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.

This retired small business owner thinks Obamacare is a step in the right direction

This retired small business owner thinks Obamacare is good for America. We get told every day that we are now a part of the new global economy, but our competition is from companies in countries with some form of health care for all. For the rest of the first world, health care is a social expense, while for us it is a business expense.

I played that game as a small business owner, but the deck was stacked against me. I was charged 200% of the rate for a large business, giving advantage to my larger competitors let alone off shore interests.

I never minded paying taxes: they were predictable and I could plan for them. But insurance inflation was out of control and killing many of us in the small business community. While bigger businesses were dropping coverage levels in order to leverage profit, we, the real employers of America, were dropping coverage to stay alive. In 2008 GM pointed to this flaw in our global logic and was summarily gob smacked. Like GM or not, they were right.

Now, the imperfect beginnings of a solution that serves employee and employer is before us. “Back to the drawing board” is political-speak for “bury it alive”. We can spend all day nit picking the small stuff while the elected who are beholden to BIG campaign contributors pull strings to neglect the many and profit the few.

I, for one, believe in American Ingenuity: that we should launch the project to create a yet unseen but soon to be envied strategy to ensure access to health care for Americans, and bloom as an economy within our borders and in the world. No guts, no glory. If you agree, contact your congressional delegation now.

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A Tale of Two….

On Memorial Day I saw Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii) deliver a keynote address. She spoke of her two tours in Iraq and the powerful memory of her first “unanswered roll call ceremony” for a friend lost in combat. She shared that only one percent of our citizens have fought in these, the two longest wars in American history.

And then it occurred to me: another one percent of us have made obscene fortunes from these, the two most blatantly economically motivated wars in American history.

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These two one percents could not be more different.

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One, members of the super-minority, are making record profits quarter after quarter, and “investing” frightening amounts of money in campaign contributions and spendy lobbyists in order to keep things going their way: war profiteering, monopoly building, too-big-to-care, tax dodging, unregulated global capitalism.

The other are public servants, willing to do their duty until their last breath doing a job few dare face. Too often they leave our service broken or ill, only go become the collateral damage of a system being starved out of existence by tax cuts, tax loopholes, and tax subsidies even as we spend trillions of dollars on two wars with no war tax. The call for austerity is a mocking of this one percent by the other. “We will take care of the money, now you figure out how to take care of yourself.”

I am not a pacifist, but I am very against preemptive war. The idea that we systematically abuse so few for the gain of so few –  and leave 98% of us out of the game entirely – is not sitting well with me. Yellow magnets and 4th of July flags are not enough to count as skin in the game.

I will no longer humor the self centered profiteers only to neglect our selfless patriots.

If that means less war, OK. If that means proper care for returning troops, OK. If that means higher taxes on the prosperous one percent to finance our responsibility to the in-harms-way one percent, OK.

No big box store, no stock broker, no crony contractor, no wealth building “corporate-person” is going to take the metaphorical bullet for anyone. I prefer to support the people who would take a real bullet for me.

Bogarumba: frantic dancing to imaginary music


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I have used the term Bogarumba for 30 years to describe the private-interest mischief used to confuse, manipulate, and distance real people from meaningful participation in the American political process. So much more than “wag the dog”, it includes every known strategy to control the narrative so that we (the people) spin off in ungrounded debate – planting flags, taking positions, never to find common ground – while the narrative creators have their way with the law of the land.

Funded by a crescendo of tax cuts leaving mountains of money in the hands of the few and their pet lobbies, they have launched fake science, blocked research, and created an infusion of “common knowledge” that is based upon private objectives, creating a barrier to our solving old problems in new ways: the very definition of American ingenuity.

Before any reader decides this is an attack on one party or another, let me be clear that this is an attack on the influence of cash on this republic’s democracy, regardless who plays the game. This is a cry for first, Campaign Finance Reform, as a tool to get our elected out of the financial death grip of monied interests (allowing the elected to represent voters rather than dollars), and second, Tax Code Reform that properly channels American wealth into a legitimate form of participation in the American political process.

Anticipating our recognition of these barriers, well paid spin doctors have prepared a plethora of alienating talking points and logic pathways to keep us apart. Our only defense is for each of us to ask ourselves the simple question, “is there life after kool-aid?”, can we each describe to ourselves the America we seek, and then come together to address the multitude of issues we face as a nation?

I say we can. This is what the Coffee Party is all about.

Spending problem? I can help.

If America has a ‘spending problem’, somebody should ask ME how I think we should spend the people’s money. Better yet, ask me how I DON’T want to spend it.

Given the choice between those ‘Homeland Security’ people who make me take off my shoes, throw away my hand lotion, and walk through the “get naked machine” in the airport, or meaningful health insurance for senior citizens and the disabled, I choose the latter.

Given the choice between investing in first rate public education for all Americans, or the War on Terror, the longest, least mission-driven, and most expensive / debt producing war (with the largest private Army) in the history of the nation, I choose the former.

And if asked to choose between subsidies for corporations with record profits or the social safety net? Guess.

The choices are not hard if you say them out loud.

My postcard to the President

Dear Mr. President:

Now that it is down to Mr. Boehner and you to settle the budget squabble, this citizen asks that you do what we elected you to do. The people need to know you have not fallen for the “entitlement hoax” (that social security and medicare have destroyed America); that “The Entitled” are still the wealthy no matter how they spin it; and that today’s tax codes are proof of their “Special” status.

If the money people knew what they were doing the world would not be in economic chaos. The Special and their corporate-persons-not-citizens have profited from bad strategies, among them peace and prosperity tax cuts during time of war and recession. Their threats of job cuts and money hoarding need to be answered with resolve.

Your mandate is to restore the dignity of public spending for the public good, to resist tricks (like the assumption a 66 year old women can find a job), to allow the Affordable Care Act to save Medicare, and to put an end to talk about the undeserving public employee, veteran, worker, etc.

You need to respond to heckles that you should run the country like a business by doing real investing in things that will deliver genuine returns, like education, future energy, and American commerce and industry. Austerity is for losers. Privatization is for the conquered.

We are tired of being called names because we give food stamps to underpaid employees, designer tax loopholes to corporations with record profits, and subsidies for medically challenging food. The day of The Special is over. The public vision and will to “pay it forward” is back.

Respectfully yours….

Tax Cuts and Date Night

Parents know that when the kids begin to date, school nights are out and weekends are in. There are exceptions, of course, but we know that kids need sleep if they are going to try to learn something in the morning.

I say peace and prosperity tax cuts are just like date night: they should only happen when the conditions are appropriate. The continuation of these tax cuts during time of war and recession makes about as much sense as letting your kids go to a rave the night before their final exams.

And, as every parent knows, once it looks like the exception has become  the rule, you have a battle on your hands that you may never really win.

But when I try to be the adult in the room and point out the obvious about tax cuts (that the conditions are not right, and the exception has become the rule), you would think I was standing in the lunch line at school badmouthing the rave:  the “partiers” doth protesteth too much, methinks.

Dear Employees, I gladly impart my wisdom: pay attention!

Dear Employees:

In this country of ours it is important to vote for the candidate of your choice. But today, more than ever, your future employment with this company depends upon how you vote.

Our shareholders, executives, corporate officers, and I have gotten used to the lifestyle afforded by today’s generous tax climate. The wrong vote could change all that.

And the idea that we might have to provide equal pay for equal work, include health insurance in your compensation, contribute to the social safety net, or help pay down the debt seems so ordinary, and not attractive to investors.

You should be grateful we haven’t sent your jobs overseas or brought in guest workers already! The wrong vote just might make us change our minds.

After all, it is money that makes money in this country, and if you want us to continue to include you in our business plans, I suggest you think twice before you make us cranky.

Best wishes for smart voting and future employment,             THE BOSS

Put your money where your mouth is, American-Military-Might Types

Ever since Condie Rice came out for ‘greater strength around the world’ at the GOP convention, right up to Mr. Romney’s endorsement of the same ‘world-enforcer’ position in the debate last night, I have been asking myself,  “How are these don’t-tax-ME-patriots going to pay for their big ideas?” Since they won’t tell me their financing plan, I’m going to tell them my four terms of agreement.

1. SAY YES TO WAR TAX, the good old-fashioned  kind that is top heavy, and enough to pay the actual costs. This presumes the peace and prosperity tax cuts, loopholes, and incentives still in place during time of war and recession, are ended.

2. SAY NO TO WAR PROFITEERING. Ike warned us that war would become a cash-cow when military contractors were allowed a profit! He was right.

3. SAY YES TO THE DRAFT. Yes, the real draft, the one where even Elvis takes a turn. Our fifth- and sixth-tour veterans are a national shame. And how they are treated when they just finally come home is an even greater shame.

4. SAY NO TO THE PRIVATE ARMY. No more contractor soldiers. No more State Department force not under the control of the Pentagon. No more mercenaries in tow with FEMA. Privatization has no place in our budget when it comes to “providing for the common defense”, a constitutional charge.

Something tells me that after we start paying-as-we-go for our bravery, after we take away the profit motive, after everyone has the “opportunity” to serve, and after the control of all of our forces is returned to the Commander-in-Chief, the rush to spend for “military might” will wane.

America Run Like A Business: No Debt Ceiling “Emergency”

Attention, people who want America to be run like a business! Do not believe the fiction about to spew forth about the contrived debt ceiling “emergency”.

This retired business owner knows a few things about running a successful enterprise. If America were my business, hunkering-down (austerity) would not be my go-to solution.

The first thing I would do is end discounts I could not afford: think tax cuts (discounts), tax loopholes (discounts), and subsidies (discounts + refunds + incentives that can exceed the cost of the product)!

The second thing I would do is realistically price my product (reevaluate taxes). After a decade of unfunded war, should we add a war tax?  And the Medicare D non-compete giveaway: should we add tax to cover it or reconsider that decision? There are many pricing issues to discuss, but those two alone amount to $Billions per year.

While cost savings are always appropriate, cutting back on the American product line before doing the first two steps is just bad business. Why discount and underprice America out of existence? This is a revenue crisis, not a debt crisis.

My recommendation to Congress: the market (taxpayers)  having received the greatest value from discounts etc. in the last 10 years is well positioned to absorb a cost increase. End the dysfunctional discounting practices immediately. Recognize the national debt as predominantly unfunded war debt and plan for repayment accordingly.

Preserve the product line: the American way of life.