Friday, September 09, 2011
The issue of climate change may loom large to the nations of the world as sea levels slowly rise. The outcome of receding floods may be that the prior coastline is obliterated in low lying areas as sea levels have risen from the icemelt in the north and south lands. We're not inundated but the sea level rise continues. Study of the fossil record informs that lands now one way were not always that way. Like fossil seashells in the mountains of New Mexico. Dinosaur bones near Showlow among the pines. We are in a sea of change all the time and are just now beginning to understand the enormity of history and how limited our view has been.
Hurricanes might begin forming where the cold arctic water hits the warm equatorial waters flowing off Africa and now with more melt the water is flowing faster and makes a more energy filled turn when it hits the mass of warm water off North Africa. The wide whirlpool where one meets the other extends to the atmosphere. I wonder what the stats might say about the connection between more and warmer arctic water pouring south. Where is the Antarctic melt going? Does the melt travel towards the equator? The melt occurs in one place where sea levels rise, slowly pushing the excess to an average very gradually. Incremental melting. Storms redistribute the melt. New Orleans would be a good place to look for evidence of sea level rise that is obvious at the poles. Or Bangladesh.
The implication of this for public policy is enormous. Politicians must be willing to address actual problems without worrying about donations to themselves. These problems are too important to allow them to be solved as a secondary issue to any other concern. Arguing about who or what causes warming trends is not my purpose here.
The predicted sea level rise and the predicted increase in precipitation in northeastern North America has so far proven true. What does this have to do with public policy? Here are a few public policy issues and ideas for long term planning concerning climate change.
• Evaluate floodplain data and possibly expand the floodplain designation in low lying areas along coasts and rivers.
• Deny Federal insurance to every property in these low lying areas and provide a relocation fund for needy families. Use cut rate excess housing for these people. If somebody wants to stay in the zone, private property rules but no federal insurance will be held on the property. Voluntary sale of properties in the zones would be the rule, not imminent domain but no federal insurance. Local governments should be held legally responsible if they issue occupational zoning for these flood zones.
• Sell or lease floodzones on the open market for use as pasture, farming and recreation. If local governments retain the land, private contractors could be hired to convert flood prone areas into parks, ball fields and green zones. This action could create jobs in the affected areas, create more recreational areas and enhance tourism. Perhaps some of the floodlands could be leased for temporary concessionaires, like taco and hotdog stands.
These solutions to problems created by sea level rise would take years to implement, which is a long term solution for a long term problem. It would also create jobs immediately and circulate money through the economy. The issue is where is the money for such projects without borrowing? Possibly some of the 'transportation' money could be funneled into reclamation of these lowland recreational areas. Since the infrastructure is in disrepair, attention should be paid to maintenance, rather than creating new roads. We need to utilize existing rather than spending money on new ones that give limited economic benefit to only a few. We need something new, but it isn't new roads. We need roads in excellent repair and that is where those jobs are.
I have drifted to the topic of the repercussions of these actions. Political opposition to rezoning/expanding floodzones due to the loss of value of the land to their constituents will occur but the economic advantages of such recreational areas over time and the savings from national flood insurance as these at risk properties could be partly remitted to the states for a more cooperative attitude. Since the national flood insurance program is billions in deficit, some action must be taken to discourage continued occupation of flood zones and the foolhardy insuring of structures in floodzones.
I do have a few observations about the stimulus. In Tucson, the TIGER Grant from the Feds caused more borrowing and commitment to a streetcar project that will leave the city with a $6 million a year maintenance cost, while the local bus system is already subsidized by $40 million. For the past two years the city has borrowed to pay costs, now has a debt of $1.2 billion, has cut police and fire and services to citizens, ad nauseum. So the TIGER grant put the city in more debt and added $6 million a year to the millions in deficit. Some stimulus.
Apparently, stimulus money was used by the ATF to fund 'Fast and Furious', the gunrunning scandal that is now reaching to the white house. All these people have been transferred, hopefully in a holding tank for interrogation. Do we really need to help depose the legitimate government of Mexico by providing firearms to what look to be revolutionaries funded by drug money? What were they thinking? Were local law enforcement like county sheriffs informed of this scheme? Were the city police chiefs told about this 'Fast and Furious'? This stupid scheme endangered every law enforcement officer in Arizona and they reportedly spent stimulus funds on this horseshit. Were the Border Patrol people informed???
Now the Democrats are screaming about a GOP gun raffle, while they remain conspicuously silent on the issue of the ATF scandal, no doubt because it was the brainchild of the Democratic administration, who apparently has a cavalier attitude about Arizona law enforcement . Those guns surfaced in 23 crime scenes in Phoenix, at the Agent Terry killing, and all over Mexico, including where two of our agents died on a mission close to Tampico. And this is economic help? More jobs for the undertakers and medics?
Tax code revision is coming. I hope they start from scratch, simplify the code and give a calculated group of tax breaks for businesses that locate in the United States and make physical objects to replace imports.
A rationale for this tax break: Fuel costs will increase, which will increase the cost of the overseas objects, particularly the heavy items. As an example, glass making used to be a huge industry but has now been hurt by cheap imports. A tariff on heavy items seems reasonable, as fuel becomes more scarce. Exporting our raw materials seems foolish with unemployment as high as it is here. Let's use the raw materials to create jobs here. We need to keep our precious metals, copper, wood, uranium and anything else of use. Don't export scrap metal, use it to make jobs here at smelters, steel plants and all the things that go into the industry. Think long term goals and jobs as a result of tax breaks, not largesse for political contributors. We really need to help the country.
No tax breaks for non productive investments like derivatives and mortgage securities and equities. If the scheme 'investment' does not create jobs then tax it at a higher rate to discourage the practice. Possibly this kind of 'insurance' should not be tax deductable. These 'derivatives' the originators were so smug about creating something that the peons could not understand just give me your money and I will take care of it for us. It was just another scam. Mr. Bernanke tell me it isn't true that QE2 went to purchase securities in an effort to keep the scheme going? The originator of the loan should be responsible for servicing it and if it goes belly up must pay whomever they sold it to for the full cost. Something has to stop the schemers and charlatans from running this country. Tax heavily those who make a living soliciting and setting up debt.
On from the tax ideas, another problem is the increasing cost and scarcity of fuel. On a positive note, the current administration has taken steps to raise mileage requirements and the carmakers have returned to solvency with new fuel efficient models. Natural gas data needs to be examined. We need a variety of fuel sources. The ethanol industry has begun and should be maintained, for the possible need of it. Federal funding of Research and Development brought us computer technology and there is more creativity where that came from. Fund universities and create student jobs in R&D, not more administration. The ideas are endless and the solutions to national problems are endless but we need to act before the situation reaches crisis stage.
Another problem is population growth. In these times, increasing population will increase joblessness because there are not enough jobs. Each cadre of workers now averages about 9% unemployment and job creation has just about kept pace with population growth. In revising the tax code, perhaps slowing population growth might be accomplished by allowing only one child deduction per person, with higher taxes to be paid for each additional child, in order to pay for the expensive accommodation of more population when unemployment is high. We cannot afford to increase the population at the expense of the rest of the population, who is supporting the surplus with unemployment benefits and welfare. We are no longer expanding into 'empty' territory: we cannot continue to increase in numbers since we are living in a finite space with finite resources. You cannot infinitely expand in a finite territory. One person has one child tax deduction and must pay higher taxes for more children. The encouragement of childbearing through the tax code should be discontinued as an anachronism. The welfare system also must address this problem, the sooner the better. A school tax for more than one child needs to be implemented, in order for the actual parents to contribute towards the education of more than one child. Who else should pay for it?
I don't like the idea of a flat tax. Taxes should be aimed at the phenomena that actually costs the system as solvency has become a problem. Tort reform comes to mind as well as the tax setup on repossessed properties. I heard that lienholders were not paying property taxes on the foreclosed properties and that the local governments need the cash. How about a huge penalty for these lienholders not paying local taxes? If they hold over a certain number of foreclosed properties, they must pay a tax for the police and fire protection fund? To discourage foreclosure, taxes on foreclosed properties must be paid before delinquency. Taxes can be used to form public policy as well as a source of revenue.
Taxes discourage business creation but the number of other ways to discourage business that exist in our society today are legion and the total adds up to stagnation. The price war conducted by foreign nations has replaced too many jobs and now the stuff they sell is rising in price and quality while our workers sit idle. I read of an instance up in the NE part of the country where an object was manufactured welcomed a foreign observer with samples and was later driven out of business by cheap foreign copies. They have tariffs on our goods but we have no tariffs. I know our consumer has enjoyed the low prices but now the unemployment is causing social unrest and welfare costs. We cannot afford to buy so much overseas and pay benefits and welfare to the unemployed. We need a tax on goods we can make ourselves coming into this country. Tax imports and investors will see an opportunity to create jobs here making something: Cotton/cloth/clothes/linens/canvas......See the job possibilities if the unions can restrain their wage demands. I am for open shop because I always disliked paying into a union that did not represent my political beliefs. It was a violation of my civil rights.
Taxing is a valuable tool if the ones wielding the tool are doing it for the public good and not as a personal favor to their contributors, who may or may not be contributing to the public good, but rather feeding from the tax trough. Maybe I'm talking about corruption here. Like you don't give tax breaks to your friends and lay tax on their enemies. We're not on the playground here. We are attempting to plan for the future and petty reasoning should not be heeded.
So back to doing business in my community, which is hampered by licensing, inspections, rejections, favoritism, zoning, neighborhood associations, cronyism and corruption. The desire of the populace to obey the laws allows the bureaucrats who work for the taxpayers to slow things down. The bigger the bribe the faster the service to allow for business activity? Do you realize what I just wrote? Should all these laws, licenses, inspections etc even exist? These laws must be simplified, because communities need some laws like public health laws but they don't need the level of control that is being exerted in an effort to extract money from businesspeople. First we need enabling legislation to Rezone, then throw out all existing zoning and begin again.
Since the local governments have increased spending by borrowing, which is a deep hole, this mania for getting money from people starting a business has catered to the wealthy chains who can afford all the fees and hoopla. During recessionary times, perhaps a different approach could be tried. The 'upscale' chains are going broke and scaling back because the high unemployment rate has less ready cash in the local system. Less cash out of a job doesn't go even midscale, gravitating toward discount and cheap fast food. Less spending means less tax collected by the city, who prefers raising taxes instead of laying off people, useful or not. Raising taxes means less money in the system because people have to now pay more tax instead of consumer spending generating more sales tax. Sometime, governments are going to have to cut spending. Is it beginning now? Devaluation would make each dollar buy more but there would be fewer dollars. Cash is king again and let the pawnbrokers rule. Americans have accumulated material possessions and perhaps can weather a devaluation and possible shortages of material goods and continued high unemployment.
This Rezoning idea of just starting over and changing all the zoning designations would allow for a fresh approach to economic problems. We need to help set up a way for people to actually open their own tiny businesses in their homes, as a mode of survival if nothing else. Idle hands are the devil's workshop. Forcing people to drive long distances to get groceries is going to be counterproductive as fuel supplies dwindle. If our neighborhoods are already set up with a secondary distribution system in the form of farmers' markets and local Abarrotes, it would be easier to cope with a fuel shortage. Trucking or railing in food is cheaper than every family driving in a car to a grocery store. We need more distribution centers in the neighborhoods. The zoning laws are preventing this survival mechanism and also the development of neighborhood small businesses. Zoning as we know it today should be revised