large corporations get waivers, like this 65,000 square foot Publix shopping center, where the government waived $1 million in transportation fees and $21,000 in permitting fees to allow this shopping center to be built.

When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion – when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing – when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors – when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you – when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice – you may know that your society is doomed.- Ayn Rand