Fred Bates

Good night and good luck, America

I had to say a few things before this election. As I write it isn’t over yet, but whoever wins, the entire campaign will leave a lot of bad taste in many mouths.

I keep wondering how it is that one candidate for President is able to quantify how many jobs he will supposedly “create” if elected. If he truly cared about the country he’d disclose just how, and yesterday. Truth is he hasn’t got any more ability to “create” jobs than your dog. Now just where did he get that number, 12 million?

What if, just suppose that the membership of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been intentionally holding back on hiring. Why would they do that? Perhaps they hate having an African-American Chief Executive. Or they simply want to be able to do whatever they like. Either way, from what I read, those who do have jobs aren’t getting raises and are just about to work themselves into the ground. Stress and burnout are really good for productivity.

Twelve million sounds like a lot. That requires growing the paycheck lines by about five per cent. Actually, I’m not an economist, but if maybe around eight million were hired in short order, making the “capitalist” candidate look pretty darned good, those mysterious “multipliers” could take care of the other four million.

I would not put it past them. The Chamber has made no secret of its disrespect for and dislike of the sitting President. And many on the “red” side of the aisle (I remember when that meant they’d be Communists) openly express their dislike for the current Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Prof. Ben Bernanke. What now?

Bernanke’s “quantitative easing” has meant a lot of companies were able to hold on when pure “market” economics would have meant doom. These moneyed conservatives hate that. They read Schumpeter. They salivate over buying up assets for pennies on the dollar. They haven’t had many opportunities to do that since 2007, and they’re unhappy. According to this way of thinking GM and Chrysler should have been on the block that way, but the Administration headed off the Indians at the pass. No wonder the candidate with Utah connections has been upset over the bailout of the car companies.

Likewise, the “failed” stimulus. Bull. Picture the Dutch boy with his finger in the dike. When he grows tired or has to honor Nature’s call, he needs someone to stick his thumb in for him, or the Netherlands becomes the New Jersey shore last week. What if no one shows up? Would any Dutchman logically be unhappy if at the last minute some stranger shows up with a fresh thumb? Would anyone in Holland care very much who this new guy is? Truly, if no one fills the hole sooner or later those lowlands are gone. This is pretty much what happened starting in 2007, when that other rocket scientist from Texas sat in the White House. Was his policy misguided? No? You can’t have it both ways, pilgrim.

Onerous regulations are said to be the bane of American business now. If that were true, wouldn’t we expect to see dozens of lawsuits in federal district courts challenging every one of them? No, the Federal Register hasn’t hurt many. Businesses would apparently rather blame their own lack of innovation and creativity on the White House. If that fails, then there’s the Chinese at fault. Once in a while it might be labor unions. Or, if all else fails, there’s that tried-and-true bogeyman, the cost of money. Oops! Interest rates have been lower than a snake’s butt for so long it seems like forever. Corporations have been borrowing like crazy thanks to these tiny rates, trillions of dollars’ worth. Now, if government were run like a business, then they’d borrow and . . . Oh, fudge. There goes another mantra!

It’s sad to admit it, but the USA already has a health care system that rations service by income. Some want education to be the same. Where does that take us? Not to Canada, not to Norway, not even to Saudi Arabia. Try a place like Pakistan, or Niger. Some of these self-styled conservatives might envy Niger, because of their oil. Heck, I even see where some in Longmont have expressed envy over Firestone and Frederick. These people don’t get out much.

If voters want to buy a horse, they would almost always check its teeth. They should go a bit farther with their government. And if they are serious about having a government run like a business, they must ask themselves who benefits. If they have corporate experience, answering THAT question will be easy, and enlightening.

I wonder if Franklin Roosevelt wasn’t saved from assassination just before his first inauguration by the hand of divine intervention. FDR also avoided a coup from wealthy “businessmen” whose utterances would sound very familiar today. Then we were winners in World War II. It was fortunate for the nation that Hoover preceded FDR and not the other way round. A parallel is advocated by some today. If we get this wrong and elect a REAL non-Christian President, then what might befall us? Was Hurricane Sandy a warning? Or was it the wave one candidate needed?

Another contributor to this thread is fond of stating that the American public doesn’t like having a President smarter than they are. Well, in 2000 and 2004 they darn sure got exactly that. Now they’re uncertain, as they believe they have another one. I remember clearly during the GOP debate season (21 of them, I believe) that many “men on the street” claimed they wanted “somebody else” and not the man who was eventually nominated. Now in many cases that guy on the street is again saying, with regard to the incumbent President, I’d like to see “somebody else.” The electorate will never be happy. As for me, I am voting for the Presidential candidate who actually strikes me as having a bit of humility. This human quality will serve better than having a wallet at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. In case you’re wondering, this candidate is the one with daughters and not sons.

Good luck, America.

Take 2 or ? on the Mayor and Marriage Equality

There has recently been a good deal of sharp discussion in Longmont over the Mayor’s declaration of some support of “civil unions,” whereby so-called “same-sex marriages” result.

First, it looks like most of the noise originates from sour grapes over the November election. Second, there may be semantic bias — for example, “support” might not mean “approval.” Third, it is difficult for me to decide whether the whole subject is political or religious. These are THE two topics one NEVER brings up in family gatherings, after all.

At the risk of sounding self-righteous (he who is not guilty may cast the first stone), I wonder if some of the rhetoric about the matter may represent some intolerance. I’m not thrilled over “civil (same-sex) unions,” but I recall that many Americans were anything but pleased about allowing African-Americans to vote. The matter easily boils down to consideration of what persons do (vote, marry, invest, eat, die), versus what they are (Caucasian, Republican, Lutheran, homosexual). Not a little of our intolerance can often bounce out of the mirror and strike us upside the head. I know, it’s happened to me.

The question keeps coming up for me: what “class” of citizen am I, really? We can impute all kinds of “meaning” to the symbols in our lives, assuming they are truly needed. If symbols become their objects or their artists, what then? Much of the time one’s point of view determines his reality and acceptance of it. Who’s to say the animals in the zoo do not consider that the bars somehow hold us in, not out?

We have an interest in expecting some things, including much but NOT ALL the behavior of our public servants. The recent case of Hygiene’s fire chief comes to mind. His actions potentially threatened public safety; the actions of people (and that’s all they are) seeking a way to bequeath an estate to a legal “joint tenant” instead of a dachshund don’t harm anyone. I wonder what would have happened if Longmont’s Mayor had said he is gay. But, again, that would be an “is,” not a “do.”

What does a mayor do? In the Longmont form of government the Mayor is really one of the members of City Council. The Mayor administers nothing (a City Manager does that). A mayor can be a booster and a spokesperson in that he or she officially auditions the City to receive benefits including business as well as largesse from higher levels. But the mayor is not a priest whose utterances lobby the Almighty. If citizens expect a mayor to reflect their own thinking to a “T,” there will be disappointment. Group-think reached its nadir in Germany between 1932 and 1945. It works poorly.

Any mayor must represent an entire constituency and not only a slice of it. Those who insist otherwise will probably not be able to stop on the retreat past a very primitive organization of society (think family-clan-tribe), but will likely proceed to a point where Longmont has 87,000 mayors. That’s called anarchy.

In “Fiddler on the Roof” Tevye relaxes his practices for two of his daughters, but he never stops keeping his head covered. What he does socially is compartmentalized from what he is and remains. No mayor ceases being a citizen or a father or a husband or a sibling just because of an election.

I believe a city is fortunate when it has a leader who tries to DO that city’s business, not BE the city’s business. There be dragons in that, a lesson learned in too many places the hard way.

Six Minutes to Midnight

Is time running out?

The world won’t end with a bang. It will end with a whimper. We are getting close, after all, I believe. We have reached a point where I think we will have “soiled our nest” to the point where it will truly be irretrievable. It’s not only the “fracking,” though this is becoming all too pervasive. Ground water? That could be some salvation in the face of global warming. But not if it’s laced with ethylene, methanol, benzene, etc. A glass of lead acetate? Thank you; I’ll have another.

Tack on the insanity of nuclear “energy.” Radioisotopes are insidious things. Can’t see or smell or taste or hear the stuff. It’s a dreaded thing. This, coupled with the above, means we can all subject ourselves to a form of chemotherapy and radiotherapy all the time! Who needs Love Canal or Bhopal, when we can have coal tar, mercury, crude-oil-and-shrimp-cocktail (hold the jambalaya)?

But relax. The pharma industry will save the day. It’s got “medicines” in the “pipeline” to fix everything from asthma to scurvy. Rash? Covered. Delirium tremens? Just swallow these every six hours. Oh, that will be seven hundred thousand dollars, please. You say you don’t like it? You don’t agree? How can you be so intransigent, so inconsiderate? Do you not see how many JOBS depend on these chemicals, these treatments, these forms of energy generation? Where would we be without an automobile on each and every square yard of impervious surface around this solar system?

If you want things to improve, just shut up and do your duty, boy! I could name a well-regarded, even venerable, multi-line auto dealer (no, it’s not Doug Moreland, thank Heaven!) that recently spent $16.5 million to build a spanking new, “STATE OF THE ART” sales/service facility at Lucent Boulevard and C-470, in Highlands Ranch. But with the “Great ‘Recession’,” cars haven’t been selling any too well. Ouch and phooey. So how to cope? Easy: you require your employees to take significant cuts in pay. And if they protest, well, there’s the door.

All rides on the backs of us common folk. The entrepreneurs among us were once the risk-takers. Of the four factors of production (note: here I borrow from Gregory Iwan, who pens things around here sometimes) all are supposed to be “paid” BEFORE the entrepreneur! That’s why returns to entrepreneurs are supposed to be so high; the risk there is also very high.

Not in the new paradigm. These avaricious few want their cake and eat it, too. They’ll eat YOURS, as well. Just watch. Entrepreneurs now demand no risk AND higher returns. How to confront this? The only strategy I can imagine is a comprehensive buyers’ strike. Everyone in the USA needs to stop buying everything, period. And hold out until the money caves. Oh, and EVERYONE needs to stay home from work, too. It sounds tough, I know. And the American citizen is nothing if not consumption-conditioned. But, hey; I can dream, can’t I?

Pass the methanol. I need to get to where I can hear that “click” that Brick talks about in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” Tennessee Williams knew us well. Pity we don’t know our own strength.

The Far Wrong: the electorate lost what was left of its mind.

Don't like government? THEN STOP TAKING THE MONEY.

Teabigots need to stop the hypocrisy - and quit taking money from the government they despise.

Just what is a “union?” Those on the far wrong (I can no longer use the directional reference ‘right’) are fond of pointing out just what is a “marriage” (whether they cheat on their own), and they seem incapable or unwilling to recognize our national union. Pity over a million Americans died between 1861 and 1865, to meld this Union more securely.

More than a few states in this UNION are now led by the far wrong; nearly a dozen governor’s chairs “swung” last fall, when the electorate lost what was left of its mind. Twenty-six states have joined in one or more legal actions aimed at overturning the health-care reform so bitterly secured over the angst of the far wrong last spring. Don’t be fooled: the far wrong doesn’t give a camel hair that we are to be REQUIRED to buy health coverage. Do you think the agents of the billionaires really mind if granny can afford any sort of health insurance? Well, in case no one noticed, the insurance companies are huddling, looking for more pins to stick in the law. They admitted that their lobbying effort against it was huge, and just who do you suppose will pay for those millions in expenses?

Colorado’s attorney general (not capitalized, on purpose) joined one of these legal actions. Did he seek clarification, or express confusion over implementation? Naw; he says it’s “unconstitutional.” I worry when the attorney general, like a number of occupants of state executive mansions, is unaware of what the CONSTITUTION says. Try Article Six, where the “Supremacy” Clause is written. That, combined with the Fourteenth Amendment, says the United States laws and treaties are at the top of the pyramid. Period. Deal with it. Of course, every test of those two portions of the founding basis for our country was heard before ACTIVIST judges, so the far wrong is justified in ignoring them. Correct?

Not correct. Just today it was disclosed that some far-wrong governors have chosen to jump ship, refusing to move toward implementation of the health-care reform act, now that all of TWO US DISTRICT courts have ruled against all or part of it. District courts in the federal system are like Class “A” baseball — these are the bush leagues. Oh, I wish I hadn’t chosen THAT word.

Nevertheless, I now have a list. There are states I refuse to visit, even to change planes. I won’t allow one nickel to leave my pocket for Florida, Idaho, South Carolina, Georgia, or Wisconsin. Texas is teetering; I might have to sell some municipal bonds. Unilateral action on the part of the miscounterelected should have consequences. I am sickened, watching as we become two countries here in the USA, or fifty. Each of these, and anyone far-wrong outfit choosing to join them, should immediately have all its Medicare, Medicaid, FEMA, EPA, Transportation, Defense, Education, and Welfare largesse from the UNITED States terminated forthwith. You think it’s not possible? Look back at our vacation of Air Force bases in Libya, between late 1969 and mid-1970. We took out the very RUNWAYS, not just the buildings. It was quite something, to see operating, fully functional military installations returned to the desert in mere weeks. Why not here? That is, in Florida, Idaho, South Carolina, etc., etc., and any state where Haley Barbour hangs his overgenerous hat. Let’s see how these proud, loud, unbowed roosters who THINK they “know” and claim to support the Constitution (they’re so sworn), get along without dime one from Washington.

They’d SAY they love it. No Department of Education, no Health and Human Services, no EPA. And no Fourteenth Amendment. There’s been a lot of noise about repealing or eliminating all of those. Well, have at it. Just don’t any longer claim you’re any countryman of mine, and don’t even suck up a single penny of my taxes. You can form your own country or just waste away; I don’t care. And if we can build a fence between Mexico and Arizona, we can build one around the other three edges of the Grand Canyon State.

I’d really like to see if Washington has any testicles. It’s time to let these paper-hanging gong-show refugees lie in the bed they’ve made.

Pain, frustration, anger. Please, no more.

The awful tragedy in north Tucson is no surprise, given the trash talking that has become common in what passes for an American society. It’s reached the point where any emotionally weak wacko with a dull ax can simply determine that his (her) way is the ONLY way, and certain strident media figures, networks, and broadcast shows egg the perp on. So what happens if we ALL decide our way is it, period? Well, what we’d have then would be a lot like Afghanistan.

Of course, some on the far right would have us return to the tried-and-true human organizational scheme of family/clan/tribe, and drop county/state/nation. Even Longmont’s Chamber of Commerce seems anxious to get out of that awful Boulder yoke, and that body hopes to use gerrymandering as the tool to do so. Talk about the atomization of practically everything.

The most “innocent” example might be the GOP Congresspersons who want to gut or hobble the Federal Reserve. After all, unemployment doesn’t mean spit; tell those slackers to get a job! And inflation? Who cares, as long as Big Oil, Big Pharma, and the Pentagon get all they want. Here’s a way to “fix” the Fed: appoint Bristol Palin to the Open Market Committee. Then her mother can text-message and lobby and Facebook all around, looking for “influence.” It might keep the older Palin busy.

Back to Tucson. This incident really reveals how little fabric remains in our culture, if ever we had some. I lived in Pima County, Arizona, for a time. Let me on that jury! We may need (and I’m going against all my faith-based teaching here) a very public execution this time. Perhaps that might cool some of the angst, revolt, and rhetoric. The Congressperson who was the nut’s primary target had endured a lot of flak for — Heavens! — voting in favor of the health-care overhaul. Would that the shooter would need major health care attention now. Just let him out on the streets for an hour . . . Further, the target’s office had earlier been vandalized.

That’s okay; if you don’t get your way, why don’t you nuke the planet, fools? You’d ruin everything to prove you’re right? Tell you what; you don’t like things here, there are a few wonderful spots where you’d be happier and more appreciated. Start with Zimbabwe, or Northern Sudan. Or how about Cambodia? Paradise!

But there, as here, you must remember one essential tip always: shoot yourself first. Just above the ear ought to do. Then you can shoot everyone in sight. Have a great time, Lucifer.

Bass-Ackwards‏ (You betcha)

Has anyone heard the new mantra from the right regarding the “American Dream?” It sounds as though someone’s trying to rev up the old “consumption” model again.

This in part is likely in my view to provoke new socioeconomic divisions before long. It goes like this: We’re not going to allow anyone to get in the way of the American Dream. I can very easily visualize helpless regulators, planning bodies, boards of county supervisors, etc., rolling over quickly at nearly any “proposal” To do otherwise would be to threaten or to outright deprive jobs in the jurisdiction du jour. I’d tread very carefully were I they, or if I were to consider taking the hearing microphone and objecting – even questioning – capitalism’s latest get-rich-quick scheme (THEY get rich; not us).

I may not be effective at it, but I tend to be a conspiracy theorist. I try to hang facts on those conspiracy bones whenever I can, but I believe the lack of hiring in the USA might be intentional, aimed first at foisting a new conservative majority on the country and as many other places as possible. And if the “cost of doing business” (to whom, I’m not sure) fails to decline precipitously, if tax rates don’t follow interest rates to or toward zero – especially for those whose incomes are larger than the national budget of Romania – then the HR door will remain closed. It’s as though business intends to hold its breath until WE all turn blue.

Why is this apparent practice so difficult to justify? Because of the justification offered for it already. It seems businesses refuse to hire until they see “more demand;” it’s don’t-shoot-‘til-you-see-the-whites-of-their-eyes, or the green of their money. From where is any demand likely to come if people aren’t being hired and if wages stay at mid-1990s levels? Especially with government demand now to be squeezed by the new wild children on the block, or the “Hill.” Chicken, meet egg. But hold on!

Don’t tell me: business doesn’t want to take a risk. What !?!?! Isn’t that what entrepreneurs get paid for? Risk is why they can command high returns. Economists remind us of it all the time. Economists also point out that entrepreneurial return is a RESIDUAL. That means these people are supposed to get paid AFTER every other factor of production – you know, land, LABOR, and capital. Izzatso?

Not today. Entrepreneurship wants its return first, and guaranteed. It seems those who claim to be willing to move money (that’s what “entrepreneurship” actually means) value power over progress. And that’s precisely why we should be calling all of this segment to task.
The “anti’s” may have scored in the most recent round, but it’s a fifteen-rounder, for the championship. If the American public sits still long enough, waiting for a decision, what’s to say the referee won’t help the other guy achieve a knockout? Now, there’s a calming concept.

Next stop: American Feudalism

Courtesy of -

America's royalty, complete with castles and serfs

American companies, especially the really BIG ones, are still collecting dead Presidents. They’ve got over two trillion of ’em. I’ve seen six-figure checks (housing), and I’ve seen seven-figure checks, in business. But I can’t imagine a check with twelve figures on it, in front of the decimal. Managers say there’s no reason to invest. That may be the last true statement to come from them, or the first. Excessive investing led all of us into this rabbit hole, where down is up and help is hurt. True, capacity utilization is quite low. But you can’t tell me there aren’t some obsolete plants out there that could be written off and replaced. If you send all the jobs to China, though, maybe it doesn’t matter.

What the upper echelon — the ones with TWO homes in Aspen each — wants instead is ever-lower taxes. Now, a national value-added tax might not be such a bad idea. It works in Europe. But the trouble is, such a revenue generator is notoriously regressive. That is to say, it would claim a much bigger piece of small incomes than of large ones. People with $50 million don’t spend very much of their gelt (But do they INVEST it?). Such a tax might be more effective at reducing sales of almost everything than even steady or rising unemployment.

And don’t listen to the mad hatters talking of how deficits are going to lead to runaway interest rates. At least not anytime soon (see capacity utilization is quite low; it’s up above). Each time interest rates go down to zilch the rich button their wallets and sit tight. Alan Greenspan, Der Fedmeister, said fourteen years ago that such things bothered him. Conditions where lower money prices failed to encourage greater use of it constituted a “conundrum.” They still do. What all this tells me is that too much of that money supposedly sloshing around the planet is held by too few hands. Oh, the stock markets are rising, but take a look at the trading volume. If that represents any kind of conviction, I’m Lady Gaga.

Here’s the simplest economics argument you’re likely to see. If the (cash-rich) companies won’t hire, who in Heaven’s name will buy their wares and services? I’m waiting . . . . I thought so. Did you say, the Chinese will buy everything? Is that what we need? Just try selling YOUR house to a Chinese family. IT’S IN THE WRONG COUNTRY, and it’s really hard to move it.

Do you suppose companies care? Why else would they be borrowing money like there’s no tomorrow? Because it’s cheap! But put it (and all of us) to work? Nope. Not even. I can easily imagine these corporate mavens gathering at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, just waiting for one of their colleagues to make a wrong move — like hiring. Quisling! Benedict Arnold!! Instead, they promote the “party line,” wherein people staying on unemployment supposedly do so because they don’t want to work. Here’s where my Zantac is handy. Nearly all of them would LOVE to go to work, but what might you expect, when jobs that MIGHT be available pay far less than the UIC check?

See, the corporations want people to work for nothing, in addition to zero taxation. Bingo. A few jobs might even be repatriated, were the American work force to simply wise up. Get what you need at the company store, owe your employer your very LIFE, and depend on the extremely wealthy for handouts and largesse. Want to see how this would operate? Try visiting a typical coal mine in India. There are only a few.

I don’t know just how we keep from backing up past mercantilism into feudalism, but I know we’d better try. Otherwise our grandchildren will not have to worry about national debt or interest rates. They will look a lot like the victims of the recent earthquake in Haiti. And those who could help them will not act differently from those who said they’d help the Haitians. So it’s up to us.

Plug your ears. And let’s get to work.

Three-headed monster on the ballot

60, 61 and 101 - truly monstrous

I’d laugh when I hear all the screaming about “government spending.” Well, I would, if it were funny. Government spending, aside from filling the holes left in the landscape by a herd of greedy financiers, was not always bad per se. Look at the highway you drove on to get to your vacation or your job or the hospital. Government dollars built it, government dollars repair it. And if a mishap melts twenty square yards of asphalt tonight, government doesn’t have the choice to wait to fix same until it has more revenue.

Or consider prisons. Built with government dough. How would it be if there were no state prisons? Both the high-profile inmate escapes recently occurred at privatized incarceration facilities. I don’t know about you, but that’s one kind of proliferation I can do without.

How about public K-12 schools? Many on the north bank of things would have us believe these institutions can do no right. I guess that’s why they pay teachers one-tenth of one per cent as much as a typical American corporate CEO pulls down. Disregarding for the moment the apparent agenda of some vocal school critics, it would appear that, when certain “conservatives” say they want to assure school choice, they mean the rich should not have to send their children to public schools and so also should not have to help pay for them. Most school revenue comes through property taxes. Property taxes are one of only two taxes (the other being the automobile ownership tax) based on asset value. That may be the only thing more sacrosanct to the wealthy than protection of gains.

Colorado voters will face three “measures” this November (earlier, actually, with mail-in ballots). As a package they constitute a three-headed monster. Amendments 60 and 61, plus Proposition 101, are designed to take the state back to 1991, when Doug Bruce was planning to try to get TABOR on the ballot for the third time. Why stop with 1991? In terms of state and local government employment, we’ll see levels unheard of since 1955. Of course, that’s what “conservatives” have wanted since the last Ice Age. Rather than risk incarceration and tax court, these “patriots” prefer to use government for their own ends when it suits them ­like when they want to pay less in taxes legally. George W. Bush heard them, loud and clear. You might ask around and notice how many jobs were created as a result. No fair counting the armed services.

Proponents of this ballot triple play would claim that the roads will be fine. After all, the feds and gasoline taxes pay for those. The US helps (through matching funds) build US highways, but not state roads. The feds do not send money to maintain them. If 60-61-101 pass, so many government jobs will be lost that the state economy will roll over and make 2008-09 look like a birthday party at a nursing home.

How? First, each public-sector job carries a multiplier. That means that more than one private-sector job depends on it. Or did you think the government grows its own trees and makes its own paper? Or generates its own electricity? Or pumps its own crude oil? Vehicle Miles Traveled fell precipitously during the Great Recession and will again, if the anti-debt/anti-public forces have their way. Why else did crude oil fall back into the $30s per barrel? Next time even fewer miles will be driven. Result? Less gas tax. And just try raising it. Bruce will be there, legal motion in hand. He is trained as an attorney, after all. Read 60-61-101. Suits brought against any government unit to enforce these no-tax measures are a no-win for the public. And the plaintiff (Bruce) ALWAYS recovers costs. Not a bad retirement, if you ask me.

By the way, if a certain candidate for governor is elected and walks in on day one to fire people left and right, the same negative (actually fractional) multiplier situation will ensue. Not a pretty picture. If you live in a household drawing a government paycheck, I’d think about saving more. Now.

Current rhetoric from the barnyard tries to make it sound as if government at all levels is out to rape the wallets of our grandchildren. Maybe these people surmise that their grandchildren won’t have gainful employment, either. And they’re too embarrassed to ask father government to help! Is all that really the fault of government, or of corporatists holding hiring hostage for a no-tax, no-regulation list of demands?

As indicated above, government can’t choose which “project” to fund in most cases. What does a private business do to start a new venture, buy a new machine, build a new plant? Borrow! How is the debt repaid? Out of cash flow. But a business can choose not to proceed. Why should government not have the same privilege? I suppose those who would urge a return to candle-dipping days have never owed anyone a nickel. If you believe that, then sign here for a trip to see my land in Florida. Of course it’s for sale. Easy payments.

If we just “privatize” everything, all will be well. Take another look. I know of no private trash collection service that charges less than a municipal pickup, for starters. Why? The private concern wants to earn a profit; the government does not need to. If you favor a private police force, then I suggest you look into the antics of Blackwater in Iraq. Recent police abuses of power in Denver notwithstanding, I doubt any of us want the SS patrolling our roads. Yet, since we won’t be keeping them up under 60-61-101, maybe there is no problem here. I just hate the idea of detouring around all the fallen bridges and spending all day to get to Breckenridge. In the summer.

Not very long ago a major magazine wanted to vote Fort Collins into the top five in “best places to live.” The city had been number one in 2006, but ended up this year at number 6, because of underfunded schools. Even Dan Haley, Denver Post editor, who is not known as a flaming liberal, stated on July 4 (that’s significant!) his support for public education funding, as well as roads. Lionel Rivera, mayor of Colorado Springs (Doug Bruce lives there.), has proposed a three-year “timeout” on TABOR. That’s not exactly what 60-61-101 have in mind. These initiatives are slash-and-burn politics that, if enacted, will drive business away from the state and initiate an extended period of migration by households. Remember the “black taggers” who left Michigan in the early 1980s and showed up in Texas, etc., looking for work? Colorado plates will be noticeable from coast to coast.

In Germany numerous voices have had second thoughts about proposed austerity measures. Germany’s economy is better off than ours; their GDP grew more than two per cent in the second quarter. Figures for
the USA are not in yet, but most economists I’ve read will be very surprised if the number is greater than 1.5%. Without government stimulus, that number would have been not just negative, but a black hole.

I suspect many people are beat up and ticked off because they see that more government jobs survived the near-Depression of 2008-09, than did private-sector jobs. Construction jobs have been the big loser, and economists love them, if only because they have large multipliers and usually pay well. Or they did. It’s hard to beat business that can take in money in another state but buys its supplies locally. Big homebuilders come to mind.

Finally, if the Doug Bruce’s of the world think sales taxes can save us, it’s time for them to look at that place in Florida. After massive job losses occasioned by passage of their latest anti-public barrage, not so many will feel able or inclined to consume. Poor people don’t make very good commercial customers. The voters of this state ought to be careful what they wish for; they just might get it, in spades.

Is it really insurance?

Or might it be a fleecing?

I tend to be rather healthy most of the time. That may be a very good thing. There was a dental claim submitted from my household recently, to one of the major “insurance” carriers. I use quotation marks because real insurance would not have conditions. It would have a payment formula and scale, and perhaps — just perhaps — every doctor and practitioner in America would not need to hire people just to fight with “insurance” companies, but instead could hire persons who supply (can you stand this?) HEALTH CARE!

What? Health care? What’s that? Do I mean to say practitioners’ costs could go down, were there no need to go to war with these citizens of the sewer? You betcha. Thanks, Sarah. Our “insurance” carrier stated, in its explanation of “benefits,” that IN THEIR OPINION, there was an alternative to filling dental caries near the gum line. Like what? Leaving them alone? Then this “insurance” company might be asked to help pay for a crown, or extraction? Does that make sense? Some “insurance” executive must have some stock options creeping into the money, or there’s this second house in Aspen he’s eyeing. Whatever; this is precisely why RADICAL health reform was AND IS STILL NEEDED in the USA.

If tea-party types think the current system is so wonderful, I’d like to know where the get THEIR “insurance.” We could all benefit if they would stoop to share. But those who oppose this reform are blind, rich, or stupid. And I don’t think any of those choices appeals to me. So let’s start a real reform of the reform, and line up these “insurance” companies against the wall.

To do otherwise is to capitulate. Whether to the “insurance” companies or the tea party, doesn’t matter. But something RADICAL should be done, and NOW. I’m not to the point of Molotov cocktails, but I’m close. “Insurance” companies substituting their “judgment” for the professional opinion and training of medical practitioners is no different from the Taliban substituting their “way” for modern (Islamic) principles. I don’t know about you, but I’m THROUGH surrendering power to these charlatans who know about as much about health care as I do about dentistry. The fact that both hurt helps not at all.

Guess who! A limerick or two

There was a hairpiece from the glade
Who lived well and sure had it made;
But when called to account
He would turn to his mount,
And use his gratuitous blade.

A gilded figure from Poway
Had got used to have everything his way.
When confronted or locked
He annoyed, huffed or blocked
While posing his expensive toupee’ .

A person who leads by design
Is content if we just toe the line;
But if we disagree
He’ll incise at the knee,
And our principles all redefine!
There once was a boy from a frat:
A fright when engaged in a spat!
He’d rant and degrade,
And he’d pout and upbraid,
And just act like the consummate brat.

— F. Bates / 2010

Lexicon: Test on Monday

Can they read?

Synonymous with disaster

Noah Webster might turn over in his grave, but thanks to new usage, some words need updating. Here are a few:

No:” Japanese form of opera. All parts, including those of women, are played by men. It can sometimes be a sort of “coming out” in Japan.

Also a touchstone, slogan, or war cry applied frequently by the “loyal opposition,” especially in the U. S. Congress. They think of it as an innocent way to “hold the line” until reinforcements arrive, and they can go back to wrecking the country.

Compete, viz. competitiveness:” A term used daily by nearly all U. S. corporations, especially those publicly owned. Couched as a non-negotiable objective and emphasis, its achievement by any means is justified. To compete means to stay in the game. Hence, firms resort to I-can-lay-off-more-than-you-can, reasoning that labor costs are the poison restraining all progress.

Firms actually do compete occasionally, for a while. When that and yearly “restructuring” fail, they then buy their competition. Then more layoffs follow, in order to remain “competitive.”

By definition, CEOs and their related executives are immune from competition.

Motivate:” What corporations need to do, to retain their (insulated-from-competition) executives. If salaries 900 times that of the few remaining line workers are not enough, the firms try corporate jets, fully-funded retirement including health care, cars, clothing allowances, luxury vacations, to name a few, PLUS stock options (where applicable). If such options fall out of “the money” — i.e., the stock price doesn’t sufficiently or properly “reward” the non-competition-challenged exec, the options are “reset” by boards. Paying the shareholders, who own the firm, is not regarded as the first priority. The stock price is judged motivation enough for them.

Surge:” A political solution to an unpopular or even illegal war. Also, a rise in poll numbers, usually for a politician. Occasionally an increase in pulse rate generally related to presence of a mistress, election results, or reception by a carefully chosen audience.

White Out:” An obsolete means for correction of typographical error. Syn. An obsolete sociopolitical object, platform, or legislative aim, esp. in border states. Applied only along southern borders.

Price:” Not to be confused with “Value.” Ant. Cost, as of a good or service. The excuse for every ill. Syn. “Taxes.”

Variable Cost:” What is solved by layoffs when mergers, acquisitions, and deunionization fail.
Fixed Cost:” The next great Satan in corporate thinking. Often equivalent to taxes, where utility rates have not been subsidized by a friendly jurisdiction. Also including insurance, esp. health coverage. Reduction or elimination is “job one.”

Skills:” What the American work force lacks. What immigrant workers can offer, except in border states (see above). Retraining may be necessary, so long as the firms are not required to pay for same. In addition, schools constitute a part of many taxation regimes; hence, see “fixed cost,” supra.

W:” The chart pattern for the US macroeconomy, 2008 to –? Also a moniker or nickname applied with approbation to the U. S. Chief Executive who kicked the same macroeconomy down the hill.

Efficiency:” That condition where streamlining makes forever instant, the concept of expense is meaningless, and free money is everywhere. BP uses the term four times in its December 31, 2009, annual report before you even get through page three. Efficiency “experts” were once pretty common; now we call them economists. Conservative economists. They are pretty good at forecasting, if you want to know what happened yesterday.

Risk:” The probability of unplanned outcomes. If you run a public company, it’s what faces the shareholders. If you run a private concern, this is what your employees endure. Of course, the intended outcome for you is called a “guarantee.” So don’t worry about this one. Unless you’re an employee or a shareholder, that is.

Is it time for radical economic concepts?

More than one-third of existing USA home sales in 2009 were short sales or foreclosures. In March of 2010 the median existing home price was 26% lower than in October 2005, without factoring in any inflation. What’s the root cause? For starters, check out incomes. That’s what pays the mortgage.

In 2008 median household income in the USA was $49,800; in 2000 it was $52,400, marking a five per cent decline. Multiplied by 99% of all households (the top one per cent does not suffer here), you get a whale of a differential in spending power and mortgage coverage. Household wealth, which includes that top one per cent, slid from $503,500 to $486,600 during the last decade. For most, wealth largely means the house.

In 2009 the states paid $79.6 billion in unemployment benefits. Small wonder that deficits are the sign of the times. Yet employers for the most part are awash in cash. As the Denver Post related on Father’s Day, corporate leaders are doing just fine, thank you.

In 2007 (latest available) data say that immigrants made up 35% of first-time home buyers. Their share of repeat home purchases was 20%. Perhaps we as a nation of immigrants might wish to reconsider the intolerance implicit in measures such as Arizona’s little hissy fit.

Perhaps we should also consider what to DO about unemployment, since the housing bust is unlikely to improve without a meaningful change in this metric. A couple of ideas come to mind.

First, the USA could offer private employers a ten per cent tax holiday for the year, provided they increase their work force by ten per cent throughout the twelve-month period. Somebody’s got to start hiring soon, or nobody’s going to buy anything. Waiting for the next guy to add workers is like participating in a firing squad that stands in a circle.

Better yet, Congress could decree that no CEO gets a raise until and unless he hires some people. Add twenty per cent to the payroll, you can get a twenty per cent pay hike.

Finally, the housing mess may need a long-term jolt. Perhaps the feds might buy back land a lot at a time–the land under homes threatened by their owners’ inability to pay the mortgage. The USA once owned all the land, except for that claimed by natives; why not take some of it back again? Every homeowner who qualifies would immediately execute a ground lease for the term of the mortgage, however it is removed or paid off. I wonder how many lenders would refuse to approve, especially when Uncle Sam’s check goes straight to them. Land values are typically five to twenty per cent of a home’s value. For condos, a proportionate interest in underlying tracts would be re-acquired by the USA.

Pay for it with a federal tax on all land transfers. In this way those who wish to add housing can support what’s already here.

Go ahead; call these concepts radical. You got a better idea? Let’s hear it.

‘Keep the change.” — Yes I will, thank you.

Photo by jcolman

I have seen bumper stickers that proclaim there are people – voters, presumably – who want someone (me? Happily!) to “keep the change.” The message also refers to a preference toward keeping the display owner’s guns, freedom, and money.

Has any entity, state, or jurisdiction restricted gun ownership lately? I can’t find one. And I’d like to see a few, like a twelve-month minimum wait period for any carry permit. Maybe at least two entrepreneurs from Boulder would still be here if such a procedure pertained. The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says (I know these displayers have this memorized, but bear with me), “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms . . .” The security of a person is not mentioned. I know, there’s a pile of case law about this matter that is ten feet tall. But don’t forget: in the late 18th century every able-bodied man called to duty to defend his country had to furnish his own weapon. Only during the Civil War did this practice change. Context is important.

As for freedom, I say, if you’ve lost some, where did it go? Did the Wall Street devils take it? They took plenty, but we still have a lot, if we total it up. Freedom is a worthy concept and an even more important practice. It’s a little like low blood pressure. Fail to support it, and it can erode. But along with it come things like responsibility and fidelity to one’s nation and fellow citizens. If these bumper stickers mean the displayer just can’t stand not being able to do exactly as he/she pleases, then Houston, we do have a problem, and it isn’t with “freedom.” But that’s a topic for a dissertation, not an op-ed type of piece. Suffice it to say that if voting against everything and everyone increases one’s freedom, and if freedom is a relative and abstract thing, then why aren’t the Italians much more free than everyone else? They’ve had 67 governments since World War II, and they are still not happy. I think I’d be careful what I wish for.

Last, there’s the money. I infer that this means there are – suffering succotash! – taxes afoot and about. Now, we have something to chew on. If only there were no taxation. Everyone could “keep his” money and make his/her own decisions regarding what to do with it. Of course, there would be more expenditure required for transportation, because taxes build and repair roads, bridges, airports, etc. Taxes also pay for national defense. My guess is these displayers are by their declaration stating their willingness to be first at the beaches or the borders or the World Trade Center, to fend off any and all foreign incursions and threats from any quarter. Of course the displayer can do so (he/she has his musket; see above). Catch some of these bad guys, and do what with them? Prosecution and prisons cost money; that means taxes. Oh, you don’t plan to try or feed or hold them? There goes the freedom! If you don’t give some, you don’t get any. You may not have enough time to travel (without good roads and bridges, remember) to the “front” because you need to spend a LOT of time educating your children. Ask anyone who home-schools children. See, without taxation there are no public schools. If you have any money left over from plowing your roads or buying copious quantities of gasoline to manage the long detours around fallen bridges, you may wish to send Jessica and Jacob to a private school. You will probably have to contribute to building and maintaining it as well. In your spare time. With no government, there WILL be fewer jobs; even public-sector work has an economic multiplier. Do you know anyone who sells anything to any governmental entity? Toilet paper? LaserJet ink cartridges? Faucets? Sorry; account closed! Income down.

Just vote an “anti” ticket and your (our?) problems are solved. If you believe that, there’s some land in Florida I need to show you. It’s wet only part of the year. Easy payments! In the mid-1990s Newt Gingrich and his cohorts took control of Congress and, they believed, almost everything else. That was “change.” Electing a semi-literate ex-governor from right across the street from Russia (that’s why she can see it) would also be a “change.” But by the time displayers of strident bumper stickers figure out that they made one change too many, it may be too late. Or, they could dust off the stickers and change everything again. That’s their right. They are free actors. So were the citizens of Germany in March 1933. They got a change. I’d say it was rather expensive.