Category Archives: economic news

A downtown treasure

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — Not even a monstrous earthquake could destroy this downtown, which I understand is making a remarkable comeback from the misery of nature’s wrath … as well as a worldwide pandemic.

Downtown Santa Cruz is “the place to be.” No kidding! It’s fantastic. My niece brought Toby and the Puppy and me to see the downtown district in this coastal city. Frankly — and this is no exaggeration — it blew my noggin!

A gentleman, about my age, was playing a musical saw. He saw my great-niece, Ayla, and asked if she wanted to see him perform a trick. He pulled out a banana and balanced it on his nose. Then he played “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” on his saw for Ayla.

She was impressed.

I understand that the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake devastated several businesses in the downtown district. They had to rebuild after Mother Earth opened that day. You remember, right: ABC TV was broadcasting the World Series from San Fransisco that evening when the picture went black. I managed to come this way later that year and we went to near Ground Zero of the quake. The devastation was horrendous.

So it was in Santa Cruz. Downtown is back. It is full of retail activity. There remain a few empty store fronts, made so by the COVID pandemic of 2019-2020. I have noted many times that cities’ well-being more often than not is traced to the health of their downtown. Santa Cruz is on target.

What just boggles my mind is how a city of about 65,000 can invest what it has done in ensuring it has a vibrant city center. I now will doff my proverbial hat to the Santa Cruz power brokers for keeping its municipal identity alive.

Well done.

Taxing the rich: sensible

President Biden’s decision to seek greater tax loads for wealthy Americans makes sense on a couple of levels.

He unveiled his plan while announcing a proposed $7 trillion federal budget he said would reduce the deficit by $3 trillion over the next decade. Biden wants to protect programs such as Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act. As an elderly American patriot, I welcome the president’s initiative.

Taxing those who make more than 400 grand annually? That makes sense too.

It does because even by increasing the tax burden by a few percentage points will not make rich Americans “un-rich.” They’ll still be wealthy beyond belief. They just will have to pay more to finance the government from which they seek favors.

Billionaires will still be billionaires.

Moreover, it makes no sense to realize that working-class Americans pay more per capita in taxes than rich folks.

Spare me the argument that taxing rich Americans will harm the economy. It damn sure won’t! We’re all in this together, isn’t that right? So, make the rich men and women pay their fair share of taxes and — so help me! — find some method of closing those damn loopholes through which they avoid paying taxes.

‘Pork-barrel spending’ has vanished?

Whatever happened to the term once used by budget hawks to vilify politicians who spend money “recklessly”?

That would be “pork-barrel spending.” It has vanished, seemingly, from the contemporary glossary of verbiage in today’s contentious political climate.

I remember when a former U.S. senator from Texas, Republican Phil Gramm, would boast about “bringing home so much pork, I was afraid I would come down with trichinosis.”

“Pork” is the term that refers to special project appropriations that members of Congress sneak into legislation. You know what I mean: money for bridges, airport control towers, road-and-highway improvements, federal office complexes. The late Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, another Republican, once was vilified for his “bridge to nowhere” for which he managed to get money appropriated.

I am not entirely opposed to “pork-barrel spending” if the project that the Congress member is pushing actually does some good for the public. I mean, these men and women, do work for us. We demand certain things from our lawmakers and, as always, it takes money to make those things appear in our states and congressional districts.

In Collin County, Texas, we have a first-term Republican, Keith Self, representing our interests. I don’t hear much about his work to ensure federal money to improve our infrastructure. Instead, I hear him talking about “election integrity,” and a whole array of social issues that, frankly, mean next to nothing to me.

And our state’s two GOP U.S. senators — John Cornyn and Ted Cruz? They, too, are busy condemning Democrats to concentrate on matters of more immediate concern to their state.

If the MAGA crowd among the GOP congressional caucus is interested in controlling federal spending while they threaten to renege on our national debt — a truly catastrophic proposal — then they will resurrect “pork barrel spending” as a fiscal talking point.

Biden budget = political weapon

Let’s put it all on the table: President Biden’s announcement of a new federal budget proposal is aimed at a political audience, not at anyone in Congress who he can persuade to join him in the effort to advance the “values” he espouses.

Joe Biden ventured to Pennsylvania to unveil a budget he says will cut the federal deficit by $3 trillion over the next decade. That is, to borrow a phrase, a Big F****** Deal.

He wants to raises taxes on rich Americans and corporations. He wants to preserve Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act. The president wants to shore up our military, our national intelligence network, the fight for Ukraine’s sovereignty. Biden wants to make community college attendance free.

Is this going to fly with what he referred to continuously today with the “MAGA Republicans”? Not a chance, man!

Instead, he has laid out a predicate for his 2024 re-election effort, which many believe he will announce soon. President Biden is going to put congressional Republicans on record as opposing the very things he said he wants to do.

I am all in with what he wants to accomplish.

Of course, looming mightily over all this is the threat by Republicans to crash the world economy by allowing the United States to default on the national debt that it has accrued since the beginning of the Republic. The president made that point, too, telling Republicans that they had a hand in running up that debt and that the U.S. Constitution requires the nation to maintain its “full faith and credit.”

Republicans, particularly the know-nothings who comprise the MAGA cabal, need to understand that they cannot mess with the national debt without collapsing the entire world economy. Got it? They had better!

President Biden’s budget as he has presented it won’t get through Congress. A big part of me believes the president — who knows how Congress works — understands that, but he has thrown down the gauntlet and dared the GOP to pick it up.

Who’s playing politics?

How in this good ol’ world can Republicans say with a straight face that Democrats are guilty of “playing politics” when the GOP has turned the politics-playing game into an art form.

Consider the upcoming fight over the debt ceiling.

A Republican president ran up 20% of the total national debt during his single term in office. Congressional Republicans were silent when Donald Trump managed that feat. The debt happens to be on the books already as money is already spent. Meanwhile, the U.S. Constitution calls for the “full faith and credit” to be free of the political games now being played.

Now that we have a Democrat in the White House, congressional Republicans want to hold the national debt as a weapon to use against Democrats. What the hell?

President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy met today to discuss this debt ceiling matter. McCarthy came out of that meeting and suggested the two men made progress in settling their disagreements.

I get that we need to control government spending. I’m fine with that as a matter of principle. However, the debt ceiling must be lifted to allow this nation to maintain its full faith and credit. Bringing the debt ceiling crashing down would bring financial ruin. That is the truth. How about raising the debt ceiling, which is always done, and then talk about looking for greater fiscal responsibility?

Refusing to raise the debt ceiling arguably is the most brazen act of political gamesmanship imaginable. Thus, when the GOP accuses Democrats of playing politics, they are projecting their own sin on their opponents.

It is beyond shameful.

New U.S. rep to hold our debt hostage?

It is with chagrin that I must report that my new congressional representative has joined the cabal of right-wing fiscal hostage-takers in suggesting that we must cut spending before increasing the nation’s debt ceiling.

Keith Self, a McKinney Republican, wrote a letter to the editor of the Dallas Morning News in which he declared that unrestricted federal spending poses an existential threat to our nation’s economic health. Therefore, he implied, he won’t approve measures to increase the debt ceiling until we curb spending … and thus will put the nation’s “full faith and credit” in dire peril.

Self’s Third Congressional District constituents might have to watch their retirement accounts vanish if Self’s world view becomes policy in the House of Representatives.

Increasing the national debt has been a perfunctory act since the beginning of the republic. Only now, with the GOP’s narrow House majority being led by the MAGA cultists who comprise a loudmouthed minority of Republicans in the House, it has become an “issue” worth debating.

This is crap! Reneging on our national fiscal obligations would plunge the nation into economic “calamity,” according to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. Why do Republicans in Congress insist on threatening to do such a horrendous thing? What the hell kind of statement are they trying to make?

Furthermore, why are GOP members taking this posture only when we have a Democrat sitting in the White House? Where in the hell was the Republican insistence on spending cuts when one of their own — Joe Biden’s immediate predecessor — sat in the Oval Office?

These congressional clowns are showboating and grandstanding — and holding our life’s savings, yours and mine — hostage to their preening and prancing.

And the man who represents me in Congress is one of ’em.


MAGA cult = political arsonists

The MAGA cult that has seized control of the Republican agenda in the U.S. House should really think long and so very hard about what it intends to do regarding the national debt.

The right-wing cabal within the GOP caucus wants to insist on spending cuts if the government seeks to increase its debt ceiling. What the right-wingers seemingly want is to cut Social Security and Medicare.

If they do not get their way and the nation defaults on its debts — for the first time in U.S. history — then all hell (and then some!) is going to break loose.

Americans’ retirement accounts well could vanish. Investors will bail out of the stock market en masse, driving stock portfolios into the dumper. The economy will collapse.

The national debt ceiling must be increased. Period, full stop and all that crap! Yet the MAGA crowd is insisting on something that’s never been considered, let alone been done … which is to cut spending as a tradeoff for doing what should be a routine matter.

Our nation’s founders enshrined our “full faith and credit” into Article IV of the Constitution, declaring that it must be honored — or else! The cultists who strong-armed concessions from Kevin McCarthy in exchange for their votes to make him speaker of the House, are ignorant of the founders’ intent. Then again, they’re ignorant about how to govern.

That is not dissuading them from making demands that are unreasonable, immoral and perhaps even unconstitutional.

They are hellbent on torching our system of government.

Who holds key to debt?

A fascinating statistic is making the rounds out here in the Land of Ordinary Americans.

It involves the national debt, which is at its breaking point, and it speaks to the hypocrisy among Republicans who insist on spending cuts to counteract increasing the nation’s debt limit.

It’s this: One-quarter of the nation’s total debt was acquired during the four years that Donald Trump served as president. Furthermore, let us never forget — after all, Donald Trump damn sure won’t — that he is a Republican.

Thus, it becomes imperative to put this GOP yammering about spending cuts in its proper perspective.

Republicans in Congress were all but stone-cold silent during the time Trump was amassing the enormous debt. They weren’t demanding spending cuts the way they are these days with a Democratic president sitting in the Oval Office.

Why do you suppose that’s the case? Oh, I know! It’s politics, man, pure and simple.

Coastal protection: It’s a big … deal!

Protecting our coasts ought to be among the top issues facing members of Congress. It is with that admonition that I welcome news about legislation designed to do precisely that in the wake of a monster hurricane that stormed ashore in Texas.

The U.S. House is considering the most expensive coastal protection project in history. It’s called the National Defense Authorization Act and its pricetag is a doozy: $34 billion.

Hurricane Ike roared across Galveston Island in September 2008, threatening the Houston Channel and putting the nation’s petrochemical industry in dire peril.

Now, I have no intention of taking credit I don’t deserve, but I happen to be one journalist who’s been talking about coastal protection for decades. It became a favorite issue of mine when I worked for the Beaumont Enterprise from 1984 until 1995. I became acquainted with a Texas land commissioner, Garry Mauro, who also deemed coastal protection to be critical to our national survival.

Coastal erosion long has been a hazard to the Gulf Coast, with wetlands being consumed by rising gulf tides every year.

I am heartened to see the aggressive measures taken by Congress. As The Associated Press reported, “The Texas coastal protection project far outstrips any of the 24 other projects greenlit by the bill” under consideration by the House.

Hey, it’s a big deal! How big? Consider that one particular project calls for the construction of a coastal barrier the size of a 60-story building laid on its side that aims to prevent storm surge from entering Galveston Bay and endangering the Houston Ship Channel.

Construction will take two decades to complete.

Got it? That’s big! It’s also important!

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!