Like those old Miller beer ads arguing the preeminence of “Great Taste!” vs “Less Filling!”, the voting public will again be caught between opposing sides of “Cut Spending!” vs “Raise Revenues!”
For some these phrases (and their variations) may be empty political rhetoric, pulled out of drawers of talking points, representing little of ideological substance. To many they reflect their fundamental understanding of the differences between our political choices at the national level. Fiscally responsible against spendthrift, caring versus callous.
In general though, politicians, pundits and other public intellectuals don’t want to be particularly clear about their intentions in this debate. “Spending cuts” can sound like cuts to a program that will help me or hurt people I care about. “Raising revenues” can sound like just more taxes and money out of my pocket. Then to be fair, I must admit that the discussion is rarely as blunt as “Spending vs Revenues”. It is couched many ways. Cuts are re-named “elimination of redundant programs” or “controlling costs”; increased taxes are presented as “revenue enhancements” or “reducing tax expenditures” (basically eliminating deductions).
However it is phrased though, this debate (along with others) will once again heat up as we draw ever closer to the November election. Thus I felt this was a good time to take a look at the history behind these two opposing views and more particularly the most recently favored semantics in the discussion, the touted “balanced approach“.
This strategy, simultaneous implementation of spending cuts and revenue increases in some combination, has been promoted widely during our most recent national budget debates. President Obama, the co-chairs of his blue ribbon deficit reduction committee Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, billionaire financier Warren Buffett and innumerable others have all been heard echoing a refrain supporting a “balanced approach”.
It certainly appeals to our innate sense of fairness. It rings with the sound of admirable compromise. As mentioned we know where each side stands reflexively at the national level, so when Democrats take up the banner of “balance”, when they agree to cut spending in return for some revenue increases, this can only appear as well intentioned negotiation.
Now before going any further, let me state what this article is NOT about. I am not going to address what we spend our money on. I would like to simply laser in on how we handle the financials in our government bodies, particularly the example of our federal government. We don’t need to address the specifics of priorities or of this or that program decision in order to come to a general agreement that our nation is currently on an unsustainable fiscal track.
We cannot continue to overspend our national government income by over 40% (Source: CBO estimate, FY 2012) year after year after year. In the long run (probably more like the medium run at this point) it is utterly unsustainable and we see examples of the political and economic consequences of ignoring this reality when we look to the current situations of Greece and others.
Thus regardless of our opinions on the place of government in our lives, we likely can generally agree that our financial house needs to be put back in order.
The question then becomes, how can we accomplish this? The simple answer brings us back to the ideological divide I described earlier. Do we lower government expenses, increase government income or some combination of the two?
If we take a snap shot of government (all the programs, laws, taxes, spending, etc.) in one moment of time, the combination idea (the “balanced approach”) certainly seems the best. In one moment of time, all choices should appear equal.
It would be like choosing paint for a room in your house. I can paint it yellow or I can paint it blue. There is no objective difference between the two, they both cover the walls just fine and get the room painted. You could paint the entire room blue, or the whole thing yellow, or some mixed use of both. No matter how we choose, the job’s done. Good work.
However, few people would find it reasonable to paint a room without considering the whole house. Generally they wouldn’t make a decision based on just that one room, just one snap shot. They would look at the rest of the rooms in their home, they would think about prior paint picks. They would make the current choice in relation to how it fits in with past choices.
So how do our current financial options (cut, raise, balance) fit into the choices our lawmakers have made in the past?
One straightforward way to consider this is to look at our economy’s total activity relative to our federal government’s total revenues and expenditures over time.
Below I have included the figures for the beginning of each decade since the year 1800 (Source: US Census Bureau, http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/past_years.html).
So what do we see?
Until 1920, with the limited exception of 1865-1875 (Can anyone in the class tell me why?), our tax revenues fluctuated between 1.5% and 3.5% of GDP. Which means, at minimum for the first 150 years of our country’s history, 96.5% of all our national production stayed in the private economy.
Until 1920, with that same exception, expenditures also stayed low, between 1.2 % and 3.0% of GDP. Generally the federal government ran very small deficits or near net zero. Only a few times for wars did the US run significant deficits, and even those debts were effectively paid to zero quickly.
Finally, prior to 1930, we see broad use of both revenue increases AND spending cuts used to manage the Federal budget. Legitimate “balance” in the budget making process at the Federal level.
However, around 1920, several things happened. The modern Federal Reserve system was established, the income tax was constitutionalized and the IRS was created. Further we saw a number of US presidents over the period from 1920-1940 (Wilson, Hoover & Roosevelt) inclined to employ more direct and wide spread governmental activity in the national economy. From the institutional changes enacted by Wilson; to the expansion of regulatory authorities, trade restrictions and activist monetary & fiscal policies of Hoover; to the wholesale interventionism of Roosevelt’s “New Deal” period.
Since then (see above) we have been on an almost non-stop track upward in both revenues AND expenses.
We see annual revenue increases (in proportion of GDP) rising continuously for over 50 years straight, topping out at over 20% of our whole national production.
All that extra money might have been great except that we see also expenses rise for over 60 years straight. When we finally got around to cutting costs we only dropped them down to a level from a couple years prior and then only a few years later, completely wiped out those savings and dropped the most massive spending increase since World War II on top bringing our Federal spending up to almost a quarter of our entire economy.
What has this strategy gotten us? Check out the right hand column… A deficit (and debt) that creeps higher and higher over the decades with only brief respites.
Then after 80 years of creep, around the turn of the millennium, our Washington politicians seem to have finally lost all connection to reality. I would argue that after decades of using over-complicated econometric math to pretend that long-term structural deficits don’t matter, that there was always some “emergency” that had to be tended to before we had to get the fiscal house under control, that we could “grow” (or inflate) our way out of any deficits we posted, that as the world’s newest reserve currency we had a blank check to borrow and spend at “guaranteed” low interest rates, after all of that and more Washington DC seemed to finally feel they could do anything and it wouldn’t damage our economic prospects or endanger our country’s ability to borrow.
So to put a cherry on this cake, the last 10 years, through President Bush and continuing under President Obama, have been a never-ending series of tax cuts and spending increases. From wide spread generational level tax cuts in Bush’s term to “targeted” decreases under Obama. Massive new entitlements, increased foreign aid, Federal stimulus and war spending have occurred under both. All of this left us in 2010 with the most wildly off-kilter federal balance sheet in the history of the country with only 15% revenue covering over 24% in expenses, and a single year deficit which exceeded 9% of total GDP.
So we end up with what looks like two quite different US government “houses” (or at least two distinctly different property managers).
One, for the first 120 years where we balanced our options (a bunch of blue AND a bunch of yellow). A second, where we spent 80 years painting almost every room yellow and then finally just said, “Forget it!” and started ignoring that the “painting” needed to happen at all.
Is it still reasonable for politicians to act as if it is a 50/50 choice between the two colors? That once more painting another of our financial rooms yellow is an equal option to painting the room blue?
After the last 90 years we have a great big yellow house and I’m very tired of yellow. It’s time for some blue, and it is frighteningly disingenuous of those arguing for ever more yellow (whether that is a tax on the “rich”, or a national sales tax, etc.). To act like this is still a choice between equals, that we should still be balancing these options, is to reveal an unacceptable ignorance of history or a willful blindness.
The only choice that would be “balanced” is to start painting with blue again. In our current situation the balanced approach is to start cutting spending.
We have proven we can gather the political will to increase taxes and revenues. We have done it over and over again for the past century. All those increases have gotten us nothing but more spending, not the righting of our financial ship that is so desperately needed.
After 90 years of almost never ending increases on both the tax burden to the US’ citizenry and the blank check spending of Washington DC, it is not “balanced” to come to the American people with hat in hand saying, “Hey, just give us a little more this one last time, we promise we’ll keep it under control this time.”
During President Reagan’s administration the phrase “starving the beast” was popularized with the theory that if we cut revenues, cuts in spending would naturally follow. That if we squeezed down income, it would lead responsible lawmakers and presidents to rein in expenses without us having to fight directly on the spending front, without having to stand clearly and openly on the side of, “Cut spending.” But what we’ve seen is, no, they’ll just keep on keepin’ on, with no regard for fiscal sanity (“they” on both sides of the political aisle). And thus the debate must now be direct, clear and straight forward.
NO NEW SPENDING and we must cut back on what we are already doing.
This year our government is on track to take 17% out of our entire economy in various tax collections and they are going to spend the equivalent of 20% (Source: Federal Reserve of St Louis). A far cry from the 2.6% they took and 2.5% they spent as recently as 1910.
This has to stop and the debate must be on the spending side.
For my Norquist pals out there, once we have comfortable, sustained surpluses and returned to healthy debt levels, we can discuss our actual tax levels and structure. Alan Greenspan argued for this in 2000 during the debates over the Bush era tax cuts. Friedman, Hayek and many other economists over time have also agreed that healthy debt levels come before cuts in government revenue sources.
I don’t believe this can happen overnight. A car stopping suddenly is called a “crash” for a reason, but we do need to solidly and steadily start applying the brakes on what has become an out of control federal intrusion into our wallets and lives. In the end, while you don’t want to slam on them and send your self into a skid, that wall is ahead and you do only have so far to get yourself stopped before that brick and mortar is going to do it for you. If you’ve ever been in an accident you know it’s a whole lot more pleasant to get yourself slowed down and stopped on your own, than letting the back bumper of that guy in front of you do it.
I also don’t believe that deficits and debt are necessarily a bad thing. Alexander Hamilton, our first Federal treasury secretary and one of our nation’s founders, argued that national debt is the key to trade and the global economy. He asked why foreign companies would engage in credit transactions with new American corporations? He argued that national debt and lending of some amount was the starting point of all credit and foreign trade. That the “full faith and credit” should stand behind our economic system and we should prove that by engaging in government debt activities.
Our government debts and lending with other nations and creditors create the baseline connections on which our corporations can build. They create the meaningful, enforceable ties with others outside our country that allow foreign nations and countries to believe we will hold our citizens and their companies to account for their activities on the world stage. If we don’t hold our own citizens to account in their contractual dealings outside our nation’s borders then those other entities may feel they don’t have to honor the contracts they have signed with our Federal government.
In our lives we are often faced with situations like renting our first apartment, buying our first car, taking out our first mortgage or starting a business and needing a loan. Sometimes the only way to have these transactions approved is to add a co-signer (often a parent). The primary borrower (us) is an unknown, untested entity. The lender or potential customer/client has little or nothing on which to base the required trust needed for the requested economic trade.
But a parent has existing relationships and history (bank accounts, loans, business experience, established credit scores, etc.) on which to base decisions. The lender or other creditor, knows that if they have our parent’s guarantee as well as our own, not only will the parent assist in holding us accountable for fulfilling the terms of whatever contract we are trying to enter into, they can also directly hold our parent to account should we end up defaulting on the agreement.
In Hamilton’s calculus the US Federal Government is the initial co-signer for American industry. They get the ball rolling by setting fiscal and monetary policy, establishing a reliable judicial system and making the first financial transactions across national borders in the forms of lending and borrowing.
American industry doesn’t continue to lean on American government once they are established in world markets, just the same as we as individuals do not continue to have our parents co-sign for us once we have our first credit cards, bank accounts, and mortgages. Once we are established with our own credit and business history we stand on our own, but that first introduction, that first hand hold into credit and trade markets is the catalyst which often allows for everything that follows.
However, in both cases, this crucial first opportunity relies on an underlying assumption.
For us as individuals it assumes that our parents are credit worthy themselves. If they personally are buried with unsustainable debts or have a poor history in their business and credit dealings, their referral for us will be worth less (potentially far less). Possibly it will not be worth enough to earn us that all-important first opportunity.
For our American industries it assumes that the US government is a good bet. And the better the bet the better the terms our companies will receive from the world. The more responsibly our Federal government manages their fiscal house the better their financial “children”, our US corporations, will be treated in the international market.
Some disagree with this, but I believe that we as a nation benefit from a well-established and active credit history the same as a mortgage and credit card can be a benefit to our personal finances. However, just as in our homes, we must diligently protect and manage our fiscal life. For the past 90 years we have been acting as an irresponsible borrower, who takes out money they don’t have, to over spend today, assuming our children will take care of the debts when we’re gone.
I like to think that our first responsibility as parents is to ensure we leave our children better off when we are gone.
Continuing to increase spending, increase taxes, with “balance” nowhere on the horizon, running our country as if politicians can, with a magic word, reverse the basic fundamentals of financial discipline in the REAL (not IMAGINED) world can only lead to our children’s and grandchildren’s futures being saddled with the costs of today. The costs of everything we were happy to buy today but had no interest in paying for.
Whether it is for the taxpayers our children will grow into, or the companies that will employ our children, or the government programs our children will depend on for crucial services (fire, police, roads, etc.), let’s start finding political solutions that will allow us to begin a century of painting with that blue brush. Let’s leave our country in good financial shape, so our kids can just focus on living out the best lives they can imagine and don’t have to spend their precious time and money cleaning up after the mess we left them.
As we start debating the re-authorization of our state’s 1 cent sales tax I would like to pause for a moment and take a slightly closer look at what has been, and will undoubtably be again, one of the oft heard sentiments in these discussions.
You almost certainly have heard some version of it, but Paul Krugman (writing in his recent release A Manifesto For Economic Sense) provides a good example: “There must of course be a medium-term plan for reducing the government deficit. But if this is too front-loaded it can easily be self-defeating by aborting the recovery.”
So more or less, “Yes, we absolutely, positively know we need to get back to (INSERT NORMAL HERE) but certainly not right now.”
Dr. Krugman is certainly and simply an easy target but is an excellent example of those who, over many years, have maintained an incessant drum beat for “emergency measures”. Whether it is stimulatory fiscal and monetary policy, private company bailouts, vast military spending, expanded police powers, environmental regulatory interventions, increased taxes or other“temporary”, “one-time” reactions to current difficulties, there always seems to happen to be another “emergency” on the horizon which will serve to extend the definition of “temporary” and turn “one-time” into repetitive.
My primary issue are the pundits and government officers who prefer to define us in an almost constant state of “crisis” or for whom at least the pendulum seems only to swing in one direction.
They are quick and aggressive to yell “Crisis!” and push interventionist planning and coercion on our economy and society when any dip or bump in the road occurs, but then they work tirelessly to stretch the crisis ad infinitum until, when finally their pleas for emergency efforts fall on deaf ears due to the simple overwhelming weight of contemporary evidence to the contrary… they fall silent (or at least fairly quiet). They never turn the corner, calling for the legislative counter-actions that would bring budgets or regulations or police/military powers back in line with a healthy normative standard. They let their “gains” stand and then wait at the ready for the next “crisis” which they can use to move the line of scrimmage just a bit more in their favor.
This strategic ideology is fairly well summed up by Rahm Emmanuel, Stanford economist Paul Romer and others, who have been quoted in a variety of ways but always with the same basic message, “NEVER let a good crisis go to waste.”
But for how long have we been hearing these Crisis Seekers (and I include many Arizona intellectuals and politicians in this crowd) make the argument, “Well in the long term we have to get this back to normal but in the short term we have to TAKE ACTION”?
I don’t know about anyone else, but it seems we have been living distinctly in the “short term” for at least 35 years now by my count and I’m kinda ready for the more rational, moderate, disciplined actions of the “long term” to take over.
It all reminds me of those ubiquitous bar signs, the ones you see advertising, “FREE BEER TOMORROW!” But we know when we come back the next day the sign still reads, “FREE BEER TOMORROW!”
That kind of double speak is funny at your favorite pub or restaurant but it is a bit disconcerting out of the mouths of those who purport to instruct our electorate on proper economic and government financial policies. Though it might be refreshingly honest for them to hang a “BALANCED BUDGET NEXT YEAR!” sign over the front steps of the US Capitol.
Which brings me back to our upcoming decision on the sales tax. In this article I am not arguing for or against this levy or the purposes to which the money would be directed. What I am suggesting is that, in the upcoming public debate, our politicians and public intellectuals, academics, pundits, newspaper editors, talking heads, et al, be held to account for their definitions of crisis measures and their idea of the temporary short term. When do the great results show up? How is this different from every other tax increase? When do we “get spending under control”? When does a stable, normal arrive?
I find it self evident that politicians just love their emergency powers. They generally bring with them great expansions of both authorities and revenues which many times are never given back after the “emergency” has passed. I would argue that we should be far more paranoid and skeptical in our examinations of these efforts and arguments (too often we let fear and uncertainty rule our collective wisdom), however, is it too much to ask of Arizona voters that we all at least demand to know from our policy makers, “So, specifically, when is this crisis over?”
I think holding our politicians and pundits accountable for acknowledging when we are NOT in crisis, would be a strong step away from the neverending mousewheel of short term, band-aid fixes that we seem to be ever increasingly reliant upon in today’s Arizona specifically and modern America in general.
PHOENIX – Saying the Pima County administrator needs to be restrained, a House panel voted Thursday to create a special committee to oversee county bond elections.
The party-line vote in the Republican-controlled Committee on Technology and Infrastructure came after a plea from Marana Town Attorney Frank Cassidy, who said the county has created a “culture of intimidation.”
He said part of that is because County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry proposes bond elections with more than 100 individual projects – and sub-projects within them – to a point where advisory committee members are so overwhelmed that they defer to Huckelberry’s recommendations of what gets funded and what does not.
HB 2656, sponsored by Rep. Terri Proud, R-Tucson, would require Pima County – and only Pima County – to establish a bond oversight committee with veto power over what projects get put on the ballot and any changes in how already-approved bond money is spent.
Proud said the special legislation is justified.
“Southern Arizona is really no stranger to corruption,” she said, citing the failed Rio Nuevo revitalization project. And Proud said Pima County has more bond debt than even the far larger Maricopa County.
Proud also made it clear she believes the blame lies with Huckelberry.
“For too long we’ve had one man control everything,” she said. “And I think that needs to stop.”
Proud’s bill would do more than simply create an oversight panel. It would give the county and each of its five cities one vote.
County lobbyist Mike Racy said that would allow representatives of just three communities, with as little as 6.5 percent of total county population, to block anything until they could get what they want.
“Our concern is just how grossly inequitable one vote per jurisdiction would be,” he said.
Proud said she sees nothing wrong with that, contending that’s the way it works at the Legislature.
“I represent a larger district than someone else may represent,” she said.
However, under federal law, all legislative districts are required to have roughly the same population. That is why new district lines are redrawn after every census, to adjust for population changes and keep them the same size.
Cassidy, however, said the weighted voting system is justified – and far better than what exists now.
“This is simply an opportunity to provide more transparency to the process and to give real feedback in the nature of an actual, meaningful vote to those communities affected by it,” he said.
He said each supervisor gets to name three members to the current advisory committee, with three named by the county administrator, each of the two tribes getting one member and each incorporated city naming one member.
That, he said, dilutes the ability of affected communities to make their needs known. By contrast, Cassidy said, each community getting one-sixth of the power on the committee ensures “a meaningful and binding, realistic piece of feedback” on the process.
Cassidy conceded Racy’s point that Proud’s legislation would let any three communities, no matter how small, effectively hold up the process and block public votes on multimillion-dollar bond projects for the entire county, or any change in funding priorities. But he said that’s not necessarily a bad thing because it would produce “the happy result of our taxes finally going down.”
While this new oversight panel would have veto power over new bond projects, the main argument of proponents is that it is designed to prevent shifting of priorities after voters approve the borrowing.
Cassidy told lawmakers a prime example involves $22 million approved as part of a 2004 bond to build a joint city-county courthouse. He said Huckelberry instead shifted some of the money to remodel one floor of the Superior Court Building.
Huckelberry called that “a good story until you tell the other side of it.”
He said the court project ran into unexpected delays and an extra $18 million in costs when it unearthed an old cemetery with 1,500 bodies that had to be relocated.
While the project was on hold, Huckelberry said, the county bond advisory committee agreed to spend $9.8 million to remodel the existing court, on the condition the county repay the money for the new courthouse from regular tax dollars, which has been done.
He said the fund shift went through multiple public hearings “and it was always intended as a stopgap measure for court overcrowding.”
While all the Republicans on the House panel supported Proud’s legislation, Rep. Carl Seel, R-Phoenix, said he is less than comfortable with giving the county’s smallest communities an equal vote with not only Tucson but with the Board of Supervisors, which represents the 36 percent of the population living in unincorporated areas. Seel said he may propose a change when the measure goes to the full House.
Read more: http://azstarnet.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/pima-bond-oversight-advances-in-house/article_a345fd97-585a-5fdd-a411-75c33d107151.html#ixzz1lJrZ1xlY
County supervisors of elections tell me they have no way to verify citizenship. Under the 1992 Motor Voter Law, they’re not required to ask for proof.
“We have no policing authority. We don’t have any way of bouncing that information off any other database that would give us that information,”
Anyone know a place like this?
Posted: Friday, December 2, 2011 7:00 am
by Joe Higgins
It’s hard to pick up a newspaper or watch TV news and not see what America is going through right now. People are frustrated and political solutions seem hollow. The uncertainty coming from government has the entire U.S. economy on hold.
Despite what economic experts say, the Great Recession continues. We are in for a long-haul; a new normal.
We see this malaise in shuttered business, home foreclosures and employee layoffs. Like downturns in the late 1980s and early 1990s, we thought “here we go again.” Before long business will come back to normal.
But as we turn the corner into our fourth year of the deepest recession since the Great Depression, it’s settling in that this one is different.
We can break down the causes of the Great Recession from multiple angles but they are topics that will be debated for years and ultimately determined by historians decades after the chips have fallen.
This opinion is about the fallout and the future of Tucson, Arizona and America.
Being an entrepreneur is the most gratifying, hardest thing I’ve ever done. As a serial business start-up person, I’ve rolled the dice more than a dozen times. Each time I start a new business, I research, study, plan and ultimately go all-in on an idea I think is better than anyone else in my market.
As others like me know, sometimes you get it right, others times you miss the mark.
Having mortgaged my home, maxed out credit cards and risked my family’s future on ideas more than once, I’m here to tell you that it has been worth it.
Up until now.
Early on, this Great Recession cleaned out those who who were over-leveraged and bought investments such as houses on interest-only deals that made no sense. Restaurants that went out of business already were teetering on the brink. Businesses that closed in 2008 and 2009 were too leveraged, too concentrated in crowded industries or were run by poor managers. That’s what the capitalist system does.
But now we are seeing a different kind of business failures. Entrepreneurs who played it safe are now watching their lifetime idea slowly slip away.
I’ve lived this journey myself and I’ve talked with my small business friends who are in the same rudderless boat. Many of us have had to close stores. We’ve laid off long-time employees who helped us from the very beginning. These people are more than employees, they’re family.
Most small business owners are wondering two things: How am I going to make payroll next Friday? And will this ever end? Start-ups have notoriously high failure rates but now we are starting to see established businesses buckling under financial pressures. Second-generation businesses handed down from father to son or daughter may not be left to hand down to a third generation.
Last week, I had two high school kids from different schools search me out as part of their career research. They wanted to be entrepreneurs. When I asked why, they responded that they each had a great idea, believed in their abilities, dreamed of potential riches and fame and they loved the variety of skills and duties that come with launching and running a business.
It was difficult for me to be upbeat and positive. It was hard not to tell them what it’s really like. I wanted to explain the dozens of agencies that will be regulating their every move. I wanted to explain how fierce competition can be when you’re up against a Fortune 500 company that has a fleet of lobbyists that can get waivers from federal healthcare mandates or build in a new regulation that is going to wipe out any margin you’ve been able to build.
I didn’t want to tell them the process of going through a local zoning review or the joy of having conflicting opinions come from two different city inspectors and that your only recourse it to say “thank you sir, may I have another.”
I held back on telling these future entrepreneurs about the headaches that come to your life when you hire an employee – from workers compensation claims, to equal employment complaints, to unemployment insurance, to layers of laws to protect employee rights but nothing about who pays the bills.
What I decided to share with the future capitalists was about the days when I didn’t know better and just got up every morning and worked through it.
My formative years came while Ronald Reagan was president, coming in to lead the nation out of the Jimmy Carter mailaise. Reagan won his election in 1980 and reinstated hope in the future with his “It’s Morning Again In America” and tapped into the American ideal of hard work, personal responsibility, patriotism and limited government.
Reagan knew the importance of the small business owner and he understood the power of the free market in getting this country back on track.
I can only imagine most people were wondering in 1979 – as they are today – are America’s best days behind us?
As a serial entrepreneur, I’ve come to the point where my local and federal governments don’t appreciate me and couldn’t care less if I practice my skill at all. As an entrepreneur, I don’t want to be stimulated or bailed out. Until my governments’ attitudes change, I’m going to sit on the sidelines and watch.
Joe Higgins, who is a regular contributor, wrote this column to express his personal feelings. His Tucson business start-ups include Talking Trash Waste Removal, Sports Buzz Haircuts and Gotta Go Wireless. Contact Higgins at firstname.lastname@example.org. He and Chris DeSimone host “Wake Up Tucson,” 6 to 8 a.m. weekdays on The Voice KVOI 1030-AM.
“Over the last decade, we became a country that relied too much on what we bought and consumed.”
- President Obama, Nov. 19, 2011
“Too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns.”
- President Carter, July 15, 1979
There are only two ways to look at the Obama re-election campaign right now: Either the upstart candidate who stunned the world when he defeated the Clinton machine to capture the Democratic nomination three years ago has lost every bit of that massive mojo, or the bruised and battered president, after three years in office, just doesn’t want another spin in the Oval Office.
How else to explain the nonstop missteps, the stammering and stuttering campaign, not to mention the brazen attacks on American voters, who, he has said, have “fallen behind,” lost their “ambition and imagination,” gotten “lazy” and “a bit soft” – this is a guy seeking the support of America?!
For the past 36 months, Americans have hoped for the best. But it hasn’t turned out that way. In fact, some argue that Mr. Obama actually made the economy worse – the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said last week that his 2009 stimulus package may have sustained as few as 700,000 jobs at its peak and that over the long run it will be a net drag on the economy.
But then, this. The president, traveling the country purportedly to look for votes in 2012, decided to lecture the American people on their shortcomings: fat, lazy, stupid. And now, he’s channeling – of all people – Jimmy Carter.
Don’t doubt the premise here. Democrats must spend – spend and spend and spend. It’s in their DNA. Mr. Obama offered a $3.8 trillion budget this year, to be paid for by – $2.1 trillion in revenue (read: your money). He knows that over the next four years, with automatic budget cuts set to take effect and the American people’s rising ire over the profligate spending in Washington, he’s going to have no money to redistribute to the masses.
So, why bother? It’s going to get worse before it gets better. Who needs it? Why preside over a government that, instead of giving everything to everybody free, takes it all away, cuts so deeply that nearly every American will be affected? Especially if you think Americans are lazy, lack ambition – they’ll never rise to the challenge, so why not just bail?
Crazy? Not according to two Democratic strategists. Patrick H. Caddell, who coincidentally worked as a pollster for Mr. Carter, and Douglas Schoen think Mr. Obama should follow LBJ and just pack it in.
“He should abandon his candidacy for re-election in favor of a clear alternative, one capable not only of saving the Democratic Party, but more important, of governing effectively and in a way that preserves the most important of the president’s accomplishments. He should step aside,” they wrote, “for the one candidate who would become, by acclamation, the nominee of the Democratic Party: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.”
Of course, Mr. Obama’s hubris will not allow such a move. But consider this, 344 days before Election Day 2012: The president’s greatest advocate, Chris Matthews, who got a chill up his leg every time he heard the candidate speak, has thrown in the towel.
“Once having won the office,” the MSNBC cheerleader said, “he seemed to think that that was the end of it in terms of his connection to the American people. … I think everybody feels an absence of communication from the time he’s been elected. And it’s not about not being left-wing enough or too left. That’s not his problem. It’s connection. And Mrs. Obama, she’s an amazing asset. And what has she done? Obesity? How about connecting with the American people about being Americans? I don’t think she’s happy. I don’t think they like being in the White House. The American people can tell that. They don’t seem thrilled at the fact the American people have selected them as our first family. I don’t sense the gratitude, the happiness level, the thrill of being president.”
Atlanta ranked third in housing affordability, fourth for the most university graduates and fifth for venture capital. But it’s near the bottom in per capita personal income, per capita gross metropolitan product and job growth.
Austin ranked at or near the top in several categories. It has the highest percentage of university graduates, the lowest unemployment rate and the least loss of housing values in the downturn, plus it tied for the second-highest job growth. Its economy grew the fastest, 7 percent, from 2009 to 2010.
Denver has the second-highest percentage of university graduates, second-highest amount of venture capital and second-highest per-capita personal income. The Rocky Mountain city landed in the middle for housing affordability and job growth.
Las Vegas suffered the greatest loss in housing values in the crash, about 65 percent, as well as about 13 percent of its jobs. It ranks at the bottom for university graduates and venture capital and ninth for per-capita personal income. Its housing is the second-most affordable.
Phoenix ranks No. 1 in housing affordability and in August had the second-highest job growth behind Seattle, compared with a year earlier. But it ranks at or near the bottom for venture capital, university graduates and per capita income.
Philadelphia, the nation’s fifth-largest metro area, has the third-highest per capita personal income. Otherwise, this 329-year-old city falls in the middle of the pack in all the numbers. Its $311 billion economy is the largest among the metro areas in the group.
Portland, Ore., has the third-highest per capita gross metropolitan product, about $54,500 a person. It ranks in the middle for job growth and per capita personal income but seventh for venture capital and percentage of university graduates.
Salt Lake City ranks ninth for venture capital, eighth for percentage of university graduates and seventh for per capita personal income. But its unemployment rate in August was second-lowest to Austin, and its job growth is faster than seven other cities.
San Diego drew the most venture capital of all the cities, $594 million through the first quarters of 2011. On the flip side, it’s the least-affordable city for housing. It placed fourth for job growth and per capita personal income.
Seattle is gaining jobs faster than any other region, with job growth 0.4 of a percent faster than Phoenix and Austin. It has the highest per capita gross metropolitan product and personal income. It is third-highest for venture capital and second-least affordable for housing.
As many know, effective October 1st AHCCCS (Arizona’s Medicaid program) made dramatic changes to benefits eligibility (we can argue the necessity of these measures but that’s not my purpose with this column). As a result of these changes a friend and client of mine recently received a notification that her two minor children would be losing their coverage and came to me several weeks ago as her agent to discuss options for replacing this insurance.
As recently as a few months ago I would have been able to help her with a policy for her kids that would have cost no more than tens of dollars every month ($40-$50); very reasonable and within reach of a working student and mother as she is.
But no longer.
As a result of provisions in the recent federal healthcare reform none of the insurance companies will offer those Child-Only policies anymore, you now must pay for family coverage including at least one adult. This dramatically changes the pricing, taking it out of reach of exactly those individuals who would benefit most from these coverage options.
I was discouraged when the healthcare act was passed because I knew it was putting politician’s choices between patients and their doctors as well as the companies that work to finance our healthcare needs. But that discouragement has now come home for me at my agency. By the stroke of a pen in Washington DC a client of mine, a hardworking, intelligent, young woman has been denied coverage for her children that she previously could have EASILY obtained and thus has been left on less secure financial footing.
As opposed to what Washington would have you believe, insurance companies are not evil, carriers do not seek out ways to deny claims, agents are not out to steal money from clients. Mistakes are made and health claims are mishandled. Yes. The system is imperfect and needs improvement Yes. But fundamentally people making their own choices about the care they need and companies working to meet those needs is the best system ever devised in history for properly providing medical care.
We must begin to recognize the unintended consequences of our politicians’ mandates and we must see them now while they are clear and not hidden by the fog of time that makes us forget how things worked before they were run by government dictate, arbitrary rules and labyrinthine bureaucracies. If government at all levels had just stayed out of her decisions, not tried to “help”, my friend would have coverage for her two children today.
Federal and state politicians were false with my friend when they imposed AHCCS, a program that they knew was financial unsustainable, and then promised it would be there to care for her kids. At least though, there could have been something for her to fall back on from any one of Arizona’s private health insurers and their policies for children… except that the Rulemakers in Washington said they knew better and killed that option too.
When will our citizenry finally realize that we must keep the things that are most important to us OUT of the hands of politicians instead of willingly laying at their feet our most vital and fundamental needs? Laying them down to the whims, fancies and false promises of those who have no further outlook than, “When’s the next election?”
And you wonder where all that money the City of Tucson has to spend goes every year???? In the Oct 24, 2011 issue of the Star you get a small clue.
Businesses to get help on efficiency practices plus garner recognition
City begins green-certification effort
Read more: http://azstarnet.com/business/local/city-begins-green-certification-effort/article_dd6cb98d-3ec7-5b3f-8ca9-34fa2a3617dd.html#ixzz1bkpR8Shf
Going green just got a little bit easier for Tucson businesses.
Tucson’s Office of Conservation and Sustainable Development is encouraging businesses to apply for its Green Business Certification Program.
More than a dozen businesses have applied so far, said director Leslie Ethen.
Among them is BWS Architects, a downtown business that made changes to become more environmentally friendly, said associate Arthur Stables.
BWS Architects, at 261 N. Court Ave., has installed a cistern to capture water, has given up using bottled water, uses low-water-use toilets and recycles paper supplies, plastic and glass.
Prasad Kakarala, owner and founder of Curry Leaf Indian restaurant, 2510 E. Grant Road, has also applied to the program and made some changes to become more sustainable.
He’s had a more efficient A/C unit installed, now recycles paper products and uses energy-saving light bulbs in the restaurant, Kakarala said.
Sustainability is the way of the future, he said. “We all need to protect the environment.”
Businesses must be within Tucson city limits to apply. Then, Office of Conservation and Sustainable Development staff will meet with business representatives, and businesses must complete evaluation forms and an action checklist.
The office can assist with evaluations and provides free audits of water use, energy use and waste. The energy audit, in particular, gives specific actions businesses can take to reduce their energy use, as well as estimated costs of more efficient systems, the anticipated energy savings and how long it will take to pay off the initial costs, Ethen said.
The certification program had pilot projects with Goodmans Interior Structures and United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona in late 2009.
There is a lot of flexibility in what businesses can do to become more environmentally friendly. The program is mainly intended to provide businesses with resources and get them thinking about how to operate in more sustainable ways, Ethen said.
“It’s really up to the businesses to decide what they want to do,” Ethen said. “We’re more about shifting people’s mentality to do anything rather than setting a high bar.”
The effort includes recognition for taking such steps.
As the program evolves, Ethen would like to include a second tier that is more competitive and that evaluates businesses based on the strength of the steps they take to increase their sustainability.
“We would love to see 100-plus businesses in the program in the next couple years,” Ethen said.
For application materials and additional information: www.tucsonaz.gov/ocsd/GreenBusinessCert_Home.php
With construction for the modern streetcar starting up, there will be road closures and disruptions to traffic downtown, said Leslie Ethen, director of Tucson’s Office of Conservation and Sustainable Development.
She wants to use the Green Business Certification Program to provide incentives for Tucsonans to venture downtown despite the construction.
Hope Miller is a University of Arizona student who is an apprentice at the Star. Contact her at email@example.com or 573-4663.
Read more: http://azstarnet.com/business/local/city-begins-green-certification-effort/article_dd6cb98d-3ec7-5b3f-8ca9-34fa2a3617dd.html#ixzz1bkpBlE00
Just one simple question. Each time you drive over those potholes, call 911, park downtown, visit those Rio Nuevo attractions and hotels, lose valuable minutes waiting for police/fire are you happy knowing that your city is GREEN???
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