Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Eat It, and Wash It Down With a Cup of Tea

Somewhat good news on the economy has surfaced, albeit a few weeks too late to benefit the deus ex machina which guided us to this point in the economic cycle.

President Obama is looking more and more like he got a bit too far ahead of the dullards he's trying to lead. As he continues to face an opposition which wants to fight to the death to preserve tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires(who among us benefits from so many zeroes?), he sees rising opposition to the knight(ess?) in shining armor, Lady Elizabeth Warren, who has taken on the quest of defending the middle class against rapine tactics of the credit card grantors. He spoke in Kokomo today to highlight the salvation of the American Automobile Industry. That action likely prevented the Great Recession from becoming the sequel to the Great Depression. Years of soft living have rendered the American people incapable of bearing the burdens of of our forebears. "Exactly how worth living is a life without digital cable, air conditioned comfort and sole-less commerce?", we tweet.

As Thanksgiving approaches, please, someone, assay the true values.

BELOW IS AN ARTICLE FROM HUFFINGTON POST proving that no good deed goes unpunished.


Peter S. Goodman pgoodman@huffingtonpost.com | HuffPost Reporting

Email Comments 8,864 Happy days are back! During the summer months, corporations logged their biggest profits since the government started counting way back in the age of Elvis, and the economy expanded at a slightly faster pace than previously thought. Surely, when Caterpillar and Morgan Stanley are swimming in lucre, life must be getting more wonderful for everyone.

Alas, no. Word that American businesses sucked in profits at an annualized pace of $1.66 trillion between July and September is certainly better than the alternative. Ditto, the wholly expected news that the economy grew faster than an initially reported 2 percent annual rate, reaching a still modest 2.5 percent. But none of this has translated into the sort of job growth that will be required to cut into an unemployment rate stuck at 9.6 percent. Worse, there is little reason to suspect it will anytime soon.

We have been hearing for so long now that, once companies start making real money, they will feel the urge to expand. Then, they will hire lots of people, and we can stop worrying and resume shopping. Yet so far--this most recent quarter included--all we have gotten is an extended lesson in the modern workings of a stubbornly lean job market and a display of what now stands as American management's core competency: How to rack up profits and reward shareholders while keeping the cubicles empty.

At the corporate level, the Great Recession is a memory. After plunging during the last three months of 2008, when the world was recoiling at the prospect of a full-blown financial meltdown, profits have expanded snappily every quarter since, according to data compiled by Moody's Analytics. But at the household level -- the realm of mortgages, credit card balances, doctor bills and soon-to-expire unemployment benefits -- the worst economic downturn since the Depression remains a defining force.

We taxpayers have handed hundreds of billions of dollars to the same mortgage and insurance industry that started all the trouble with its reckless gambling. We have bailed out General Motors. We have distributed tax cuts to businesses that were supposed to use this lubrication to expand and hire.

For our dollars, we have been rewarded with the staving off of potential financial Armageddon and the stabilizing of a real economy that was teetering dangerously toward the abyss. That certainly is something, but it falls far short of the only thing that can end this disaster on a meaningful scale: large numbers of quality paychecks.

Success for large companies has yet to trickle down. Since the end of 2008, when corporate America began enjoying the resumption of growth, profits have swelled from an annualized pace of $995 billion to the current $1.66 trillion as of the end of September. Over the same period, the number of non-farm jobs counted by the Labor Department has slipped from 13.4 million to 13 million.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Whetting Your Appetite

If you take a look at East Sixth Street between Elm and Spring Streets, you will see a new addition to the historic ledger of New Albany. Last week, contractors stripped the meager asphalt layer from this street to expose a nearly pristine brick street, complete with intact cut limestone curbs. It is a preview of what might await the historic districts of our city.

The machinery used to strip the asphalt from Sixth Street was, how should one say, a bit over-zealous. In fact some of the bricks were scarred in the process of milling. But what remains is a near perfect example of a well-laid functional brick street from around the turn of the Twentieth Century. This unmasking is a welcome prelude to the Bicentennial celebration, which is just around the corner, and it is a tie to the halfway mark of our City's history at the Centennial.

New Albany's rich history can be emphasized through the exposure of brick and cobblestone streets and alleys. Streets so exposed can serve as reminders of the labor involved in building a functional city for one's own generation and for those generations we hope will follow. Those are aesthetic and philosophical dividends of a brick street exposure; they are somewhat akin to the realization one lives in a more valuable house as the wall-to-wall is pulled up to expose hardwood floors.

In today's lean times and tightened belts, a practical dividend may also be found in the fact that exposed brick streets, along with increasing property values, will cut down on the paving budget, and may help with more efficient storm water control as the original, functional and intended curb depths are restored. They are also natural traffic-calming devices.

While the Sixth Street unmasking may only be a one-off experiment, New Albany has many fine brick streets and alleys just an inch or two away. If we recognize this as a viable, sensible option for the older parts of town, we must look at a recovery process which does less damage during the unmasking. Here is a link to such a process. It deserves a serious look if people like what they see on Sixth Street.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Skater

Here on the eve of a momentous vote for the state of Indiana, amid hope for certain candidates fueled by precious little reality, I see a figure of effortless movement, on the periphery of sight, urging us onward to his vision for the future. He likes it there, outside the harsh light of responsibility and blame for the tightening belts and dashed plans of local governments and schools.

He wishes that we local politicians work with limited means to achieve limited goals. He hopes that we can place local government on a regimen of discipline and reduction, so to heed his soul mate's desire of fitting that, and any, government into a bathtub where it might meet its deserved fate (and it's not a bath).

He brags about his conservative saving ways and the budget he placed in surplus. He fails to see the help he got from Washington led to his claim.

He pushes local government to the breaking point by limiting its income from taxes. He forces local governments to cut services to fit the budget and he rides high with 65% approval ratings while others clean up after him.

As racketeers beat the rap they are said to skate. I just wonder how and why My Man gets away with it.

The constitutional amendment to enshrine property tax caps will hobble local government in Indiana for a very long time.

And yet, he skates.