Writing these blog posts has been difficult. It has forced me to look at 25 years in sales and ask myself If I have been doing the right thing. Working for Aames was not the right thing to do, and I wonder why I never realized that before. The biggest wrong I committed, while working for Aames, was convincing myself that I was helping people. Any help I may have given my customers was purely short term assistance. Many of my customers who were granted lower interest rates were given three years fixed mortgages. After three years, their interest rates went variable. Very few of those loans had ceilings. The logic behind this was it gave them a chance to fix their credit so they could refinance again before their mortgage rates went through the roof. In actual fact we were being too optimistic. Between outsourcing and salary stagnation, chances were that in three years those people’s credit were in worse shape than ever. Then after three years their mortgages went through the roof.
Belief is a very strong factor in any sale. If the salesperson does not believe in the product, neither will the customer. There were just too many reps who did not believe in what they were selling. That should have warned me that something was wrong. I knew one salesperson who sold through intimidation. He specialized in single female home owners, and subtly threatened them into signing. Then he grabbed the commission check and ran to another company before the hammer came down. I knew another salesperson who specialized in single male homeowners. Her usual working clothes was a leather mini split up to the waist at the side, and a very low cut top.
Despite these signs that things were totally wrong, I continued to believe in what I was doing. Conviction is more than half of sales. An effective salesman believes in what he is selling or is a good enough actor to truly make the customer believe in what he is doing. It occurs to me that there are many more actors in sales than I originally thought.
Conviction was the difference between getting the application and credit report or not getting the application and earning the wrath of Aames. Aames had a lot of really idiotic rules, but one of the worst was their insistence on running credit reports for all customers. I had more than one customer offer to fax or email me their most recent credit report. Later, I would work for companies that were fine with customers faxing their credit reports. However to complete an application for Aames you had to run the credit report, and in order to do that you had to get the customer’s social security number.
To this day I am amazed at the amount of people who gave me their social security numbers over the phone. I always left the social security number for last. I would get the customer on the phone and we would talk a little bit and I would talk him into giving a phone application. I specialized in calling people with high interest variable loans, and they were desperate to get out from under. It was easy for me to get them to apply. The biggest objection I had to overcome were the people who had tried over and over again and kept getting turned down. I usually gave them a pep-talk. I encouraged them to take one more chance while mentioning all the people with shaky credit that Aames managed to help.
I always started with the basics. I would ask their names and addresses and get them talking about their homes and their mortgage woes. I would make appropriately sympathetic sounds as they volunteered the information I needed to put on the form. Once in a while I had to give them a little help. Older people had no idea of the market value of their homes. Generally they made me put a too low value on it. By the time I reached the end of the application, I was an old friend. That’s when I asked for the social security number.
About one in three just gave it to me. Not only did they give it to me, but called their spouses at work to get his or her social security number since I needed to pull a joint credit report About two out of three customers gave me a hard time. This is where belief comes in. I promised them that they were in no danger, their credit scores would not go down and their identities were safe. When I realized that too many credit hits would bring down a customer’s credit scores, I stopped promising that. I would estimate a safe time to pull their credit scores and schedule them for a call back at that time. You would not believe the amount of crap I had to live through when I was caught doing it. The Regional or district manager who caught me backing out on an application would lecture me mercilessly. My job was to get the application and not to worry about the state of the customer’s credit. So when I got the occasional person who was just not going to give me his social security number, I made it a point to argue with them when the brass was listening. It made me look good.
I was very careful with personal information. I would shred my notes and make sure that my copies of the applications were put safely away where nobody could get them. I was the only one. Everybody else just put their notes in the trash and old applications and notes were available for anybody to rifle through and pull out and use. These notes not only included the social security number but birthdays and addresses. Everything you needed for full scale identity theft was in that office. It only recently occurred to me that there was an entire room full of filing cabinets which was never locked and anybody could go through and pull out whatever information they wanted.
That was what I did for Aames Home Loan for a forty hour six day week. Most of my applications were rejected for various reasons. The most common was bad credit. Unlike other companies, Aames was very careful of the credit scores of the loans they accepted. That meant that most of Aames’s customers could have gotten a better deal elsewhere So the beginning of my month would see about two dozen loans in my pipeline but on a really good month, only two or three would fund. Somehow that was my fault for finding the wrong customers. In Aames Home Loan, failure was always an underling’s fault.
Whenever I state that health care and housing are human rights, I get one of three answers. The least used answer is that health care and housing do not belong in the public sector, and that nationalizing them will lead to big government. Somehow this all ties in with the war on drugs, but nobody has clearly told me how national health and housing leads to violence in Bolivia. Another answer I get is that national health and housing are socialism and a threat to the Constitution and the Capitalist way of life. Most people simply object to the expense. My reply to all three answers is that medical care and housing are considered to be human rights in Europe. Then I ask the question nobody seems to be able to answer. Why do people in Europe have more rights than people in the U.S?
The American voters drank the Reagan Kool Aid, that getting rid of government will safe guard our Constitutional rights. Many people continue to believe this despite the evidence. Deregulation does not guarantee our rights. The more government we get rid of, the stronger grip Wall St. has on us. The American government was not meant to be a rubber stamp for EXXON and Halliburton. The American government was meant as a limit between human beings and soulless corporations. Without government, the corporations can do anything they want with us, and they don’t have to worry about consequences.
Our Constitution was meant to be an instrument of the will of the people, and that is why the Founders built change into the Constitution. Capitalism is not a part of the Constitution. The Federalist Papers extolled the virtues of Capitalism. Jefferson and Jay did not have everything their own way. Regulations protecting the individual from corporations were written into the Constitution despite the Federalist Papers. We also have a series of amendments so that the Constitution can change with the times. As conditions change to make a strict adherence to capitalism nothing more than a religious affectation, the Constitution will still be just as strong as we evolve into a more practical and humane economic system. Our civil rights will be just as strong and maybe stronger, for having a government that will support the limits between government and corporations.
The people who do not want the expense of government are really the people who drank the Kool Aid. Freedom is not a free ride. There is a monetary expense in protecting and expanding our freedom. People in Europe have a strong social safety net. They have national health. They have housing. Those who work get a mandatory month’s vacation. Why, they even have the disposable income to go to other countries for their vacations. Did you ever stop to wonder why people in Europe have the disposable income to go on vacation when most families in the U.S do not? They have higher taxes, but they have much less out of pocket expenses. Their rent is subsidized. Their health care is through their taxes. Their electric bills are though their taxes. Public transportation is subsidized. The average American pays more in out of pocket bills than a European pays through taxes. This does not mean that everything is perfect and there are no slums, but it does mean a much lower crime rate. It means that everybody has a roof over their heads. It means that not everybody has private hospital rooms, but everybody has a minimum standard of health care.
We, the people of the United States, have nothing to lose and everything to gain if we restore our government. We will have to wrest the government out of the hands of the corporations. The only people who would suffer from that would be the criminals who just stole 700 billion dollars from the American people. They would be forced to obey the law and pay their fair share of taxes for the first time in decades. No, it will not be easy to force them to pay their share, but nothing worthwhile is ever easy. Ask the early heroes of the unions. We can do it if we put our minds to it.
I do love the surreal. I love the surreal in literature and in poetry, and there is nothing that catches me more than surreality in cinema. Yet there is nothing more surreal than American culture. If there is a God, he is on vacation and he has left Salvador Dali in charge. What can be more surreal than what is happening in the United States today? Homeowners in Oakland who refinanced their homes for hundreds of thousands of dollars now find themselves with mortgages for more than their homes are worth today. Were they to sell their homes, they would have to do so at a loss. Congress has just given 700 billion in taxpayer money to a bunch of goniffs who are meeting at luxury spas. Meanwhile the homeless population swells beyond our pathetic social safety net’s ability to care for them.
Amidst all this, I get an email from my brother about college students having to resort to food pantries in order to survive. Tuitions have skyrocketed to the point where your average student cannot afford tuition, housing, gasoline, and food. Along with this article from my brother comes a link to a Time Magazine pictorial on College Dorms. Students are going to the food pantry to eat, and their colleges are paying millions of dollars for luxury dorms. I ask you, is that surreal or what? Rutgers University, my alma mater, spent 55 million dollars for a dorm with a state of the art gym, a Cold Stone Creamery, and a 7-11, and grocery delivery. Grocery delivery? Oy vey ist mir! In my day I had to get up and go all the way to the student center to get my munchies. Sometimes I was too stoned to go, and so I would have to go without. Today’s kids can have their munchies delivered straight to the door. There is something wrong about that. I always believed that the munchies were there to teach kids moderation. That’s not going to happen if they can have their munchies delivered straight to their rooms. I wonder if pot growers have a financial interest in college dorm building?
But stop and think about that dichotomy. On one hand college students can’t afford to eat. They have to get their food out of the pantries. On the other hand, there are students who are getting their food delivered to their rooms. The pictorial mentions a student who wanted the school to house his butler. What an image that brings to mind. It could be a new Hugh Laurie (House) vehicle. He can get back together with his partner, Stephen Frye, and make a Jeeves and Wooster Go to Rutgers, movie. I can see it now.
Wooster (Played by Hugh Laurie): I say, Jeeves, I’m feeling a bit peckish. Could I impose on you for one of your famous roast beef sandwiches?
Jeeves (Played by Stephen Frye): I am sorry sir, but the larder is a little bare at the moment.
Wooster: The larder is bare, you say? Haven’t you been going to the grocery store, Jeeves?
Jeeves: I’m afraid not, sir. I meant to mention this at a better time, but I’m afraid that your bank account has been overdrawn by roughly a hundred dollars.
Wooster: Overdrawn Jeeves?
Jeeves: By a hundred dollars, sir.
Wooster: Jeeves, how could you let that happen?
Jeeves: I’m afraid that tuition has gone up and your Aunt Agatha has refused to raise your allowance.
Wooster(Looking alarmed): Jeeves, what are we to do?
Jeeves: May I suggest the food pantry, sir? The University operates a very nice one in the health center. I’m sure they will provide whatever sustenance you require.
Wooster (Looking relieved): Very good, Jeeves. I knew you would find a solution. Do you think that you might pop down to the food pantry and pick up some viands?
Jeeves: Gladly sir, as soon as we take care of the little matter of my back wages…
I can just see that scene playing out in my mind, and only Frye and Laurie could pull it off. Who else could really show America to it’s best advantage? America is a country that gives 700 billion dollars to criminals while honest people go homeless. Students are eating out of food pantries while the universities build multi million dollar dorms. I tell you, this country is just nuts.
I cannot believe that Congress did this. They took 700 billion dollars and gave it to the same idiots who created the financial crisis in the first place. Congress took 400,000 dollars from everybody over the age of 18 and just handed it Bush’s cronies. A Democratic Congress did this. Democrats. They just rolled over and let Bush rub them on the tummy like dogs. This is just sickening.
The worst of it is that it was the Democrats who did this. I think this pretty much shows that the Democrats are no better than the Republicans and are just as trustworthy. That money could have been used for the public good. Congress could have used it to bring accountability to the financial industry, stabilize the housing market, and create a national health system. Instead, the money was just handed over to the very people who caused the problem, no strings attached.
What is totally aggravating here is the obvious hypocrisy. After years of preaching the unregulated market, and preaching against the social safety net, our legislators just hand over 700 billion dollars to a bunch of criminals without a string attached. Then that corporate meat puppet, Pelosi, has the unmitigated nerve to say that accountability is the next step. Accountability is the first step, Nancy, and we need you to understand that.
But what’s worse, Nancy Pelosi says that accountability will be the next step. What the hell? This revised bail out decreases federal oversight of the financial industry. She just handed 700 billion to the people who ripped off the American public, and she calls this accountability? People of San Francisco, will you not rid us of this misbegotten Neocon? Vote for Cindy Sheehan, Vote for Rocky the Flying Squirrel, Vote for Norton I, please, San Francisco, anything but another two years of Bush’s lapdog as Speaker of the House. We cannot afford to have the same people in charge of Washington anymore.
It’s time to get a great big can of Raid, and spray it into the Capitol Building. Then we can watch Congress pouring out of the halls, except for the old and the weak. They will be lying on the floor with their arms and legs wiggling in the air. Then we need to go through the chambers of Congress and the Senate with a broom, and sweep out the useless corpses. When Barack Obama takes the White House in January, let him come with a hostile Congress waiting for him. Let it be a Congress who knows they have their jobs because we, the people of the United States, put them there.
We need change in Washington, and we need it now. Not tomorrow, not next week, and not when Barack Obama gets around to it. We have chickens coming home to roost and the financial meltdown is just the first. The cost of fighting two useless wars at once is going to hit us hard very soon. The oil crisis is going to hit while Obama is in office, and let’s not forget global warming. Life is going to get very interesting very soon. Do we have the people in Washington who can handle it? I doubt it.
The President is elected through the electoral college. That is more an indication of which political party is in control than who we want as President. Screw the Presidency; let’s throw out our Congressmen. If they are going to hand over public money to thieves, they don’t deserve their jobs. Let’s put in a few Green candidates, or a few independents; anybody but this current crop of idiots.
It must have come to a terrible shock to Wall St. that we, the American people, did not simply lay back and let them screw us again. Now that we said no to corporate welfare, they are starting to get cute and they are trying to bribe us. Okay. Let them bribe us. I mean if we are going to get screwed, let’s make them give us flowers and dinner first. But really, they are going to have to do much better than this.
“The Senate pushed toward passage Wednesday of a $700 billion financial industry bailout, and opposition to the package among House Republican conservatives appeared to be softening as well, thanks partly to a provision to increase insurance for people’s deposits.”
Hey this is great. The FDIC hasn’t raised its limit in over 60 years. Many people have much more that one hundred grand riding in the banks. So let’s raise the amount to, a million maybe? If it takes a million to retire decently, then maybe we should demand that Congress raise the FDIC limits to a million. So I urge you to call your Representative and Senator and tell them that yes, we want to raise the FDIC limit to a million dollars. Also add that if they vote for the new bail out too, their jobs are off the table. The FDIC is covered by a private insurance company. Lloyd’s of London, last I heard. It is not going to cost Congress anything to raise that limit. We, the depositors, end up paying for FDIC insurance through interest that never reaches our bank accounts. So let them work harder for their welfare money. Let’s make the bail-out corporate workfare instead.
“The revised package to be voted on in the Senate also would add $100 billion in tax breaks for businesses and the middle class besides temporarily increasing the deposit insurance cap from the current $100,000 to $250,000. Meanwhile, the Securities and Exchange Commission has said it is easing the accounting rules in some cases.”
Once again, 250K just doesn’t cut it. We want a million, and why the hell should we be giving business a tax cut along with 700 billion dollars in welfare? Come on, America. Call your Senator and your Representative and say, “we want you to triple corporate taxes, and we want another individual tax cut, and please raise the FDIC limit to a million dollars. Oh, and by the way, if you give that 100 billion dollars away, you will lose your job.”
While we’re at it, why don’t we put some limitations on this money. Why should we give these idiots $700 billion dollars to spend on junk bonds? No, if we are going to give them $700 billion dollars, let’s make sure that they do some good with it. Let’s have them use it to update their hiring practices and limit it to investments right here in the U.S of A. Let’s have them put it into industries right here and jobs right here. We don’t want this money sent to China. China has enough of our jobs and our money as it is.
No more business as usual. No more of this nonsense. We, the voters, are the people in charge. We, the voters, are the people who are fronting this money. We, the voters, should have the last say. Remember to call or email your Senator and your Congressional Rep. ASAP. Make sure you give them your name and your address as it appears on your voter’s registration so they know you are a registered voter. Let’s not keep America in the hands of these idiots. Don’t let the media pundits scare you. If you want change, say no to the bail out.
In the “is my face red” department, I made a mistake and said that “Skull and Bones was a Harvard club.
Actually Skull and Bones is a Yale club. My mistake. I want to thank Abraxas Apocolypsis for pointing it out so that I could correct it.
Never have I been prouder to be a American. The 700 billion dollar corporate welfare bill was defeated and we did it together. The American people called up their Representatives and told them not to vote for that bill. They threatened their Congressmen with their jobs. The American people acted as if this was a democratic republic. The shock was felt across the world. The Asian stock markets collapsed. They were shocked when they discovered that we were no longer going to be their milk cows. We need change in America and we cannot afford to wait for Barack Obama to get around doing it. We have to do it ourselves. Yesterday, we showed some backbone for the first time since 1980. Maybe we have started something. Everybody who made a phone call to Congress, everybody who sent an email, everybody who signed a petition, is a hero.
The people who caused this economic disaster cannot possibly stay in charge. The bail out would only have assured that the same idiots who caused the bail out would be free to continue on their merry way. They would take our 700 billion dollars and use it to cause even more damage. They would not change their business plan, which is take the money and run. They would not tighten up their investment rules. On the other hand, the government could take the seven billion dollars and actually use it to do some good. The SEC, FTC, and the Treasury could get their funding back. They could hire on new agents and prevent the crimes that caused our economy to melt down in the first place. They could subsidize housing and end homelessness. A fraction of that 700 billion could be used to start a nifty national health plan.
Right now they are working on a revised corporate welfare bill. Don’t fall for it. The world is not going to end simply because the idiots that caused this crisis lost their money. Why should they get bailed out when all of us have lost? We lost our jobs when they outsourced them. They ripped us off when they sold us investments which are now worthless. Remember, the present Secretary of the Treasury was the former chairman of Goldman Sachs. Paulson is one of the architects of the crash. Next time you call your Representative to say no to the bail out, you might demand his immediate resignation.
Right now there are European banks which are more than willing to support the failing American institutions in return for a fair return on their investments. Let them bail us out. The first thing that will happen is that the current crop of criminals will be tossed out in the streets. Then the banking, mortgage, and investment industries will be reorganized back into pre-1980 conditions. Our investments will come back a little more slowly, but they will come back. Best of all, we will be safer with a partnership with the Europeans than we have been dealing with the Chinese. Maybe, with luck, our jobs will come home from their nice vacations in the mysterious east. I miss our industrial base, don’t you? Won’t it be nice when we have it back?
People, we are on a roll. This is not the time to rest on our laurels, and we don’t have to limit ourselves to the economy. What do you think would happen if we all called our Representatives and told them, “bring home the troops or your job is off the table”? I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that the wars in the Middle East will end before the election. Within days we will have a withdrawal plan. It’s time to pump up the volume. We made the first step of taking back our government. Let’s follow through.
Your Most Gracious Majesty,
It has surely come to your attention that once again, your North American Colonies caused another worldwide stock market crash. We realize this is the second time in eighty years that we have done this, and we are very embarrassed about it. We sincerely hope that it has not caused you any inconvenience. Our thanks to the Bank of England for lending us over 80 billion dollars to pull our economy out of a hole of our own digging. Please extend our kindest regards to your loyal subjects in the Bank of England. We would have been in a considerable amount of trouble without them.
As we are on the subject of embarrassing mistakes, we would like to make amends for a blunder we made about 230 years ago when we rebelled against His Majesty George III. In hindsight we understand this to have been a very bad idea. We were not capable of self rule in 1776, and we have failed to become competent in the last two and a third centuries. Perhaps we in the Colonies suffer from a form of cultural Attention Deficit Disorder. Maybe we suffer from massive brain damage due to our low air pollution standards. Whatever the reasons, we keep ruining things for the rest of the world.
It is not as if we deliberately keep destroying the world economy. We have the very best intentions. You see, our present leaders promised us prosperity. They told us an unregulated market would create a stronger economy. They promised us better paying jobs, the sun, the stars, and the pretty moon. They even told us an unregulated market would be best for the whole world. It seemed they were telling us the truth, until the Tech Bubble burst in 2000. Next came the mortgage meltdown, and now the stock market crash. We just can’t seem to do anything right.
Of course, one of the problems is the leaders we keep choosing. I am sure Your Majesty can tell us a few stories about Lyndon Johnson’s gallbladder and Richard Nixon’s drinking. I can just imagine how difficult it was for you to make small talk with poor Mr. Reagan. People with Alzheimer’s do ramble on so. Let us take this opportunity to apologize for young Mr. Bush. We do hope your roses have recovered from him landing his helicopter on them.
Looking at Europe, it seems like you have grown since the last great war. You have socialized medicine and and a minimum standard of living. Meanwhile the United States keeps falling back to 1929. Your World Court has guaranteed civil rights for gays, lesbians, and trans people, but American gays still fear for their lives in many parts of the country. Your subjects enjoy all these benefits, and yet you have the prosperity to save the failing American economy.
There is no doubt about it. We Americans are not capable of self rule. We should not even let ourselves out of our homes without a keeper. Your Most Gracious Majesty, we most humbly beg you to save us from ourselves and take us back as a crown colony. We are most terribly sorry about the misunderstanding in 1776. We will officially change its name from the Revolutionary War to the Failed Rebellion. We will posthumously try Ben Franklin, George Washington, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson for treason and symbolically hang them in the Washington Mall, which will be renamed the Cornwallis Memorial Park. We will rename Washington, DC “Arnold” after Benedict Arnold, and place a statue of him on the White House Lawn. The White House will be renamed the Lord Governor’s Residence. We will even pay for the tea we so rudely dropped into Boston Harbor.
Please take us back. We’re sorry. We’ll be good. We’ll never do it again.
The American Colonists