Category Archives: economic 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!

Nothing wrong with ‘happy holidays’ greeting

Our annual holiday season is upon us. Thanksgiving has come and gone, the shopping frenzy has begun and many of are starting to stress out — already! — about getting the Christmas decorations put up and welcoming guests home for the festivities.

There was a time when a presidential candidate, Republican Donald J. Trump, promised to “require businesses” to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. You remember that, right?

Well, a president has no authority to issue such an order. Frankly, I want to offer a brief word in support of those wish me a “Happy Holidays.”

Here’s the thing. We meet total strangers at the store. We buy whatever it is we’re seeking. The person standing at the computerized machine (which used to be called “cash registers”) doesn’t know if we’re Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist or Wiccan, right?

I have never one time taken offense at a stranger offering a generic holiday greeting to me. Furthermore, I do not understand why anyone would take offense … let alone a one-time presidential candidate who I hasten to add has zero appreciation for why Christians celebrate Christmas.

With that, I’ll offer a happy holiday greeting to readers of this blog. It’s going to be a lively and joyful season.

Herschel shows chutzpah

Herschel Walker, the Republican candidate for U.S. senator from Georgia, likely doesn’t know what the word “chutzpah” means.

But he’s showing a whole lot of it.

Consider that Walker is receiving a tax break for a “primary residence” in — hold on! — Texas, where he apparently still lives.

So, you may wonder: How does this former football star pull this off? He might not. The Texas Tribune reports that he might violating Texas tax law with this dubious homestead exemption based on his “primary residence.”

The dictionary, by the way, describes “chutzpah” as a Hebrew word meaning “utter gall.”

Herschel Walker still gets tax break on $3 million Texas home | The Texas Tribune

Here’s a thought that’s been kicking around the past day or so: Herschel Walker — who is in a runoff against Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock — might be declared ineligible to run for public office in Georgia if he’s going to declare his residence to be in Texas.

I have referred to Walker as the nation’s premier dumbass. If what is being alleged is true, he is giving dumbasses everywhere a bad name.

It isn’t ‘Biden’s inflation’

How about putting an end to the lie that the nation’s inflationary troubles are the result of President Biden’s economic policies?

I am weary of hearing the Republican demagogues repeating the mantra that Biden deserves to be vilified because of the inflation that has pummeled every major economy on the planet.

What is driving up the price of materials we purchase? Let’s see.

We have the Ukraine War that has had a direct impact on the flow of energy from Russia and Ukraine to the rest of the world; it has affected the cost of agricultural commodities that come from Ukraine’s fertile farmland.

We also have the COVID-19 pandemic and the disruption created by the “supply chain” matter that continues to drive up cost of goods caught in the inability to deliver them to us in a time manner.

The United States is far from alone in suffering these inflationary pressures. Indeed, our own inflation rate is less than many countries in Europe and Asia.

President Biden keeps taking hits because he insists on developing alternative forms of energy to replace the fossil fuels that pollute the air and are responsible for the climate change that threatens the very existence of the planet we call home.

I get that inflation affects us all directly. I don’t like paying more for food and other necessities than the next guy. However, I am not going to join the right-wing amen chorus that seeks to demonize Joe Biden for a worldwide crisis that is far beyond his control.

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.

Presidents cannot control global oil prices

Presidents of the United States inherit an office with enormous power … of that everyone agrees.

However, there are limits to that power. Such as the price of oil and other energy-producing resources. The price of gasoline and other motor vehicles have skyrocketed — again! — in recent weeks. Does the president have as much control over that as critics suggest? No! He damn sure doesn’t.

Yet the current president, Joe Biden, is paying the price politically for a trend over which he has little control. OPEC nations decided all by themselves to cut oil production by 2 million barrels a day. Someone has to remind me how the president of the United States can control OPEC’s policymakers.

Joe Biden’s foes are trying make hay out of decisions that are made far from the White House. They are pounding him. I just want the world to know how this blogger feels about the pummeling that Biden is getting. He doesn’t deserve it.

Having stated that here, I am acutely aware it won’t stop the non-stop — and unfair — criticism he is getting.

It’s part of the political game Joe Biden entered all those decades ago.

Growth is great, however …

A Princeton, Texas public school administrator told me something the other evening that I didn’t appreciate fully … until this morning when I ventured to our local Post Office to take care of some routine business.

Princeton School Superintendent Don McIntyre mentioned how “out of control growth” in a community can be troublesome for educators who need to plan for how best to educate the children pouring into a school system.

This morning, I walked into our Post Office at the moment it opened and found that I was one of about 30 people already waiting for the doors to open.

You want growth? We have it in this Collin County community.

I mention my experience this morning because of what I am certain was the norm, say, about a decade ago when Princeton’s population stood at just a shade less than 7,000 residents. Today, that number appears to be well past 20,000, maybe nearer to 30,000.

This place is booming, man!

I know this is a little thing but going to the Post Office when the place opens shouldn’t require one to spend nearly an hour waiting to conduct a routine matter that should have been resolved in less than a minute.

I happened to encounter my mail carrier later in the day and told her what happened to me this morning. “They only have one person waiting on customers,” she told me. I know that, I said. She said something about having a new postmaster on duty in Princeton, to which I said we need to find a new postmaster general to run the operation from the top.

In actuality, what I learned today is that our new hometown is underserved by the U.S. Postal Service. Its distribution center here is nowhere near large enough to accommodate the volume of human traffic that uses it.

Hey, I am all for growth. I am pleased to be part of the inbound migration that found a forever home in this bustling city. My wife and I could not be any happier with the decision we made.

I just wish at this moment that the higher-ups could do a better job of anticipating the chaos that develops occasionally at places like the Post Office. That part is no fun at all.

This election is a big … deal!

Pssst. I am going to reveal to you a matter that so far appears to be a secret: Princeton, Texas, voters are going to get a chance in just a few weeks to decide whether to approve a home-rule charter that allows the city to govern itself.

Why is it a secret? Because … state law prohibits the city from spending public money to campaign for a political cause. Unfortunately, the task is supposed to belong to a citizens’ political action committee that hasn’t yet been organized.

I have it from the highest local government authority possible that the PAC hasn’t formed despite the city council’s decision to put the home rule charter on the November ballot. Mayor Brianna Chacon said she has tried to find someone to take on the task of chairing the PAC. No takers.

This is the fifth election Princeton will have conducted to form a home-rule charter. The city’s population has exploded in recent years. The city now contains more than 20,000 inhabitants, according to City Hall estimates.

Here is what I found on the city’s website:

Home Rule Charter | Princeton, TX (

Princeton simply needs to take this step toward municipal adulthood. Since the city’s founding, Princeton has been governed as a “general law” city, meaning that it must follow the law with restrictions imposed by the Texas Legislature. Yes, lawmakers from the Valley, the Panhandle, from the Hill Country, the Golden Triangle and the Trans-Pecos region make decisions affecting how Princeton can govern itself.

That has to change. The election set for Nov. 8 will enable the city’s voters to approve a home-rule charter that allows City Hall to make its own rules. That makes sense, right? Well … it does!

I have looked around Princeton for outward signs of political activity regarding the home-rule charter. I haven’t seen a lawn sign, or a bumper sticker, or received a push card or seen any pamphlets extolling the virtues of home-rule governance.

As I understand it, state law bans governments from spending public money to campaign for issues such as home-rule charter. It doesn’t appear to disallow city officials from acting on their own time, spending their own dime and devoting their off-duty efforts to pitching this important measure.

It should never have come to that, but it might.

I am going to hope for the best that enough voters will realize the importance of a growing community such as ours to take charge of its own affairs. It’s a big … deal, man!

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.