Be strong, America: we will take care of each other.

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As I watch the news stories of weather tragedies across America, I remember my experience in the Christmas Flood of 1964.

When we got word the river was on its way, a younger sister could only think of getting presents into the attic. Many of my friends did not have time to do even that. We spent the the holiday sandbagging at the end of our street, watching homes submerge, and hearing the news of those that were ripped off their foundations.

I’ll never forget my tears as I helped build a damn between our house and the house of my best friend: a stranger hugged me and said, “we can’t save them all”.

Today I remember, and wish I could save you all. Be strong, America. We will take care of each other, regardless of the word-noise from the talking heads.

[http://www.salemhistory.net/natural_history/christmas_flood.htm]

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The failed experiment to create sustainable prosperity by cutting taxes to corporations and shareholders.

Record profits and record poverty in the same country are evidence of a broken economic system. In America, the evidence that today’s poverty is born of the Great Recession is indisputable. The gossip that it is due to an epidemic of laziness is ludicrous. And still, our Congress considers a budget that mocks the needs of recession victims and continues toinsure profit to those that caused it.  Now is the time to look to big money makers for tax revenue.
la-oe-zimmerman-congress-history-20131016-001Image caption: Omayra Hernadez holds a sign reading, “Hey Congress Do Your Job” as she and others gather in front of the Florida office of Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) to protest against the partial government shutdown. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images)

Dear Congress: this is not Common Ground

Dear Congress:

I refuse to be grateful that you did not shut down the government – again. I refuse to be grateful for attacking military pensions, kicking the unemployed to the curb, or every other “pound of flesh” you cut so the wealthiest among us continue to be protected from the taxes they used to pay (that you call “new” taxes).

I will be grateful if ALL OF YOU stop using the currently fashionable term, “Common Ground”. You stole that phrase from the people. To US it means finding things we agree are out of whack and creating solutions based on the needs of us all. It implies a belief in this republic’s democratic process, the willingness to step over political labels, and freedom from “behind the curtain” puppet masters. It does not mean, “using money and political influence to support the few while marginalizing the beliefs and desires of the many”.

This year has been all about the latter, a tyranny of the minority. I suggest a new year’s resolution to actually seek the people’s common ground . Think coffee shop logic, not DC cocktail party logic. After all, this is what we elected you to do.

Respectfully,

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Image: People for Care

Economic Freedom Zones are an Orwellian Joke

Economic Freedom Zones are to business development as the Clear Skies Initiative was to environmental protection: an Orwellian joke.

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I believe Detroit has a revenue problem as much or more than a spending problem, so I see adding even more tax cuts and reducing “payroll tax” (code for Social Security and Medicare) to existing subsidies, tax exemptions and tax cuts is counter productive. In fact, it is like inviting piranha to lunch. The feeding frenzy will only last as long as there is food on the table.

Economic Freedom Zones are an extension of the philosophy that short term concessions to business can result in long term and sustainable improvement in the economic condition of the community. In my 25 years in economic development work, I have not seen this to be as useful as hoped.

Concessions become expectations, and sunsetting of concessions often result in the closing of opportunistic business only interested in program benefits. Public investment in these projects is often not even a break even situation, let alone a sustained value. The smartypants gaming of these opportunities is the dark side of capitalism.

The cases I have seen where economic incentives have paid off  usually involve smaller, more local businesses that have a stake in the long term success and economic viability of the community. The Economic Freedom Zone idea as it is now described is just shark bait.

War on Christmas?

The only war on Christmas I can find happened on Black Friday. It was reported on the evening news and police blotters across America. Now that it’s over, let’s all have a wonderful holiday season.

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