Thursday, 15 November 2012

The Men Who Built America

Over the past year, I've made a couple of discouraging comments over the History Channel (the place where you get the latest UFO news, or watch reality TV over lumberjacks).  Well....over the past month, the History Channel aired The Men Who Built America.  It's a seven-hour series.

If you can get access to the History Channel or get the DVD set, this is probably worth watching.  It centers on a dozen-odd characters who made America into an industrial giant.

The individuals are linked by a simple idea of making money.  The reason you have a car today, or a reliable banking system, or electrical lighting....came from what these gentlemen developed.

So if you have a couple of hours and want some juicy American history....this is the best you will see this year.

The Tax Trick

Normally, a city has elections, and eventually has elected officers who act on the behalf of the residents of the city.  It's a simple process.  It's worked for well over two hundred years in America.

Out in California.....the Vallejo city council got around to avoiding their elected duty.  They figured out the perfect deal.  They put a taxation measure up for the city residents....if you passed it....you as a city resident got the chance to spend thirty percent of the "take" (loot would work here too).

The amount?  It's around $3.2 million that the residents can put their hands onto.

How this would work?  Well....you'd have these budget assemblies that would put themselves together, which anyone over the age of fourteen could participate in.  Naturally, you ask why anyone under eighteen is allowed into this, but there is no real answer to this.

Everyone tends to think they are part of the process.

So they eventually whittle this down to thirty projects by May of 2013.  These get put onto a city ballot and put into a special city election.  At best, you can figure around five projects will get funded.  So you split this up and kinda figure that it amounts to roughly $600k per project.

What can you get for $600k?  Nothing much.  You might be able to replace one sidewalk around a city block.  You might be able to paint the interior and exterior of the city library.  You might be able to replace the playground at the city park.  $600k doesn't really pay for very much....when you sit down and do the real math.

Everyone runs around and pats themselves on the back....for participating.  Here's the thing.  If this is such a keen idea....why bother with a city council and just run everything with mayor and this possible monthly voting process?  The city council is avoiding any real duty....if you ask me.  Everyone starts to feel good....even if you are a bankrupt city.

The odds of passing more of these tax revenue increases?  That's the interesting thing.  Once folks get it in their head that you have this great power....there's bound to be discussions over adding more taxes from the wealthy.  Push the property tax up five percent more.  Go ask the high-end car dealers to add a $750 fee onto the purchase of any car over $50k.

This tactic has the tendency to make everyone to start thinking of a mass movement (go read Eric Hoffer's True Believer book).  You could pass tax after tax, and not feel bad about it.  Eventually, you'd all be unemployed, but full empowered.  Life could be wonderful and miserable....at the same time.

The Hotel Story

It kinda came out today....as Hurricane Sandy wrapped up it's mess on New York and New Jersey....it was time for the Red Cross to deploy and help the poor folks along the shoreline.

Well....the Red Cross deployed, and found some fine hotels in New York City to stay at.  The end cost? $181k.  At a rate of roughly $310 a night....the Red Cross signed up forty rooms at the SoHo Grand Hotel.

Naturally, you'd be asking....what kind of hotel is this?  Well....it's one that advertises itself as a fine establishment which offers up fine dining situations cooked up by a French chef.  They also offer all the various guest services that real hotels generally provide.

After a rough day out in the field with the Red Cross operation....you'd come back to the fancy hotel....order crab or the oyster plate.  You might have discussed world economics with some fancy-clothed British guy down at the bar.  Later on...you might have had a fancy wine with some Hollywood gal or some Oman Sultan.

The way I see it....the Red Cross ate up $181k of their budget on something that was unnecessary.  They didn't care.  This is one of the big reasons why I never donate money to their cause anymore.

Another $1.6 Trillion in Taxes?

It was a shocker today when the President came out and hinted that he basically wanted $1.6 trillion in new tax revenue....to run the country.  I'm guessing....because Senate Democrats were so peppy and positive over last weekend's political talk shows that they were sure a compromise could be worked out....that they were fairly shocked today when the President made the odd comment over the massive new tax deal.

I have to be honest here....even when Representative Boehner talks about this tax credit deletions....he never mentions numbers.  He's been careful to avoid this topic.  My humble guess is that the tax credits that would be tossed out and affect mostly wealthy Americans (note, I didn't say rich because lots of people use these various 'loopholes' or tax credits)....it probably adds up to $400 billion.  I suspect that Boehner doesn't want to admit the massive size of this loophole deal and get Tea Party folks upset.

The odds of $1.6 trillion in new taxes being generated?  Zero.

My humble guess is that Congress will laugh over the talk for this weekend, and dump the trillion topic by Monday.  If the Senate (mostly Harry Reid) wants to go in the President's direction....then the House will craft up some mini-bridge bill to get the government up to June of 2013, and let this whole sequestration topic brew back up again.

The President will be forced back into the corner of some massive government cut.  It may happen in the spring of 2013, or the end of 2013....but there's no real solutions on the table at all.

And if you did take another extra trillion out of the US economy to run the government?  That's a trillion less than what would be in company investments or stock ownership.  You can imagine how the business community would react, and how job creation would be mostly a joke in twelve months.  

My Day

This is a true story.

I had to attend the Pentagon building meeting today. The manager announced that they finally dumped the two trash contracts (one for regular garbage, and one for recycling). So they had hired one company to come in....and pick everything up from one dumpster.

So from around the room, without any pause....the question was...what about the recycling containers around the building...you can't walk more than fifty foot without bumping into a tri-bin (paper, plastic, glass, etc).

The building guy continues all with his topic.  The janitors will just run the buggys around the building and dump them at the back of the Pentagon into one huge dumpster, which goes to some fancy plant in to get sorted. The emphasis here by the guy....don't get worried when you see the janitor dumping all trash into one buggy or dumpster.

Naturally, you'd start to think about this....why bother having recycling bins?  Well...he paused to say....it's there to make you feel better about such stuff. Then some guy asked why this came to be. The manager said that they had a goal to have X amount of trash and X amount of recycling. So far, their numbers for recycling were not that great.  This company was going to ensure that they met their numbers.  I just sat there laughing....it's like some guy from New Jersey who is signing some fancy papers to swear you recycled 800 tons a year of chewing gum wrappers....whatever you want....we will give you.

I did a slow walk back to the shop later....thinking over this.  We have this individual who has a honorary title of recycling monitor. I don't have the heart to mention this story around the office. I'll just let the guy keep feeling good, and dumping all my trash and recycling into the same container....like I've been doing for three years.

In a way, it's all good....one contract...one garbage can....one dumpster....no worries.  I'm sure someone will have issues with it.