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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.

WUT

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.

AUGH

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?

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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Luluemon CEO Steps Down, Surprisingly Has Little To Do With Transparent Pants

Not pictured: The legions of perverts behind her taking pictures of her see through clothing

When you hear the name Luluemon, what do you think about?  If you’re like 99% of the population you probably think about tissue paper yoga pants, but the company has been making headlines for a different reason.  Earlier this week Luluemon CEO Christine Day announced that she would step down from her position at the company.  Even though some reporters are trying to say that the pants predicament caused Day to lose her job, Luluemon investors have a very different take on the matter.

The transparent yoga pants didn’t really help the company, but Day actually took the right steps in handling the problem and confronting it in the press.  If anything the whole scandal just showed how competent of a CEO Day was.  Instead of shuffling around employees and scapegoating, she fired the company’s Chief Product Officer and got started immediately doing damage control by offering customers refunds and discounts to get back in their good graces.

Stock shares grew significantly when Day was in control of the company.  They were just at $4 a share when she started, and they closed at $80 share before she announced her leaving the position.  The number of stores nearly tripled during the five years she was in charge of the company, and they’ve become an established household name during a time where economic growth was stagnant and people were quickly dropping brick and mortar retailers for e-tailers.

Day may have done everything right when she was in charge, but some people think that her departure could be a sign that there’s going to be trouble for the company that has experienced a meteoric rise to the top.  Her discounts may have helped some customers come back to the business, but Luluemon still hasn’t fully recovered the share of customers they lost after the big recall.  Since Day didn’t name a successor, shares dropped by $10 the day she announced her decision to leave the company.  Some also wonder if their expansion in men’s clothing is a logical next step, or a short sighted attempt to seem innovative when they’re out of ideas.  Either way, it seems like Luluemon will never be the same.

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Yahoo Purchases Tumblr For $1.1 Billion

That Feel

The internet exploded a little Monday when the news hit that the relevant in the 1990s internet company Yahoo purchased Tumblr for a little over $1 billion (technically they made the deal Sunday, but that detail isn’t that important).  The Yahoo/Tumblr deal is the largest acquisition of a social networking company in years, surpassing last year’s Facebook/Instagram deal by mere millions of dollars.  Some believe that the acquisition was a bold move from Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo and the brief target of internet rage after she took away her employee’s work from home days,that was done in order to make today’s internet whipper snappers care about Yahoo.

Actual footage of acquisition

 

Some people wonder if Mayer made a mistake purchasing such a large and popular company, but since she has been the CEO she has made a number of acquisitions and they have yet to burst into failure flames.  On the other hand Yahoo’s acquisition of Flickr could have turned out a bit better, so some people think their worrying is justified.  People on Yahoo’s end swear that they don’t plan on making a lot of changes to tumblr’s policies and that users shouldn’t expect to see much change.  Bloomberg Businessweek was kind enough to point out that they may have a problem keeping that promise.

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Apple Settles Lawsuit with Parents Who Got Smurfed in the Smurf From Expensive In-App Purchases

The village of the damned/smurfed

We’ve all been there before.  We’re stuck with a kid who can’t stop whining about being bored, needing food, or craving the love and discipline of an adult.  So to get them to shut up we hand them our iphone/ ipod/whatever electronic device and tell them to play something so we can shut them up.  We get a few hours a of peace, and then suffer from a few hours of abject horror when we get our monthly bill. We see that little Johnny spent $600 on smurf berries, and that a Steve Jobs clone is coming to punch our teeth down your throat if we don’t pay up.

That story may sound a bit farfetched, but if anything it isn’t insane enough to show the problem some parents were having with their kids finding and using “hidden” in-app purchases.  In 2011 Stephanie Kay was taken aback when she received a bill for $1400 from Apple in her inbox, and was presumably even more shocked when she realized that the bill wasn’t a bizarre prank.  Her 8 year old daughter was playing the Capcom game Smurfs’ Village, a game that her mother was able to download for free.  Kay wasn’t aware that the manufacturer made the game free, but chose to make certain items in the game cost money.  These weren’t little multi-use items that cost under $1.99, this game was happily charging its users $99 for a wagon of smurfberries and $19 for a freaking bucket of snowflakes.

It isn’t exactly news that there are free to play games that charge their users for special in game content, but people were particularly outraged that a game that’s marketed to children could have so many covertly hidden and expensive items.  Kay wasn’t the only parent who had lost hundreds of dollars to the smurfs and other cute shovelware games; there were tons of parents that were unknowingly letting their kids play games with absurdly expensive items.  Capcom eventually added a disclaimer to the Smurfs’ Village game:

PLEASE NOTE: Smurf Village is free to play, but charges real money for additional in-app content. You may lock out the ability to purchase in-app content by adjusting your device’s settings.

But by the time they had posted it, it was already too late for some people.

Take my money Apple, I was only using it to make it rain on stockphoto models anyway

Since most apps didn’t require users to re-enter passwords to make in-game purchases, in 2011 rightfully pissed-off parents filled a lawsuit against Apple for making it too easy for kids to purchase in game goods.  Apple essentially changed their in-app purchasing systems in March of 2011, but by then most of the damage was already done.  In a surprising turn of events Apple ended up settling the lawsuit, but the U.S. district court judge who ruled the case is still ironing out the details.

Essentially users who spent more than $30 in in-app purchases can receive a cash refund after jumping through some hoops, and Apple will be required to notify the 23 million+ iTunes account holders who purchased content from certain games about the settlement.  Some people can expect to receive a $5 iTunes gift card for their troubles because Apple feels the need to give their loyal customers one final middle finger.

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The Economic State of the Union

It’s freedom time baby

Tonight Barack Obama will be giving his first State of the Union speech since his re-election in 2012, and people have been spending a lot of time trying to anticipate what the president will say about certain issues.  There are so many big issues that need to be addressed tonight, but it seems like the bulk of Obama’s speech will focus on the economy.

Rutgers recently did a thoroughly depressing survey on jobs, and they found that 80% of Americans (that’s a PDF file link) have either lost a job or have had a loved one lose a job in the past few years.  In just the past week three major world events occurred that could heavily affect the stock market, and right now the US is looking for some economic reassurance and TLC from the Barack-Star.

The impending address has caused a lot of people to wonder if Obama has been able to keep any of the big promises he has made since he was elected.  Obama may have utterly failed to keep his promises about the environment and prosecuting big bankers, but at least he’s been able to make things slightly less impossible for small business owners.

The Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act that was designed to legalize crowd funding and lift restrictions on how small businesses can raise money was passed in April, but it’s still too soon to see if it has had any major impact.  The HIRE Act has been very popular with small businesses because of the credits and social security tax breaks businesses receive for hiring employees.  And depending on whom you ask, the jury is still out on whether or not the Affordable Health Care act will cause financial problems for small business owners.

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US Department of Justice Files Suit Against S&P For Being Full of Terrible People

The global financial crisis happened in the fall of 2008 and in the beginning of 2013 we’re still looking for people to place the blame on.  Big banks have been sued for laughably small amounts and some companies have kicked out CEOs, but the most surprising 2008 crisis call out happened this past Monday.

Standard & Poor’s (that S&P thing media personalities occasionally mention when they’re giving out terrible investment advice) is a pillar of the American financial sector.  S&P has been around since 1860, they’re largest credit rating firm in the country, and they publish financial research and analysis on the stock market that people read like a fiscal holy book.

They’re also a division on The McGraw Hill Companies AKA: The people behind the worst text books ever

On Monday the US Justice Department filed civil fraud charges against the company, claiming that the company mislead the country by giving glowing appraisals to unstable securities and down played the true risk of the looming credit crisis that managed to screw up the global economy.  According to the government S&P misled investors by claiming their ratings and financial information was “uninfluenced by any conflict of interest”, when they pretty much were unabashedly promoting companies they held a financial stake in.  They claim that S&P’s desire to generate more money and earn more market share caused the company to grossly ignore the risks of shoddy investments from about 2004-2007.

Standard and Poor’s immediately went on damage control after the news broke and claimed that they totally knew that the US was gunning for them and they denied any wrong doing.  Their confidence of their innocence didn’t seem to help much since their stock plunged by a little over 20% less than 24 hours after the news became public.  The news of S&P’s impending suit was so bad that somehow the shares for Moody’s Corp, S&P’s main rival, to fall by 10.7%.

S&P’s most trumpeted innocence claim is that other credit rating companies managed to screw up as badly as they did.  Every mortgage-backed bond that the US Department of Justice review had received the same credit rating S&P gave from different rating agencies.  It’s also likely that they’ll defend their terrible mistakes by claiming their first amendment rights since their ratings are really their “opinions” and that they’re protected under the Constitution.  Luckily two federal judges have already claimed that any 1st amendment defense would be complete and utter crap.

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