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Sun filtering through our dark clouds

READING ALL the economic prognostications just makes my head hurt.

Nobody strikes me as being that convincing either way, so it's really an exercise of hedging bets and gripping the arms of my chair as tightly as possible.

My fellow Americans are saving money like it's going out of style. One report showed that we have saved four times more in the first quarter as we saved in the equivalent quarter last year. That's not good for the consumer-based economy, necessarily, but it is a reflection of sanity at some level.

GM's CEO exit pay heart of problem

The news that Rick Wagoner was about to receive $23 million as he leaves his post as General Motors CEO left me sick to my stomach. What have those GM directors been smoking?

As CEO for more than nine years, he has certainly reaped well in excess of $100 million. The company is about to say "no" to thousands of employees who thought that part of their compensation was the promise of health insurance benefits for life. If circumstances force GE into bankruptcy, far more promises will be broken.

Look under hood of your investments

While unfortunate events in our investment portfolios may have prompted some anxiety, the vast majority of us can at least enjoy some smug satisfaction at having avoided a wipe-out from the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme. Bernie offers, however, a lesson for all of us. We need to lift the veil of our investment packages (mutual funds, annuities, etc.) to see what they hold as their underlying investments. How can we be sure the money is actually there?

Recovery's foundation being built

During the federal government's case against Enron, I recall an especially contentious point in the proceedings when the lead lawyer for our government felt compelled to say "My. Lay, you seem to have forgotten that I'm here in this courtroom representing the People of the United States of America."

It marked a psychological sea change at which a deflated Kenneth Lay must have realized that this was not just another legal skirmish from which he would escape unscathed. It was us that had to deal with, and collectively we won't be pushed around.

Voters may have to do job of lawmakers

When you watch the dimes, the dollars take care of themselves. The problem for California taxpayers is that we are powerless when it comes to watching the dimes unless we bludgeon our Legislature with the fiscal sledgehammer of the initiative process. If Proposition 13 is any indication, it creates terrible law but serves an immediate need when the political process has collapsed in abject failure.

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