Category Archives: business news

Pleading for an end to this labor dispute

I won’t sugarcoat this matter: The most difficult story for me to cover as a reporter and as an opinion writer and editor over the course of my nearly four-decade-long career was labor negotiation.

Thus, I am grateful to be on the sidelines as railroad unions and rail companies are battling head-to-head over a new contract. A strike might occur in one week. Or, the government might intervene to prevent what some observers are predicting would be a virtual economic collapse.

I want an end to this dispute. Now! I want the trains to keep hauling goods and commodities to their intended destinations.

As difficult as it was to cover these negotiations, it appears to me that the unions are making a relatively simple demand of the employers. They want paid sick leave, which is what employers all over the country give to those who work for them.

I am not sure how the rail companies deny what appears to be this basic demand from the unions. They want to be able to take time off to tend to their own health, or to the health of their family members … and get paid for it!

Congress is preparing legislation that would prevent a strike. Indeed, the stakes are huge, man. We could see the cessation of shipments, making even worse the “supply chain” issues that have plagued the economy. Oh, and inflation? That, too, likely could explode if we cannot get the goods to customers.

Economists say a strike would cost the economy $2 billion each day.

Do the union and rail company negotiators really want to be held accountable for the possible collapse of our economy? I do doubt it.

Get busy, folks. Settle this dispute!

SCOTUS clears way for Trump tax return

How does the saying go? Oh, I know: Inquiring minds want to know … actually those inquiring minds need to know and have a right to know.

Know what? They have a right to know how much a former president of the United States paid in taxes. They have the right to know how much he gave to charity. They are entitled to know the nature of his business dealings. They also have a right to know whether Donald J. Trump is as wealthy as he claimed to be while running for POTUS in 2016.

The U.S. Supreme Court has cleared the way for the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee to get its hands on Trump’s tax returns. The court didn’t disclose any details of its decision or reveal how the justices voted on it. Now, that begs the question: Does that mean you and I will see them? Not right away.

However, given the sieve quality of Congress, my guess is that we’ll get a peek at them in due course. Maybe soon.

Why is this a big deal? It’s a big deal because Donald Trump made it a big deal in 2015 when he announced his intention to seek the presidency. He rode down the Trump Tower escalator and said, among many things, that he would release the returns as other candidates have done.

Then he backed off. Then he said he would release them when the Internal Revenue Service completed its audit of the returns. We never learned whether the IRS was actually auditing them; Trump never produced any evidence of an audit. The IRS said it couldn’t confirm an audit but said that an audit didn’t preclude someone from releasing the returns.

Then he balked again. He’s been fighting release of the returns ever since.

Many of us want to see the returns. We are entitled to see them. The man worked for us. Trump was our “employee” for four years.

He wants to run for POTUS again. He likely will bellow, blather and boast more about his wealth. I long have known that the truly wealthy among us don’t brag about it. Thus, I am suspicious of Trump’s dubious claims of fabulous wealth.

Let us see for ourselves.

California isn’t an epithet

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has picked up on the Republican mantra to suggest that Texas shouldn’t become “like California.”

His campaign ads suggest that Texas Democrat want to transform the Lone Star State into a version of California. That’s a bad thing, he suggests.

But … is it?

My bride and I have traveled through much of the southern portion of the Golden State and have gotten a bit of an up-close look at why the state boasts a world-class economy.

Now, last I heard California’s gross domestic product output would rank it No. 6 or 7 among the world economies if the state were an independent country. Texas’s worldwide ranking, as I understand it, would be No. 9 or 10; still not bad, but not in league with California.

As I looked around the Bakersfield area – which the locals call the “Armpit of California” – I am struck by the abundance of petrochemical plants, of cattle trucks tooling along the highways, of massive feedlots where cattle producers fatten up their livestock for market. Does that remind anyone of anywhere with which they might be familiar? Sure. It reminds me of the Texas Panhandle, where we lived for 23 years before relocating to Collin County in early 2019.

Oh, and I also see my share of pro-Republican and anti-Democratic bumper stickers, TV campaign ads and assorted signage along the highways.

To be sure, I am acutely aware that California ain’t nirvana. I hear tales of horrific regulatory hurdles that homeowners and business owners must endure. I also know that the state suffered through a net population loss since the most recent census as folks are leaving the state.

Before you pile on and suggest we should pack our bags and move here … don’t even think about it. We aren’t moving. We have forged a great life during our 38 years as adopted Texans.

I just want to suggest that emulating the nation’s most populous and most prosperous state isn’t the epithet that some Texas politicians suggest.

Gasoline sticker shock!

LUDLOW, Calif. — My nose nearly started bleeding when I saw the price of gasoline I was about to pump into my Ford Ranger truck.

It stood at $7.49 per gallon. And that was for the cheapest octane level of go-juice!

If you know where Ludlow is, you’ll understand that it sits in the middle of nowhere, man along Interstate 40 not too far from the California-Arizona border. The owners of the two gasoline service stations at this intersection apparently are free to charge whatever the dickens they want.

I didn’t like having to pay that much for the gas, which is the same stuff I purchase at home in Princeton, Texas — only for a whole lot less.

I refuse to get into the why and how come gas prices are so great in some parts of the country. Seven bucks-plus for gasoline is obscene.

My sticker shock has abated. It is replaced with sincere sympathy for those who live in an area where they have to shell out so much dough for a commodity that should cost a fraction of they’re paying.

Tax returns … still a viable question?

Hey, whatever in the world of high-powered accounting happened to the cries for Donald J. Trump’s tax returns? You remember that, right?

Many of us wondered why Trump wouldn’t release his returns, as presidents and presidential candidates had done since 1976. Trump at first said he would; then he backed off; then he pledged to release them once the taxman completed his audit; then he backed off … again!

Courts have ruled he had to release them. He continues to resist.

Wait a second, though. We’ve been buried up to here with other sorts of finance-related news involving Trump. The New York attorney general has sued the Trump Organization for $250 million, alleging that Trump falsified his net worth to obtain favorable loans.

And then — of course! — we have a myriad of criminal investigations into Trump’s conduct during the 2020 election and immediately after the election that he lost to President Joe Biden.

I remain one of the millions of curious Americans who wants to know:

  • Whether Donald Trump is as rich as he kept bragging about.
  • How much, if anything, he gave to charitable causes.
  • The extent of his foreign business dealings and whether he does business with despicable tyrants in, say, Russia.

Those are three items. You likely have more issues to resolve with this guy.

Trump has defied conventional presidential wisdom at so many levels. The tax return issue is just one of them.

The issue of the tax returns has been eclipsed, or so it appears, by all those other matters involving Trump, The Big Lie, the insurrection, falsifying assets, conspiracy to commit sedition.

Good grief, all those other matters seem to make Trump’s refusal to disclose his tax returns seem almost … quaint. Actually, though, it isn’t. Trump’s refusal to do what so many previous presidents and candidates for the high office have done speaks mightily of his lack of character.

What about the lenders?

The news networks tonight are all over the story from New York in which the New York attorney general, Letitia James, has filed a comprehensive lawsuit against Donald J. Trump and three of his adult children.

Her allegation? That the Trumps falsified their business’s net worth in obtaining loans. They allegedly fudged the value of their assets, allowing them to get loans at a favorable rate.

Something has raced past me. How did the Trumps fool lenders into thinking their assets were greater than they were?

Financial institutions are regulated by the feds. If a borrower simply says he or she is worth X amount of money, do the lenders take them at their word? Of course not! They can check tax rolls to know the truth, right?

I am waiting for an explanation into how the Trumps (allegedly) fooled the banks.

It’s in the timing

Amarillo city officials are going on trial very soon in which they will have to defend the legitimacy of a multimillion-dollar effort to deliver a new municipal complex of offices and convention space.

The lawsuit comes from businessman Alex Fairly. The trial will be in a Potter County district court. Fairly believes the city acted illegally in issuing $260 million in “anticipation notes.”

I am not going to assess whether the city’s actions broke the law. I am, though, in a position to comment on the timing of the issuance.

You see, voters already had spoken decisively in November 2020 when they rejected a $275 million general obligation bond issue to — that’s right — revamp the Civic Center and relocate City Hall. The City Council didn’t seem to care about what voters decided.

So, it acted without voters’ approval by issuing those anticipation notes. The debt load carried by the notes is virtually identical to the load that voters rejected.

I hate saying this, because for years I was a staunch supporter of City Council initiatives, but the decision to supersede voters’ rejection smacks too much of municipal arrogance.

It’s the timing of the issuance juxtaposed with the rejection of the bond issue that ought to rankle residents. Fairly has intimated, further, that the issuance of the debt notes was done without adequate public notice, giving residents a chance to comment publicly on what they thought about the project.

To be sure, if I still lived in Amarillo and had a chance to vote on the bond issue in November 2020 I likely would have voted “yes” on the city request. I can argue all day and into the night about the need for the city to upgrade its Civic Center and find a new site for City Hall. Most voters, though, said “no” to the proposal.

For the city to then come back and issue the anticipation notes — which do not require voter approval — well, plays right into the righteous anger that fuels a lot of voters’ interest in government.

Blast from violent past

The tumult and tempest arising from the arrival of immigrants and, yes, refugees from Latin America have in their way taken me back to an earlier time in Texas when such new arrivals spawned violent protests and outright hatred.

Republican governors have taken great joy in sending migrants to Democratically held jurisdictions in a ploy to stick it in their ear. You favor welcoming these folks? Here, you can have ’em!

The Vietnam War ended in 1975 and with the end of the shooting in Vietnam thousands of refugees fled from Southeast Asia to the United States. They didn’t want to live under communist rule, so they found their way to the Land of Opportunity.

Many of those refugees settled along the Texas coast, seeking to resume their lives as fishermen and women. They sought to capitalize on the shrimp harvest opportunities. Not everyone welcomed them.

The Ku Klux Klan reared its ugly and evil head, raiding the Vietnamese shrimp fleets, cutting their nets and threatening the newcomers with violence if they didn’t leave the country. There was violence. Klansmen were charged with bringing physical harm and death to the Vietnamese.

Over time, though, the violence subsided. Today, in communities such as Port Arthur — with its substantial Vietnamese-American population — you find the influence of the descendants of those refugees in a most remarkable way. Check out the honor rolls of public high schools and you see plenty of names such as Nguyen, Phang and Lam. Yes, the children and grandchildren of those refugees excel academically and take that excellence with them into successful careers as adults

Do we really want to deny the current refugees — who flee communist tyranny in places such as Nicaragua and Venezuela — the same opportunity to succeed?

Let’s get real.

Biden helps avert crisis

(AP Photo/Michael Virtanen)

Hey, let’s heap a good bit of good cheer on the Joe Biden administration, shall we? Why the high-five and the back-slap? Because the administration did what Americans expect it to do by stepping in to broker a deal that averted a potentially catastrophic blow to the nation’s economy.

As President Biden might say, this is a “big … fu**ing … deal,” if you get my drift.

Had the strike gone forward, as it was slated to do on Friday, valuable shipments of grain, food, all sorts of commodities, heavy equipment — you name it — would have come to a halt. You want a “supply chain crisis?” There you have it … in spades!

But the tentative agreement, presuming it’s ratified by the unions and the rail lines, means the goods will keep rolling and the crisis will have been averted.

You all know that this blog supports President Biden and the work he is doing on our behalf. I will offer a word of good cheer to the president, because I believe he deserves it. However, the big winner of this deal happens to be the 330 million Americans that the president represents.

Americans keep getting buffeted by doomsayers who suggest the economy is tanking, that “socialists” are poised to take over the government, that the U.S.A has become the “laughingstock of the world.”

The news about the White House stepping up to provide its good offices to end a potentially horrendous labor dispute demonstrates that the opposite of all that is so very true.

As The Hill reports: “It’s a big political risk. If it all blew up, the administration was going to be left holding the bag,” an industry source familiar with the talks said.

How Biden helped avert a rail strike – and another economic crisis | The Hill

It appears at this moment that nothing has blown up. I want to thank the federal government led by President Joe Biden for averting disaster.

Gas prices are cheaper … not yet cheap

As I scan the main drag through Princeton, Texas — the four-lane federal highway U.S. 380 — I see evidence of something I had hoped to see.

It’s the price of gasoline receding. At virtually all the fuel dealerships along the highway, the price of regular unleaded gas is now selling from $2.93 per gallon to $2.99.

Hmm. It’s a far cry from the $4-plus we were paying this past spring and summer, yes? I know that other parts of the country were paying a good bit more than we were in Texas. Their gas prices are coming down, too.

It’s cheaper, for sure. It damn sure isn’t “cheap.” We’ve all become accustomed to a sort of new normal ever since gasoline spiked up in the 1970s in response to the Arab oil embargo. Prior to that we were paying double-digit prices to fuel our vehicles; after that, well, we haven’t seen double digits since.

Now we are going to “salute” gas prices inching below 3 bucks per gallon? I won’t go that far. However, it is a relief and I welcome it.