22.11.08

Then, Now, & Forever - Part 1

THEN
“Henry Ford is belching forth like a volcanic eruption telling the world that in 1950 the industrial slaves will be paid at the rate of $35 per day. Well, half of that would go mighty nice right now and it would help a lot in solving the economic situation that the world is going through. When you accounted your $1.00 per day increase, Henry Ford, the higher-priced men were laid off and replaced with cheaper help, so if you are sincere and intend to give the works a little of the sunlight and this scheme is not another of your tricks to hog the front pages of the newspapers throughout the world, why send some of your expert investigators over to The Murray Cor’p of America and see for yourself the slavery conditions that exist there, where humans are building the bodies for your cars, where polishers work all day Sunday, eight hours, to be exact, and receive the glorious sum of sixty-two cents for a Sabbath of slavery.” (Fred Vogel, quoted in “The American Jitters” by Edmund Wilson, 1930).

NOW
“I spent a month in Detroit adjusting the settings on the automated systems. With the new software, some of the mechanical arms weren’t hitting right. My job was to train the chief guy what to watch for. He sat in a windowed room high above the production floor, in a leather chair—he’d curse you out for sitting in it—eating donuts and drinking coffee. The other day, we had to shut down the line. I ran the diagnostics and found the problem, readjusted the settlings, and reset the system. Everything was ready to go—everything, except that the one guy with permission to push the red “restart button” was on break. He was on break, eating a donut, or taking a dump, or smoking outside. No one else is supposed to push the button. I’d already made that mistake—pushed it the other day. Management had to come down and talk to the Union leaders who were threatening to call for a walkout. Management gave it to me for that, but what do I know. I’m not Union or Management. I’m on consultant pay. So the line was shut down while head-Union button-pushing guy was on break. A hundred people just standing there. They can’t sit down or that counts against their break. But they can’t take a break either, because that violates their labor agreements. So they just stand there, all 100 and more, making $50 and hour to stare at the dead production line. I’ve beat the h--l out of my rental car driving on the potholed roads of this industrial town—roads that are as run down as this antiquated system of self-promotion, manipulation by labor against management. I’m ready to get back home.” (A_____ T_____, in an email dated March, 17, 1999, after spending a month on consultation of an automated system in a car-parts plant in Detroit).

FOREVER
“It only stands to reason that where there's sacrifice, there's someone collecting the sacrificial offerings. Where there's service, there is someone being served. The man who speaks to you of sacrifice is speaking of slaves and masters, and intends to be the master.” Ayn Rand

2.11.08

Evaluation of St. Louis County Propositions / Ballot Initiatives

Proposition I
Proposes to authorize the incurring of indebtedness and the issuance of general obligation bonds of said County in the amount of One Hundred Twenty Million Dollars ($120,000,000.00) for the purpose of constructing various capital improvements to County buildings and facilities, and making improvements to County safety/security and communication facilities

Background – The county raised taxes—20-40%—on property in the last two years. And yet the reduction of resources through the decline in the stock market and broader economic conditions has left the county in need of resources. These new funds are not going toward paying new employees (like some of the taxes of Proposition H), and municipal bonds are a good way to raise cash.

Issues / Implications – The implications of this are a leveraging of future earnings of St. Louis County residents. Dependent upon how sever the recession ends up being, this could be a costly decision. Consider that the city of Birmingham, in attempting to implement social health and welfare programs, teeters on the brink of bankruptcy. Still, there appears to be a lot of health in St. Louis County. And short of raising taxes, bond initiatives are the primary means of raising funds to pay existing accounts. The purpose and intended use of these funds, all things considered, makes a lot of sense.

CONCLUSION: I plan to vote YES for this bill.


Proposition H
IMPOSING A LOCAL USE TAX ON TRANSACTIONS SUBJECT TO MISSOURI USE TAX LAW, SUBJECT TO VOTER APPROVAL; CALLING AND PROVIDING FOR THE HOLDING OF AN ELECTION IN THE COUNTY OF
ST. LOUIS ON THE FOURTH DAY OF NOVEMBER, 2008, FOR THE PURPOSE OF SUBMITTING TO THE QUALIFIED VOTERS OF SAID COUNTY A PROPOSAL TO IMPOSE A COUNTY-WIDE LOCAL USE TAX OF ONE AND EIGHTY-FIVE HUNDREDTHS PERCENT (1.85%) FOR THE PURPOSES OF ENHANCING COUNTY AND MUNICIPAL PUBLIC SAFETY, PARKS, AND JOB CREATION AND ENHANCING LOCAL GOVERNMENT SERVICES. (read more here).

Background – this is a hard one to judge. St. Louis County has three initiatives to raise taxes on residents in this voting cycle. We have already seen a county wide increase of property taxes by 20-40% (last Fall). The $2000 out-of-state tax is going to hit small businesses hardest. Many small businesses have already stopped spending in the area of R&D, technology, and are seeing cutbacks in payroll. This tax is going to hit them hard and potentially force a reduction of payroll (i.e. layoffs). On the parks aspect, St Louis county has hundreds of little parks—due to a stipulation that allows private individuals to donate their property to the state for “parks use.” These cost a ton on upkeep.

Issues / Implications – It’s hard to swallow. Individuals and businesses getting taxed for out of state purchases. This amounts to double taxation. And with two other county wide tax increases on the books, this is too much.

CONCLUSION: I plan to vote NO for this bill.


Proposition M
CALLING AND PROVIDING FOR THE HOLDING OF AN ELECTION IN THE COUNTY OF ST. LOUIS ON THE FOURTH DAY OF NOVEMBER, 2008, FOR THE PURPOSE OF SUBMITTING TO THE QUALIFIED VOTERS OF SAID COUNTY A PROPOSAL TO IMPOSE A COUNTY-WIDE SALES TAX OF ONE HALF OF ONE PERCENT (0.50%) FOR THE PURPOSE OF PROVIDING A SOURCE OF FUNDS FOR PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION PURPOSES, I ADDITION TO THE EXISTING COUNTY-WIDE SALES TAX OF ONE QUARTER OF ONE PERCENT FOR THE SAME PURPOSE; IMPOSING SAID

Background – While public transportation may not be desired for many of the affluent West County citizens, the fact remains that the expenses related to transportation for the less affluent, poorer segments of the population is enough to make car ownership / insurance-ship / maintenance accessible. Removing / reducing the obstacle of transportation for poorer segments of society—in a highly mobile society—increases their ability to find stable work, and support themselves. The City has expanded the tram and bus routes as best they can with current funds. Public transportation will never be for everybody, and yet—because of the mobility of our society—public transportation will forever be a necessity for those who make use of it.

Issues / Implications – Other than what is mentioned previously, there is an unconscious fear that the expansion of public transit somehow allows for the bussing in-and-out of crime to more “stable areas.” This notion, not only unfounded, assumes a “safety” in suburban areas that is facadistic and artificial.

CONCLUSION: I plan to vote YES for this bill.

Evaluation of Missouri Propositions: Proposition C

Language - Shall Missouri law be amended to require investor-owned electric utilities to generate or purchase electricity from renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, biomass and hydropower with the renewable energy sources equaling at least 2% of retail sales by 2011 increasing incrementally to at least 15% by 2021, including at least 2% from solar energy; and restricting to no more than 1% any rate increase to consumers for this renewable energy? The estimated direct cost to state governmental entities is $395,183. It is estimated there are no direct costs or savings to local governmental entities. However, indirect costs may be incurred by state and local governmental entities if the proposal results in increased electricity retail rates.

A "yes" vote will amend Missouri law to require investor-owned electric utilities to generate or purchase electricity from renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, biomass (including ethanol) and hydropower. The required renewable energy sources must equal the following percentages of retail sales: 2% by 2011; 5% by 2014; 10% by 2018; 15% by 2021. Of the total renewable energy sources required to be sold, at least 2% shall be solar sources. Also, any rate increase to consumers resulting from this measure must be no more than 1%.

Background – When oil hit $125 per barrel, the EU and the US Congress rushed to mandate ethanol be included in gasoline. The effects—the price of corn shot up. Keep in mind, the US has had a surplus of corn for many years. Government buys up this corn to keep the price up. Then they sell this corn to third-world countries at a loss. The effect is that the local agricultural industry is devastated. When the ethanol became mandated, this meant the US and other countries stopped exporting excess corn. Riots occurred in many African countries. Since then, the EU has backed off its mandate, and changed the language to prevent “food commodities” being substituted for energy.

Issues / Implications – The problem is, most renewable energy loses money. Solar, wind, etc. all costs significantly more. Many renewable energy companies are existing from one government-rebate to the next. While this seems to help wean us off coal and oil, it does so at the expense of capitalism. Think about it—the energy companies (AmerenUE, Laclede Gas) are already regulated. They can’t increase rates without approval from the state. Now they have to find other energy sources without raising rates. Long-term they become unable to compete. Government ends up having to take over more of the industry, or begins competing against the private sector, in a step toward further nationalization of corporations. If the State would just lay off, renewable energy is going to become cheaper as it becomes cost-effective. Mandating it will only hurt us economically. And with 7.2% unemployment in Missouri—and how many thousands of others teetering on bankruptcy (because they can gamble everything away without limits, and because many are barely making mortgage payments as is it)—this initiative will hit taxpayers because it is the government who will end up subsidizing these measures with taxpayer’s money.

CONCLUSION: I plan to vote NO for this bill.

Evaluation of Missouri Propositions: Proposition B

Language - Shall Missouri law be amended to enable the elderly and Missourians with disabilities to continue living independently in their homes by creating the Missouri Quality Homecare Council to ensure the availability of quality home care services under the Medicaid program by recruiting, training, and stabilizing the home care workforce?

The exact cost of this proposal to state governmental entities is unknown, but is estimated to exceed $510,560 annually. Additional costs for training are possible. Matching federal funds, if available, could reduce state costs. It is estimated there would be no costs or savings to local governmental entities.

Background – This all sounds good. We all want people to live in their homes longer. That isn’t the issue here. The issue is the creation of the Council which to oversee, employ, assign, and manage a home care workforce. Currently, there are dozens of private-sector (non-government) home, healthcare providers. Deacon Barth Holohan (Covenant Pres) runs a company called Continuum. STL Business Journal reported, “As founder and CEO of Continuum in St. Louis, Holohan’s No. 1 mission has remained helping those who have difficulty caring for themselves” (read the full report here) Continuum provides services at fraction the cost of government provision. But the Medicaid program isn’t happy about that—and so they hope by passing this bill to create such a barrier for companies like Barth’s, that they have to shut down. Then the government run health segments can control more of the money and all of the providers.

Issues / Implications – This is a horrible solution for elderly people. Some of them don’t need much—and the rest have numerous private-sector options. Notice this Proposition doesn’t say how much this will cost, only that it will cost more than half a Million Dollars. The reality is that these costs could exceed multi-millions within 2-5 years. Once the private companies have been put out of business, the cost to taxpayers and the elderly is likely to skyrocket.

CONCLUSION: I plan to vote NO for this bill.

Evaluation of Missouri Propositions: Proposition A

Language: Shall Missouri law be amended to:
• repeal the current individual maximum loss limit for gambling;
• prohibit any future loss limits; require identification to enter the gambling area only if necessary to establish that an individual is at least 21 years old;
• restrict the number of casinos to those already built or being built;
• increase the casino gambling tax from 20% to 21%;
• create a new specific education fund from gambling tax proceeds generated as a result of this measure called the "Schools First Elementary and Secondary Education Improvement Fund"; and
• require annual audits of this new fund?

State governmental entities will receive an estimated $105.1 to $130.0 million annually for elementary and secondary education, and $5.0 to $7.0 million annually for higher education, early childhood development, veterans, and other programs. Local governmental entities receiving gambling boat tax and fee revenues will receive an estimated $18.1 to $19.0 million annually.

Background – In an economic downturn, more than in any other time, drinking, gambling, and general “sin taxable” items increase. With the current unemployment rate of Missouri at 7.2%, and other layoffs coming from Chrysler (and maybe Boeing), the temptation to escape “reality” through gambling is likely to increase. Add in that those most tempted (most likely to engage) are those least able to afford it—the aged, the abandoned, the poor, the oppressed. With this in mind, when Missouri made gambling legal—there was the concern that someone would stay and gamble away their entire life in the time of a few hours. So they set caps, limiting the loss of one individual in a given time frame.

Issues / Implications – This amendment would remove all caps on loss limits. Without these, someone could walk into a casino and gamble away their entire life and nobody would stop them. 10,000? 100,000? Whatever. Gone. It would prevent the state from ever setting loss limits again (bullet point 2). Then in the third bullet point, the “restriction on casinos built” is just a way of giving a monopoly to existing Casinos. Harrah’s wants to get more money with no limitation on the people gambling with less competition. At what benefit to the people? A meager 1% higher taxes. This is corruption at its worst—set to take advantage of the propensity of people toward addiction, their escape mechanism, and the poor.

CONCLUSION: I plan to vote NO for this bill.

Evaluation of Missouri Propositions: Amendement 4

Language: Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to change provisions relating to the financing of stormwater control projects by:
• limiting availability of grants and loans to public water and sewer districts only;
• removing the cap on available funding and existing restrictions on disbursements;
• requiring loan repayments to be used only for stormwater control projects?

It is estimated the cost to state governmental entities is $0 to $236,000 annually. It is estimated state governmental entities will save approximately $7,500 for each bond issuance. It is estimated local governmental entities participating in this program may experience savings, however the amount is unknown.

Issues / Implications – When you read “public water and sewer districts” this should be understood as “municipality run districts.” This bill would eliminate any other private companies (aka, publically traded companies) to come in and compete against “public districts” (aka, government run entities) for water and sewer contacts in the state. This elimination of competition would create monopolies among the (government run) public works. Costs would not be checked by fair competition from the private sector. Furthermore, bullet point two would allow the government to raise as much money as they want—removing the current caps that prevent wasteful spending. In short, this measure would make government providers a monopoly, eliminate competition, and remove all limits on the amount of money they could spend: more money but only for the Governmental (public work) entities.

CONCLUSION: I will vote NO on this bill.

Evaluation of Missouri Propositions: Amendment 1

Language: "Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to add a statement that English shall be the language of all governmental meetings at which any public business is discussed, decided, or public policy is formulated whether conducted in person or by communication equipment including conference calls, video conferences, or Internet chat or message board?"

History – For more than 200 years, Americans have gotten by without declaring English their official language. English Only legislation first appeared in 1981 as a constitutional English Language Amendment but the measure never came to Congressional vote. Since 1981, 22 states have adopted various forms of Official English legislation, in addition to four that had already done so. Subtracting Hawaii (which is officially bilingual with English and Hawaiian being the official languages) and Alaska (whose English-only initiative has been declared unconstitutional) leaves a total of 24 states with active Official English laws. My mother reflected, “At the time, I thought it was so stupid.” The initiative could never pass today—with 17.9% of the US (6.26 million Americans) and many illegal immigrants (approx. 12 million) not speaking English fluently.

Issues / Implications – Those who are against this ballot say that English is already the “default” language and so any change is unnecessary. Also, such a change might discourage immigration. Both were cases made in 1981 and time has proven that English is not necessarily the default language. What this does guarantee is that there would be integration of communities that might be prone to stick together and “not integrate” as has happened in places like France in 2005. The opposite danger is that some proletariat would come to power in future generations, and use this as a reason to discriminate against the bourgeoisie (or middle class). However, as globalization proves the greater threat—and the rise of a proletariat (in the form of some oligarchy) is less likely; with legal and illegal immigration on the rise, it is more likely that no passing this amendment would, in the future, require all governmental functions to be bi- or tri-lingual, encouraging tribalism and non-integration. It is also worth noting that a bill mandating that voters have a valid ID card issued to them failed to make the ballot. This issue runs parallel to the issue on language.

CONCLUSION: I plan to vote YES for this bill.