Monday, January 23, 2006

Ford's Solution to Competition

So Ford is losing market share to the Japanese. Seems the Americans prefer Toyotas.

Does Ford announce that they are going to build a better car? Nah.

They decide to fire 30,000 workers. Perfect!

But maybe it's just me.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

It's an ill wind that blows no one any good.

When I was much younger, that saying never made any sense to me. I have subsequently learned that it means that even what we at first might think of as a tragedy might have some beneficial outcome or result, that a purely "ILL" wind is pretty rare indeed.

Disasters, even of the scope of Katrina and 9/11, have brought people together, people who might never have been able to work together before.

In Rhode Island we face a looming fiscal crisis. The numbers don't lie and the handwriting is clearly on the wall for anyone to read. Taxpayers are simply unable to sustain the yearly increases in tax burdens being placed upon them. It's no secret. People are fleeing the state and the most vulnerable are often forced to sell their homes. Even a cursory examination of the data available at the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council's website will quickly confirm it. RIPEC.

So we find ourselves struggling with ways to lower taxes, to make living here more affordable. Who would deny that this is a worthy goal? And yet we get resistance from unions, advocates and entitlement program administrators, in short, anyone who depends on our tax dollars, who worry that important programs and benefits might be cut. These are legitimate concerns and need to be addressed as well.

But there reaches a point when the goose runs out of golden eggs. I hope that it won't take a tragedy to get all of us working together to find ways to make our tax dollars go farther and do more than they do currently. We can have the quality of life we want and pay for it too but we must step back and question "business as usual".

For example:

Do we actually need 39 different fire departments? 39 different school administrations? 39 different health insurance contracts? Or is it that we've gotten used to them, that we just WANT them because they're familiar?

Is this the best way to spend taxpayers' money? Might there be a better way?

We have a long way to go and the work will be hard, but boy, it will be well worth it.

But maybe it's just me.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

A fine state indeed

I have been privileged to participate in a meeting convened to discuss the direction Rhode Island is going especially as it relates to spending. It was painfully clear from the data supplied by RIPEC that the current rate of spending, at all levels is, in a word, impossible.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that as long as outgo exceeds income we are on a collision course with disaster.

The most obvious solutions traditionally focus on how to cut the ever increasing spending. Some facts: (from Lookout TV show January 6, 2005

Third highest spending on total welfare ( averaging $50,000 per family)
Among highest percent of people on welfare.
Seventh highest in education spending
Bottom third in student performance nationally
From 1996 - 2004 40th in getting people off of welfare, among the worst in the country
By 2010 25% of all children will qualify for welfare
By 2010 20% of everyone will be eligible for state aid.
Reimbursement for medical providers are among the lowest:
Low md's pay
Low nurse pay
Low prescription payments

At our meeting it came as no surprise that the most frequently mentioned solutions included:

Cut spending
Force more efficiency
Tax limits to force the above and then
Cut spending some more.

These are indeed necessary. But in the longer view we need to decide on the long range goals.

So I ask the following: Is it enough if we:

Lower cost for education
Lower costs for municipal spending, fire, police, roads etc.
Increase productivity, increase output per employee.
Cut spending on entitlement programs, AFDC, Medicaid, RITE Aid etc.
Force cuts by tax limits?

Is it enough that we have lower spending on education and all the rest? I believe it will be a Pyrrhic victory unless we also:

Make this the best state it can be, not just the least expensive
Have the best educated people. I'd be proud to spend the most on education IF we also had the best students in the country.
Have excellent infrastructure, roads, bridges, and how about putting up enough street signs to help visitors navigate? etc.
Reduce not only spending but dependence on welfare, with compassion.
Have a legislature that will not be deterred from doing the people's business by getting "Abramoffed".

To succeed, we must include in the effort, the recipients of our tax dollars as well as the producers of those tax dollars so that, working together, we can send this message to the legislature - "Listen to the most important 'special interest group' of all, the people of Rhode Island"

Business owners
Town managers
Taxpayer groups
League of Cities and Towns
Citizen advocates.

United we can thrive, divided we shall fail.

But maybe it's just me.

Friday, January 6, 2006

An American Taliban

The latest comment by Pat Robertson is beyond belief. His attitude is precisely the same as the narrow minded Neanderthal thinking of the fundamentalist Taliban. Only the name of their 'god' is different. Below is a copy of an email I sent to channel 12 which broadcasts the 700 Club every morning:

I have always questioned your decision to broadcast a show with a religious agenda such as the 700 Club. This last outrage from Mr. Robertson is the last straw.

I know that it will not mean much to you but it means something to me. I shall not watch Channel 12 again as long as this bigoted program is broadcast by your station.

I'm only one person but one has to do what one feels is right.

Society = One person at a time.

Harvey Waxman

Thursday, January 5, 2006

"It's for the kids". Yeah, right.

This morning's Providence Journal reported a sad fact. Education Week gave Rhode Island a "D" in resource equity and an overall grade of "C", among the lowest in the country for its education system. Shame. What's worse is that this is nothing new. Since I have been talking about property tax reform for the last five years these numbers have changed little if any according my research.

Leadership on both sides, management and employee, legislators and unions, have to stop spending all their time arguing money issues ( we already spend among the most in the country on education ) and begin to concern themselves with performance and attitude.

Only then will the claim "It's for the kids" mean anything.

But maybe it's just me.

Monday, January 2, 2006

Is it a tax incentive or a bribe?

Bribe: make payments in exchange for favors or influence.

When we provide tax incentives to certain companies to entice them to locate here in Rhode Island, are we being fair to other businesses in our state? I don't see much difference between those incentives and bribes. Don't they both try to influence behavior that otherwise would not take place?

Our entire tax system, federal, state, and to a lesser extent local, appears to be riddled with influence peddling.

Maybe it's just me.