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EOB: Micron To Lay Off Up To 2000

Micron Technology, the state’s largest private employer, announced today that it’ll phase out manufacturing of 200 mm wafers at its Boise plant, meaning 500 layoffs “in the near term” and “as many as 2,000 positions by the end of the company’s fiscal year.” In a press release, Steve Appleton, Micron chairman and CEO, said, “We remained hopeful that the demand for these products would stabilize in the marketplace and start to improve as we moved into the spring. Unfortunately, a better environment has not materialized, and we are at a point where we wanted to let our employees and the community know in advance what will occur later this summer”/MamaJD. More here.

No Money To Move To Idaho

Item: No money to move to Idaho: California sales improve, but prices, equity plummet/Rick Thomas, CDA Press

More Info: The real estate market in many parts of California is improving, in large part because of reduced prices. That means there will likely be fewer sellers from the Golden State who walk away with enough equity to relocate to North Idaho. In 2005, the typical seller netted $225,000 from the sale of a home there, said Leslie Appleton-Young, chief economist for the California Association of Realtors and keynote speaker at the 2009 Real Estate Market Forum Wednesday at The Coeur d’Alene Resort. That is now $100,000.

Question: Do you consider the possible slowdown in the number of people moving to Idaho to be a silver lining in the current economic crisis?

Today’s fun video: If the recession were an Oscar nominee. . .

… which movie would it be?

This video, courtesy of Funny or die, weighs in. (Hint: Not “Slumdog Millionaire.”)


Joker: We Are To Blame For Mess

Obama’s stimulus package has good things and bad things. Nobody will be perfectly happy with it. The bigger questions regard society’s values. Americans are addicted to merchandise. We’ve been busily buying things with money we don’t have for a long time. We’ve leveraged our selves with credit cards, second mortgages, and loans. Mix out of whack wage structures, soaring health care costs and corporate greed and you’ve got middle class families struggling to make it. The more we buy, the futher we fall into debt. It’s cliche, but the rich get richer and poor get poor. At some point, the whole thing has to collapse/The Joker.

Question: Do you agree w/The Joker that the financial collapse reflects the condition of many households in America today?

“Now That’s Progressive”?

We’ve all seen those Progressive commercials with the car insurance shoppers literally “shopping” for car insurance, and the gimmick always seems to be “name your price.”  With a struggling economy, cost has become the primary means of competition among companies, although quality definitely remains a factor as well.

For one London restaurant, “name your price” has become a head turning idea.

Obviously, the U.K. is experiencing a slightly different economic situation than the United States.  A recession is underway, and a “credit crisis” has affected everyone.  The Little Bay restaurant has begun to make waves with its revolutionary pricing.  Like Progressive Car Insurance, The Little Bay restaurant has adopted a “name your price” system.

Peter Ilic, the owner of four restaurants including The Little Bay, encourages his customers to evaluate the meal and service and to pay whatever they feel is appropriate.

Ilic boasts an increase in revenue because of customers’ payment methods.  Many will overpay in an effort not to offend anyone nor to feel embarrassed.

Peter Ilic reiterated his theory as he stated, “It just seemed the right thing to do with everyone under the cash and feeling pretty miserable.”

Frank talk for kids

Are your kids worried about the economy?

You may assume they’re not. But if you are, chances are decent that they’re feeling your anxiety and wondering what’s going on. Teen-agers, especially, are mature enough to be scared — and to be given some straight talk about your situation.

A report from Money magazine says that an up-front discussion with your teenagers is a chance to allay their fears and teach them values about economic life.

The biggest question on your kids’ minds is probably: What does this mean to me? Answer this as straightforwardly as you can. “You don’t want to convey anxiety, just the facts,” says Gresham, who specializes in financial issues. Start with what’s not at risk: their allowance, say, or your ability to pay the mortgage. …

Then say what could be vulnerable: your job, for example, or your ability to cover all their college costs. Tell them exactly how you plan to cope. “You can’t just say, ‘We’re going to be okay,’ ” says New York City psychologist Marlin Potash, who focuses on money and relationships. “You must explain why you’re going to be okay.”

WND Poll: Let Them Eat Pork

Question: What do you think about Schumer’s remark that Americans don’t care about pork?/WorldNetDaily.com

  •  He’s right - this is an emergency spending bill for an economic crisis
  •  He’s right - “pork” is just a biased term used by those opposed to government investment
  •  He’s right - great civilizations require great governments to lead boldl
  •  Americans are opposed to pork-barrel spending everywhere else but they want their own representative to bring home the bacon
  •  In a sense he’s right because man’s nature is covetous
  •  His wording was careless but if Americans really cared they could put a stop to pork-barrel spending
  •  He’s wrong - Americans are simply frustrated there’s no way to end pork-barrel spending
  •  Schumer also doesn’t believe Americans have Second Amendment rights
  •  Charles Schumer lives in a parallel socialist New York universe - he doesn’t have a clue what Americans care about
  •  It was an arrogant lie from a man who happens to occupy a safe senatorial seat
  •  Other

Minnick 1 Of 7 D No’s Vs. Porkulus Bill

Democrats Peter DeFazio of Oregon and Walt Minnick of Idaho voted no Friday as the House passed President Barack Obama’s $787 billion plan to resuscitate the economy. They were among just seven Democrats who voted against the plan. Minnick opposed the stimulus measure last month, but DeFazio switched his vote. He was the only House member to oppose the bill after supporting the initial version/AP. Story here.

Question: Did Demo Minnick, as your congressman, vote the way you wanted him to do so?

Tax tips for tough times

For people who are feeling the direct effects of the recession — whether it’s a foreclosure or a drop in pay — this year’s tax season brings some changes.

The New York Times has collected a list of 10 tax tips for people hurt by the economy. Among the suggestions: Scour your circumstances for potential deductions, such as:

If you’re on the hunt for a new job, many of your costs may also be deductible, as long as you itemize your deductions instead of taking the standard deduction. Deductible expenses include résumé paper, printing, travel expenses, long-distance calls and faxes, postage, even meals and lodging expenses. But job expenses are considered a miscellaneous deduction, which means you can only deduct costs that exceed 2 percent of your adjusted gross income. Since other expenses can also be included in the miscellaneous bucket — from tax preparation fees to work uniforms — be sure you’re including them all, said George Jones, a senior tax analyst at CCH.

Not so fast

When the national economy zigs, Spokane’s sometimes zags. Or at least lags — showing less intense highs and lows than elsewhere during the recent housing bubble and subsequent recession.

It’s been true with foreclosures and bankruptcies, which have been going up here, but not to the degree seen nationally. Now, though, as foreclosures are dipping nationally, they’re showing a jump in Spokane.

RealtyTrac, a national firm that tracks foreclosures, reports today that foreclosures are down 10 percent nationally from December to January. Here’s an article at SmartMoney that cautions us not to get too excited about that.

Month-to-month comparisons can … be misleading, says Andres Carbacho-Burgos, an economist at Moody’s Economy.com. Short-term fluctuations can be too volatile for long-term conclusions to be drawn. “A three-month moving average might tell you a bit more about the underlying trends in foreclosures,” Carbacho-Burgos explains. (Moody’s Economy.com uses quarterly statistics from the Mortgage Bankers Association in its housing reports.)

In fact, compared with January 2008, foreclosure activity in January was up 18%, making it the 37th consecutive month with year-over-year increases, according to RealtyTrac.

Or three decent Spokane homes…

The New York Times regularly compares home values around the country with its “What  You Get For … “ series.

Today it plugs in $600,000 and include a visit to Schweitzer Mountain — where that money will get you a three-bedroom, three-bath, ski-in, ski-out condominium.

This unit was completely renovated and customized by its current owner, a woodworker and former professional skier from Norway. All interior wood was locally milled and hand-hewn.

Downtown Sandpoint, flanking Lake Pend Oreille, is about 25 minutes away. The town draws snow-sports enthusiasts in the winter, and boaters and fishermen to the lake in the summer. Amtrak trains run through Sandpoint on their way to Chicago and the Seattle area; and Spokane, Wash., has an international airport about two hours away.

Senate OKs Porkulus Bill 61-37

The Senate today passed an economic stimulus bill that President Obama and congressional Democrats called crucial to pull the U.S. economy out of its downward spiral but that drew scant support from Republicans. Senators voted 61 to 37 to approve the massive bill, which the Congressional Budget Office now says would cost $838 billion over 10 years. Only three Republicans voted in favor of it. In the House, an $819 billion version of the package passed on Jan. 28 with no Republican support/Washington Post. More here.

Related: Idaho senators vote no. Read news releases for Crapo and Risch.

Question: Did Idaho Sens. Crapo and Risch vote correctly?

Obama Unapologetic re: Stimulus

Item: Crisis needs swift action, Obama says: He’s unapologetic in stimulus push/Washington Post

More Info: President Barack Obama declared in his first prime-time news conference Monday night that the task of saving and creating jobs is more important than cultivating the bipartisan cooperation he promised to bring to Washington and pressed his case for the massive economic stimulus plan working its way through Congress.

Question: Did President Obama’s news conference reassure you re: the stimulus package?

Sour Economy Hits Retirement Plans

Item: Back on the job market: Sour economy throws monkey wrench into retirement plans/Shawn Vestal, SR

More Info: For years, Mara Greene had a plan. After years of creating ceramic mugs and selling artwork from her Soap Lake home and store, she’d sell the property and retire to Spokane on the proceeds. “Unfortunately, it didn’t sell,” said Greene. “And that turned into: I needed to get a job.” So, at 62, Greene finds herself going out on interviews and filing applications for front-office jobs. Like so many people who are at or near retirement age, Greene has seen the economy overturn her expectations for life after work.

Question: Has the recession forced you to re-evaluate your retirement plans?

WND Poll: Obama & National Economy

Do you think Obama is looking to nationalize the U.S. economy?/WorldNetDaily

  • No, and the suggestion is absurd
  • No, only right-wing nutjobs or conspiracy theorists would think that
  • No, but he should nationalize the economy. It’s a sure-fire recipe for success
  • No, while some of the measures he’s considering seem extreme, they’re necessary in this time of turmoil
  • No, he’s merely doing his best to rescue the national economy after George W. Bush broke it
  • No

Century Publishing Cuts 50 Workers

Item: Century Publishing trims staff by 50/Brian Walker, CDA Press

More Info: Century has about 25 employees left. It employed 155 in the 1990s, but equipment upgrades and technologies later reduced that number slightly. At its peak in sales in the middle of 2007, the company employed 135. But it was restructured twice in 2008, which reduced the staff each time.

Question: Have you or anyone close to you lost a job since the economy tanked last fall?

Obama Caps Exec Bailout Pay

Item: Obama caps executive pay tied to bailout money/AP

More Info: President Barack Obama on Wednesday imposed $500,000 caps on senior executive pay for the most distressed financial institutions receiving federal bailout money, saying Americans are upset with “executives being rewarded for failure.”

Question: Do you support this move by President O? Did he cap exec pay too high/low? Or just right?

The economy and the mental health of families

A growing number of families have hit a crisis point, according to this recent USA Today story, “As economic fears rise, families on verge of unraveling.”

Parents are suffering from stress and sometimes can’t cope with economic uncertainty, experts say. The worst-case scenario happened in Los Angeles late last month, when Ervin Lupoe became so depressed about losing his job that he killed his wife and five children before taking his own life, according to CNN and other news reports.

In the last few months, more Americans have turned to therapists, according to the USA Today story. Domestic violence and suicide hotlines also have reported increased calls.

It’s not just the parents who have lost their jobs, therapists say. People who are still working also experience anxiety because they don’t know if they’ll be able to hang on to what they have. Inevitably, children begin to share their parents’ worries and burdens.

Around Christmas time, we had a discussion about the need for transparency – how families can benefit when parents can discuss problems with money and talk to kids about the economy and their fears. But even then, some parents have a hard time reassuring their children – simply because they themselves don’t know if things will be OK.

Besides just talking about it and perhaps coming up with a savings plan, what else can families do to keep it together during these tough economic times?

You might as well ask

If there’s one money-saving suggestion that comes up again and again, in a huge range of circumstances, it’s this: You can negotiate prices on much more than you might imagine.

Most recently, I was surprised at how many consumer advocates and others say it’s a good idea to try to bargain even with your doctor — which sounds a bit extreme on the face of it, but which surveys show works the majority of the time.

In a post at Wise Bread, Nora Dunn writes about using negotiation tactics to get her cell phone bill and credit card rates lowers. As she puts it:

Truly – you can negotiate just about anything. Just because a website advertises specific rate packages does not mean that you cannot bend the rules. I recently signed up for internet access with a new supplier; in so doing I researched the packages available online, and then called to ask if they had any promotions available. Between the two people I talked to, I saved over $400 in posted connection fees, received 50% off the posted monthly rates, and got a $10 monthly reduction in my telephone bill too. None of these discounts were posted online, and I don’t believe they would have become available to me if I had not asked.

Why not just give me $10,000?

This may be a little macro for this blog, but CNN.com has put together a good Q-and-A about the economic stimulus package. If you’re trying to get your mind around some of this stuff, it’s a good place to start.

The post starts with a question that a lot of us have asked: Instead of giving huge sums to banks, why not give $10,000 to each family in the country? Wouldn’t that stimulate the economy?

Two economists answer. One, Lakshman Achuthan, managing director, Economic Cycle Research Institute, is dubious about the $10,000 plan.

“The government could give money to you or me, and that would create demand, which could be a very good way to break the recession. But you and I are not very confident about the economy, and if you think about what I’ll do, there’s a good chance I’m going to save it.

But the government is looking to have that money get spent and to have it multiplied somehow. Our economy is based on people spending money. So people saving money doesn’t help.”

Barnes & Noble Pulls Plug On CdA

Item: Barnes & Noble cancels Riverstone Store: Developer sues for breach of contract/Rick Thomas, CDA Press

More Info: Plans for a Barnes & Noble bookstore in Riverstone have been abandoned, and the developer of the project has filed suit against the company, claiming it failed to live up to an agreement to occupy a 28,000-square-foot corner on Main Street. Riverstone Center Companies filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Washington, in Spokane, claiming unspecified damages because the Delaware company failed to accept the purpose-built structure when it was presented for delivery on Nov. 14, 2008.

Question: Where do you buy your books?

Da Big Game won’t be so Big…

What weekend are we coming up on? … SUPER BOWL Weekend! The weekend usually brings so many parties and hotels and businesses around the selected location for the game receive huge increases in sales and reservations. Not so this year. Well, lets just say there have been a lot of “cutbacks” in regards to the Super Bowl this year. Many say the economy is to blame.

What do you think? Does it seem like everyone’s cutting back on Super Bowl expenditures? Anyone else hear that the NFL and Sports Illustrated Parties are cancelled?

Minnick, Simpson Oppose Stimulus Bill

Democratic Rep. Walt Minnick will vote against the economic stimulus bill later today, Minnick spokesman John Foster said a few minutes ago. A vote is expected later today. Republican Rep. Mike Simpson has said he will also vote against the bill/Kevin Richert, Idaho Statesman.

Question: Do you support or oppose the proposed economic stimulus bill?

You haven’t seen anything yet?

Good morning, Netizens…

In this morning’s David Horsey political cartoon, David Horsey’s wit has been supplanted with some wisdom. Despite the liberties with which he has created a caricature of President Obama attired as General George Washington at Valley Forge, there is some profound wisdom in what the cartoon implies.

Feeling the pinch as your once-abundant 401k has steadily shriveled up to the size of a pencil lead? What? You have forgotten how small that is? Tired of reading how our country is steadily losing more and more jobs but grateful it is happening somewhere else, not in our back yard? Hell, you still go to work each day, don’t you? Do you tire of reading about the rising number of the homeless, feeling reassured that could never happen to you? Do you ever worry as yet another bank has failed, leaving economic chaos in its wake? Is the Dow Jones driving you the poorhouse instead of into prosperity?

On the other hand, now that you have recovered from your ecstatic euphoria from watching the Obama Inauguration and the festivities that followed, it may be getting colder than we might admit.

Yes, as we come tap-dancing back from our collective memories of the various mountaintop experiences, the seemingly-inexhaustible Presidential Inauguration celebrations that rambled gaily across Washington DC, while we sat on the edge of a stygian wind-blasted plain of economic danger, deprivation and need, we might have stumbled across another vision.

Out of the darkness and chilling cold, a harbinger of the past rises up from the ground and shakes a finger in our faces, admonishing us all to beware. It is time to face reality because we haven’t seen anything yet. Dress warmly. It may get cold.


Doing what you have to do

When times are hard, you’ve got to sacrifice.

For one man in Lafayette, La., it meant taking a night job delivering pizza, after the loss of his $55,000-a-year managerial position. CNN.com profiled the man, Rob LeBlanc, as part of a series it’s doing on ”economic survivors.”

In Lafayette, a quiet city of about 114,000 tucked away in southern Louisiana, many of the jobs center around servicing the oil and gas industry, but Rob LeBlanc was unwilling to work offshore and away from his family.

When he applied for other jobs, he was told he was either under-qualified or had too much experience. After several weeks of searching, he took the only job he could get — a Domino’s pizza delivery man, a job that would cover the family’s expenses.

“I had to swallow my pride and take whatever I could get,” Rob LeBlanc says. “I kept telling myself one of these days something better will come along.”

Missing out on fun? Start a club

Do you ever feel that you’ve budgeted all the fun out of your life? That you never see friends anymore?

If your answers are yes, you might like this idea: start a frugal club with friends. This suggestion comes via the blog Wise Bread, from writer Tisha Toler:

What is a frugal club? Well, there is no official answer to that question because my necessity as a mother just invented it. … A frugal club can be anything you want it to be, so long as you find ways to incorporate frugality and find ways to be entertained and save money. Gather some friends you know who are working towards a more frugal life and set a specific day and time that is convenient for everyone, making a commitment to attend more likely to happen.

When your parents need help

For millions of Americans at or near retirement age, the financial crisis carries a sharpened sense of urgency. What’s happening in their retirement accounts affects their lives right now — and some of them need help navigating the situation.

Which often falls to their children. Smart Money is running a series of stories by writer Beverly Goodman about the travails of dealing with her own mother’s financial crisis. It’s a detailed, engaging account of one specific case that illustrates a larger condition.

Suddenly, adult children everywhere are facing problems they never thought they’d have: helping their parents through a housing crisis, assisting with health care costs and, of course, finding a retirement strategy that works. “It often makes parent-child relationships very fraught with resentment and rebellion on both sides,” says Olivia Mellan, a therapist and money coach who trains financial planners. “That role reversal can be very tough.”

WND Poll: Obama & Economy

What should Obama’s first objective be to turn America’s economy around?

1. Raise taxes significantly on the rich
2. Tax Social Security benefits for the rich
3. Raise taxes across the board
4. Implement a new “New Deal” that puts everyone to work
5. Create a massive program to rebuild America’s infrastructure

More below

401(k)’s: When you advise yourself

If you’ve been spooked by the big negatives on your 401(k) statements, you’ve got plenty of company.

The widespread dent in the retirement savings accounts now has some experts questioning whether the whole program is fundamentally flawed, since it puts untrained, unskilled people in charge of their own investments. The Wall Street Journal has a deep report on this issue today.

After watching her account drop 44% last year, Kristine Gardner, a 35-year-old information-technology project manager in Longview, Wash., feels no sense of security. “There’s just no guarantee that when you’re ready to retire you’re going to have the money,” she says. “You either put it in a money market which pays 1%, which isn’t enough to retire, or you expose yourself to huge market risk and you can lose half your retirement in one year.”

Many retirement experts have come to a similar conclusion: The 401(k) system, which has turned countless amateurs like Ms. Gardner into their own pension-fund managers, has serious shortcomings.

“This is the biggest test that the 401(k) plan has seen to date, and it has failed,” says Robyn Credico, head of defined-contribution consulting at Watson Wyatt Worldwide, noting that many baby boomers are ready to retire. “We’ve put people close to retirement in a very challenging position.”