Category Archives: Economy

Credit card crackdown coming next month

Washington insiders, according to this article, believe that a bill cracking down on the excesses of credit card companies will be signed into law next month.

The proposed legislation does seem to clean up some of the unilateral aspects of today’s credit card contracts.

What no reporting whatsoever covers, however, is what becomes of the current three-month salvo of rate- and payment-hiking many issuers have been on since the Federal Reserve announced plans to re-regulate the industry beginning in 2010.

Obama’s bill will turn out to be lip service if it doesn’t address the doubled rates and payments binge of 2009.

Layoff insurance rears its head in home sales

I’m surprised it’s taken this long for someone to take the auto industry’s “buyer reassurance” plan and translate it into the homebuying industry, but it has:

LifeStyle Builders and Developers, Inc., a Richmond based homebuilder, has announced a new job loss mortgage protection program, Mortgage Guardian. Under this program, if a homeowner becomes involuntarily unemployed, $1,500 of their mortgage will be covered for up to six months.

“For anyone who has even thought about buying a new home, now really is the best time to take action. There is a large selection of available inventory, and prices are at an all-time value. However, with today’s economic climate, many people are hesitant to take that step towards home ownership. We hope that our Mortgage Guardian program will ease the stress and concern about possible job loss, and give homebuyers the confidence to take advantage of today’s great real estate deals.” said Lloyd Poe, owner of LifeStyle Builders.

LifeStyle Builders’ Mortgage Guardian offers coverage for 12 months from the closing date, and a maximum benefit of $1,500 per month, in cash, payable to the homeowner, for up to six months. An additional feature is a $10,000 Accidental Death Benefit. LifeStyle Builders will automatically include Mortgage Guardian with all contracts written after May 1 at no cost to the new homeowner.

Since analysts and brokers agree that declining consumer confidence is the biggest challenge before the Wichita housing market, it shouldn’t be long before a homebuilder duplicates this program here.

Life insurers: Next to go under?

Add some of America’s favorite life insurance companies to the list of financial services firms under water, according to this report from the Associated Press.

Let’s see: That makes automakers, banks, investment bankers, investment houses, insurers …

And the beat goes on.

Was February the turning point?

Add new home sales to the list of improving February economic indicators, according to this report.

And durable goods orders, which also jumped in February – after a January that was worse than originally thought.

We’re standing by, awaiting the release of the February new and existing home sales numbers in Wichita.

Jon Stewart beats Jim Cramer in a TKO

As mentioned before here and here, Jon Stewart has had a little battle going on with CNBC. He had Jim Cramer over last night for a chat on “The Daily Show.” It was an impressive grilling. The interview is below in three takes.

Cramer vs. Stewart tonight

As you might have read in this blog post last week, Jon Stewart of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” has been engaged in a little battle with CNBC.

Since it started, Stewart has been in a war of words with CNBC’s Jim Cramer, who you can see on “Mad Money.”

Well, tonight is the night. Cramer and Stewart face off on Stewart’s show, which airs at 10 p.m. in Wichita. It will be interesting to see what happens. I know I’ll be watching.

Garvin: Let them walk

Alex Garvin, the Yale University urban planning professor, put a few tips for kickstarting Wichita’s downtown on the table Wednesday night at the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation’s annual lecture.

Tucked neatly among those tips was a message for the the huddled masses yearning to park in a lovely $20,000-per-space concrete parking garage next door to the Intrust Bank Arena: Forget it.

Garvin’s only been in Wichita for a couple of days, so he can be excused for missing the city’s pathological aversion to – gasp – walking.

But he’s been involved in reviving downtowns for decades, and his advice to strategically spread out downtown’s attractions to induce patrons to walk among them for pre- and post-event food, drinks and fun should be taken very seriously.

He talked frequently Wednesday night about the economic dangers of allowing patrons to “get in their cars and go home.” Which is precisely what you do in Wichita by allowing the exercise-averse to park within a few feet of Intrust’s front door. Do that, and you all but assure that downtown won’t develop around the arena.

Call Garvin’s advice what you will. I call it an unqualified endorsement for the initial plans put in place by the Sedgwick County Commission and the Wichita City Council.

Some good economic news under the radar?

Very quietly, a federal program to jump-start consumer lending kicked off today.

Experts think the program could ease skin-tight consumer and business credit, which would translate into needed business for everyone from car dealers to property owners.

It will be interesting to see if this move works – and what kind of partisan criticism it draws.

Two names for Proposition K

It’s fascinating what you can find on Google.

Proposition K, the anti-tax proposal in Kansas to standardize property tax hikes at 2 percent, was the subject of a Google search today as I sought to learn more about it.

Imagine my surprise to find this Proposition K that went to the ballot last year in San Francisco.

Hmmmmmm. Anyway, here’s a good capsule on what Kansas’ Proposition K covers, and it’s not prostitution.

Let’s get a discussion going on Kansas’ version. Is this normalizing property taxes? Or is it a thinly-veiled attempt to shift property tax burdens off the affluent?

What do you think?

Entrepreneurship thrives in a recession

The headline above is the mantra of Tim Pett, director of Wichita State’s Center for Entrepreneurship. And now, this article by Financial Express substantiates that.

In fact, Pett thinks now is the time for entrepreneurs to begin chasing their dream, much as Bill Gates used a recession to kick-start Microsoft.

Your thoughts?

Some compensation common sense

I have to confess: When I opened this commentary from former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, I expected to be smacked in the face with the words “The fundamentals of the economy are strong,” the phrase that brought down her friend John McCain’s presidential campaign.

Being oblivious is never a good thing.

Instead, what this commentary does is bring forth some common-sense moderation on the admittedly absurd compensation packages CEOs receive. As we’ve seen, too often the CEO is busy driving the company into the ditch with just one hand, because the other’s plunged deep into shareholders’ pockets and employees’ futures.

It’s predictable, frankly, that Americans — and our leaders — are going to react harshly to the unregulated corporate greed that’s so heavily damaged our economy.
But moderation’s never a bad idea, either.

We have money, too

There’s a recurring incident that we chuckle about in the Business Today cockpit every so often.

You make a call to a retailer for information. The reply comes across like a winter cold front: “We’re not interested in participating in any story.” Sometimes you get a bonus: “Corporate won’t be interested, either.”

Although cooperative retailers greatly outnumber that level of rudeness, it happens surprisingly often.

Now, left-leaning America-hating scalawags that we media types are (Warning: sarcasm alert), we nonetheless find humor in these little beatdowns.

Because, media folks have money. We’re consumers, too – consumers who take note of these little eruptions of rudeness and cross these businesses off our shopping list.