Monday, August 25, 2008

Black-Jack, Jacked-Up Cars and Jacking Us Around

Yesterday I was at Hollywood Florida's Hard Rock Hotel and Casino for the first time in over a year. They moved the "poker room" to a separate 2 story building in the "shopping mall" out the back door of the main casino. In the main casino, they added numerous black-jack tables located in about five clusters scattered throughout the casino. They also have three card poker and baccarat. The minimums on the new card-games are ridiculous. The cheapest black-jack tables have a 15 dollar minimum, followed by many 25, 50 and 100 dollar tables. The 25 dollar tables seem to be the most popular, but most all of the tables were filled. The parking lot was also filled, I had a hard time finding a parking spot in the parking garage.

The patrons were a curious mix of silver haired seniors and young hipsters showing off their bold tattoos, enhanced breasts, weirdly colored hair styles, pierced lips, brows, noses and navels. The most common symbol tattooed on the bodies of the youth, printed on their clothing and molded in their jewelry and belt buckles was the "skull and crossbones". I would estimate that 25% of the young hipsters sported this hideous symbol which represents poison, death, degradation and decay. Printed prominently on the wall of this magnificent casino was a quote from an idolized rock star and drug addict Todd Rundgren. It read: "I don't want to work, I just want to bang on these drums all day". While the young and the old alike were mesmerized by their hopes of thrills, fortune, good times, and euphoria, I could not help but notice how spiritually bankrupt our materially wealthy society has become.

How can the politicians claim that we are in a recession that has caused total economic devastation if so many people are gambling (and mostly losing) at such high stakes at the casinos? Apparently the gas prices, now down to $3.70 per gallon in FL, are not stopping people from driving their huge pick-up trucks and SUVs that were clogging the roads on a Sunday, when few people needed to get to work or drive out of necessity. Many of the vehicles on the road had expensive, yet frivolous modifications such as custom wheels, some costing up to $1,000 for each wheel, custom sound systems with huge sub-woofers, also costing thousands, custom paint jobs, also costing thousands and of course, modified exhaust systems that also draw attention to their vehicles costing hundreds of dollars to install.

Of course you may argue that there is a huge disparity between the rich and the poor. However, the casino hires thousands of workers and the custom auto industry is mostly run by small independent businessmen. What I see with my eyes greatly varies from what I hear on the news and from the democratic candidates. Most people I see, have plenty and are living and gambling above their means.

Politicians are also talking about the masses of people who were duped into taking out home loans that they couldn't afford and are now facing foreclosure and homelessness due to the mean, cold-hearted banking industry. They fail to tell you that all of the foreclosures that I personally know about are due to people using the real-estate market like they use the Hard Rock Casino's high priced black jack tables. Due to congressional legislation that encouraged home loans to be made available to poor people (people who have a track record of being unsuccessful at earning and managing money), many loans were issued to people who were irresponsible with their own money and their own financial future.

I personally know of several cases of people who were issued huge mortgage loans, with little or no down payment, based on documentation that was fraudulent and false income levels that went unchecked. Salesmen, who were more interested in their monthly commissions, rather than the future of their industry, were only too happy to bend the already lenient rules. Salesmen, mortgage brokers and loan officers also looked the other way by not checking accuracy of loan applications and accepting or encouraging inflated home appraisals.Of course the banks should have checked their applications for accuracy, but how can individuals blame the banks because they lied on their applications and the banks didn't bother to check. Illegal aliens were even granted home loans with fraudulent ID and social-security numbers. When they were unable to repay their loan, the bank refinanced their loans and gave them several hundred thousand dollars more, based on the increase in the appraised value of their home while the market was soaring. Instead of using this money to build their future and/or stabilize their economic future, most high risk homeowners, with few exceptions, spent this windfall on vacations, cars, trucks, custom wheels, paint jobs, sound systems and exhaust, and living living above their means. When the real estate market stopped rising, they were unable to pay their loans and blamed their misfortune on the banking industry for taking advantage of them.

The entire real estate debacle has been cause by spiritual depravity on many levels. Just like the hard Rock Casino lures in its unsuspecting customers with the promise of something for nothing; the government, the real estate industry and the banking industry dangled the same "carrot" in front of millions of spiritually bankrupt folks who thought that greed and luck would solve all of their problems. The unspoken truth is that hard work, responsibility, discipline, sacrifice, selflessness, humility, gratitude, honesty and integrity is what creates material wealth as well as spiritual growth. These principles build individual character, promote peace and prosperity, reduce crime, as well as improving our eternal souls. Why don't I ever hear this from our political leaders and activists?

Currently, our economy is based upon borrowing from our future instead of building our future. Our entire economy, including government and individuals is borrowing for luxuries instead of saving for necessities of the inevitable rainy day. Cities are building new sports arenas while bridges and other infrastructure decay in disrepair. Most Americans are living beyond their means in order to seek thrills, show off and keep up with the Joneses. Our government is in the hole for 55 trillion dollars including the unfunded liability of our Social Security and Medicare programs.For the first time in American history , personal borrowing is larger than personal savings. Chasing greed and hoping for luck will inevitably bring our economy and our high standard of living down the the level of struggling for our very survival. What has taken twenty-four decades to build up is being squandered before my eyes in only a few decades. All that is needed to reverse this alarming trend, is to return to the spiritual principles that this nation was founded upon and made us the wealthiest, freest, most powerful nation on earth.

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