November 22, 2011
I know that Ariana Stassinopolous, aka Ariana Huffington, has become a laughingstock even perhaps among the left. And Rush of course lampoons her online rag, the Huffington Post.
Nonetheless, no matter how one tries to lampoon something like this, it always lampoons itself the best.
This article, which is of earth-shaking importance, is entitled, "Sex With Animals Can Lead To Penis Cancer."
Who cares? Who studied it? And most of all, why is this being reported in the Huffington Post?
What's next? The Daily Kos giving tips on the dangers to child abusers?
November 21, 2011
This is a political blog, or had its roots in one. I recall when I used to bluster even more than I do now. But I remembered something personal from the late 60s and it amused me.
I have never cared for sports; I have nothing against them and I ought to have cared more for them for they would have done me good; my life has been nearly entirely centered in my mind. So I never did, really, see the point: balls are meant to be chased by dogs and children, and when I was in junior high I was already chafing at being a boy. I wanted to grow up. Then.
At the end of most PE classes we were told to play dodgeball. At least in Pecos it was played in the gym with the volleyballs which resided on two racks The coaches would divide the boys, and as soon as we were divided, I'd go and put my back against the wall, hiding behind the other boys.
The aggressive boys instantly went to get the new, perfect balls covered by pristine canvas over the rubber bladder. They were pretty. And they're big. You'd have to be an NFL player to palm one, and these were junior-high boys, who could only throw it as though their hand was a piston with the ball on top. Never got much aim or velocity.
So those balls were fairly easy for the first rank of boys to dodge; the boys in the second rank couldn't see them and got put out. When the balls got to the back, where I was trying to be invisible, I'd make a judgment call. If the ball was new and pretty, I'd toe it up for the aggressive boys to throw, and expose themselves to being hit. If the ball was old, and the older the better, it was for me.
I loved those, and put them behind me while I circulated the perfect balls up front.
As the boys kept putting each other out, I kept hoarding the good-bad balls. Finally when nearly everyone was out, I'd grab up the balls with the torn canvas handles, which worked just great, and I could sling a ball side-armed that was too fast to dodge well. I could throw one every two or three seconds, and faster by far than anyone else. A completely new method of dodge ball, not that the world was clamoring for one.
And you know what? I nearly always won.
For some reason most men don't see the humor in this one but then I don't see any virtue to sports other than the cardio. Perhaps something in the blood?
One sunny day in January, 2013, an old man approached the White House from across Pennsylvania Avenue where he'd been sitting on a park bench. He spoke to the U.S. Marine standing guard and said, "I would like to go in and meet with President Obama."
The Marine looked at the man and said, "Sir, Mr. Obama is no longer President and no longer resides here."
The old man said, "Okay," and walked away.
The following day the same man approached the White House and said to the same Marine, "I would like to go in and meet with President Obama."
The Marine again told the man, "Sir, as I said yesterday, Mr. Obama is no longer President and no longer resides here."
The man thanked him and again just walked away.
The third day the same man approached the White House and spoke to the very same U.S. Marine, saying, "I would like to go in and meet with President Obama."
The Marine, understandably agitated at this point, looked at the man and said, "Sir, this is the third day in a row you have been here asking to speak to Mr. Obama. I've told you already that Mr. Obama is no longer the President and no longer resides here. Don't you understand?"
The old man looked at the Marine and said, "Oh, I understand. I just love hearing it."
The Marine snapped to attention, saluted, and said, "See you tomorrow, Sir!"
November 17, 2011
On Sunday, the Midland Reporter Telegram Editorial Board weighed in on the economic development tax.
Diversification was the driving effort in 2001 when voters agreed to this tax. When voters passed the tax they wanted diversity and higher-paying jobs to replace the ones that left the community during the late 1990's oil bust.
This goal and direction of the MDC has changed since voters passed this tax. The voters should have the final answer on whether to continue on this path, whether to dedicate the quarter-cent for infrastructure or eliminate the tax.
I applaud the MRT's Editorial Board for taking the stance that entities that are created and funded by the taxpayers should be held accountable to their purpose and mandate at the time they were authorized by the voters. Once an entity strays into areas that are contrary to their original mandate, it is time for them to determine the will of the voters through the ballot box, not through assumptions that lead to the adoption of the latest Plan from an out of town consultant.
November 14, 2011
Victor Davis Hanson writes in NROnline a very bracing article: that America is not in the terminal decline that it seems, frankly, to me that we are. He names our universities; we have most of the really good ones on earth, even if we cannot educate children in public school.
(Hanson is one of the most thoughtful of all journalists, and he's also a military historian and former classics professor, who has a long view of things.)
Here in America we have a nation which was founded entirely on a political idea and codified. We deliberately have an open and transparent society and it's been the result of two centuries of people who decided that America would be a meritocracy, and not judge people, as is done in the Middle East, by religion; not by caste as the Indians do; not by accents as the Europeans do; but by what people themselves can do. He points out, very rightly, that it is inconceivable that a black man could be president of France, even though France has traditionally been very friendly to blacks.
The Obama experiment of the last three years did not bring prosperity, and is likely soon to prompt a sharp reaction and a return to the American devotion to individualism and choice that made us the wealthiest nation in history. The American model is the antithesis of the socialism, Communism, theocracy, and statism that have impoverished so much of the world -- and the 21st century has brought that fact home in a way few imagined.
I hope he's right; I hear the dinning of entitled voices everywhere, voices which have been nurtured in resentment and who will not give it up for the honest work of honest work.
Suddenly I get Obama's sneer about American exceptionalism. To a progressive, there is no exceptionalism except his own because it hurts to look up to anything. And, if we can beat down the progressives, the equal-opportunity destroyers of wealth and prudence and character, the 21st century will also be an American century.
November 13, 2011
The Great Os was good enough to take one of these (Part III) so here goes:
An interesting set of quotes concerning Entrada Building A found in the MRT article of 11/06/2011, Economic Development Sales Tax: 10-Year Review:
But first, some history: Entrada Building A was determined by the MDC to be a much needed (and presumably demanded) feature of the Entrada Business Park. It was built at a cost of at least a couple of million bucks (I'm guessing) and was available for occupancy on August 18, 2006. It has yet to see an occupant since it was available five years ago.
Some more history: The "Chunnel" was built in five years.
More history that is even more history-ish: Hadrian's Wall was built in five years.
Now, we know what happens in the private sector when someone builds a spec building and it sits empty for five years. That someone either has a load of cash reserves to absorb the losses or the building is...um...removed from them. Either way, the market provides the proper feedback.
In the land of unicorns, fairy dust, and Economic Development there is no such feedback. Quite the contrary, in fact. A spec building that has gone un-occupied for five years is actually seen as an asset:
The building was completed near the end of 2004. It remains empty. But, [Economic Developemnt officials] said it's been a vital component of the MDC's economic development offerings.
"When we made the decision to put it out there, the people who we were in competition with had buildings," James said. "We were years behind communities that had been out there. We just didn't have those resources. It's obviously sad the building's still empty."
With the building, Billingsley said the MDC was able to stay on the list of cities being considered by several companies. Even if the company didn't end up needing the building, just having it there gave Midland an edge to compete in certain industries, he said.
"If you don't have that, you're not competing," he said. "The competition is over."
On the one hand we are told that it is sad that we have not found an occupant for the building. On the other we are told that in order to even stay in the ED game we need to have such a building available. So which is more valuable to us? An occupied building or one that keeps us competitive by being available?
To be fair I can actually see the argument for both (even if I do not agree) but taken together it only makes sense if they are willing to immediately build another building as soon as the first is filled. Even if it too has to sit empty for five years before an occupant can be found.
Keep that in mind while (if you have a few minutes) you get on Google Earth and look at Midland using the "Historical Imagery" feature and see for yourself what kind of development has gone on since Entrada Building A was built.
Development that has all gone on without the benefit of government directed incentives and subsidies.
CORRECTION: This Wikipedia entry states that Hadrian's Wall actually took closer to six years to complete and not the five years stated above. On the other hand, it was occupied almost immediately.
November 9, 2011
I do not, truthfully, know if Herman Cain has a zipper problem. I do know that if he does, it is dwarfed by Bill Clinton's zipper problem. Recall that Betsy Wright, the Clinton thug from Alpine, coined, "bimbo eruptions," (a term later blamed on Republicans; another liberal lie) and John Podesta, later White House Chief of Staff, was hired to, er, fix them. By which we mean bribe or threaten women who by all the evidence had a lot more misuse than any of Cain's accusers have so far come up with. Credible charges of rape are more serious than a rebuffed grope.
As the world knows, four women, at last count, have leveled charges of harassment, which sometimes has been defined down to being "uncomfortable," at him but the first two women remained anonymous and the charges were vague. Even reporting those was a bad day for the left-wing media. Anonymous charges are to be dismissed out of hand; recall the terror of anonymous charges in Leonardo's Florence. They truly did cause a reign of terror and it is one of the tenets of a liberal democracy that one gets to face one's accusers.
The charges that I've heard Sharon Bialek level against Cain are not that pretty. But let's look at them. Bialek said that Cain put his hand on her leg and tried to touch her private parts. She also claimed that he tried to pull her head toward his crotch. Both at the same time? But here's the telling bit: she also said that after she said stop, he did. And that he drove her to a destination and let her out. This is a far cry from Slick Willie raping at least one woman, which he most certainly did and the media tried to ignore that. Also do you remember Mary Jo Kopechne, murdered by the Lion of the Senate?
Back to the world where a Republican is guilty if he can be made to look guilty.
According to the Texas Secretary of State's website, Proposition 4 on the constitutional amendment ballot yesterday, failed.
Here's the explanatory statement for Propostion 4 from VoteTexas.org:
Proposition Number 4 (HJR 63)
HJR 63 would amend the constitution to authorize the legislature to permit a county to issue bonds or notes to finance the development or redevelopment of an unproductive, underdeveloped, or blighted area within the county, and to pledge increases in ad valorem tax revenues imposed on property in the area by the county for repayment of such bonds or notes. The amendment does not provide independent authority for increasing ad valorem tax rates.
The proposed amendment would appear on the ballot as follows: "The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to permit a county to issue bonds or notes to finance the development or redevelopment of an unproductive, underdeveloped, or blighted area and to pledge for repayment of the bonds or notes increases in ad valorem taxes imposed by the county on property in the area. The amendment does not provide authority for increasing ad valorem tax rates."
Basically, the legislature was trying to give Counties the ability to be a TIRZ creator (which Cities currently enjoy) and borrow a whole bunch of money to try and redevelop an area and then confiscate the increase in ad valorem taxes from all the other taxing entities to pay for the County Government's investment.
Just imagine Midland County being able to do what the City of Midland did to create the downtown TIRZ (*shudder*). You know that entitity that sucks up all the increase in ad valorem taxes in downtown from every entity but the school board. Yeah, the one that causes many of our elected officials to wrongly state with great frequency that downtown development is reducing our homestead property tax burden beacuse of all that new value. It isn't. It is going into a downtown development slush fund with a pretty vague purpose right now.
I hope this means the public is starting to reject the idea that government of any type should be involved in financing, directing or otherwise participating in the real estate and development market.
November 7, 2011
The deal with Apache Corp., which was approved in 2010, is an example of great expansion in Midland's chief industry, Rendall said.
Apache may have come to Midland without the incentive, but it has been a great partner, Rendall said. The company already has nearly four times the jobs it agreed to in its $250,000 contract and continues to work with the MDC to recruit new employees to Midland.
Rendall said MDC will continue looking to diversify but that contracts like Apache's will have a place in Midland because the energy sector -- whether oil, wind or solar -- always will be a staple.
"You have to recognize that is our bread and butter industry," he said.
It should go without saying that oil & gas being our bread and butter industry here in Midland was pretty well recognized ten years and $47 million ago.
Ten years ago the voters were told by those campaigning for the 4A Sales Tax that only by diversifying our local economy away from the oil and gas business could we secure Midland's future. Actually, it went further than that. We were told that Midland was essentially doomed unless we passed the 4A tax. Now we award "incentives" to giant firms that not only are in the oil and gas industry (the same oil and gas industry that we were told we needed to diversify away from) but are companies that were already here in Midland.
Is the money being used as we were told it would be ten years ago? You be the judge. If you are interested, have a look at the series of posts from Jessica's Well in March/April of 2010 that went through a series of Letters to the Editor written by proponents of the sales tax in the run-up to the election. They are posted below.
(Have the tax dollars raised by the creation of the 4A sales tax been spent as voters were told they would be? You be the judge. The following is re-posted from April, 2010.)
The ED Wayback Machine, Part I: If we don't pass this tax, then the Terrorists will have won!
Microfiche is a wonderful thing. Okay, I take that back. Microfiche is a total pain now that we have all gotten used to internet based archives.
Nevertheless, we have taken the time to go through some of the microfiched copies of issues of the Midland Reporter-Telegram around the time the Economic Development Sales Tax was passed on November 6, 2001......on it's third try I should mention...the voters obviously having gotten it wrong the first two times it was brought forth. Enlightened (and almost certainly outside-the-box) thinking finally won out and the voters decided the issue...(some say for all time)...with a vote in the affirmative. Midland would have its Economic Development Sales tax and thereby guarantee its future.
We found campaign ads, Letters to the Editor, a couple of "Speaking Out" columns, and some Editorial Opinions. Over the next few days (or until we run out) we will be posting some of the better ones.
The Economic Development Sales Tax has been with us for nearly a decade. In that time, the pseudo-governmental agency known as the Midland Development Corporation has pulled over $25 million out of the local economy. It has banked most of that both denying the taxpayers of Midland the use of their own money and also precluding the much vaunted "multiplication factor" used by the High Priests of the Church of ED when artificially inflating the impact of every dollar they re-direct from the free market.
Of the money that has been spent, no real success can be shown in regard to Midland's economic development nor its diversification. Companies are lining up to "renegotiate" the terms of their "forgivable loans" from the MDC. Indeed, the Mother of All Economic Development Success Stories, the original Cingular arrangement, has essentially collapsed as far as any promise to alter or diversify the local economy.
Now, almost ten years later, in light of all that we now know regarding the performance of our local economic development initiatives, have a look at these archived items and see how well the promises have matched up with the performance.
(Originally posted by Walsingham on March 25, 2010)
(Have the tax dollars raised by the creation of the 4A sales tax been spent as voters were told they would be? You be the judge. The following is re-posted from March 26, 2010.)
The ED Wayback Machine, Part II: This economic development stuff is easy!
See? All it takes to make a multi-billion dollar global corporation do something it had previously thought was not in its interest is to throw just around $300,000 per year at them. And Cingular is big! They will always be here!
What a deal, indeed!
This economic development stuff is easy! We should do more of it!
(Note: In keeping with standard Well practice of not using anyone's names unless we just have to we will be blanking out the names of the authors of these letters. We do this for several reasons. One, Google is forever and while the issues at hand will always resurface from time to time there is no need to have anyone's actual name bubbling up through search engine results from now until forever. Two, we have a "No Hounding" rule here at The Well which states that once someone is out of the news for a period of time they are to be left alone. These letters were written almost ten years ago and none of the authors envisioned them re-surfacing stamped with their names. Further, we don't want this to be a personal gotcha to the authors. The content of the letters is what is important and this is why: 50% of all of these kinds of Letters to the Editors are written by the campaign itself and then a signatory is found for them. 40% are actually written by the signatory but depend heavily on direct information from the campaign. So reading these letters is the best way to get a feel for what the "official" proponents believed (or at least told others) the economic development sales tax would achieve.)
(Originally posted by Walsingham on March 26, 2010)
(Have the tax dollars raised by the creation of the 4A sales tax been spent as voters were told they would be? You be the judge. The following is re-posted from March 28, 2010.)
ED Wayback Machine, Part III: We will use this money to diversify the economy. Except when we don't.
In the archives are many, many letters just like this one. Too many to count. All with the same drumbeat: Midland is too tied to an oil-based economy and we need this money from the taxpayer so that we can go out and recruit businesses for Midland who are not part of the oil-based economy. That way we are protected from the downside of business cycles that inevitably come and go.
Actually, it goes a much further than that. The business cycles are usually a result of the market demand (and therefore price) of oil. When the price of oil is high, Midland thrives. When the price of oil is low, Midland suffers a bit. But these cycles are just that. Cycles.
There were also many letters like this one:
One of the biggest arguments offered by the campaign for an Economic Development Sales Tax and its supporters was not simply that we needed to protect ourselves from these business cycles but that the oil reserves on which our economy was based were simply going away. The author of one letter compared Midland to a mining town and stated that he was not aware of a town based solely on mining that survived.
But over the life of the MDC, it has given a lot of money away to companies that 1) are already here, 2) are already coming here without any MDC-driven public subsidies, 3) operate in the oil-based economy, 4) are currently in default (or about to be) on the terms of their agreement with the MDC, or 5) are all of the above. (In fact, here is a challenge: List the companies that the MDC has "incented" that don't fit into one of the above categories.)
Every dollar that the Midland Development Corporation extracts from the economy and turns over to these companies in the oil business like Basic Energy and now the global multi-billion dollar Apache Corporation reveals fully half of the reasoning behind the need for an ED sales tax to be an outright falsehood. I'd call it an outright lie but for the fact that it is a Sunday morning so I feel the need to be more civil. And also because, at the time, the authors of these letters probably really believed what they wrote about what the purpose of this tax money was and how it was to be used.
We have said before that the local economic development establishment behaves and operates as though economic development is whatever the hell they say it is on any given day. Ten years ago the oil patch was going away. Apache Corporation quite apparently disagrees and has decided (with zero artificial incentives needed) to set up a regional office here to handle the acquisitions they have made in the area over the past several years. Still, the local development corporation finds it necessary to hand over a quarter of a million dollars of public money to Apache Corporation to....to do what, exactly? Just spend it locally somewhere?
That kind of sounds like...um..."Stimulus Money"...if you know what I mean.
Go back and read the campaign literature...or wait for it to show up here. It doesn't take much reading to realize that the Midland Development Corporation, along with the City Council, has essentially re-purposed the money that they asked the public for back on November 6, 2001. Yes, I know that "The Law" allows the MDC to spend the money on these things, just as the law allows a panhandler on the street to buy a bottle of vodka with the money he asked you for just so he could get a hot meal.
I would like to think that there is at least one member of the City Council...or even more than one member who would take an honest look at the money that has been taken out of the economy in the last ten years and, taking into consideration the original claims of what the money was for and to whom it would go, and then compare that to what is obviously now a manifest change in philosophy (not to mention the spectacular lack of any success) and then wonder if, just perhaps, the voters should be consulted again.
But then, that's just crazy talk. Because what has happened to this money is what happens to almost all government-run "Investment in our Future!" programs. At the beginning, it was money that was to be used for a specific purpose from which specific results would be achieved.
Ten years on, the money has been re-purposed; there are no discernable results, and what was once asked for from the public is now seen as an entitlement by local public officials both elected and unelected. Among the incenteratti, immediately upon the failure of Plan A there will always be a Plan B (or C or D...), or the need for "improved communications", or the hiring of more consultants to point out Airpark on a map and call it an "Opportunity Zone" or some damned thing to justify the money they take and to help explain away their lack of (positive) impact.
The idea that this money is better left in the hands of the taxpayers never survives. Because, you see, in the eyes of Official Midland, it's their money now. Not yours.
(Originally posted by Walsingham on March 28, 2010)
(Have the tax dollars raised by the creation of the 4A sales tax been spent as voters were told they would be? You be the judge. The following is re-posted from March 29, 2010.)
ED Wayback Machine, Part IV: Government Bailouts? No problem!
It seems like I have heard something recently involving Chrysler and taxpayer assistance...although I am sure I don't what it was.
Now, while the author of this letter apparently has no problem with even serial government bailouts, the fact of the matter is that most Midland voters probably do. And anyway, these are not bailouts, right? Or even subsidies. They are forgivable loans. Forgivable loans with hard-wired, iron-clad, taxpayer-protecting, "Clawback Provisions" that sometimes make the more traditional loan agreements with professional private lenders look tame by comparison. In fact, in many of these agreements the Shilocks at the MDC/City are even harder on the "Lendee" than would be any private sector lender. I know this because I read it in the paper:
Ten years later, reality has asserted itself. Currently, several of the MDC's "clients" are attempting to renegotiate their agreements; presumably to make them less stringent, not more. We shall soon see what the actual level of enforcement on these agreements is going to be. It is a tough one. On the one hand, these companies are probably hurting. On the other, we certainly don't want to be written down as patsies to future "incentees". Well, as much as one can have an economic development fund at all and not be seen as a patsy, anyway.
We have asked these questions (and others) before, but the opportunity presents itself again:
- Philosophically, what is the difference between the MDC taking money from the taxpayers and giving it to [Insert MDC Client Name Here] and the Obama administration taking money from the taxpayers and giving it to Chrysler or GM?
- Should the MDC/City Council decide not to actually enforce these contracts (or should they renegotiate them down) isn't that the exact same thing as a taxpayer bailout?
An interesting paragraph from above:
"The economic development agreement is sometimes more stringent than normal business agreements because public funds are involved, and the city has an interest in seeing that these dollars are protected and not wasted."
Really? Then given an actual choice, why would any company choose the more stringent agreement? They wouldn't ever.....unless they were betting that the provisions in the agreement, however stringently written, won't be enforced.
The dice are rolling on that as we speak.
And, yes, everything that is happening nationally applies here. Directly. Every reason there is on why the Obama Administration and the U.S. Congress shouldn't try to direct an economy at the national level applies in every way to the Midland Development Corporation and the City Council at the local level.
(Originally posted by Walsingham on March 29, 2010)
(Have the tax dollars raised by the creation of the 4A sales tax been spent as voters were told they would be? You be the judge. The following is re-posted from March 30, 2010.)
ED Wayback Machine, Part V: Naysayers! They have no vision!
Many of the letters we found (and a couple of the Editorials) shared the same theme. It was a public economic policy death match between The Enlightened vs.The Aginners. Vision vs. Venom. Nuance vs. Naysaying.
The letter above was a classic example. Referring to the two previous elections when the local citizenry voted down proposals to create an ED Sales Tax, this author unflinchingly lays at the feet of the "Naysayers" the loss of 3,500 local jobs. Please note that this letter also beats the "The Oil Is Running Out! We Must Act Now!" drum. To which I respond, "Welcome, Apache!"
The more I read these letters, the more I come to realize that the fear-mongering that the proponents of the ED Sales Tax employed to get this thing passed almost exactly mirrors the tactics of the Global Warming crowd. Indeed, passing this tax was outright deemed a good and proper response to the attacks of September 11, just two months earlier.
Opponents couldn't possibly have any principled opposition to the tax. They could only be "Naysayers", "Aginners", "Haters of Midland", cheap skinflints, or perhaps just mentally ill. My personal favorite was "the usual suspects". But the arguments used by many of the "Aginners" should have at least sounded familiar to the proponents. They are the exact same arguments that so many of the ED Sales Tax proponents voice when talking about governmental involvement in the marketplace. At least when it takes place on the other side of the Midland County line, anyway.
This letter goes on to school the non-believers and lack-of-visioners with a bulleted list:
- Implementing a well-conceived action plan is always preferable to doing nothing.
Really? What's your point? Okay, that is too easy. Ten years after the passing of the ED Sales Tax all talk of well-conceived action plans still has them residing in the future somewhere. The landscape is littered with the corpses of what were evidently ill-conceived action plans. Dean Baldwin Painting. Countrywide Mortgage. Entrada Building A. So as snarky as it sounds, at this point and with ten years of empirical data to look at, we really are able to ask, "What's your point?"
- 25 cents per $100 is an insignificant investment to insure [sic] a positive economic future for Midland.
Yes, this looks so much better than, say, "Paying out almost a million dollars per year in administrative overhead in order to bank $25 millon dollars is the way to ensure a positive economic future for Midland."
- Midland must diversify its economy if it is going to survive the future.
And by "Midland" we mean six political appointees getting together and spending public funds to try and move the local economy in a direction they think is desirable by distributing money to out-of-town rent-seekers and local friends of the Chamber.
- Economic diversification doesn't just happen without competitive advantages.
This is one of the most maddening arguments offered up by self-professed "fiscal conservatives". Please explain to me when it was that a lower tax rate became a competitive disadvantage. The difference seems to hinge solely on who it is that gets to spend the money. Again, again, and again....those "Other People" tax and spend, "We" invest! Dr. FrankenChamber is able (and certainly willing) to re-animate the dead hand of government. But it only works when "we" do it, you see. I guess it's that "vision" thing. Or maybe nuance. Or something.
- For Midland to continue to be a vibrant community it must keep and attract its young people.
I agree. Midland needs more attractive young people and if I thought an ED Slush Fund could do that, I might vote for it myself.
- The only way to attract young people is to create good paying jobs and economic opportunities.
Beating a dead horse here, but how is it that these "fiscal conservatives" so easily allow themselves the idea that the most direct and streamlined route to a vibrant economy and job creation is...wait for it...the creation of a tax-sucking bureaucracy. But of course!
- If you lose your job next week, where will you move to find a good paying job?
Gee, I don't know. Maybe I'll ask one of those 3,500 people that I helped usher out of town by voting against the ED Sales tax the first two times where it is they went. Pathetic.
Well, it is 10 years later. Yes, where would Midland be today without this tax?
(Originally posted by Walsingham on March 30, 2010)
(Have the tax dollars raised by the creation of the 4A sales tax been spent as voters were told they would be? You be the judge. The following is re-posted from April 6, 2010.)
ED Wayback Machine, Part VI: That Free Market thing? That's like sooooo Reagan. We're smarter than that now.
The last highlighted paragraph here illustrates the whole problem with the mindset of a committed "economic developer", i.e. the market isn't doing what we want so the market must be wrong.
Plus, it is a false choice. "Doing nothing" in this case should more properly be described as not getting in the way of "supply and demand" or, as some would call it, the free market. This is the default choice of 90% of those pushing the ED Sales Tax as long as we are talking about anything other than the ED Sales Tax. "Doing something" in this case means initiating an increase in taxes and creating at least two new layers of bureaucracy all so six unelected officials can...um...correct the mistakes of market participants by re-routing your tax dollars into private companies in sufficient levels for them to see the error of their ways.
"The economic development plan and sales tax is a 'stabilization plan', designed to attract businesses from other industries to relocate here, help diversify the economy and reduce our dependence on the oil and gas sector."
I guess the 'Stabilization Plan' was Plan A and resides squarely under the bus with Plans B and C. We are now at Plan D (MDC Image Rehab) which is why we are subsidizing parking garages for oil industry service company giant Basic Energy Services and slipping Apache Corporation some money to buy something pretty for themselves. If you think that perhaps Plan D might represent a clear re-purposing of the of ED Sales Tax funds as originally stated then you lack...you know..."vision".
".....and spending in the community like construction, materials, supplies, services, etc."
Remember: Washington Stimulus Package: Bad! Midland Stimulus Package: Good!
"All investments will be based on performance-based criteria."
"These investments will be paid back should the company not meet its obligations."
Again, the City Council has before it several decisions that will tell us whether that is indeed the case.
"In all cases, Midland will receive more than we will invest in any company."
Let us pretend that it is still 2001 and we don't have access to piles of evidence to the contrary that we have now. The campaign for an ED Sales Tax is still essentially a prospectus for an investment, is it not? Now can you imagine what your reaction would be if you saw this statement contained in any other prospectus? In the world of real investments they actually have laws against saying this kind of stuff. In the Land of ED, Unicorns, and Magic Fairy Dust? No problem. Zero risk in any and all ventures you say? Why, only an Aginner could be against that. Or a Midland hater.
(Originally posted by Walsingham on April 6, 2010)
Continuing the theme set by the Site Admin, I'll add/clarify the few quotes I have in the Blog takes critical eye toward MDC story in the MRT.
..."Ospurt," said he started blogging to be a neutral provider of information. When the 4A tax was considered in 2001, he voted for it believing Midland needed to be pursuing economic development in the same way many of its competitors were.
"I was looking at it like every other Midlander in the beginning with hope," [Ospurt] said. "Then there were no results."
When the 4A tax came up for the third vote I initially didn't like the idea of a new tax to lure businesses contrary to their needs and market forces, but the proponents were able to point at the Cingular/AT&T call center, the Family Dollar warehouse and some vague references to unknown firms that passed over Midland because we didn't have an economic development fund. I reasoned, it looks like it is working elsewhere, and Midland needs to compete, maybe my previous no votes were wrong.
After that I didn't think much about the MDC and local politics until 2005 when I became involved with the City's Generation WOW committee, which had the task of helping city leaders, and the MDC understand the needs of young professionals. I was blogging about National Politics in various places at that time, so I knew the on line terrain. It was the speakers and other committee members that introduced me to the MRT's MyOpenForum and Jessica's Well as we discussed on line places people might find during a Google Search of Midland.
Like the MRT at the time, MyOpenForum and Jessica's Well had good discussions, but they were very thin on information that could be used to back up arguments or analyze the effectiveness of policies. There were lots of general quotes from both sides, with little substance. I knew where this information was available, and with an original intent to just fill in the information gaps and correct outright falsehoods, I stated looking at the numbers and outcomes and started to question the return on investment, campaign promises and the role of local government in business matters. Oddly enough, it wasn't the MDC that got me on Jessica's Well, it was EZ Rider.
Like the Site Admin, I hold nothing against those who have served on the MDC board over the years. I consider many if them some of the very best Midland Minded individuals, but, the track record is hard to ignore. Their own admissions of frustration with just getting to the point where they are incenting businesses only to have the oil industry up so much they have to look at housing and employee recruitment, then to switch back, before finally deciding, at least through their recent deals, to just incent the oil and gas industry in the biggest expansion of activity in my lifetime. That just seems hard far anyone to defend in light of the original intent of the MDC.
When I talk about "no results" I look at things like the Bureau of Labor Statics database which shows Midland has expanded non-farm payrolls by nearly 15,000 workers since September of 2001. If the MDC accounts for 900 of those employees, is around 6% of employment growth over the last decade success for the amount of money taken out of the economy?
Is a company that cuts its workforce in half, or closes shop soon after they meet their development contract obligations success? Is a requirement to make capital improvements to a property that don't translate into an increased property valuation at that location a success? Is multiple amendments to development deals because employment didn't rise to contract levels a success? Is saying Countrywide, of all companies, taught you how to structure development deals to reward jobs that got created on the back end smart, much less a success?
"Countrywide said, 'Why don't we come to you with jobs created and you give us incentive based on what we did,'" Billingsley said. "We had finally hit upon a formula that worked."
It isn't just Midland's MDC, this is happening with ED bodies around the Country and with the nation as a whole. How many billions have we spent trying to fight market forces nationally with marginal results and calls for even more money to get us over the hump in industries like banking, housing, auto manufacturing, solar power and wind power?
$47 Million is a lot to take out of the local economy over a decade based on a promise to the voters to diversify, create economic stability and produce returns on investment that reduce the burden of property taxes on homeowners.
Are the ED tax election promises the measure of success? I think they are. If they aren't, the citizens of Midland need to be consulted through an election to determine if the new direction of economic development meets current community need and goals.
To expand/clarify quotes from me found in the article "Blog takes critical eye toward the MDC".....
"They're not failing because they're doing it wrong. They're failing because they can't do it right. It's not in the cards for that type of structure to do this right. That's what the market is for."
The phrase "they are failing because they can't do it right" is not altogether that clear. It has nothing to do with the actual people on the MDC board or staff. What this speaks to is the idea that no one can do this right. Not me, not Republicans, not Democrats, nor sinners or saints.
If a company has decided to relocate to Midland without having been offered an "incentive" then there is no reason for the MDC to become involved*. On the other hand, any company that requires an incentive to relocate to Midland has, by definition, already decided that it is not in their best interest to relocate here.
In short, the MDC gets involved only after the market has rendered a decision and then it seeks to "correct" that decision. And the MDC's sole weapon for "correcting" that decision is to transfer money from taxpayers to these companies in an amount sufficient to get them to rescind their initial decision.
So when I say that they/me/others can't do it right I am saying that it is not possible for six political appointees to ever possess enough information or expertise in any given industry (let alone the variety of industries courted by the MDC) to arrive at a decision that is more correct or optimal than what has already been arrived at by the market itself.
"It seems like it's something that's OK to do locally, but if it's done at the state or national level then it's interference in the marketplace."
Midland is a pretty Republican town full of self-described "fiscal conservatives". They purportedly abhor "government interference in the marketplace". Except when they don't, I suppose. Right or wrong, I at least have the comfort of remaining consistent on this principle. But locals who think "investing" a bunch of taxpayer money in a local company with an unproven aircraft engine technology is a good idea should forfeit the right to rail against the Obama administration for pouring a bunch of taxpayer money into Solyndra. Shouldn't they?
* Which is not to say that they won't. See Apache agreement.
November 6, 2011
"One of the great challenges in economic development is measuring success," said Terry Clower, director of the Center of Economic Development and Research at the University of North Texas.
If you think "economic developers" have a challenge on their hands now just wait until they do figure out how to measure it.
The first thing that you see when browsing the online version of, Economic Development Tax: 10-Year Review" is a page layout that could not have shown more clearly just how far away the Midland Development Corporation has gotten away from it's originally stated purpose.
The text on the right side of the image reads,
Ten years ago today, Midlanders passed a 4A economic development tax with the aim of bringing a vein of diversification to the historic boom-and-bust cycle of the oil and gas industry.
The photo on the left shows the offices of Apache Corporation. A company in the oil and gas industry. A company with a market capitalization of $38 billion. A company that was coming to Midland to expand it's operations here with no incentive other than to streamline it's own operations.
A company that was handed $250,000 of money taken from the taxpayers in the name of "economic development."
And this isn't an anomaly. The photo could just as easily have been of the offices of Baker Hughes ($24 billion market cap), another major player in the oil and gas industry that already had a presence in the area....and that was also determined by the MDC as being in need of an "incentive".
The opening text of the article and the accompanying photo serve as perfect bookends that show how far away from the orginal premise for the creation of the 4A sales tax the MDC has gotten.
If for no other reason than this, the issue needs to be re-voted on by the public. This money has simply been re-purposed on the fly. Ten years ago today, the 4A sales tax initiative was sold to the voting public as a way to raise funds to be used for very specific things and in very specific ways. Ten years ago we were told that Midland's future depended on it's ability to diversify away from the oil and gas industry. Today we are handing hundreds of thousands of tax dollars to multi-billion dollar companies who are in the oil and gas industry and are already here. As has been said by others here, it is now as if economic development "is whatever they say it is."
The City Council can put this question to rest for a while. If they really want to know what the voters think about the issue after these ten years they need only place it on the ballot in November, 2012. I say November, 2012, for two reasons: 1) There is an election scheduled at that time anyway so there would be none of the additional costs that would be incurred by holding a special election and, 2) If you really, truly want to know what the voters think you select a time that will guarantee a large turnout, rather than the standard practice of selecting a date ideally suited to minimize the turnout.
If the Council really wants to know the will of the public and what their opinion is of how their tax dollars have been spent on "economic development" they need only raise their hands and vote, "Aye".
The usual space limitations that are faced when doing an article like the MRT's "Economic Development Tax: 10 Year Review" necessarily result in a loss of detail or clarifications from those being quoted in the story so I will use our space here to flesh out our/my concerns with the 4A Sales tax. There is a lot in the article to cover and this will take several posts. That is why I am numbering them. (I am using Roman numerals to provide more gravitas.)
November 5, 2011
Well boys and girls it has been ten whole years since the citizens of Midland voted for an economic development tax on the third try. The Midland Reporter Telegram has a 10-year look back, and yes, the Site Admin and myself were interviewed for the story, "on the record."
I'm sure there will be a lot for the Well Heads to say on the article, and I'm interested to see what the comments at the Paper's site will bring.
November 2, 2011
I was listening to, not watching, Fox News in my car yesterday and heard Senator Pat Toomey talk about interactions with the Senate and the White House. He was pleasant but obviously frustrated. Toomey allowed that he and other Senators had asked to meet with Obama to try to work out a plan for the country; Lord Obama could never, however be tied down or commit. It was always, "We can talk about that," or "We ought to work on that," but it never got out of that phase.
I have known people who got high-centered, incapable of making a decision; sometimes I see someone like that in the mirror. Clinton's defenders would say that he's so smart that he gets bogged down in the details; this was said, normally, just before they rubbished George W. Bush for being a stupid Texas cowboy.
Nonetheless, I am beginning to take my brother's view of Mr. Obama: there is no sign of great intelligence. His utter refusal to work with Republicans, his attempted humiliation of Rep. Paul Ryan, and his seeming inability to see where the country is going, and the crash we'll have, either indicates a stupidity which he's never had to own up to, having been praised all of his life for being Barry, or that he is determined to follow the dictum of Rahm Emanuel: "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste...This crisis provides the opportunity for us to do things that you could not do before."
Create a crisis, a huge one, then be the strong man to clean up. Well, it worked in Russia.
Maybe he's not as stupid as my brother thinks but if so, he's worse than I had thought and that's saying a lot.
I found these two pictures an interesting comparison