Saturday, February 19, 2011

When Spending Means Saving

There's a little grumbling going on where I live. Nothing serious. It's only a few folks--and they're the same ones who complain about most everything, including the weather. Too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry, too windy. They're really nice people, who simply seem to enjoy complaining.

Their target this morning was the extensive work that will begin soon, to renovate our apartment building and its 96 units. The complex is only 25 years old, and good maintenance has kept it looking newer than that.

That was the reason for the griping. While an overwhelming majority of tenants are happy, and excited about the improvements, a small, vocal minority don't think the project is worth the disruption of everyday life.

I agree with management on the need for improvements , and I see the end result well worth a little inconvenience. And I see something else about the renovation that is worth mentioning.

One part of the project is the replacement of glass, every piece throughout the building. Energy efficient windows will be installed in every apartment, and common areas Management and tenants alike will benefit from substantially lower utility bills.

It's another reminder that sometimes you have to spend money to make money, or, as in this case, spending means saving. And worth noting, also, is the good news that this renovation means, for at least a few people, for at least a few months, jobs, jobs, jobs!

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Tea Party -- The Only Real Patriots?

When you have a comparatively small readership, you don't want to anger--and possibly lose--any of them. But if you are going to be honest with your readers, that will happen once in a while. One of those times might be today's blog.

I have some readers whom I consider good friends, and who also just happen to be caught up in the Tea Party phenomenon. I don't mean to offend them, and it certainly isn't anything personal, but I have to voice my objection to something about The Tea Party that has been bothering me.

The Tea Party folks throughout the country often refer to their members as patriots. Referring to themselves continuously as patriots seems to imply that those of us who haven't caught Tea Party fever are not quite as patriotic.

Back on January 30, the blog for the day was about, "Sharing Our Roadways And Walkways". It was about a local debate over where to put bicycles--in a new bicycle lane on the side of the roadway, or on the sidewalk with pedestrian traffic.

Since then, the County Commission decided, by a vote of three to two, in favor of a bike lane, and that brought about a vociferous objection, and a call to action from The Tea Party. The now-familiar "patriot alert" went out to Tea Party members, advising them of the next County Commission meeting, and urging them to "fill the auditorium with patriots".

So are those who favor separating pedestrians and bikers, for safety reasons, to be considered unpatriotic?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Congressional Double Standard

I wonder if whoever coined the phrase. "Some things never change", had Congress in mind.

There's a new Congress in Washington, and this 112th edition was supposed to be like the new sheriff in town--cutting expenses, and showing Americans fiscal responsibility at its best. A lot of these legislators rode a wave of promises into office; but already they seem to have forgotten, or perhaps no longer care what they said on the campaign trail.

There was a bold promise to cut $100 billion from the budget first year. That boast lasted less than a month, and when they admitted it couldn't be done; that they couldn't come close to finding $100. billion they could trim--no reason or excuse was given.

It could be argued that these legislators meant well and were simply naive. There is another proposal, however, for which the word "naive" must be replaced by "hypocritical".

Leaders in the House of Representative are planning to reduce spending by federal agencies by nine percent. Such action would reduce heat and housing subsidies for the working poor, and it would reduce federal grants to schools and law enforcement agencies.

The hypocritical part of the proposal is that it reduces the budget for Congress--not by nine percent--but by only two percent. In other words, public servants desperately needed by cities and towns throughout America will lose their jobs, while the loss of jobs among Congressional staffers will be much less severe.

Meanwhile, as Congress continues to debate the cost of health care reform that affects almost all Americans, the 435 members of Congress enjoy excellent health care coverage without concern for its cost.

It does seem as though, when it comes to Congress, some things never change. But things can change--by changing the members of Congress. By remembering who did what while in office--and then by voting accordingly next time around.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

"The Race Is Not To The Swift".....

Even the most casual look at the Obama administration reveals a decidedly "Clinton" look and feel. It started even before the inauguration, with the surprising selection of Hillary Clinton as the Obama administration's Secretary of State, and point person for foreign policy.

After a long and often bitter battle for the Democratic nomination, the inclusion of a Clinton within Obama's inner circle came as a complete shock. And looking back, I can recall only one other occasion that was equally shocking.

That was when newly elected President Ronald Reagan extended the olive branch to political rival George Herbert Walker Bush, and offered him the Vice-Presidency-- that coming after another hard fought campaign, during which Bush derided "Reagonomics" as "voodoo economics".

The first two years of Obama's first term have seen more and more of a Clinton influence, beginning with the first, and now the second White House Chief of Staff--both of whom served in the Clinton White House. And the executive branch has seen a host of key administration positions filled by former Clinton staffers.

The Clinton presence has been seen in the strategy sessions between the two Presidents, and there is no greater evidence of a Clinton influence than the rare, very rare press conference in the White House briefing room that was all Bill Clinton.

There is something else gong on, though, that may turn out to be a wonderful similarity between the two administrations, and a similarity that the Obama folks, and all of America, would welcome.

The Clinton administration went through a rocky first couple of years, as has the current Obama Presidency. After the disastrous==for Democrats--midterm elections of 1994, Bill Clinton appeared to be doomed to complete failure, and a one-term Presidency.

The Obama administration, despite some important legislative victories, had a tough first two years, and suffered an even more disastrous midterm election than did Bill Clinton.

Bill Clinton survived and won re-election, and--personal problems aside--finished his Presidency on a high note, and left office with balanced budgets and a huge surplus. There are signs that the same turnaround and success are possible with the Obama administration. All the "numbers" are looking better.

Unemployment has dropped in 60 days from 9.8 percent to 9 percent, the lowest rate since April, 2009 and the biggest drop in more than 50 years. The 7.5 or 8 percent unemployment rate, that seemed wishful thinking a few months back, is now a real possibility by election time, 2012.

The stock market has recovered to an average that is the highest in two and a half years. Retail sales are at a five-year high. Wages are rising faster than inflation.

Manufacturing jobs increased last month by 49,000--the most for a month since 1998; and though the net job gain is not yet close to the number needed to match population growth, we are seeing the necessary acceleration in job growth.

Meanwhile, the hue and cry over the auto industry bailouts has quieted, as "Detroit" continues to show sales growth, increases its work force (jobs, jobs, jobs!) and pays back its debts--with interest.

It's just one man's opinion, and that from an eternal optimist, but I am thinking that we are definitely on the way back--and sooner rather than later. I believe that our recovery is going to accelerate. I see a reviving economy that is putting the pedal to the metal.

And I look at the Obama years in future, as being like the Clinton years in the past. "The race is not to the swift..."

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Capital Punishment -- On Further Review

One of the most popular arguments in favor of capital punishment has long been its cost savings. Proponents of the death penalty have held the belief that the financial cost to society is much greater for life imprisonment than for execution. I must confess longtime ignorance on the subject, because I have shared this belief.

But a 10-year study by the Palm Beach Post shows that, in Florida, it costs an estimated $3.2 million to execute a prisoner; while it costs an estimated $750,000. to lock up that prisoner for life. Checking out recent nationwide statistics, I found that Florida is a good state to use for any such study, because it ranks second, among the 50 states, in the number of inmates currently on death row.

I think that it is important to note that the question of which way to go has two parts. One is the moral issue, and that debate will most likely always be with us. But the second part--the cost--may be easier to resolve. The moral issue aside, the ultimate punishment in future may well be life imprisonment without the possibility of parole--because that is the least expensive way to go.

It is the search for state budgetary savings that has brought capital punishment front burner at this particular time. An editorial today in The Gainesvile Sun suggests the use of life imprisonment as a way of curbing expenses. And the last sentences in the editorial are worth noting.

"Getting rid of the death penalty could serve as a kind of twofer. We could rescue a bit of our humanity along with our tax dollars."