Category: Business Written by Charlene Crowell
(NNPA)—Although Feb. 14 is typically remembered for Valentine Day, this year that date brought new findings on the cumulative costs of the Great Recession—$13 trillion in cumulative losses in household wealth and high unemployment are the result of the Great Recession, according to a new Government Accountability Office.
Earlier research by the Center for Responsible Lending found that the spillover effects of foreclosures wiped out nearly $2 trillion in family wealth. From 2000-2010, African-American family wealth dropped 53 percent, and Hispanic families lost 66 percent. By comparison, average White household wealth dropped only 16 percent. The foreclosure crisis and resulting economic downturn have turned back the clock on previous wealth gains, especially in communities of color.
The GAO report was performed at the request of the Senator Tim Johnson (SD), chair of the U.S. Senate Banking Committee, and Rep. Michael Capuano (Mass., the ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance.
Responding to the report’s findings, Capuano said, “I thank the GAO for this comprehensive report. Millions of Americans lost their homes to foreclosure, Millions more lost retirement savings and too many Americans found themselves unemployed. . . Any costs associated with implementing Dodd-Frank pale in comparison to the trillions of dollars in losses that have already occurred. Congress must ensure that Dodd-Frank is implemented comprehensively and effectively so that the tools are in place to prevent another crisis.”
Despite the independent, non-partisan GAO findings, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau opponents insistently call for changes to Bureau, the centerpiece of Dodd-Frank Reform. These critics either do not know or are ignoring how the Bureau returned $425 million in consumer refunds and levied another $70 million in fines for abusive financial practices.
Nor would these critics likely acknowledge that new CFPB rules will ensure that no mortgage borrower will be given an unaffordable and unsustainable loan. Thanks to CFPB, each lender is now required to determine and verify borrowers’ ability to repay before the loan is issued. Additionally, consumer-friendly changes in mortgage servicing means borrowers will no longer incur costly surprises with their loans or be given a runaround by a servicer.
Had CFPB and these mortgage rules existed before the housing crisis hit, communities of color would not have been financially devastated. Every consumer can be encouraged by the Bureau’s actions to increase greater transparency in financial services, coupled with common sense rules of the road. America’s families need nothing less.
Responsible businesses have recently begun speaking up in defense of CFPB. For example, John Arensmeyer, founder and chief executive of the Small Business Majority, recently said, “The financial industry wrote its own rules for too long. Honesty and transparency are not too much to ask from institutions that helped run the economy into the ground. Lawmakers—many of whom talk a lot about protecting small businesses—should be the first in line asking for more accountability.”
The U.S. Senate is charged to advise and consent on presidential nominees. On Valentine’s Day more than half—54 in all—wrote to President Obama to express their strong support for the CFPB and Director Richard Cordray.
Last Updated on Thursday, 28 February 2013 20:02
Category: Business Written by Damon Carr
The Pennsylvania Lottery has a slogan—“Proceeds benefit older Pennsylvanians.” The PA Lottery boast of the fact that it’s the only lottery in the nation that exclusively targets all of it proceeds to programs for older residents. Clearly the Pennsylvania Lottery understands its core market—POOR and OLD People. Studies have shown that ZIP codes that spend four times what anyone else does are those in lower-income parts of town. This article is in no way an attempt to attack the Pennsylvania lottery in and of it-self. This article is written to heighten awareness that all forms gambling including bingo, lottery and casinos are a tax on poor and older people.
Financial Guru Dave Ramsey teaches if you want to be rich, do what rich people do and if you want to be poor do what poor people do. Having been raised by poor people and most of my closest friends being poor people, naturally my wife and I have some poor people habits and tendencies. My wife claims that she enjoys bingo and I claim to enjoy going to casinos. I have had the opportunity to frequent various bingo halls and casinos over the years. As I began to learn how money works and began to hear that gambling is a tax on the poor, I began to pay attention to the people that filled the bingo halls and casinos. As you look at the people passing by, it’s easy to see that a great majority of the people who frequent bingo halls and casinos are aging people. As I begin to strike up conversation with people at these places it became obvious that many come from low-income communities. If you’re ever at a convenience store, gas station or grocery store that sells lottery tickets, pay attention to the long lines. You can easily identify most of the patrons buying lottery tickets are old and poor people.
My observation forced me to think back to my childhood. I was brought up in an impoverished community. I grew up watching my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and neighbors engaging in lottery, bingo, casinos and other forms of gambling on a daily basis. It’s mind boggling as I think back and reflect on how much money was and continues to be spent trying to make a come-up gambling their money away. I’ve watched people sacrifice bill money hoping they’ll win so that they can recoup the bill money plus have some extra money to spend. I’ve watched people spend way too much money on dream books, lucky candles, and other merchandises as if these merchandises will give them some advantage. I’ve witness first hand close relatives spending $20.00 per day on the lottery (before they had mid-day lottery), $40.00 per day on bingo and roughly $150 every two months at casinos. That equals $375 per month spent on gambling each in every month for the past 30-years of my life. The sad reality is that over the 30-year period that I’ve watched and continue to watch my close relatives engage in the lottery, bingo, casinos and other forms of gambling—They are still POOR PEOPLE.
Mathematically and statically speaking gambling is a rip-off and is a tax on the poor. Consider the size of the various casinos and the lavish decoration. Who’s paying for it? Many churches today and other organizations profit dearly from proceeds from bingo. Who’s paying for it? I had a friend who owned a small convenience store. He told me that the lottery was his best marketing tool. It attracted a lot of traffic to the store. People spent massive amounts on the lottery and the traffic helped him moved other products off of the shelf. Research has shown that ZIP codes in the low-income parts of town spend four times more than anyone else. My own eyesight has witnessed that the majority of the people who fill the bingo halls, casinos and lottery lines are older people. Gambling of all forms is a tax on the poor. It’s interesting to note that 96 percent of those age 65 or older are BROKE.
Just think if my close relatives who individually spend roughly $375 per month on the lottery, bingo, casinos and other forms of gambling for the past 30 years had hid the money under a mattress today that monthly amount would equal $135,000. If they had invested the $375 each and every month in mutual funds earning an average rate of return of 10-percent for the past 30-years their money would have grown to $847,683. The irony is that if they had saved and/or invested the money each and every month instead of gambling it away for the past 30 years and counting, today they would no longer be poor people.
My wife and I at one time justified our casino and bingo activity as a form of entertainment. It turns out that we were losing money in the name of entertainment.
(Mortgage and Money Coach Damon is the owner of ACE Financial. He can be reached at 412-216-1013.)
Last Updated on Thursday, 28 February 2013 20:08
Category: Business Written by Courier Newsroom
Social Media Workshop
FEB. 28—Pittsburgh Gateway Corporation will host Jessica Lee’s Entrepreneurial Thursdays Jazz and Blues Networking from 5:30-8:30 p.m. at Little E’s, 949 Liberty Ave., Cultural District. Every Thursday jazz and R&B vocalist Jessica Lee, along with some of Pittsburgh’s finest musical artists, will host an evening of good music and professional networking. Each week will have a different theme; this week’s will be “Hip, Urban Living.” The cost is $5 and the attire is business casual. For more information, visit www.jessicaleesong.com.
MARCH 7—The MWDBE Governmental Committee will host the 12th Annual Conference for Minority, Women and Disadvantage Business Enterprises from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. at the IBEW Conference Center, 3 Hot Metal St., South Side. The theme is “Mind Your Ps: Preparation, Process, Procurement and Performance.” Guest panelists will be Greg Spencer, Barbara Weaver, Elizabeth Bowers, Deborah Wojcik and Nathan Heitzman. Registration is required. For more information, call 412-402-2460.
The First Step
Brown Bag Lunch
QuickBooks Made Easy
(To have information on Business Calendar, send information at least two weeks in advance to: 315 E. Carson St., Pittsburgh, PA 15219; Fax: 412-481-1360 or e-mail: newsroom@ newpittsburghcourier.com.)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 February 2013 09:50
Category: Business Written by Diane I. Daniels
LEADING THE CHARGE—Marie Johns, deputy administrator of the US Small Business Administration visits Pittsburgh spreading the word about the SBA. (Photo by Diane I. Daniels)
Access to capital, counseling and contracting support for small businesses are three tools the U.S. Small Businesses Administration offers its clients. Designed to provide assistance in helping small businesses start and grow, the SBA functions in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, the U. S. Virgin Islands and Guam. The local office, covering a 27 county region is located at 411 Seventh Avenue in Suite 1450.
Recently in Pittsburgh, SBA Deputy Administrator Marie Johns met with area federally funded agencies geared toward helping small businesses as well as Faith-based and community organization leaders and small business owners. Discussion focused on the needs of businesses in the region, what the SBA can be doing to support job creation and to assure that participants are aware of the programs and resources provided by the Administration to help them grow, hire and succeed. Conscious of what it takes to operate a small business, Johns says her focus is to ensure that entrepreneurs in underserved communities have the resources, relationships, and tools they need to start businesses and to create good-paying jobs.
“My grandfather owned a lawn care business in Indiana. I know what it is like and what it takes to operate a small business,” she said.
Throughout its 60-year history nationally and locally, the SBA is credited for assisting millions. Understanding that access to capital is a major obstacle for any size business, Johns pointed out that the SBA offers a range of loan programs for very specific purposes and is currently developing two more.
Indicating that the SBA does not directly loan money, she stressed that they work with federal, state and local entities.
Known for its technical assistance, the SBA offers free counseling, advice and information on starting, better operating or expanding a business. Assistance comes through one-on-one meetings, through training, counseling and business-development programs.
Partnerships are something Johns and local District Director Carl Knoblock stress are very important.
“Resource partners are key to bringing services to the table as well as serving as outreach sources,” said Johns. “We are always looking for new partners and a ways to spread the word about our services. Faith-based and community organizations serve as good sources. We want to form strategic alliances with groups not just locally but nationally as well.”
Knoblock listed the African American Chamber of Commerce of Western Pennsylvania, the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, Pennsylvania State, the Penn State Data Center, Pittsburgh Regional Alliance/Business Resource Center, and the Pennsylvania Chapter of Business and Industry as a few local resources.
While outlining resources, Johns listed Pittsburgh as having a strong Senior Core of Retired Executive Center, two Women’s Business Centers at Chatham University, E-Magnify at Seton Hill, and the area Small Business Development Centers.
When questioned about programs for young people interested in entrepreneurship, Johns indicated that a pilot program is being initiated in some regions in conjunction with the Department of Labor and being tried out at Job Corp sites.
Pittsburgh is just one of the many stops Johns and senior SBA officials are making as they travel the country spreading the word about the President’s messages from the State of the Union, as well as the resources offered by the SBA to help small business owners and entrepreneurs—particularly those in underserved communities—succeed as part of the Administration’s efforts to help strengthen the middle class.
Johns, nominated by President Barak Obama has been deputy administrator since 2010. Her responsibilities include managing the agency and developing programs and policies. During her tenure, it is reported that she has led the SBA for the past two years in record breaking lending, supporting more than $30 billion in loans annually. She works with the President’s senior advisors at the White House ensuring that more federal contracts are awarded to small businesses. She also serves as the chair of the President’s Interagency Task Force on Veterans Small Business Development.
Committed to the SBA mission of helping small businesses, Knoblock said he does so by using SBA programs: government contracting, guarantor of loans, advocacy, disaster assistance, and technical assistance. The Arizona native is known for his dedication and deep passion of helping small businesses succeed and create economic development in the region.
A former entrepreneur and retired Navy vet, he uses his expertise and knowledge to direct local entrepreneurs at all levels.
Both Johns and Knoblock think this is a good time to start a business as the economic recovery takes root.
“The Pittsburgh region has good things going on and now is the time to connect with the SBA and use the skill sets that you have,” said Johns.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 February 2013 09:53
Category: Business Written by Associated Press
CONNECTING MORE--Mahrinah von Schlegel, managing director of Cibola, an incubator for tech entrepreneurs that will open this spring, checks a social networking site at her office in Chicago, with her cell phone nearby. (AP Photo/Martha Irvine)
by Martha Irvine
CHICAGO (AP) — Technology is supposed to make us easier to reach, and often does. But the same modes of communication that have hooked us on the instant reply also can leave us feeling forgotten.
We send an email, a text or an instant chat message. We wait — and nothing happens. Or we make a phone call. Leave a voicemail message. Wait. Again, nothing.
We tend to assume it's a snub, and sometimes it is.
Erica Swallow, a 26-year-old New Yorker, says she's heard a former boyfriend brag about how many text messages he never reads. "Who does that?" she asks, exasperatedly.
These days, though, no response can mean a lot of things. Maybe some people don't see messages because they prefer email and you like Twitter. Maybe we're just plain overwhelmed, and can't keep up with the constant barrage of communication.
Whatever the reason, it's causing a lot of frustration. A recent survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 39 percent of cell phone owners say people they know complain because they don't respond promptly to phone calls or text messages. A third of cell owners also have been told they don't check their phones frequently enough.
It happens in love. It happens in business.
"Tell me to go to hell, but just tell me something! I'm getting lonely over here." That's what Cherie Kerr, a public relations executive in Santa Ana, Calif., jokes she's considered putting after her email signature.
It happens in families.
Last year, Terri Barr, a woman on Long Island, N.Y., with grown children, sent her son a birthday present — a $350 gift certificate for "a wonderful kayaking trip for six, lunch, wine, equipment," she says.
She sent him an email with the details, but he didn't respond. She says she then telephoned and texted him to tell him it was a present. He eventually sent a one-line email, she says, telling her he was too swamped to open her email gift right then.
Instant communication "can be wonderful — but also terrible," says Barr, who shared the story more as a lament of modern communication than a reprimand of her son, whose busy work life, she acknowledged, often takes him overseas.
So this year, she sent him a birthday gift by snail-mail in a box. "He actually opened it," she says, and they've been talking more frequently since then.
Many other people, though, sit waiting for responses that never come.
"That's where the frustration lies — it's in the ambiguity," says Susannah Stern, a professor of communication studies at San Diego State University.
Though we often assume the worst, experts say we shouldn't.
Frequently, they say, people simply — and unknowingly — choose the wrong way to contact someone.
"I admit to having often been lax with checking my work number voicemail, which has led to me not responding to people waiting for my reply," says Janet Sternberg, an assistant professor of communication and media studies at Fordham University.
She's also had technical glitches. For instance: thinking she'd sent a text message to someone overseas and then, when he didn't respond, realizing she had his international number programmed incorrectly in her phone.
"The sheer management of all these devices and channels is exhausting and sometimes daunting, leaving less and less time for actual communication," Sternberg says. "We connect more but communicate less, in many ways."
That's why many people say they have no choice but to prioritize — and to respond only to the most urgent messages.
That describes Mahrinah von Schlegel, who's working to launch a Chicago-based "incubator" that will offer shared office space and other resources for fledgling tech entrepreneurs.
"People get angry when not answered and send multiple messages," says von Schlegel, the 30-year-old managing director of the firm, known as Cibola. She says missed communication has caused her to lose some business deals. Often, it's when people try to contact her by Facebook or direct message on Twitter and she doesn't see the messages for days. Email, she says, is her preferred mode of communication.
But even then, she says, there are only so many hours in the day: "I still need time to eat and sleep and shower."
As she sees it, getting no response — even when she's the one unsuccessfully trying to contact someone — is just part of life in a high-tech world. A lot of young people say that, so they've become accustomed to having to try again, or try a different mode of communication if something is truly urgent.
"I think there's this understanding because we've grown up being bombarded by communication," says Mike Gnitecki, a 28-year-old special education teacher in Longview, Texas.
So he's willing to try "multiple points of contact" when trying to reach his students' parents — because, if he wants a response, "that's just how it is."
David Gillman, a 25-year-old Chicagoan, also opts for brevity and efficiency by sending mass texts to several friends at once to save time.
He only expects those who have time or inclination to respond, and doesn't take it personally if they don't.
It gets trickier, he says, with people from older generations, including his parents, because they like to leave him voicemails, which he doesn't like to take time to check.
"I need to get better about that," he concedes.
Those types of missed communications — and a lack of response — can cause "turbulence" in a relationship, says Dan Faltesek, an assistant professor of social media at Oregon State University. But, he adds, that's not necessarily a bad thing.
"It can be a little awkward, but you should talk to people about how you like to talk," Faltesek says. "Everyone will be happier when they say what the rules are."
And it'll go even more smoothly, he says, when people are willing to step outside their own favorite mode of communication to those preferred by the person they're contacting.
"Use the reverse golden rule," Faltesek advises. "Treat others the way THEY like to be treated."
An example: Gnitecki, the teacher in Texas, is considering sending a survey home to ask parents how they'd like to be contacted.
Tech and communication experts agree that choosing a primary means of communication, and letting it be known, is one way to improve communication.
Rebecca Otis, content and social media manager at Digital Third Coast, an Internet marketing firm in Chicago, also recommends getting rid of email and social media accounts you don't check regularly. And text messaging, she says, should be reserved for communication that requires a more urgent reply.
Finding ways to prioritize, and receive, the most important messages also helps.
San Francisco-based AwayFind Inc. is among companies that have developed applications that help filter email — in this instance, alerting users to important emails on their mobile devices.
In the end, we can't possibly respond to everything, says Jared Goralnick, the company's founder and CEO, who's also part of a nonprofit group called the Information Overload Research Group, which looks for ways to deal with out-of-control communication.
As he sees it, it's good to be responsive, "but not to set an expectation that you'll be available for everything."
"That's just not sustainable," he says.
In other words, if we're going to keep our sanity, we'll sometimes have to accept the no response.
On the Internet:
Information Overload Research Group: http://iorgforum.org/
Martha Irvine is a national writer for The Associated Press. She can be reached at mirvine(at)ap.org or at http://twitter.com/irvineap
Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 February 2013 10:26
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