October 13, 2012

Green Energy Costs YOUR Green

by Steve Dana

I saw another headline this morning for a failing Green Energy company backed by federal loan guarantees.  Like the now famous (and defunct) Solyndra solar panel manufacturer that soaked the Department of Energy for $500 million, Abound Solar only actually got $70 million of the $400 million in their guarantee before they went TU.

My question is this, “Are there any Green Energy manufacturing jobs that pencil out?”  The President seems to be batting a thousand with his Green Energy failures and that can’t be good for the industry.  I have to believe that there are businesses actually developing products that make sense while also meeting Green Energy standards but I’m having difficulty finding them.

In order to quiet his critics on this Green Energy problem, the President and his Department of Energy maven, Steven Chu should release a list of the successful businesses they’ve funded so the naysayers will go away.

I didn’t turn over too many rocks in my search, but Googling “Green Energy Success Stories” didn’t turn up any.  It seems that all the news is bad.

Alternative energy sources that qualify under the Green Energy guidelines are generally thought of as solar, wind and maybe geothermal with a little dabbling in tidal energy potential and ocean wave energy.

There is no doubt that the sun shines a lot and the wind blows a lot but when you compare the cost of extracting that energy on a BTU basis there is no way they can compete with conventional sources of energy.

When President Obama was a candidate in 2008 he told us about his plan and how it would affect us all.  He said “by necessity, energy costs will have to rise.”  I doubt you would have expected gasoline prices to double or triple in four years or to see the market price for electricity increase to twelve or fifteen cents per KWH when we’ve customarily paid six cents.

Most of us would be happy if a source of energy were available that heated our homes, operated our businesses and fueled our cars cheaply while meeting ever increasingly stringent government regulations but with the technology available today, that is just not possible.

As consumers, we need to decide what our priority is; affordable energy supplied by American coal, American hydro-electric, American nuclear and American oil or expensive “alternative” energy driven up by mindless government regulation.

This consumer is in favor of a “best management practices” approach.  If we agree we want to pursue all options but in order to keep prices lower to minimize financial impacts to families we favor coal, oil, nuclear and hydro as the preferred sources and apply cost/benefit analysis to regulations to see if the benefits justify the cost increase then we can move ahead sensibly.

The government regulators today give no consideration to fiscal impacts when they propose new regulation.

When I was an elected official many years ago, I proposed to my city council that along with all the normal mumbo jumbo fed to us in agenda bills there be a modest fiscal impact analysis so as we contemplated the merits of a piece of legislation we could also understand if it created a financial burden upon one party or another.  Staff was not in favor and ended up defeating my proposal because it created too much of a burden on what was said to be an already over-worked staff.

Regardless of what we are told, every piece of legislation passed by every government body carries with it a financial burden.  In the case of my proposal, the burden would be borne by city staff to the benefit of the public.  Shot down!  In cases where the burden is shifted to non-voters or numerically small impact group members, all the better since they can’t kick me out of office.  In cases where the burden ends up being just another layer of government regulation creating taxes or fees paid by everyday citizens, the message sold is that it’s for the “greater good.”  It had to be done!

Elected officials like to pass legislation but they don’t like to take responsibility for the financial impacts to their constituents.  If there is a compelling reason to pass a new law, at least determine who will be expected to pay for it and whether it’s fair for them to be hung with the bill.

The alternative energy supporters would have us believe that if we don’t do something radical right now the world will come to an end.  Level headed thinkers agree that we should be making efforts to minimize environmental impacts of existing energy sources but not at the expense of the industry.  When the government prevents the private sector from mining coal at all, the country suffers a catastrophic increase in the cost of energy and the loss of jobs.  When the government prevents the drilling for oil or building of refineries the country suffers a catastrophic increase in the cost of energy and the loss of jobs.

If the government gave you the choice between the electric power rates of 5 cents per kilowatt hour or 12 cents per kilowatt hour which one would you choose?

Or if the choice was gasoline for $2.00 per gallon or $5.00 per gallon which one would you choose?

Those are choices that have already been made for you by your elected officials and a lot more unelected bureaucrats/regulators.  They have chosen the more expensive options because someone decided it was okay for all of us to get hammered to benefit narrowly defined interest groups.

If you were given the choice of saving the spotted owl or having less expensive building materials which one would you prefer?

Alternatives always come at a cost and the government needs to take into consideration the hidden taxes they levy when they drive up the cost of commodities by implementing marginally effective government regulations.

The President and the Green Movement are so desperate for their agenda they are taxing our whole country to death to achieve it.

The reason the Green Energy companies fail is because they don’t produce a competitive product.  The demand for their product is driven by government mandate and not the fact that it makes sense to the average consumer.

Develop a fuel cell that can replace the gasoline engine in my car for the same selling price and competitive fuel rates and I’m there.  Until then, throwing government money at a loser of an idea is a loser of an idea.

October 10, 2012

Business & Government; Necessary Partners

by Steve Dana

There’s been a lot of cheap conversation about tax breaks for businesses in the political discourse again this year.  Over the years there’s been a lot more.

The truth is, there is a great deal of competition in attracting private sector businesses that pay family wage jobs, that don’t pollute the environment and stimulate the economy both locally and nationally because savvy elected officials understand how much successful private sector businesses contribute to the economy.

If all government officials took the approach the City of Seattle took in dealing with the Seattle Super Sonics basketball team and decided to NOT understand the needs of the business, NOT understand the competition for a franchise and worst of all, fail to understand the economic value a business like a pro basketball team brings to a community at large, where would we all be.  The team didn’t get what they needed from the city so the owner sold the team to a guy from Oklahoma City whose local governments could justify the investments necessary to reap the benefits and the team was gone along with their revenue stream.

Now a guy wants to bring another team back to Seattle and the city is taking a different approach.  If Christopher Hanson were to consider other cities as well he might get an even better deal.

Even professional basketball teams stimulate the economy to the tune of millions of dollars per year trickling down through the local economy to enhance tax revenues to the city, county and state.

Is an NBA franchise a business worth going after?  What concessions are we willing to offer a business to locate in our community?  Should government be in the business of attracting businesses?

This model applies to businesses up and down the economic spectrum, certainly more so for larger businesses.

When Boeing was contemplating their options regarding location of the 787 manufacturing facility, multiple states were thought to be in the running.  Governors of states were in a pitched battle to land the plumb jobs and tax base at stake.  How much booty would it take to get Boeing to locate in one state rather than another?  In the end, Washington State got the nod, in spite of the fact that other states offered better packages, due in large part to the existing investment Boeing has in the state.  Still Boeing squeezed the state for concessions and credits against their tax bills over a lengthy period of time.

This same process is at play every day when a business is negotiating with land owners for sites for business expansion.  Uncomfortable regulatory restrictions, mitigation fees and various taxes are often on the table when a chance to land an A-list business is in the works with local, county and state elected officials.

In spite of the fact that Democrats characterize Republicans as the handmaidens of the business community every day, Senator Maria Cantwell is campaigning hard in a television ad championing the fact that she landed a tax relief package for a business in the state of Washington.  Certainly when Senator Cantwell is campaigning she understands how the game is played.  I’m not sure how she can forget that when she badmouths the tax benefits granted to other businesses calling them loopholes.

At the end of the day, each public entity must consider the benefits that come back to them when compared to the cost of procuring those benefits.

Growing the economy and creating private sector jobs are the big things in politics today.  Well, this is what growing the economy looks like.  It’s offering incentives to businesses to locate in a community or state with the expectation that those dollars will come back to the public through enhanced sales tax revenues, property tax revenues and appreciation to other businesses through the trickle down process.  Statistics show that every job created by the Boeing Company spins off three other jobs so as the Boeing Company adjusts its payroll you can estimate the effects either up or down.

Democrats would have us believe that public sector jobs are the same as private sector jobs.  In their minds work is work, but if there aren’t sales tax revenues or enhanced property tax revenues (which only come from private sector businesses) there isn’t revenue to pay the salaries of the public workers.

As much as we need public employees like teachers, cops and fire fighters, those public entities consume public resources and produce none of the revenue needed to pay for their services, so it’s vital that we have a healthy private sector to provide that revenue stream.  If you burden the private sector too much, it withers and subsequently the revenue stream does as well.

Entrepreneurs take the risk to open a business with no guarantees based upon their estimation that there is a market for their product.  Generally they invest their own money and maybe additional funds from their families and in some cases funds from outside investors in exchange for a piece of the business.  The government doesn’t offer the local hardware store or restaurant, public funds to pay salaries and overhead until it turns a profit. (Well, generally they don’t.)

They secure a building and pay rent, they buy inventory or supplies, they hire and train their staff all on their own dime then they open their doors and hope their product or service appeals to the public enough that customers come through their doors, still on their own dime, then they pay their sales taxes, their B&O taxes, Unemployment taxes, their L&I Insurance and their payroll taxes before every taking a dollar home to support the family.

And Democrats want to demonize these guys if they aren’t enthusiastic about coughing up the more dough to pay for a boatload of benefits for their employees.

If I take all the risks, is it fair that I be vilified for making a profit?  Where does the survival of the business fall in the priority of the public sector?  (I once had an encounter with a government regulator who was clear that my survival wasn’t his concern.)  If I work for less than my employees and re-invest the proceeds of the business back into the business for five years am I ever entitled to finally enjoy the fruits of my labor without criticism from the left as a filthy capitalist?  How much profit is just enough, while another amount is too much?

Real jobs are created by private sector employers and our economy will never recover until there is an incentive for private sector investors to create those jobs.

If the jobs my business produces are good for the economy should the public offer me an incentive to locate in their jurisdiction?

The heart of the political struggle is the degree to which the public sector can even exist without a robust private sector.  There is no doubt that the private sector can survive without big government.  So what’s it going to be?

October 9, 2012

Negativity Works on Ignorant Voters

by Steve Dana

As the election season enters the final month in 2012, everyone is ready for it to be over.  Nobody likes the volume or the tenor of the negative campaign ads.  Unfortunately, negative ads about the “other guy” are way more effective than positive ads about your own candidate.  The electorate seems to believe or respond more to the bad things said about all the candidates. It’s sad that our system has devolved to that point.  It doesn’t seem to matter if the negatives are true or false.  If an allegation is said and repeated a hundred times, it must be true.

Having been a candidate in a campaign where things were said about me that weren’t true, I know how difficult it is to deal with it.

So if we are all so sick of the negative campaigning, can’t we do something about it?  The short answer is NO.  The long answer is YES but with a great deal of effort from our citizenry.

Our constitution guarantees the right of free speech so limiting what one candidate can say about another is not an option.  The laws of slander and libel cause candidates and their surrogates to walk a thin line when “bad mouthing” an opponent; but short of accusing a candidate of criminal behavior anything goes.  And in a couple cases this year one candidate in particular was accused of criminal acts but not by an opposing candidate.

Maybe limiting the amount of money spent on a campaign might be a solution.  That idea has been circulating for some time.  If you limit the amount they can spend the candidates will have to choose which path they favor, and that will, by itself, be an indicator of character.  More often than not, the result of limiting campaign spending is to give an advantage to an incumbent.  Name familiarity alone can swing an election; certainly if the challenger doesn’t already have some public exposure.

Personally, I would be an advocate of voter testing.  In order to work in the concession stand at the carnival, workers are required to pass a test to secure a food handler’s permit.  If we require testing at that level, this should be a “no brainer”.  Every voter should have to pass an exam that tests a voter’s knowledge of the election process; where the information is to assist in making an informed choice.  Not to steer voters to one party or another, but to insure that voters are informed of their rights.

If every voter was required to read the voter’s pamphlet and be ready to answer questions they would be able to see the differences between the candidates from the positive point of view since candidates tend to showcase their strengths and their goals for their time in office in the pamphlet.  Negative campaigning is most often handled by Political Action Committees (PACs).

The reason there is a disconnect between our elected officials and the electorate is because most of us don’t pay attention to the promises made in the campaign and the results delivered after being elected.

Then add to that the partisanship.  Our two party system gives candidates and voters only two choices.  Duh!  And when you get right down to it, what do the Parties stand for?

If a voter identifies with a Political Party first and only supports candidates of that party they never test whether the candidates advocate for issues or represent values similar to their own.  If that is the case, then those folks don’t care to read the voter’s pamphlet.  Testing them wouldn’t be a waste though because if they can pass the test then at least being stupid was their choice and not someone else’s.

As time has passed, the parties have evolved; and not for the better.

Observing who supports a party financially is one of the best methods of estimating who the party will advocate for if their candidates are successful.

In my view;

The Democrat Party is closely identified with labor unions, alternative lifestyle and environmental advocacy groups.  It tends to believe that bigger government is the solution to society’s problems. It also supports the idea that successful hard working citizens should be required to share the fruits of their labor at a higher rate than others.

The Republican Party is closely identified with Pro-Business groups and Christian Conservative advocacy groups.  Republicans tend to believe that government’s role is to serve the people rather than have the people serve the government.  Republicans      tend to believe that if you work hard and are successful the government shouldn’t tax you at an unreasonable rate to the benefit of folks not willing to make the same sacrifices.

Neither of the two mainstream parties seems to be too concerned about how far from our Constitution our government has strayed.  Certainly inside the beltway, the folks in power in both parties are reluctant to talk about it.  But Texas Congressman Ron Paul has been shaking the bars across the country drawing attention to it because he sees beyond his own tenure in government; to the eventual doom of our country if we don’t start migrating back to the Constitutional principles espoused by our founders.

I tend to agree with the writings of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and principal authors of the Federalist Papers James Madison and Alexander Hamilton who outlined the risks and rewards of adopting our form of government.  They wrote about their concerns in the late 1700’s that have sadly become the norm in government today.

For readers that don’t know me, let me say I’m a Fiscal Conservative and a Social Moderate.  I’ve been a capitalist and a business owner most of my adult life so I hang with Republicans.  I’m probably a Libertarian.  When I ran for County Council in 2009 my campaign platform included  1) Limiting the size and scope of government and 2) Guaranteeing private property rights

I was a Tea Party guy before there was a Tea Party.  Unfortunately, the movement hadn’t caught on enough to get me elected.  Having said that, the Republican Party didn’t support me when I ran for office.

The stereotyping of the parties and their candidates along with the party’s demand that a candidate toe the line, consistent with the party line, contribute to the frustration in a campaign when voters are trying to sort out the favorites and the duds and filter the negatives for a kernel of truth or character.

For candidates that have been previously elected to public office the process is a bit easier since they have a track record that should speak to some of the issues. Add to that editorial board interviews and candidate forums and you can get a good ideal about a veteran.

It’s the first timers and previous losers we have the most trouble with since we don’t have a clue about their ability to do the job, let alone effectively if they are elected.  Those same editorial board interviews and candidate forums help, but there is no substitute for experience. I guess the word “effectively” is the key since in a strictly partisan environment voting along party lines is considered effective.

For candidates that haven’t served in a public office before you need to look at their background, their work experiences and their education to determine if they possess the skills to do the particular job.

If you are running for Sewer Commissioner you might need different skills than if you want to be a US Senator.  It’s amazing how many people run for School Board seats without a bit of budget experience.  Generally school boards manage the top one or two budgets in a community and quite often the elected board members just take the word of the district finance guy or the superintendent when making multi-million dollar decisions.

The bottom line for eliminating negativity in campaigning is removing the power of the two political parties in the Congress and legislatures across the country so the parties are not pulling all the strings and educating voters.

It’s disheartening when a reporter interviewed quite a few college students on the campus of DenverUniversity following the first Presidential debate.  Time after time he asked the students if they thought it was unfair that President Obama was not allowed to use a teleprompter and they answered YES.

K-12 Education at the highest level should be our goal so when kids are old enough to vote they are capable of understanding their responsibility.  If college students appear that ignorant on that campus, is that an indication of students across the country?

I certainly hope not!

June 29, 2012

Supreme Court of Last Resort?

by Steve Dana

Like a lot of us, I was sure the Supreme Court would make a favorable ruling on the Affordable Health Care case and render the whole thing unconstitutional.  Sadly, that didn’t happen.  I never actually read the act so I’m not sure why I thought it would be overturned.  I guess that NOT reading thing is a failing we all suffer from.

With regard to the Court’s ruling, the two sides can argue about the motivation of Justice Roberts and the merits of the health care statute till the cows come home but the fact remains until the thing is repealed it is the law of the land.

In the legislative arena we see majority parties jam through bad laws every day; whether it’s a state legislature or the US Congress, the majority rules.  I don’t remember which pundit said it but I have to agree that the laws passed by a majority don’t make them fair or just or right but they are legal. The recourse is to amend or repeal them. 

And, whining seldom changes a thing.  For all the years that the Democrats ran roughshod over the state of Wisconsin the Republicans had to take it.  That was just the way it was. 

Then, the tide turned and the remaining Democrats had to taste a little of their own medicine. 

Needless to say payback’s a bitch.  Interestingly though when they were getting their lunch handed to them, instead of gracefully taking it, they bolted the legislature to prevent the Republican majority from voting on legislation they disagreed with.  A very childish response revealing something about their character but again, whining doesn’t change a thing but it can make you look really stupid.

In all my years in government I have been a champion of process.  Reliable, predictable process is what makes the system work.

In the case of the Obamacare Affordable Healthcare Law the Democrats held a super-majority in both houses of the Congress so they didn’t have to follow the normal process prescribed by their “rules” because they were able to “suspend the rules” when it suited their needs.  The two thousand six hundred page law was drafted outside of the normal process and the substance was never debated in any committees so when the whole thing was engrossed for approval very few people knew what actually was in it.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi was crowing at the microphone prior to the House vote, “We have to approve the bill before we can find out what’s in the bill.”  And all the Democrats were actually onboard with her?  What’s with that?

Maybe they did know what was in it and knew of the firestorm that would follow if it were exposed in public.  So they consciously demonstrated a willingness to subvert the process and deceive the country with their supposed ignorance rather than taking the heat of the normal public process.  Those House members who supported that action should have been vilified publicly at the least and thrown out of office at the first opportunity.

From a process standpoint that should be a fatal flaw.  Not so much a Constitutional flaw but clear sign of bad faith government.

So here we are, the court has let stand one of the worst laws ever passed by the Congress.  In the Majority Opinion, Chief Justice Roberts tries to clarify that the Court’s job is not to invalidate bad legislation because it’s bad, but to determine the Constitutionality of the legislation.  In a very carefully worded opinion the Court ruled that most of the law would survive. 

Bummer!

It would have been so simple for the court to overturn the law and send it back to the Congress for a “do over” but it didn’t happen.  And in spite of the fact that I would have preferred that outcome the “process guy” in me knew the only real resolution for bad law is to amend it or repeal it in the same venue as it was created.

If we rally the troops to elect Republicans this fall, what exactly will our healthcare bill look like?  In the past two years the Republican majority in the House has held a bunch of hearings and voted on more than one healthcare bill that died in the Senate.  So do they have one they are willing to fall on their sword for?

Republicans need to articulate what Healthcare Reform looks like for them since the Democrats have their deal on the table.  Complaining about bad legislation is not a substitution for a better alternative. 

We need to elect enough members to both the House of Representatives and the Senate to send a bill the new President that will accomplish what we wanted the court to do.

I hope we’re up to the task.

June 16, 2012

Immigration Reform as I see it!

by Steve Dana

I don’t remember a time when we haven’t been talking about Comprehensive Immigration Reform.  Both political parties use the term and at different times each party has proposed legislation that ultimately failed to pass both houses of Congress.  I don’t know whether the content of Republican sponsored reform compared favorably with Democrat sponsored reform.

The fact that both parties drafted legislation would suggest there is common ground worthy of keeping the negotiations going. So what were the sticking points that prevented completion?

Why do we call it Comprehensive Immigration Reform?  Why don’t we just call it Immigration Reform?  So what’s wrong with our existing Immigration legislation?

From my perspective there isn’t a problem with our existing policy.  There might be some issues with the number of folks we allow to emigrate from foreign lands, but the process appears sound.  That would suggest the issue isn’t immigration reform at all.

In the context of the national debate the two issues are Border Security or a lack of it on our southern border and the large number of Mexicans who have entered our country illegally and have been allowed to stay for many years with the full knowledge of the government.  The justification being the need for workers willing to do jobs “Americans” wouldn’t do.

The truth is the old system worked well for Mexican workers who came over the border to work for the season with some sort of seasonal work permit and then returned home for the winter.  The agriculture interests needed seasonal workers and the permit system was one solution that worked but was abandoned in the 1980’s.

I had personal experience in the 1970’s of working on a corporate farm in Central Oregon where there were migrant workers who started in the spring harvesting something in Arizona and worked their way to the Canadian border as the harvest progressed north.  In my case we had a couple dozen Mexicans harvesting potatoes.  The important consideration was the fact that there wouldn’t have been work for those guys before or after the harvest.  They would have been temporary hires for a couple weeks and they would have been laid off.  The temporary worker permit system worked.

For me, the bigger issue is a lack of border security.  The vast majority of illegals who cross are Mexicans but there are some folks other than Mexicans who also cross whose intentions are not just working in America but maybe harming America.  Border security is a high priority for most countries in the world.  The penalty for illegally entering many countries is incarceration for lengthy terms. 

On our southern border we don’t send you to jail when you enter America illegally, we send you to college.

In my view the Comprehensive part of Immigration Reform is the dilemma of ten million illegal aliens who have lived here so long their kids are graduating from high school and college and who are now finding themselves in the spotlight.  What do we do with all the folks who have been well behaved illegal aliens who have become contributing members of our society? 

Once again it’s my view that people who enter this country illegally can never become citizens.  We might grant Mexicans resident alien status that allows them to live and work here but if they didn’t enter through proper channels they can never apply for citizenship.  How we might deal with foreigners of other origin is up for discussion.

And because these illegal aliens came into the country illegally they are classified similar to convicted felons in that they are never granted the right to vote or own a fire arm.  I don’t insist on calling them felons but the restrictions we put on felons should apply.

Amnesty is not an option for me.  There must be consequences for jumping the line and breaking the law which might also include a monetary penalty.

The bottom line for me is we don’t have to kick all of them out of the country but we do need to identify them and give them proper identification that includes fingerprints and or DNA so if they mysteriously disappear into the country there will be some way to identify them when they do turn up. The argument that aliens of any kind should not be required to have proper documentation on their person at all times when they are in public doesn’t work for me.  The feel good folks would have us believe that it’s inhumane to characterize illegal aliens as criminals but we don’t hesitate if the person breaks into our house or damages our property. What is breaking into our country?

If all they want to do is work and raise their families in America and give their kids the chance to realize the American Dream the restrictions I outline here shouldn’t be a problem.  The alternative is to uproot their families and go back to Mexico where the kids might be treated like foreigners.

The opportunity to become a US citizen should be a privilege reserved for aliens who entered through proper channels.

June 15, 2012

Is Middle Class Second Class?

by Steve Dana

One of the big political arguments swirling again this season is “how do we rebuild and restore the Middle Class?”

The next question for me is “what income range is considered Middle Class?”

I’m no economist but I think of Boeing Machinists as being Middle Class type folks.  I would guess their incomes range from $40,000 per year to $80,000 per year or roughly $20/hour to $40/hour.  And even though they are highly trained, many of them are not college educated.

So for the sake of my argument that is how I will define Middle Class. 

Once you establish the income range you just look around for the jobs that pay that kind of money.  Or maybe you look for the jobs that used to pay that kind of money and follow that with where did those jobs go?

As a resident of the Puget Sound region in Washington State Boeing is a big part of our economy.  For many years it was the only game in town.  Fortunately we lucked out when Bill Gates and Paul Allen decided to keep Microsoft local, Howard Schultz opened Starbucks in Seattle; and again when Jeff Bezos headquartered Amazon in town.

So we have four very different businesses that produce and incredible amount of wealth in the region with very different operating models.  One that manufactures a product, one that produces a digital product and two that provide services.

Without a college degree in computer science or business management, most remaining Microsoft employees struggle to make it into the middle class.  The bulk of the Amazon and Starbucks employees also just bump the bottom of the range at best.

What is missing is the manufacturing jobs like Boeing offers.  And what we know about Boeing is that they are also looking to reduce the cost of their workforce as well by opening factories in locations where the cost of labor is lower.

Is anyone surprised that I have an opinion about this dilemma?

Since our government bought into the “world economy” argument the American manufacturing sector has been withering and along with it the Middle Class.

The jobs most often associated with the Middle Class in the past were family wage factory jobs that have been shipped over seas to build up the economies of our trading partners.  The adoption of the North American Free Trade Agreement NAFTA signaled the exit of many manufacturing jobs to Mexico.  American participation in World Trade organizations encourage relocation of previously American jobs to third world economies to bolster those countries as trading partners but at the expense of American manufacturing jobs.

In most cases the jobs that go overseas are jobs that require training but not significant education.

The jobs that remain here are the ones that are tied to raw materials or require a highly trained and educated workforce; and even those raw materials jobs are at risk as the government is regulating many of them out of existence.

By today’s standards the Middle Class jobs are the public sector employers like governments and school systems.  Locally we have city and county governments, we have Policemen, Fire Fighters and Public Works employees and at the state and federal levels we have the Department of Transportation, Department of Energy, Department of Ecology, Department of Education…..yadayadayada.  Is it any wonder that the Middle Class has changed so dramatically?

The Middle Class swapped private sector jobs that produced the highest standard of living and best quality products in the world for public sector jobs that suck up the resources of society and produce nothing but a bill.

The Middle Class today is the Bureaucrat Class with the Service Sector groveling for a handout.

The cost of government skyrocketed at every level while the private sector industries our country was famous for have fled.  Even a country boy like me could see this as it was happening but the rationale for world trade was too deep for me to grasp.

Whether it’s big business or big government, both political parties still champion the world trade argument even though it sells American workers down the river.  There is no safe haven with either the Democrats or Republicans.

If you really want to know what happened to the Middle Class look at China where economic development is producing record numbers of millionaires even in this depressed economy.  Our Middle Class moved overseas!

If our goal is to return America to the prosperity we enjoyed for many years after WW2 we have to examine what our government did to cause the exodus and systematically reverse it.  We will also have to analyze the political ramifications to our trading partners and make value judgments.  Bringing the private sector Middle Class back to America will have international implications.

June 1, 2012

Insurance is the Devil of our Society!

by Steve Dana

I’ve come to the conclusion that INSURANCE is the root of most evil in our country today.  In my view, INSURANCE and LAWYERS together are to blame for most of what’s wrong. 

Think about how many insurance pools affect your life.  At home you have your home owner’s liability policy, your fire insurance policy and your auto policies covering your liability and your casualty loss.  If you have a mortgage, you probably have mortgage insurance.  If you are prudent you may have life insurance.

At work you are covered by Worker’s Compensation through Department of Labor and Industries and Employment Security (Unemployment Insurance) both paid mostly by your employer.

Increasingly, Health Care Insurance has come to dominate our lives.  Whether you pay for it individually or your employer pays for it, Health Care Insurance is becoming the most insidious form of insurance in our lives.

For a long time the discussion was focused on the “health care” part of the deal.  The thought was that the cost of care was driven by health care providers.  Then when we looked closer we saw that insurance companies were entrenched in the businesses of those providers it wasn’t about the quality of the care, it was only about what the insurance company would pay. 

Who hasn’t heard about Mal-Practice and Business Liability insurance for the doctors, the clinics and the hospitals?  It isn’t just the medical related businesses that are affected though; nearly every profession is impacted by Insurance policies.

The Lawyers compound the need for insurance because if someone fails to perform as they agreed in their insurance policy, an ambulance chaser, personal injury, mal-practice attorney will sue you and the insurance company for the failure.  Threatened with the loss of your stuff, you toe the line.

Insurance companies have been changing our behavior for many years.  Life insurance companies did it with smoking.  Auto insurance companies did it with seat belts and motor cycle helmets. 

If you engage in behavior they decide is “risky” your rates go up or your policy is cancelled.  And that is the central issue of this whole piece.

I guess the other component is not canceling your policy but reducing your benefits; which is happening everywhere we look.

This week, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg suggested that sugared soft drinks larger than 16 ounces should be outlawed in New York City, citing the cost of health care paid by our health insurance carriers as the justification.  Obese people who are covered get subsidized health care because they are not as healthy as skinnier folks.  (Think about how far an idiot could extend that logic.)

The mayor focuses on how your personal bad choices affect insurance premiums paid by everyone.  Last time it was trans fats in the cooking oil used by restaurants.  Can you see how INSURANCE is becoming the dominant factor in our lives?

Insurance is the binding force that the government uses to change your behavior.  By making coverage mandatory you increase the size of the money pool supposedly making the unit cost less while giving the insurance company the leverage over the service providers to reduce their reimbursement rate.

Certainly the Supreme Court’s pending decision on Obamacare will be the deciding factor in whether the government and the insurance companies can require that you buy their insurance and accept their prescribed level of care without competition in the market.  It will also determine whether a doctor can set the price for his services or whether the insurance companies will have a strangle-hold on all the actual medical providers.

Don’t get me started about Medicare.  We supposedly paid into a pool that should have compounded and grown into a huge fund that would pay for our medical costs when we retired.  Unfortunately the government raided the fund and left it with a bunch of IOU’s so the actual cost of care today has to be paid out of current revenue.

Insurance companies will be the downfall of our society if the government requires that we all be covered for all perils.

Lawyers will be the enforcers since they will either sue you or threaten to sue you for whatever meager possessions the government allows you to have.

No doubt I would be in favor of “tort reform” limiting the dollar amount that could be awarded in a mal-practice or liability trial and providing that the plaintiff be held financially liable for the cost incurred by the defendant if the defendant is found to be not guilty.

Do I sound a little edgy?  Good!

May 26, 2012

Do Nothing, Done Nothing

by Steve Dana

Considering the fact that prior to being elected President, Barrack Obama hardly had a job and quite possibly never even worked for a “for profit” company, he seems mighty confident in criticizing Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s record of achievement let alone his net jobs created record at Bain Capital.

The President stood there this week talking about how Romney’s work experiences from Bain Capital to the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics to Governor of Massachusetts hardly prepared him to be President of the United States.

President Obama seems to think his three years in office give him the experience edge even in light of the multiple failures of his administration.  He can legitimately claim credit for taking out bin Laden.  It took ten years to track him down and whether the Bush Administration contributed to the successful outcome or not, US military forces got the job done.  So is that the foundation of his Foreign Policy?  I read somewhere that right up to the hour before the mission was launched, Valerie Jarret was pushing Obama to abandon the mission.

The Arab Spring will prove to be significant in history as the time when America could have helped shape the evolution of free society in the Middle East but twiddled our thumbs as the opportunity faded away.

Then of course there is the Keystone Pipeline deal that had been through the approval process but needed Presidential approval that fell by the wayside in spite of the tens of thousands of jobs that would be created, the Solyndra half billion dollar debacle, the Fast and Furious guns to Mexico deal and the million dollar GSA junket to Vegas as examples of the President’s record of either personally deciding or delegating decisions to his appointees; example after example of failures of leadership to be sure but indicators also of a seriously incompetent or corrupt administration.

The President can talk about Romney’s record all he wants but how can he not expect us to compare Romney’s record to his own.

I’m still astonished with the way the General Motors deal was done.  Rather than letting the company enter some form of bankruptcy protection that would give the share holders and managers time to renegotiate debt payments and labor contracts the President instructed the government to seize the company, infuse it with enough federal stimulus money to get it through the financial crisis in exchange for high priority shares of stock rendering privately held shares relatively worthless while at the same time preserving the labor contracts that contributed so much to the underlying problems.  Is that even legal?

The President talks about how he is a job creator but in my mind, jobs that go away when the government money goes away are not jobs.  A real job is a man or woman creating something of value that someone else is willing to pay a market price for.  A real job sustains itself.

My final issue is the glut of regulation that flows out of the various federal departments.  Anyone who has ever been in business knows the impact changing regulations to a business plan.  If you don’t know how the Obama Health Care law will impact your business, it’s not likely that you will hire new employees unless your existing workers are being worked to the bone.  Unpredictable regulatory times are a huge impediment to job creation.  But it isn’t just the changes, it’s the volume of the regulations.  Thousands of pages of new federal regulations fly out of the Environmental Protection Administration, Department of Energy, Department of Commerce, Department of Education and the Department of Transportation each week.

President Obama needs to show us examples of how his buddy politics policies have created jobs since so many of his showcase plays have been unmitigated disasters.

The President should be careful how he characterizes Romney’s qualifications since his own record shows he clearly had no experience at anything except being a slick talking lawyer before he was elected.

I don’t believe Obama has ever served a full term of office in any job he ran for so his record as a legislator is bare as well.

If there were ever a “Do Nothing, Done Nothing!” president, Obama is tops.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.