24 September 2005
Just a Question or Two for the President
I have some questions about the federal response to and future planning for regional disasters caused by human or nature.
1. Why isn't HUD (Housing and Urban Development) visibly taking the lead for coordinating public and private efforts in the four states and waterways ruined by Katrina and Rita?
2. Why are you offering federal grants of spending money to individuals without involving extant expertise in Fanny May and Ginny May? Why is the funding of emergency and reconstruction programs a burden of the federal budget rather than calling on the private, financial industry to provide the cash with the federal government giving a "hold harmless" guarantee for loan losses (in every loan type) exceeding the five-year average of such losses as reported to the SEC annually.
3. Why isn't the Department of Commerce visibly taking the lead as businesses of all sizes and ownership plan their new investments of capital, to acquire sufficient credit and grant funds through the private sector's financial services industry? The federal actuaries can recast short and long term cash and guaranteed, program loans through existing federal agencies?
4. What is the federal government doing to lessen the new financial burdens of state and local funding for the short and longer term cash requirements? Decentralization is an excellent approach for government functions, having decision-making as close to the local level as is practicable. This democratic flattening of the budget pyramid requires a commensurate flattening of the tax revenues. Your administration, leading a sympathetic Congress, is just the current exemplar among all federal administrations since 1933. If the program goals are worth mandating through federal legislation and regulation, then ensure the level of state or local government doing the program have the tax revenue to fund them.
Reinventing the Wheel We Ride On
Grand policy platitudes about loss and recovery lack the poignant statement of a single mother, an unemployed family breadwinner, a teenage child whose home life had been violent, despoiled by alcohol or drugs, a retired person whose house or farm had been the income supplement when Social Security failed to provide enough.
Americans outside of the disaster region need a face, a person to identify with, to generate their personal caring, empathy and willingness to engage in the recovery of another person, someone "they know" whom they will take some responsibility for assisting. Personalizing a regional trauma like we now face is the only way to avoid ideology battles among the politicians.
Let the government provide a structure for individuals to build new lives, communities and commerce. Big Government--whether Republican or Democrat--decide these local choices or limit them through social engineering and by confining funding only to the government's program efforts. In areas of the world torn apart by war or natural disaster, any recovery effort has to include everyone who will be affected. Inclusion breeds personal ownership of communally designed solutions.
But this approach is counter to the hierarchical culture of corporations, government bureaucracies and class. Somehow knowing that these efforts have found success in Sub-Saharan Africa, in the Balkins and in the Asian sub-continent and archipelago populations offers hope for our own crisis and trauma recovery.
America should learn from others who have done what we are about to do. Any bets?
11 September 2005
Fix Taxation for Schools, Libraries, Police and Fire Svs!
Sometimes the ballot item is called a millage tax, other times a bond. Every registered voter can vote, yet only voters owning property are the constituency who will pay the additional taxes. This doesn't seem fair. In cities where a large majority of residents are renters, funding for local services available to all comes only from property owners.
In theory, landlords can pass tax increases to tenants, but rent controls preclude the pass-through as viable. Some years ago, the schools in Peoria, AZ, were some of the worst around. The primary reason was that the tax base for Peoria schools included large developments by Del Webb for retirees on fixed incomes from Social Security and pensions. These residents would vote against every bond or property tax issue on the ballot. And these retirees were well over 60 percent of the district.
Why do such tax burdens only apply to property owners? Property taxes are collected by the local county assessor based on the assessed value of one's property. I suppose the property owners are assumed to have more interest in paying for additional public funds as improvements to their towns. Yet, in San Francisco over 70 percent of residents are renting. There are no financial effects on renters that might inhibit passage of these measures. Plus, the renters are more effective by numbers as an interest group for increasing city and county services and improving same. No politician can ignore this.
So, what might be an alternative means for funding these local initiatives? I don't recall this topic having much priority on the agendas of local governments. Whan can be done?
08 September 2005
Sustaining Social Security and Medicare
Today, all distributions from various IRA's are taxed as Current Income. The government's rationale is that the money saved and earned by a retirement account, including any matching contributions from employers, is considered "tax deferred" unless the individual pays into the IRA after paying income tax.
I propose the following alternatives:
1. Designate all taxes collected from distributions of IRA savings for underwriting Social Security and Medicare, never into General Revenues available for allocations for the Annual Budget proposed by the President and as approved by Congress.
2. Eliminate short-term borrowing of cash revenues from the Social Security and Medicare trust accounts for the needs of other governmental functions. If such a loan is unavoidable, then it must be approved by Congress and signed by the President for a specific amount and repayment date.
3. For current revenues in excess of expenditures of Social Security and Medicare, consider a special distribution to the states for Medicaid costs. In addition, a small amount of the excess should fund the coming year's programs or be distributed to the Veterans Administration for its financial support and health care programs.
Our representatives in Congress should hear these and other suggestions about preserving and extending the financial foundation of Social Security and Medicare.
07 September 2005
Is this why W goes to his Crawford farm so often? [By the way, ranches in Texas are measured by sections, not acres.]
The staffing of the Bush II Administration primarily included managers and staff persons, not CEO or COO roles. Dick Cheney is a notable exception and his corporate experience most likely led to his role of Chief Operating Officer--the day-to-day boss, the controller of business affairs--or, of the Cabinet members and their departments of government. The CEO sets the corporate direction, the vision by which the COO and all operating departments pursue irrespective of function or purpose.
The CEO/COO office delegates authority to the Cabinet which, in turn, delegate limited authority to the several Administration departments--including the military. Typically, accountability for errors, unsuccessful implementation, renegade or whistle-blower sanctions begin at the lowest levels not at the top. The hierarchical nature of delegation of authority allows the senior officers to be insulated from raw information and accountability for failures.
Thus the surprised reactions to 9/11,to the extent of Iraqi resistance forces during US occupation and, currently, hurricane Katrina's power and devastation could come from a corporate thought paradigm which trusts in the functioning of subordinate managers. As noted above, raw information input rarely goes to the CEO/COO unfiltered. That's what staff is for. Further, any failures should be handled as far down in the management structure as possible.
So, it would seem that incompetence in one or two of the departments could have kept W from knowing the extent of damage caused by Katrina. Incompetence at FEMA and Homeland Security seem to be the prime examples, yet will their heads roll? "Good job, Brownie," said W. It's important for the CEO to support his subordinates in tough times.
Then there can be deceit and irregularities going on to which the CEO would be blind. Just ask Ken Lay. How would W know what Karl Rowe is doing, what internecine deals are being blessed or fostered by Cheney and Rowe? Where were they last week? Who's running the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Probably Cheney because his vested interests lie in that region, not New Orleans or Mississippi.
Too bad the Board only meets every four years.