The Financial Crisis Revisited

September 16, 2013

Today marks the 5th anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers. It was the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history, and was a key event leading to the global financial crisis.

This creates a good opportunity to revisit blogger Jim Cameron’s review of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Report from January 28th, 2011 – JET

I recently read a book about Ivar Kreuger, the famed “Match King” of the 1920s. Kreuger attempted to monopolize the match manufacturing industry on an international scale by obtaining state monopolies from national governments in exchange for large loans. His amazing financial record got him on the cover of Time magazine in October 1929, just as the stock market crash was beginning. Less than three years later, his companies teetering on the edge of bankruptcy and his crude forgeries of Italian bonds coming to light, he shot himself. Yet the author concludes that, for most of his career, his companies produced real profits and excellent returns for investors – he wasn’t simply a world-class swindler who single-handedly brought on a world crisis. It brings home the fact that great financial crises and collapses are not usually tied to a single individual or industry – the blame tends to be more widespread. It takes much more than a Kreuger or Madoff to light the fuse.

All of this comes to mind when perusing the official edition of The Financial Crisis Inquiry Report, the final report of the National Commission on the Causes of the Financial and Economic Crisis in the United States. Note: This official edition is complete, including all 129 pages of dissenting views. I’m no economist, but it seems clear that a series of interlocking corporate and government practices and missteps, extending far beyond any one person, company or sector, caused the economy to tank.

It’s also interesting to see how quickly events recede in the mind. When was the last time you heard about the downfall of Lehman Brothers? Reading this report transports me back to those very scary weeks a little more than two years ago, when everything that had seemed so secure in the economy suddenly displayed all of the characteristics of a wooden skyscraper full of termites.

This book is no easy read, but its subject is compelling, faced as we are with the aftermath of the crisis. It’s a serious report for serious times, and the voluminous dissenting views show how uncertain root causes can be, accept them or not as you will. You can find The Financial Crisis Inquiry Report here, http://cybercemetery.unt.edu/archive/fcic/20110310173538/http://www.fcic.gov/report buy a copy of the official edition, including all of the text of the dissenting views, here: http://bookstore.gpo.gov/search/apachesolr_search/financial%20crisis , or get it at a library http://www.worldcat.org/search?qt=worldcat_org_all&q=financial+crisis+inquiry+report  .


Over 1 Billion Served: GPO’s Pueblo Distribution Center Hits Historic Milestone Today

May 7, 2013

GPO_Pueblo_1_Billion-Shipped1 Billion.  One thousand million. Any way you count it, that’s a bundle! And at the US Government Printing Office Document Distribution Center in Pueblo, Colorado, we have reached that magic number. As of today, our Pueblo facility has shipped over 1 billion consumer publications, making it a bundle of bundles sent out to the American people!

GPO’s Western Expansion

Growing up, I always heard or read public service announcements from the Federal Government offering helpful advice on everything from how mortgages work to getting vaccinations. Each time, the commercial or ad would end with the same tag line: “To order this helpful free publication, contact us in Pueblo, Colorado” and an address and phone number (and today, a website address) would be given with ordering information.  I thought it amazing that all this great consumer information was available from one Colorado town.

Although unbeknownst to me at the time, it turns out this famous Pueblo location is actually one of two distribution facilities operated by the Government Printing Office’s Agency Distribution Services that stores and ships out Government publications on behalf of our Federal agency clients to the public –the other being in Laurel, Maryland.

In an effort led by House Appropriations Committee member Congressman Frank Evans, the GPO distribution facility was proposed and then approved on October 8, 1970, by the Joint Committee on Printing and the 15th Public Printer of the United States, Adolphus Nichol (Nick) Spence. The Pueblo Public Documents Distribution Center (PuDDC) was dedicated on October 8, 1971, and opened on October 11, 1971, to provide support for the expanding dissemination needs of Federal agencies, from books to posters to other products.

GPO_Pueblo_Congressman-Frank-Evans-Distribution-CenterLast year, President Barack Obama signed an act of the 111th Congress to rename the center the “Congressman Frank Evans US Government Printing Office Pueblo Document Distribution Center” after the former Congressman who passed away in June of 2010. It was re-dedicated on October 11, 2011, for the fortieth anniversary of the Pueblo facility.

Image: Renaming ceremony of the GPO Pueblo facility on October 11, 2011.

Today, GPO’s Pueblo Document Distribution Center provides distribution services to 10 federal agencies and other entities including: The Federal Citizen Information Center (FCIC), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Health and Human Service (HHS – Women’s Health), Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), Federal Drug Administration (FDA), Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP), Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and three programs within the Department of Homeland Security  that produce items such as Transportation Security Administration (TSA) posters, bookmarks and baggage inserts.

Ruehlen-at-Pueblo-PuDDCImage: Jimmy Ruehlen has worked for Pueblo’s Government Printing Office Distribution Center since it began operations 40 years ago. Photo credit: The Pueblo Chieftain / Mike Sweeney (Photographer)

The Pueblo Distribution Center has processed over 105 million customer orders from the day it opened its doors through the end of April 2013, and as of today, May 2, 2013, the Center has distributed over 1 billion publications on behalf of its various Federal clients.

GPO Gets a “CIC” out of Distributing Consumer Publications

The Pueblo facility really got a kick-start when it signed an inter-agency agreement with the General Services Administration (GSA) in January of 1973 to take over the warehousing and distribution of the millions of printed consumer publications being provided through GSA’s then-new Consumer Information Center (or CIC), which itself has provided service to the GSA’s Federal Citizen Information Center (or FCIC), the U.S. Postal Service and the Department of Education.

Consumer-Info-Catalog-Winter-Spring-2013_coverThe gem in the FCIC’s crown is the Consumer Information Catalog, printed by GPO, which lists the latest and most popular of the many thousands of consumer publications available by topic and is updated several times a year.

Most of the print publications–the majority printed by GPO– in the Consumer Information Catalog are FREE for U.S. delivery if ordered online; the rest require only a nominal fee. Plus, a number of the publications are offered for FREE in electronic format for immediate download on the Publications.USA.gov website.

Some of the many categories of helpful consumer pamphlets and publications include: Education; Employment; Family including Pets; Federal Programs and Benefits, Food; Health including Drugs and Exercise & Diet (even information on braces, tattoos, and tanning!); Housing including Financing and Home Maintenance; the ever-popular Money category including Fraud, Credit Cards, Living Trusts, and Retirement Planning; even Small Business and Travel, and more.

Consumer-Info-Catalog-Winter-Spring-2013_Page_11

Image: Page from the Consumer Information Catalog Winter/ Spring 2013 Edition.

How can I get a copy of the Consumer Information Catalog and order publications?

Find the latest Consumer Information Catalog in PDF format online, or you can also order FREE print copies to be mailed to you at the same Publications.USA.gov website.

Consumer-Action-Handbook-2013The most popular document distributed by Pueblo remains the annual Consumer Action Handbook, a free trouble-shooting guide to help Americans solve all sorts of consumer problems. I’ve ordered five to share with family and friends!

In addition to ordering from GSA’s Publications.USA.gov website, you can find a number of these consumer publications on GPO’s US Government Online Bookstore.

Below are some of the more popular publications in the Consumer Information Catalog that are also available on GPO’s online bookstore:

You can also browse our Consumer, Home & Family category on our online bookstore.

With so many useful consumer publications available from the Federal Government, I’m sure it won’t be long until we distribute another billion items to help American consumers!

About the Author:

Government Book Talk Editor Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


March Madness: New GPO Bookstore Website and Historic Anniversaries

March 22, 2013

March is traditionally a month of change and national excitement in the United States. Together with the change of seasons and college basketball frenzy, some important national milestones were reached this month that we should acknowledge, from new achievements to key anniversaries.

New U.S. Government Bookstore Website

First, last week we launched our upgraded U.S. Government Bookstore ecommerce site, http://bookstore.gpo.gov/.  Our ecommerce website has gone through several iterations since its first version in 1999, each time adding functionality to keep up with the changing needs.  Today, GPO has over 4,000 Federal print publications and more than 150 eBooks available through our online bookstore.

New-US-Government-Online-Bookstore-website

Our new website includes the following user-friendly features:

Browse-ALL-Topics-on-GPO-BookstoreClick on the dark blue Browse All Topics button on the site to see and browse by a list of all the topical categories.

These last two features—eBooks and new Categories—are particularly important in light of three other important milestones this month.

National Women’s History Month

March is National Women’s History Month in the United States, and we have a new main “Browse by Topic” category, Minorities, Cultures & Languages, where you can find books for and about African Americans, American Indians, Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders, Cultural Awareness, Disabled, Hispanics, LGBT, Minority Issues, Non-English Government Publications, Seniors & Elderly and Women, including dozens of books and eBooks about Women’s History.

Womens_History_Books_Slide

Harriet Tubman Centennial

One of the famous American heroines in the Women’s History collection is Harriet Tubman, who died 100 years ago this month making it her Centennial. Tubman escaped from slavery and returned to lead dozens of others to freedom in the mid-1800s. In addition to being the most well-known of Underground Railroad “conductors,” she was also a nurse, spy, suffragist, and more.

With all these roles, it is appropriate that we have created so many new “Browse by Topic” categories. One is Slavery & Underground Railroad (under US & Military History), where great books featuring Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad can be found.  Other new topics include Nursing under Health & Benefits and Intelligence & Espionage under Security, Defense & Law Enforcement.

Additional publications about National Parks can be found under the main category of Art, Maps & Travel, along with Posters & Prints and Maps, Almanacs & Navigation Guides.

BROWSE BY AGENCY: You can also find National Park Service (NPS) publications under Department of the Interior (DOI) in the Browse by Agency categories on the menu at the lower left side of the site, where publications are categorized by the Federal agency that published them. For example, our own Government Printing Office (GPO) publications are under Congress & Legislative Agencies.

Iraq War 10th Anniversary

Finally, this week is the tenth anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, which began on March 19, 2003, as Operation Iraqi Liberation, later renamed Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Iraq-War-10th-Anniversary_Books_Slide

President Obama, in an address about the Iraq war 10th anniversary this week said:

“As we mark the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq war, Michelle and I join our fellow Americans in paying tribute to all who served and sacrificed in one of our nation’s longest wars. We salute the courage and resolve of more than 1.5 million service members and civilians who during multiple tours wrote one of the most extraordinary chapters in military service. We honor the memory of the nearly 4,500 Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice to give the Iraqi people an opportunity to forge their own future after many years of hardship.”

Since the beginning of the war, the Defense Department has published dozens of excellent publications about the war, the strategies, Saddam Hussein, Iraq, reconstruction and the achievements and sacrifices made by our Armed Forces. You can find these publications featured under Iraq & Persian Gulf Wars which can be found under US & Military History > Battles & Wars categories.

It’s a Launch, Not a Landing

So, our new site marks the completion of over a year of hard work by our team here at the Government Printing Office, all aimed to make sure “we the people” can discover more about our Nation through excellent publications by our Federal Government. But there’s a good reason we call it a website launch and not a landing. This is only the beginning, with more great content and features to come! Enjoy!

So, please visit GPO’s new online bookstore website at http://bookstore.gpo.gov/ and tell us what you think!

About the Author:  Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public. She was also in charge of the online bookstore relaunch!


Occupational Outlook Publications Help You Choose the Best Career

February 14, 2013

Dream job is where you do what you love and are good at and get paid for itHolding a job vs. having a career. Making a living vs. following your vocation. In today’s tough economic climate, many unemployed or underemployed would be happy with any job, and don’t dare aspire to a dream job. But what if you could have it all: a job that you love to do, you’re good at doing it, and is in demand so you will actually get paid to do it?

Image: Dream Job = sweet spot between passions, skills, and market demand. Image credit: TheUndercoverRecruiter.com

In President Obama’s State of the Union Address this week on Tuesday, February 12, 2013, one of the themes was the need for education and job training (and re-training) to help get Americans into the workforce or transition into more stable industries. But half the battle is knowing which profession matches your passions and talents, what skills and education you need to carry out that job, and what the current and future prospects are for that particular field so you have a better chance at keeping that job in the future.

Fortunately, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (known as BLS) has two complementary publications to help you choose the right career path.

Occupational Outlook Handbook U.S. Bureau of Labor StatisticsThe Occupational Outlook Handbook is the Federal Government’s premier source of career guidance featuring hundreds of occupations—both blue-collar and white-collar— from carpenters, firefighters and sports referees to teachers, medical professions, personal financial advisers, and even multimedia designers and scientists.  Revised every 2 years, the latest version contains employment projections for the 2010-20 decade.

Do you “dig” bones and ancient cultures? Read up on archeologist careers and learn their most recent media pay, entry-level education requirements or equivalent work experience, the number of jobs in this field today and the job outlook for this field over the next decade.

Currently, the top two fastest growing occupations are personal care aides and home health aides, to serve the aging baby boomers. The HGTV home renovation effect seems to have been a boon for tile/marble setters and stone and brick masons, and our nation’s kitty and puppy love for pets has made veterinary techs in high demand. The highest paying of the top 20 fastest growing occupations are physical therapists at $76,310 median annual pay and biomedical engineers at $81,540.

Occupational-Outlook-Handbook-20-Fastest-Growing-Occupations-2010

CLICK ON IMAGE TO SEE FULL SIZE

Image: Fastest growing occupations: 20 occupations with the highest percent change of employment between 2010-20. Source: U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Occupational-Outlook-QuarterlyFor those who want more regular updates with more in-depth articles, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) also offers its attractive magazine, the Occupational Outlook Quarterly, or the “OOQ” for those in the know. Suitable for job-seekers, students, teachers, parents, job and guidance counselors, this color magazine format features personal stories and detailed articles describing insiders’ views of what different jobs are like.

In the Winter 2012-13 edition of the OOQ, the feature article explained what certificates and certificate programs are, the differences between certificates and licenses or degree programs, and how certification might offer a quick way to enter a career. Another described the “hot” field of geothermal energy (pun intended) and the various careers to take advantage of this growing industry. Other articles provide tips for online resources for comparing colleges and available scholarships, life in the real estate or personal fitness professions by successful people in these occupations, and which types of careers tend to offer the best benefits and job perks.

OOQ-Winter-2012–13-Best-Job-Perks

CLICK ON IMAGE TO VIEW FULL SIZE

OOQ-Winter-2012-13_Professional-Santa-ClausHave a hankering to turn your “ho-ho-ho” into more than a hobby? The OOQ even included a fun article entitled “You’re a what? Santa Claus!” describing the jolly job of Phil Wenz who became a professional full-time Santa Claus and Santa historian at a Christmas theme park in Illinois.

Image: Full-time Santa and Santa lecturer and historian, Phil Wenz. Source: U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

How can I buy these Occupational Outlook publications?

About the Author:  Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


Exporting Made Simple

October 2, 2012

Guest blogger, GPO Public Relations Specialist Emma Wojtowicz, reviews the newly revised edition of the best-selling publication on exporting for U.S. businesses.

The U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) entered the eBook market through an agreement with Google in December of 2010. Since that time, GPO has expanded its eBook distribution partnerships to include Apple, Google, Barnes & Noble, OverDrive, Ingram, Zinio digital magazines, and other online vendors to make Federal titles available in digital magazine or eBook format.

One popular title that is available in eBook format through many of our vendors as well as in print format is the 10th Edition Revised “A Basic Guide to Exporting”, a publication by the Department of Commerce. This publication supports President Obama’s National Export Initiative (NEI), which brings together the efforts of the public and private sector to increase U.S. exports. According to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, 95 percent of the world’s consumers exist outside of the United States, and only 1 percent of the U.S.’s 30 million companies export their goods to these other markets.

A Basic Guide to Exporting is a how-to guide for small and medium-sized business to export their products. The publication is broken down into 17 chapters with each chapter focusing on one step of the exporting process from determining if exporting is right for your business to placing your products in foreign markets. The book defines export-related terminology so each topic is clear. Many questions are asked forcing the reader to assess each topic and thoroughly evaluate if exporting will work for them.

The book is also motivational; each chapter ends with a case study or profile of a successful company reflecting on their export experience identifying challenges, solutions, and lessons learned.

The book does not provide all of the answers, but serves as a central resource for how to export. There are many Government agencies, trade centers and associations, financial institutions, and seminars that exist and are available to give advice and guide companies. The publication lists each of these resources, explains their services and how they can be helpful, and provides website links and phone numbers for contacting each resource.

Forms are often a complicated part of any process – including exporting – and this publication is very helpful with forms. When referencing forms that may need to be filled out, the book includes a picture of the form and explains how to fill it out item by item. This book is the Government’s version of “Exporting Made Simple.”

A Basic Guide to Exporting is usable in eBook format because the information is broken down and well-organized making it easy to navigate on any mobile device or eReader. The eBook format is helpful because there are websites listed for outside resources and the reader can click on the websites and directly access the resource’s web page.

Regardless of what format is used to read this publication, A Basic Guide to Exporting is excellent guide for small and medium sized companies interested in learning how to export their products.

Other popular export-related Federal publications including a subscription to the latest regulations concerning import/ export can be found on our Essential Publications about Exporting collection.

HOW DO I OBTAIN “A Basic Guide to Exporting”?

  • Buy it at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday-Friday, 9am to 4pm, except Federal holidays, (202) 512-0132.
  • Find it in a library.

Ponzimonium: How Scam Artists Are Ripping Off America

November 18, 2011

Every single day, someone somewhere makes a gigantic mistake by giving his or her money to a fraudster,” says Bart Chilton, one of the commissioners of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). Chilton is the author of Ponzimonium: How Scam Artists are Ripping Off America, a shocking new book available from GPO about some of the worst perpetrators of investment fraud in recent U.S. history.

Figure 1: Ponzimonium: How Scam Artists Are Ripping Off America available from GPO.

Ponzimonium looks to the CFTC’s own recent public case files stemming from fraud investigations that began with the recent economic downturn- talk about hitting people when they’re down! Because of the this, the book is generating a lot of positive buzz in The New York Times, TheStreet, and other media outlets.

The CFTC is an independent Federal agency with the mandate to regulate commodity futures and options markets in the United States. After the financial crisis of 2008, their authority was expanded under the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act to include over-the-counter derivatives markets and hopefully prevent and uncover more of these frauds.

What is a Ponzi scheme, you ask?

The world really learned about Ponzi schemes in December of 2008 when, as Chilton writes in his introduction, “legendary investment guru Bernard Madoff ‘made off’ with an estimated US$50 billion in what was called the ‘Mother of all Ponzi Schemes’.” (By the way, an interesting related read is the report about the Investigation of Failure of the Securities and Exchange Commission To Uncover Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi Scheme, also available from GPO.)

Unlike pure pyramid schemes in which it is mandatory that a new investor recruit others into the deal in order to receive payments, Ponzi schemes purport to offer investors a “too good to be true” deal by simply handing over their money. However, no real investment is made by the criminal.

Instead, Ponzi schemes, named after 1920’s postage stamp speculator-fraudster Charles Ponzi, are scams in which early “investors’—often friends, colleagues, and family members—are asked to invest in a this great “no risk” deal offering unbelievable returns.

Typically, the investor makes an initial investment and then some purported “phantom profits” are paid out by the con artist (really just money from other investors), prompting that investor to assume that his or her money has increased in value—and inspiring the investor to turn over more money to invest and tell others about it. In actuality, the perpetrators pocket the money for themselves.

This splendid infographic from the New York Times explains the concept visually:

Figure 2. Ponzi scheme infographic. Image source: The New York Times 12/21/2008 Week in Review.

Made in Madoff’s Image

Ponzimonium introduces some of the lesser known, but equally  despicable fraudsters that have been uncovered since 2008 by the CFTC and SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission).

The book lays out the fascinating and dramatic details behind the fraudulent schemes, their smooth-talking masterminds, and their many honest, hard-working victims, who often lose the money they’ve saved for their kids’ college funds, needed health care expenses, or their own retirement as a result of misplaced trust in these criminals.

These stories are so engrossing— at times it felt like I was taking in a marathon of America’s Most Wanted or I Almost Got Away with It episodes— I found it hard to decide which of these criminals is the most despicable. Was it Beau Diamond of Diamond Ventures who wiped out his parents’ savings along with 200 other clients who invested US$37 million? Or how about Marvin R. Cooper of Billion Coupons, who created a combination Ponzi and pyramid scheme called an affinity fraud, to target and recruit fellow deaf community members in the U.S. and Japan? And there’s James Ossie of CRE Capital Corporation (CRE) who bilked investors out of US$25 million, including a desperate father’s US$200,000 he invested to fund his young daughter’s cancer treatments.

Figure 3. Fraudster Marvin R. Cooper and deaf client. Image source: BusinessInsider.com

The human side behind these frauds makes them all the more compelling… and contemptible.

The best way to avoid getting swindled, advises Chilton, is to “remember what your parents told you when you were little: ‘Don’t take candy from strangers’”, and my personal favorite, “Just because it is on the TV, Internet, etc. doesn’t mean it’s real!” That’s advice you can take to the bank.

Some “don’t miss” features of this book

Ponzimonium: How Scam Artists are Ripping Off America includes some very useful features for its readers that make this a valuable resource for any investor.

  • Red Flags of Fraud: Includes 20 red flags to look out for when considering an investment.
  • Investor Checklist: Detailed list of questions to ask before investing.
  • Investors’ Bill of Rights: Common sense advice and legal rights for any investor.
  • Resources: Useful contact information for victims or witnesses of a fraud.
  • Glossary of Fraud Terms: Definitions of legal and financial terms within each story.
  • The Loot: Color photos of the criminals’ misbegotten gains and lavish lifestyle.
  • The Numbers: Calculations of the staggering amounts collected, paid, lost, or stolen, and prison sentences and restitution.

How can you get this Ponzimonium eBook?

About the Author:  Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (Bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public. She has been researching identity theft and privacy issues for years, both on the web and in the real world, and is a big fan of more fraud protection for citizens.


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