In the crazy world in which we live, a blog looking to make sense of it all.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Obama And The Bailout Mess

If you're like me, you are probably tired of hearing about the federal government bailing out some financial institution that was going under due to its incompetence and/or greed. And while many blame these institutions along with George W. Bush for this mess, I believe much of the blame should be put on the folks in Washington DC as well.

Earlier this year, Missouri Democratic senator Claire McCaskill called Wall Street executives that took bonuses with federal bailout money "idiots." I think we really have to look at the "idiots in Washington DC." They are the ones that sent Wall Street the money in the first place. This exact same problem happened again this week with AIG. And both were from $700 billion bailout plans.

Congressional Republicans were mostly against both bailout plans (and despite former President Bush's support on the October '07 bailout). Though their reasons varied somewhat, it mainly pointed out that it was not the most efficient use of money to stimulate the economy. Since when did the government do anything efficiently?? Our Republican freshman Congressman and "boy wonder" Aaron Schock is already blasting President Obama and other democrats for the recent bailout plan, stating is has not worked. He sights the recent downturn at Caterpillar. Not only is Schock recanting from the GOP party line, but he also shows how wet behind the ears he still is.

Even if this last stimulus plan was perfect, it will still take more than a month's time for someone to see results. Schock supposedly studied finance in school; you'd think he'd understand. Maybe this is what happens when you fast track yourself through college.

At any rate, I do have to mostly agree with Republicans on this one. This $787 billion stimulus is undoubtedly not the most efficient use of taxpayer money and a much better package could have been developed. From what I hear, no lawmaker had even read the entire bill. And from what we can tell, it was filled with earmarks and pork barrel spending. It's probably a wet dream for many politicians. Instead, I feel this stimulus should have been much, much smaller and geared towards infrastructure needs. And I don't agree with any of the tax increase ideas being passed around. Recessions are not the time to enact tax increases. Though the intentions are good, over time, taxes have a way or working its effects to all segments of the population; not just the rich. When an economy becomes overheated and inflation needs to be controlled, then look into tax increases.

This stimulus is just the short term. My biggest fear is what catastrophe this is going to have in the long term. With one swoop of the pen, Obama just increased the deficit and debt three quarters of a trillion dollars. And wait until he gets his nationalized health care going. In a generation's time, I fear that our debt and deficits will be so high that all our tax revenue will go to pay interest and leave nothing for actual needs and services. Yes, the "idiots in Washington DC."

I have just as much fun as the next guy blaming all these problems on George W. Bush, but I think you also need to look at the whole bunch out there in DC. They are the ones crafting shitty legislation, creating earmarks, spending on needless projects, etc. In addition, we have a society that spends like there is no tomorrow, maxxing out their credit cards and taking out consumer loans to purchase things they mostly don't need. All just for status. And it has kept our economy going, until now when they have run out of money. And many feel the government needs to bail them out from their own stupid decisions. All I can say is, if you shit in your nest, you have to sleep in it.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

District 150 To Close and Consolidate Schools

The District 150 School Board yesterday discussed the possibility to close Woodruff High School as well as Tyng, Irving and Kingman primary schools. This measure is being considered to fix a gaping $9.2 million budget deficit projected for next year.

I learned of this news this morning as I didn't catch the news last night. At lunch time today, I learn there is going to be a meeting to discuss this issue set for tonight at 5pm at Godfather's Pizza. WTF! This is less than 24 hours to announce this meeting. People have lives. This gives them very little time to adjust for work, babysitters, etc.

You see, this is how the school board operates. Present a controversial issue to which they have already decided what they want to do regardless of teachers, parents and the public's input. Then call a meeting as short notice as you can get just to give the appearance that they care about parents' input. After the meeting, state that no one showed despite all their great efforts for the public to come together. Finally, the school board follows through on their plans.

I understand that they need to do something to stop the budget hemorrhaging. Nine million dollars is a lot of money. I guess they wish they had the nearly $900,000 they frivolously threw away from secretly buying houses in the East Bluff for the new Glen Oak school. But consolidating schools and reducing the number of teachers will increase class size, and decrease the quality of education. That fits in well with the rest of Peoria.

It is really sad. I went to District 150 schools in the late 60's and 70's and I considered it a great education. I had teachers who really cared about the students well being, inside and out of the classroom. There was discipline and a good environment conducive to learning. My how times have changed.

Update on 1/16/09: From what I've seen on the news and read on some blogs, Godfather's Pizza was packed for the meeting last night. That's great! I hope the community really gets involved in this issue instead of a select few making these critical decisions.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Peoria Chalks Up Another Failed Investment

The recent announcement that Cubs Food is going to close its Midtown Plaza store offers yet more evidence to my prediction that Peoria is becoming another Detroit and will one day be one big ghetto.

Nearly ten years ago, tax increment financing was used to bring Midtown Plaza to fruition. The Peoria City Council overwhelmingly voted for it, with the exception of one councilman to which we all know whom. Eminent domain powers were used (or should we say abused) for the benefit of a private developer. Now the project has failed and it will cost the Peoria taxpayer over $5 million. That's a high price tag for a town running into deficits, a high crime rate, crumbling infrastructure and a failing school system. Meanwhile, the developers exit out unscathed.

All of this should have not happened. But this is Peoria and it did happen. And where are all these council people who approved this mess. Most are gone. For those that remained and voted for this thing, will they take responsibility and be hold accountable?  Most likely, no. 

One would think this teaches us a valuable lesson. But the Peoria City Council still does not learn. They recently approved building a new hotel in downtown Peoria next to the Pere Marquette. And again, if this project fails, the Peoria taxpayer will again be stuck paying off the debt. Meanwhile, developers will exit out unscathed.

Let's take a look at other investments this city's leadership has undertaken.  (1)Civic Center. After 25 years, it still couldn't turn a profit. And with the HRA tax due to sunset, some action needed to be taken to restore it.  The solution is to build a $55 million expansion into this money loser. Now we know the meaning of good money going after bad. (2) Gateway Building. I don't remember offhand, but doesn't this boondoggle lose over $100,000 a year for the city. (3) Riverplex. Has this thing made any money to date? One of the benefits was to allow poor people a place to exercise and get fit. But since it doesn't make money off of poor people, they were pushed to only being allowed to use the facility during off hours. The rich folk are off on the north end of town at a private health club. (4) Ballpark/O'Brien Field. Yep, we really needed more seating capacity from Minen Field. I look around the downtown ballpark and see the same amount of fans there that were there at the previous park. And those palm trees, money well spent.

And similar projects are in the works. The aforementioned hotel, Riverfront Museum and the Glen Oak Zoo addition. One has to admit, the city council's track record on these things suck. And how many more can the city take on until it financially devastates the community? I guess the answer to that is when all the tax revenues are used to pay down interest and debt on this crap and nothing is left for essentials.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Don't Build The Block

This is a simple piece of advice I can give regarding the proposed downtown museum.

Third District Councilman Bob Manning made some very strong comments and observations on the museum this week to which I agree 110%. So I won't try to restate or rehash anything he said here. You can listen to his comments over at The Peoria Chronicle.

Some thoughts I'd like to point out are:

1. How is all this marketing being funded? It costs money to pay for the TV ads, light post banners, newspaper ads, etc. Is this coming out of all the donations the museum has received from the few supporters it has? I'm sure these people meant for this money to be used for brick and mortar purposes, not for campaigning.

2. Should a referendum be held asking Peoria County taxpayers to foot the bill to "build the block," you can expect, as Mr. Manning predicts, heavy marketing on this project as to why voters should vote yes. Will this all be paid out of donations already received for the building of the museum? Will there be a organized group to counteract this campaign? We will need one.

3. Mr. Manning talks about a "Plan B" if there is not enough attendance to support this boondoggle. Is there even any kind of business plan at all? The museum supporters and organizers continue to ask for more time to raise funds. They also keep throwing out different and higher projected costs to build. Do they even know what they are talking about? How do they even put together their projections? It appears there is no plan whatsoever and the fact remains that they do not have a very good track record if you ask me.

The support for this museum is very weak, at best. If it had strong support from the public, the museum organizers would be much, much further than they are now. It's time to stop wasting the people's time, money and resource and just give it up. But they will not and the city council has voted to let them continue. My real fear is that a referendum will come up to raise sales tax to pay for this clunker and the voters will approve it. After that, we will be stuck with this tax forever.

Common Sense of it All: Like Mr. Manning, I too have zero confidence in the museum. I have posted on this blog before about how I believe that it is destined to fail. I don't see how it will ever support itself. Once a tax is enacted, it will never go away; especially with this project. God in Heaven above won't even be able to reverse this tax as the museum will indefinitely need public funding to operate. Councilman Bob Manning gets an A+ in common sense!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Justice Prevails

This past week has been a "two-for."  First we get the conviction of OJ Simpson.  And now, finally, Governor Rod Blagojevich is getting his.

By now everyone has heard Blago was arrested early this morning at the Illinois executive mansion now located in Chicago.  The big charge, though I'm not really surprised about it, was the appointment of the state's vacated Senate office given to the highest bidder.  Just how low will this man stoop to get money and power?

What really boggles my mind is how he got re-elected in 2006.  Can't people see through all his shenanigans?  The first 4-year term should have been enough to tell you this man was crooked. Right from the start when he refused to move to Springfield, it was my opinion he felt he was above Springfield and that he didn't want to live in some "hick" town.  Of course he fooled everyone into believing he didn't want to take his kids out of their school.

While running for office in 2002, Blagojevich promised to govern as a reformer and was going to straighten out the mess left by Republicans and George Ryan. In my opinion, the state now has bigger problems and is in worse shape than when Ryan left office. Blagojevich, I believe, is the largest part of the problem in dealing with the state's crisis. Money is very tight, but yet it pays for all his flights to and from Chicago and Springfield.  He does not get along with most of Illinois' legislators.  His ideas are whacked (ie the gross receipts tax) and he tries to strong arm people into getting his way.

And now, even though he knew the Feds were watching and investigating him for the past 3 years, he just blatantly pulls these current stunts.  In fact, the night before he badgered the Feds on.  And we thought Aaron Schock was arrogant.  Is he insane?  If he's not stopped, what else is he capable of doing?

Common Sense of it All: There is a lot of talk of impeachment.  Some predict that it won't happen.  But I think many politicians want to get this over with ASAP.  And if Blago won't resign which many, if not all, of Illinois' leaders want, there could be more pressure to push impeachment. I can easily see Blago refusing to resign. Impeachment could be possible in the House, but less likely to be tried in the Senate.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Last Minute Election Comments

After a record setting 22-months, this hell called campaign season is about over.  I thought I'd take a few moments to leave some last minute election comments before the polls open tomorrow morning.

Barack Obama - For months now we've heard Obama explain his tax plan which he claims that anyone or any small business making less than $250,000 will not see their taxes go up.  This must be the definition of middle class for Obama.  Anyhow, more then ever, the middle class is invested in the stock market.  Under the Bush tax cuts of 2001, the long term capital gain tax rate dropped to 15%; the taxes on qualified dividends dropped to 15% as well.  The Bush tax cuts are to sunset after 2010, which these tax rates will rise to their pre-2001 level.  So if Obama is promising that those with less then $250k in income will not see their taxes rise, does this mean he is going to strive to make these Bush tax cuts permanent, because these rates will rise automatically.

Obama is a decent looking man who is well spoken and well mannered.  I don't know how much substance there is beyond that.  In the 4 years since he has become a US Senator, he's spent half that time running for President.  The man is very liberal politically.  But the important thing is how well he can work with others and how open to compromise he is.  But it strikes me odd how this guy can fill stadiums like he's a rock star, but yet only be polling in the low 50% over McCain.

John McCain - I think McCain has lost his direction.  I cannot believe some of the things he says at times.  Example: In mid-September, McCain claimed the fundamentals of the economy were sound.  This is days before the big meltdown on Wall Street.  McCain's pick of Palin for VP was probably not the wisest of choices.  She does have some positive qualities, but not enough to garner for the VP slot.  It did get big press and did jump start the ranks in the Republican party, but I think that was short lived.  I like Palin personally and she's easy on the eyes, but the whole situation is reminiscent of Bush 41's pick of Dan Quayle in 1988.

18th Congressional Race - The biggest and latest flap going on is Republican Aaron Schock's involvement in "notary-gate."  The Schock apologists are saying this is not a big deal. Democrats and opponents say this shows lack of character and that he may not be trusted.  I have to lean towards saying that this does display lack of judgement and character.  A notary dating a document one or two days off is no big deal; a full year is really stretching it.

Schock first states that he didn't remember the details of the situation as it was 7 years ago.  A day or two later, Schock then claims that this backdating was a "clerical error."  So is Schock changing his story now?  Didn't Schock's father under sworn testimony claim these documents were purposely backdated by almost a year?  How is that a "clerical error?"

Schock and his supporters also claim that his father did not benefit from this deal.  Of course they did not benefit because they were scammed.  But do you think that's why they entered into this deal, so they would not benefit?  No, they tried to benefit from it by reducing their tax liabilities.  I don't know what the details are on this tax shelter they tried to establish, but according to authorities, it was or appeared legit.  The real question I would like to see answered is this; what was the reason as to why they had Schock backdate these documents.

And politics as usual, Democrats used this to the fullest to paint Schock in a bad light.  I'm disappointed in Colleen Callahan and her campaign for using so much negative advertising and mud slinging.  This incident became more fuel for her fire.  She does have some good ideas on the issues facing this year's campaign, but she never really seemed to make them public.  

I liked it that Callahan and Green Party candidate Sheldon Schafer entered the race because they are not career politicians. It gave us a chance for real change.  Schock has already become a career politician and I feel he will make no difference in Washington.  He will be like all the other self-serving politicians there.  Many of Schock's endorsements, including the Journal Star, state that he's done quite a lot.  When they sight what he has done, they only list all the elections he's won; nothing about what he's done in office.  Perhaps his biggest accomplishment is bringing Kay Royster to District 150.

Schock will most likely win tomorrow, but I don't believe it will be by landslide margins.  There are many Republicans who are not happy with him.  I will predict the real surprise will be from Schafer, who will probably do quite well as a third party candidate.

Common Sense of it All:  The only poll that matters is the one taken on Election Day.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Completely Predictable

Did anyone catch The Amy Poehler Show, er, I mean Saturday Night Live last night?  It opened with Poehler as Hillary R. Clinton and Tina Fey in a guest appearance as Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin. This did not come as a big surprise for me.  Ever since McCain picked Palin as his running mate, many in the media commented how Palin looks similar to Tina Fey (or the other way around), especially wearing Tina Fey glasses.

As the two women completed their sketch, one thing that was apparent to me was that the majority of dumbing down jokes were against Sarah Palin.  That was also of no surprise.  It's clear that Tina Fey leans strongly to the left.  And from the past years on SNL, most of her material was geared against conservatives and Republicans.  And lately, these groups have given them plenty of ammo.  But this is parody and I don't have any problem with it.  The only thing I had a problem with was, well... it just wasn't funny.  This skit was like two giddy sorority chicks hamming it up for a camera.

I could only watch about 15 minutes of last nights show until I had to switch channels.  I just couldn't stomach this crap.  Michael Phelps was the host.  And as an Olympic hero and great athlete, I didn't think he was host material.  But he gave it a great effort.

I have noticed that Saturday Night Live over the last 5-6 years going downhill fast.  But last night's opener was just horrible.  When this topic comes up with my friends or family, their thoughts are similar to mine that the show is no good anymore.  I don't know.  Am I just too old and still fondly remember the days of Belushi, Akroyd, Murray, Murphy, Lovitz, Meyers and Carvey?  And is it me or is Amy Poehler in about each and every sketch the show features And it seems each sketch is based on some sort of TV show?

Last year I thought the program improved some, but not by much.  If last night's episode was any indicator, we're in for another suck year.

Common Sense of it All: Merely only my opinion, but I think that Julia Louis-Dreyfus looks more like Sarah Palin.  Put some "Tina Fey glasses" on her, have Conan O'Brien write the material and I believe she can do a better job of impersonating Palin.   I feel Dreyfus is 1.)a more superior actress and 2.) she's proven she can do comedy (she's "Elaine" and "Old Christine").  What we saw last night on SNL was completely predictable.