ACC on the Agenda.

1. March 2011

The Arts of Collin County project is finally on the Frisco City Council agenda tonight. In light of this, I’m going to repost links to my old posts about it in the hope that it might change someone’s mind. This project is a bad idea, y’all, and here’s why:

Arts of Collin County.

On the Poor Timing of the ACC.

These two take on both its idealogical failings and fiscal perils. Please read them, pass them on and come out in support of getting the ACC added to the ballot so that the citizens who are going to have to pay for it have a chance to vote on it.

Working in Wisconsin.

25. February 2011

Last week I had three tests and a mock trial tournament that I had to attend to, so I was somewhat out of the loop, merely breezing past most headlines in my RSS reader and largely skipping the first section of the Wall Street Journal, opting to go straight for the Money & Investing section. What I did manage to see was about Libya and Egypt for the most part. I had heard a little about what’s happening in Wisconsin from the guys at BoingBoing and while their coverage was rather tilted, it was still informative.

I took some time today to read up on what’s been going on. Wisconsin has no money for its public sector unions and the union members don’t want to lose their awesome benefit packages, which is understandable, as they have negotiated a rather sweet deal for themselves.

The following video was brought to my attention by the folks at Reason and created by the Heritage Foundation.

Now, obviously it’s slightly biased as it is from Heritage, but I think that the union supporters were given a reasonably fair chance to make their points. I noticed a few things in the videos that made me snicker, like the repeated references to Nazi Germany, the “Care about educators like they care for your children” signs and the prevailing “Us vs. The World” mentality exhibited by the union supporters and members.

The simple truth is this: this is both a union-busting bill and a budget bill. Of course the governor wants to bust the unions; they’re horribly inefficient, expensive and powerful and to boot, their ideology is largely homogeneous, which is a problem come election time. That they are inefficient and expensive are a large part of the budget problem, and to help bring the budget into line, things must be done to cut spending, which includes cutting union expenses.

The governor doesn’t want to cut spending on the unions because he hates the union members, he’s doing it because he can’t afford to do anything else. If he doesn’t cut union expenses, then he’ll have to cut from other budgets, and no one wants to see reduced budgets for state highway maintenance or education or whatever else state governments do that most people actually like. (As a libertarian, I have trouble naming any state programs that I wouldn’t mind seeing cut, either marginally or in their entirety. Use your imagination for this bit if you don’t mind.)

I just don’t see why teachers and postal workers and the like need collective bargaining. I really don’t understand it. If a teacher can’t teach, why should they keep their job? What is it about working for the government that changes the broadest requirements for keeping one’s job: being able to do that job? Teachers are, as they claim, some of the most important people in societies; the information they give to kids effectively shapes the future. They might ought to get more money for what they do, and if we privatized the system, I’d wager that they actually would. The trade-off, though, is that they would have to produce results that justify that extra money, and they might not have a job if they’re bad enough.

Wisconsin public-sector union employees, you’ve just got to hold your breath and get through the next few years. The perk of working for the government is increased job security. The trade-off is reduced compensation. You can’t have both, and you risk additional reductions in compensation when your employer, the government, is having a bad year or decade, as it were, just as private non-union employees do. But at least you don’t have to be as worried about being fired. Unfortunately for the taxpayers, I’m sure you’ll be back at your original compensation levels or higher when revenues go back up.

Follow-Up on the PATRIOT Act.

9. February 2011

Well, you all did it, congratulations! The PATRIOT Act failed to receive the necessary two-thirds of votes necessary to pass it on the suspension calendar, so the three provisions that were set to expire will now do so, it seems. They were eight votes short of the two-thirds majority and the eight votes that were being counted upon by the GOP leadership that did not vote for the Act were all tea party freshmen. To them, I extend my greatest thanks.

I know my Representative voted for the legislation again, but if you don’t know how yours voted, you can go here and see. Democrats are italicized, Republicans are not, North Texan representatives are all in the Yea box.

As this was assumed by all–including me, to be honest–to be a sure thing to vote to extend the sunset provision, I believe that this has been an important step in refocusing our nation’s security practices back into the realm of constitutionality and sanity. When we find that the government’s capacity to “keep its citizens safe” (although that is fully an impossibility, but I will address this fact in a separate post) is not diminished after the hopeful retirement of the PATRIOT Act, I hope that we as a nation will see how silly and counterproductive that legislation was.

What good is living “safely” if you are not free to live securely in your person, without fear of arbitrary and unannounced government intrusion therein?

USA PATRIOT Act.

7. February 2011

The USA PATRIOT Act is up for reauthorization in the House tomorrow. Unfortunately, there are only forty minutes of scheduled debate and no opportunities for amendments. Please write your Representative and tell them not to vote for it under these conditions. The PATRIOT Act abridges your rights in the name of national security. A power so unlimited in the hands of the government deserves to be well-regulated and well-debated.

If you would like to write your Representative, I have a form letter below that you may feel free to use, or you may compose your own email.

Representative __________,
I implore you, do not vote for a suspension calendar with the USA PATRIOT Act on it. Though terrorism can be a threat, there are more effective ways to fight it than allowing for a suspension of Americans’ constitutional rights and allowing roving wiretaps, secret searches and other breaches of personal privacy and security.

You certainly have the security of the nation at heart, of that I have no doubt, but I beg you to recognize that by supporting an Act of dubious constitutionality and the restriction of law-abiding Americans’ rights, you might be inadvertently bringing about the end goal of the terrorists: the destruction of the American society which you and I both value so greatly.

Thank you for your time,
YOUR NAME HERE

If you would like to write your Representative but are unsure who that is, you may quickly find that information here.

On the Poor Timing of the ACC.

5. January 2011

It’s really a sad thing that we still have to be talking about this, but there are still people in Frisco and the surrounding communities that believe that the ACC is a valid use of increasingly scarce municipal funds. In addition to the multitudes of other reasons why it’s a bad idea, I’ve found a new one.

Municipal bonds (muni bonds or munis hereafter) used to be a rather predictable market. They were always considered a safe bet, almost as safe as treasuries, because the municipalities had the power to raise taxes to get money to pay for the bonds of necessary. The bonds would pay a slightly lower yield than Treasurys, but it was okay, because the income was tax exempt.

Recently, however, a flood of munis has hit the market. Perceived risk has increased, driving muni yields up. For instance, today, the 30-year muni rate is 4.9%. The 30-year Treasury rate is 4.25%. This goes against everything that is ever taught in a class about bonds. The perceived risk of the two securities are almost exactly the same, but their tax-exempt status makes munis more attractive, drives up demand and drives down yields.

However, there has been a series of uncertainties in the continuation of the tax-exempt status of the muni bond and the municipalities’ ability to pay, driving yields up. Which is great if you’re an investor. Not so great if you’re the borrower. The President’s deficit reduction panel came out with a plan that called for the removal of the tax-exemption of the muni bond, throwing expectations off and ridding the market of stability.

Because of the increase in interest rates, it is a bad time to sell the bonds for the ACC. It’s simply more expensive to finance any project, but it is especially outrageous to attempt to justify selling these bonds at these rates for an unnecessary project like the ACC.

Obviously, it is just as expensive to finance the ACC as it is to finance a project like Fire Station 7. However, as most members of the Frisco City Council and the fire chief expressed last night, that is a necessary project. It is crucial for keeping the city’s ISO rating at a 1, which affects the homeowner’s insurance rates for everyone in the city, aside from the obvious benefits of faster emergency response times. Additionally, that project may not require the sale of bonds, making it all the better a choice for the City of Frisco’s funds.

The ACC is becoming more and more expensive to build, a trend which shows no signs of stopping. It’s time for even the staunchest of AC supporters to rethink their position.


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