Thursday, 8 May 2008

Our Little Vallejo & Bankruptcy

Vallejo’s bankruptcy episode continues to spill a bit of information….some rather shocking.

If you are the Vallejo police captain, then you are making $306,000. A Vallejo police Lt makes $240,000. The Vallejo fire captain earns $207,000. The average firefighter in the city makes $171,000. None of this includes overtime pay, or the cost of benefits….like health insurance or retirement contributions.

So then you pull out the Wiki and look up the presidents pay. What does GW make per year? $400,000. Yep….the Vallejo police captain makes almost as much as GW, and if you counted in overtime….I’m betting that he makes almost the same amount.

What drove the bankruptcy wagon? Well…in July….the police and fire department guys were set to get a 5.5 percent increase in pay. Other employees in the city were set to get a 3 percent raise in pay. Over the next three years….the cops and firemen were slated to get a 21.4 percent pay increase. Electrical works in the city were slated for a 10 percent increase. The amusing thing is that salary increases were moving along across the city at a rate of 11 perent annually. Tax revenues, were set at a pace of two percent.

You are sitting there and scratching your head by this point. The city would have easily bankrupted itself at the current pace. The city revenue guys knew this. The city council knew this. The cops and police knew this. I’m guessing that even the local newspaper folks should have figured this out a year or two ago. Why would anyone allow salary situations to go out to this extent? The answer is that the political entities were sleeping in bed with the union leadership. Everyone thought that this could just go on.

The cherry to this cake? Well…a number of state political players are now suggesting that the state could provide grants and sales tax money, to help lend a hand….so that salary increases can continue and the city can survive without bankruptcy….at least until grant money becomes scarce in three or four years and then bankruptcy arrives again.

We even had an assemblywoman (Noreen Evans – D) who said “I'm very concerned other cities will take a look at Vallejo and follow suit. They've made it easier for other cities to do the same thing.” Yes Noreen, we would be very concerned too, if dozens upon dozens of California cities were unwisely handing out massive pay increases to the police and fire department folks, that were beyond the fiscal capability of the city to survive.

What happens to Vallejo? I’m suspecting someone will arrange a state grant, in the range to keep them out of bankruptcy for twelve months. The political entities will tell city leadership to “fix” the problem and move on. The only fix that can occur at this point is cut the number of city workers by twenty-five percent, which the unions won’t agree to. So the grant will buy twelve months of time before they repeat the whole exercise next year. As a city council person, my number one priority would be to sell my house and move out of this area as soon as possible. There isn’t anything positive to expect out of this place.

Contract America

As mentioned in my blog in previous days, congress is busy on the tail of various contracting companies, who have shifted that headquarters to the Caymans or the Bahamas. The House has passed some kind of legislation to fix this problem….treating foreign subsidiaries of U.S. government contractors as American employers. That means that they will HAVE to pay taxes that finance social security and Medicare programs. So far, the senate is still working their version, and it may be different….and it may never happen.

Between the two groups of idiots, they have an imaginary number of $846 million in revenue over ten years that they will gain. They actually had to stand there and admit that it might be “higher”, since its unclear how widespread the use of this secret opening is. Hint: it might be less, but then we really don’t know anything. So this is an attempt to look good in front of the camera before elections in the fall.

Senator Kerry even went as far to suggest: “Companies that avoid this responsibility undermine the country. If everybody avoided their responsibility, where would we be?”

Yes, remarkably….where would we be?

Of course, none of these idiots mentioned that they write around 5,000 lines of tax code per year, to help at least 10,000 individuals or companies get tax credits. Was this an effort to avoid responsibility? Yes. Where are we? In a bigger mess than any of the idiots would like to admit.

Will the senate write a similar proposal and iron out the differences between their laws? I seriously doubt it. In a month, we will be fully into the election period and no one really care to bring up this problem because we’ve said just about all we can say. So the Caymans companies will likely sigh and breathe easily after June, as they figure the pressure is peaked. Life will go on.

Myanmar & Cheap Existence

So to be honest, there might be 80,000 to 100,000 dead from the typhoon in Myanmar (aka Burma) right now today. But by the time the food and medical folks finally arrive and get into place, and fresh water is delivered….there will be an additional 50,000 dead. I would even go as far as predicting another 10,000 in the month of June will die from various diseases and dehydration.

There isn’t much to say. The UN can’t do nothing about this and the Junta that runs the country can’t be punished in any fashion. Life will go on, although when you cut 160,000 people out of such a small country….you start to carve out a major part of the country. There will be vast areas where 3,000 folks lived before and today there are 1000. But the Junta doesn’t survive off tax revenue or business income. There aren’t major industries at stake here or massive tourist-related hotels at stake.

Burma is a country that simply survives. It is a full step above North Korea, where a guy could have a family and just live a simple existence, without a lot of complaints. If I went around the US….I would imagine less than 50,000 people have been in the country in the past twenty years. Its not on a big list of places that folks would like to go….and few if any ships ever stop there.

So life will go on in Burma….with just fewer people.

Our Secret America

Russ Finegold wrote an interesting article in the LA Times which has to do with the various laws….secret laws….that the Bush administration has created. It seems that congress has finally woke up and grasped that it isn’t just a few acts here and there. There are vast secret laws which have been approved by the administration or by the cabinet chiefs….which the public really doesn’t know anything about.

Its kinda like playing Jeopardy or Monopoly, and suddenly you jump up to announce that you’ve got a free “pass” card or you can do a “super-double-triple” Jeopardy question, which no one has ever heard of such a card or question.

Russ indicates that congress is finally asking some stupid questions, which no one really wants to answer, because the answer is a secret. This is a problem in the real world, where we try to be law abiding citizens and only fire warning shots at prowlers.

I sat and pondered this situation….wondering if I could put in a special secret tax credit to IRS and ask for $40k in credit for maintaining my septic tank. Perhaps I could go and have a new passport done with a picture of Gumby and claim a new Bush secret law entitles me to remain anonymous in nature when traveling to Bolivia. I could insist to the old ladies at the county voter registration office that any guy with a IQ over 110 should have two votes instead of one, compliments of a new Bush secret law.

After a while, you can see that secret laws have a problem. Course, if they weren’t secret, then it wouldn’t help us defeat the forces of evil or Doctor Doom or recapture Holy Grail from the Exxon Corporation who currently secretly hold it in a vault in Salt Lake City with the rest of the LDS “Moses” stone tablets.

I can’t remember an occasion like this in the past where everyone ran around making up secrets and then playing the secret game like it was Jeopardy. Its like an imaginary land where you think you’ve crashed your plane on a island of paradise, and then discover monsters, a secret lab, and a guy named Ben who might be trustworthy… “Lost”, but then America isn’t lost (or is it?).