Archive for jdeshields

Government Shutdown Hoedown: Answers To Your Most Pressing Questions

Pictured: The emotions of pretty much every American right now

It finally happened. Congress couldn’t agree on a budget in time, and now the government shut down is in effect. Some of you reading this may feel frightened, others may salivating at the thought of pure sweet anarchy. Either way, if you’re an American citizen you probably have a lot of questions about what a government shut down is and what it actually means. Don’t fret, ROI-Zone is here to help quell your fears and answer your biggest questions.

We’ll leave quietly Ms. Fergie

Why is the government even arguing about a budget in October? Shouldn’t this shut down have happened on January 1st or something?

The timing of the shutdown may seem strange to the majority of us, but it makes perfect sense to people who work for Uncle Sam. You see, the government’s fiscal year doesn’t follow the usual year marks we’re used to. For reasons no one really understands, the government’s fiscal year starts on October 1st and ends on September 30th. Usually the government has a yearly budget ready to go by the end of September, but that didn’t happen this year.


Wait a minute, if this is about a budget why is everybody screaming about Obamacare?

This is where it gets confusing. Essentially Republicans are very upset about certain stipulations in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the real non-partisan name for the health care law). Since the law requires that employers provide health insurance to their employees, the GOP believes that it’ll hurt small business owners and that the government shouldn’t be involved in how private businesses choose to handle insuring their employees.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act pretty much has nothing to do with the budget, but because of political ideologies Republicans chose to incorporate their demands into the budgets they came up with. House Republicans insist that any new spending bill should include provisions to either make changes to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, de-fund it, or take it away completely.


How did this become such a bizarre mess?

Essentially the House of Representatives is controlled by republicans and the Senate is controlled by democrats. Republicans would pass something in the house, democrats would deny it in the senate, and the whole thing repeats over and over again. Both sides refused to budge on certain issues, and also failed to reach a compromise.

A whole lot of nothing

What happened over the past few days?

On Sunday morning the House passed two spending bills, one would delay the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act for a year, and another would repeal the plan’s medical device tax. When the bills went to Senate on Monday they were rejected, which caused the House to approve another spending plan that would remove the individual mandate clause of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The Senate also rejected that plan. Both the House and the Senate failed to reach an agreement before the midnight deadline that day, and as a result the government shutdown went into effect at midnight on October 1st.

Luckily, the opera glasses industry is booming despite the shutdown

What happens now?

The Senate will meet again and probably decide if they want to negotiate with the House.  Senate majority leader Harry Reid said he wouldn’t consider meeting until the House strips the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act amendments from the spending bill, so don’t expect a fast resolution.

It was a simpler, more innocent time for our nation

OMG has this ever happened before?!

In before times in the long long ago in the ancient and mystical year of 1995, the federal government experienced a shutdown. While Americans were enjoying TGIF and guzzling Fruitopia, democratic President Bill Clinton and the republican controlled Congress clashed over funding for Medicare, education, public health, and environmental programs. The government was shut down after Clinton vetoed the spending bill Congress sent him, and non-essential government workers were put on a furlough while non-essential government services were suspended. The shut down occurred from November 14 through November 19, 1995 and from December 16, 1995 to January 6, 1996, culminating to 28 days of government chaos.

We don’t even LIKE the EPA or FDA

So, who gets kicked out of their office?

Out of 3.3 million workers the government employs, only about 800,000 employees will be temporarily out of work. Most of the furloughed federal workers were supposed to be out of their offices four hours after the official start of the business day on October 1st.

Bye bye money :)

How is this going to affect the economy?

Depending on who you’re talking to, it’ll either barely have an affect or it’ll completely bring us to financial ruin. Most economists do agree that the affect it’ll have on the economy depends on how long it goes on for. Brain Kessler, an economist with Moody’s Analytics, estimates that a 3-4 week shut down could cost the economy about $55 billion.

Honestly, I just really wanted to use this gif

Is this going to affect me?

That kind of depends. National zoos, parks, and monuments will be shut down (there were a lot of confused and angry tourists at the Statue of Liberty Tuesday). Last time the shutdown occurred over 200,000 applications for passports went unprocessed, but according to the State Department that won’t happen this time. Social security recipients will still be receiving benefits, but people who are looking for federal money through loans will have to wait. The garbage men will still pick up your trash, but not if you live in DC since they currently don’t have a budget since that also must be approved by Congress. So the answer is, yes?


Badvertising: The World of Poorly Chosen Ad Campaigns

Sometimes advertisements become unintentional forms of entertainment.  Have you ever seen an ad that has made you wonder why companies chose to let it see the light of day?  After learning about a recent tragic advertising mishap, I decided to see other company’s forays into bad taste.  If you love cringe worthy ads, you’ll like this roundup of some truly heinous examples of badvertising.


France Debuts Bold And Innovative Plan To Jumpstart Economy (That They Already Tried in 2010)

The United States is far from the only country that is desperately trying to get back some of its former economic glory.  Out of all of the EU nations in economic turmoil France is far from the worst, but the country has been struggling to jump start its economy for decades.  Other European nations like Spain and Germany have been adopting polices that make their country’s much more business friendly since the 1990s, and now France is looking pretty expensive to businessmen in comparison to their neighbors.

Hindsight is 20/20

French labor costs are the highest of any major EU economy, and taxes have risen considerably over the past few years.  France recently lost the business of Michelin which closed its 52 year old factory in favor of moving operations to Spain, and it’s possible that other companies could plan on jumping ship to cheaper nations.  These events paired with the fact that the country’s economy has barely grown over the past few years spells an economic dry spell for France, but its president recently announced plans to bring some money back to the struggling EU nation.

President François Hollande is planning on jump starting the French economy by investing billions in up and coming technology.  When you look at the country’s past economic success with revolutionizing nuclear power and high speed trains Hollande’s plan seems practical, but some economists are doubtful that the investments will have much of a payoff.

Pictured: Not France

Pumping nearly 3.7 billion euros into industries that are working on 3D software, robotics, and other futuristic technology seems very similar to ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy’s plan to pump money into emerging technologies in 2010.  That plan was 5 billion euros worth of failure, nearly three years after his Hail Mary plan corporate profit margins in the country are the lowest they’ve been since 1985.  Corporations are already wary of settling down in a country where wages and business taxes are high, so for this to work France would need to not only keep the companies that are already in the country, but also somehow attract other companies that could easily do business in cheaper surrounding countries.  Only time will tell if the plan will work, but most economists are doubtful that it’ll help.


Help Me I’m Poor: New Report Shows That Americans Are Overworked And Underpaid

Every American worker

Do you have a nagging feeling that you’d be earning nearly double the amount of your current salary if the economy was better?  Well wage slave, there’s some good news and bad news!  The good news is that it isn’t all in your head.  A report from the Economic Policy Institute shows that the American economy is going through a period of wage stagnation.  The bad news is that their numbers were taken from 2002 to 2012, so wages were awful well before the economic crash of 2008.

Between 2002 and 2012 wages were either stagnant or declined for the entire bottom 70% of the wage distribution.  Wages may have been at their worst in the past 10 years, but these numbers come after a few decades of poor wage growth.  Essentially the American wage has been in decline since 1979.  Workers saw a brief period of growth thanks to internet boom in the 90s, but even then those who experienced a wage increase were in very specialized fields.

The average worker has seen a meager 5% wage increase from 1979 to 2012, despite the fact that worker productivity on average has been skyrocketing.  Essentially all of your after work whiskey rants are true, you ARE working way too hard for much less pay than you deserve.

Get used to it America

The news gets even worse.  Wages aren’t the only thing that has decreased, workers benefits like healthcare and paid time off have dropped off along with earnings.  The college wage premium (the wage held by workers with college degrees over workers without degrees) has grown much more slowly over the past decade in comparison to 20 years ago.  If that didn’t make you depressed, you should also know that corporate profits are at an all-time high in this country.

This may be shocking to you, but this isn’t news to the average economist.  People know that there’s a problem, but have no idea how to fix it.  Some workers have tried striking, but walk outs and protests won’t be able to fix the problem.  Despite the fact that many Americans think corporations could stand to pay their employees more, they’re also rabidly opposed to making it happen since they’re worried that the “job creators” will leave towns and states if they’re forced to pay their employees a living wage.    Washington D.C.’s infamous living wage bill was passed by a vote, but it seems like Mayor Vincent Gray is stalling on signing the controversial bill into law.

Currently we’re at an impasse, we know that there’s a problem but the public and the people in power can’t agree on what to do.  If you’re affected by low wages, your best bet is to take on a 2nd job and forgo eating, clothing yourself, and taking care of your children.

They’ll be fine


NASDAQ Shut Down Caused By Computer Error, Jimmies Remain Rustled

Don’t cry my child, the jimmies will soon be back in order

Yesterday the global financial market had a horrifying scare when the NASDAQ was inaccessible and offline for three hours Thursday.  The shutdown didn’t happen because people were worried about a terrorist attack, nor was it shut down because of some sort of national emergency.  A “minor” computer error put the entire system on lockdown, and now people across the industry are worried about the security of one of the most crucial financial systems on the planet.

A three hour shut down may not seem like that big of a deal to you, but you need to keep in mind that the NASDAQ is the second biggest American market operator and is the trading home for 3,200 companies across 37 nations.  The mistake was so serious that President Barack Obama was notified of the shutdown shortly after it occurred, and now SEC chairman Mary Joe White wants to meet with exchange leaders in Washington to discuss vulnerabilities in the system.  Their alarm may seem suspicious, but they have a good reason to scramble the finance troops.  If a minor computer error was able to shut down the NASDAQ for a few hours, imagine what skilled hackers could do.

The IT specialists at the stock exchange are probably in for some trouble, but most people have their pitchforks and torches aimed at the NASDAQ’s chief executive Robert Greifeld.  Some people still haven’t forgiven Greifeld over last year’s Facebook IPO disaster, and this news has only added more fuel to the “Greifeld sucks” fire.  People are upset that Greifeld wasn’t reachable when people first noticed the trouble on the trading floor.  To be fair, Greifeld wasn’t available since he was at a wake in New Jersey, but for some death isn’t an excuse for not doing your job.  Greifeld attempted to do damage control on CNBC and Bloomberg TV this morning, but people still feel like they didn’t get a reasonable explanation for the catastrophic shut down.

It’s very likely that there will be more news about IT security issues in the stock market, and even more likely that Greifeld will do something to embarrass himself even more.  All you can do now is sit back, relax, and watch the financial sector have a good old fashioned freak out.


Chris Christie Reveals New Scholarship Opportunities


Role Reversal

In a recent interview, Chris Christie stated, “Opportunities for good-paying jobs all begin with access to high-quality education and training, whether it’s colleges and universities, vocational or technical schools, or other kinds of specialized training that prepares students for a successful future.” A man of his word, Christie revealed that he’s creating new kinds of scholarship opportunities – particularly geared toward women and minorities – on June 25th. This slew of new scholarships, called the NJ-GIVS, are helping students enroll in certificate programs – such as tech school – at all 19 of the New Jersey county colleges.

Higher education has been a big matter of discussion in our state ever since the recession. The news has recently been covering the re-investment of state funds into higher education as a solution for the state’s stagnant job market and otherwise slow-to-recover economy. Since most New Jersey residents think this is and was a much-needed economic decision, they’re also very excited about the influx of new scholarships.

But it’s not just the economy that Christie is aiming to improve. According to Mark Larkins, the head of the Schools Development Authority, providing these opportunities will bring more women and minorities into manual labor trades, changing the state of the New Jersey job market for the better. Currently, less than one percent of the workers on construction projects are female. New Jersey legislators think that this will provide incentive for women to take advantage of these available and high-paying jobs.

Most females and minorities are eligible for these scholarships. Qualification merely requires that the applicant be, of course, female or a member of a determined group of minorities; New Jersey residents and legal US citizens or immigrants; and proven submitters of the federal financial aid forms to determine financial eligibility.

County colleges in New Jersey have varying tuition rates, but they max out around $4,000 per year. While a nominal cost in comparison with other state schools, it’s still not a bill that many can foot, which keeps them ineligible for even some labor job markets. Thus, it will help to solve the issue of getting those below the poverty line into the job market as well. By encouraging all types of New Jersey citizens to get into the construction and manual labor market, we’re diversifying the work force; by providing them with quality education, we’re improving it. All-around, the introduction of these new scholarships by Christie is, by and large, a great way to stimulate the economy.


Wal-Mart and DC City Council Wage Throw Down: A Story In GIFs

There was a little publicized law that DC passed that will either help raise the standard of living for the common man or doom DC citizens to a life of poverty  because they’ll lose interest from corporations.  This story can be best summarized in gifs:

The Washington DC city council has a bill called the Large Retailer Accountability Act.  The bill would require companies that make more than $1 billion in annual revenue to pay employees a raised minimum wage, $12.50 an hour instead of the regular $8.25.

Wal-Mart is the largest retailer in the world, and they’re notorious for their low wages and refusal to negotiate on wage matters.  They were planning on opening six new stores in the city (three of which are currently in construction) to bring some jobs and revenue to the area.

But when they heard about the proposed bill, they threatened to kill the deal unless the city council decided to abandon the bill.

Some economists worried that passing the bill could have negative consequences, mainly through lower property taxes, missing multiplier effects, and the abandoned sites where construction was stopped.

Others think it’ll have more positive consequences than negative ones since many people in the city will have a higher wage.

Either way, people from both sides of the issue were surprised when the council voted to pass the bill.

Some people think that DC made the best decision they could have, others think they didn’t think about the consequences of sending away big retailers.

Wal-Mart was the most vocal about the wage issue, but it’s possible that the bill won’t dissuade other box stores and lucrative retailers from coming to the city.

So now DC is all


And Wal-Mart is all


Regardless it doesn’t matter what either side thinks, since either way


EU and US Currently Involved In One of the Biggest Trade Agreements In History

rf;poil2jlwekjf2;ro EXCITEMENT!!!!

Indeed it is Mr.Paul, indeed it is

Today is the day that economists and traders have been waiting for.  Right now 29 nations including the United States and the 28 countries that make up the European Union will be negotiating their biggest deal yet.  The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership will affect 30 percent of global commerce, eliminate $10.5 billion in tariffs, and boost trade by an estimated $280 billion a year.  Industries in the EU and in America have already given the powers that be a list of changes they want to see by the end of 2014.  Their 2014 end date is probably nothing more than wistful thinking, most of these talks can go on for years.  The last trade deal the US made was with South Korea in 2006, and their talks didn’t conclude until 2011.

Agricultural commodities are going to be a big issue during the talks.  Genetically modified foods will be hotly debated during the talk, and could end up causing delays since the US and EU seem to have very different takes on the issue.  Big tobacco and the beef and poultry industry will be praying for lighter restrictions, and that they aren’t hit with heavier ones on the additives and chemicals they use on their products.

Transit and manufacturing are also big industries with a lot to gain or lose from the talks, but people are eager to see what both parties will say about laws pertaining to intellectual property and privacy.  The PRISM scandal already has a lot of American allies unhappy, and France even tried to delay the talks because of their anger of the US’ expansive spy program (may not work out too well now that people know that France has had their own surveillance program going on for awhile). All we can do is it back, relax, and wait several months for the decision


Paula Deen And The Perils Of Building Your Buisness Around Your Personality

There is no stick of butter large enough to help Deen now

If you have an internet connection, functional ears, and staunchly liberal or conservative friends on Facebook you know about everything that’s happened with Paula Deen.  Long story short, because of a disturbing lawsuit filed against Deen and her brother Bubba Hiers from a former employee word got out that Deen had made some racist remarks.  As word spread her sponsors dropped her fast, and now people are wondering what will happen to the woman who used to be America’s favorite chef and top butter enthusiast.

This blog post won’t be about whether or not what Deen said was inappropriate, or if her sponsor’s decision to drop her was wrong.  Deen didn’t get fired for expressing her views, nor did she get fired for being sexist/racist/butterist.  Deen was fired because she was a very public figure for a lot companies, and she made the mistake of saying/doing something to upset the public.  Deen has made the mistake that others have made in the past, and her whole debacle highlights the particular problem of building a business empire that’s solely based on the presentation and promotion of a person’s personal life story.

People loved Paula Deen’s feel good recipes, but what really propelled the woman into stardom was her life story and personality.  Deen lived in poverty and was in an abusive relationship with her husband, and her comfort food gave her a way to escape the horrors of her relationship.  Her food wasn’t just a mental escape; it offered a physical escape from her husband and poverty.  She started off selling her sandwiches and dishes to locals, and after getting in touch with the producer and celebrity Gordon Elliott she was rocketed into stardom.

Paula was the perfect person to bring back southern food.  She could cook like nobody’s business, she had an adorable southern accent, and she looked like she could easily be a stand-in for your average food loving southern mom, grandmother, or aunt.  He trade mark “hey ya’ll” catchphrase and her origin story made her a beloved public figure, and soon her sponsors were selling the Paula Deen persona as much as they were selling her food.

It’s important to note that the lawsuit that got Deen in trouble had little to do with her, and focused on the wrong doings of her brother Bubba.  Deen being associated with Bubba would have been enough to shake her empire, but her racist remarks are what put the nail in the Deen empire’s coffin.  When people found out about Deen’s dark side, her image as the loving southern mother figure who wanted to feed you comfort food was utterly shattered.   The persona that made her popular was gone, and the companies that were associated with her know that she would eventually start to be revenue poison.

Deen’s meteoric rise and fall shows the perks and perils of having your business propped up by her personality.  Her southern charmer personality made her famous, but when people found out about her less desirable parts of her personality she was ruined.   Beware of the allure of making yourself a brand.  Once you become a brand, you better forget about being a person.


Carnival Cruise Lines Shocks Investors With Hefty 2nd Quarter Gains

You don’t need to be a genius to know that Carnival Cruise Lines has been having a rough year and a half.  When the Costa Concordia went down in January 2012 it took a lot of the company’s revenue and popularity with it, and since then the company has been trying to win back public favor by offering as many discounts as possible.  Despite cutting ticket prices, giving free upgrades, and cross honoring cruise tickets Carnival Cruise Lines is still struggling to win back customers.

Despite the fact that people are avoiding being stuck a ship that could cover them in feces, the cruise company actually had a pretty decent 2nd quarter.  Despite two ship disasters occurring with months of one another, Carnival Cruise Lines managed to earn $41 million for their second quarter profit.  Their earnings more than surpassed the modest estimates most financial experts predicted, even though their bookings for 2013 are far less than they were in 2012.  Some of their success may have to do with the amount of companies they know.  Most people don’t want to take a cruise with Carnival, but they would be more than willing to set sail with Holland America and Princess.  Those two cruise companies are owned by Carnival Cruises, but since they don’t heavily advertise with the Carnival name most consumers think they’re vacationing with a totally different company.  Fuel costs dropping by 10% also probably didn’t hurt their profits either.

It seems like their discounts have helped keep the company afloat for now, but some investors think that their extensive discounts will cause problems in the future.   Carnival Cruises can’t keep winning the public back with discounts, eventually they’ll have to start charging full price is they want to continue being profitable in the long run.  The company is fully aware of the problem, which is why they’re planning on rolling out a massive marketing campaign in the upcoming months.  The company just finished putting the finishing touches on refurbishing the Triumph, and they’re ready to get back to business as usual.