Monday, May 22, 2006

Would tax cuts stimulate the economy if they really brought cuts instead of deficit spending?

Bush claims tax cuts have actually increased the amount of revenue that the federal government "takes in" by stimulating the economy. They say more taxes are collected from a bigger economy, in spite of the lower tax rates.

Take a deep breath.

That is quite a complicated concept and it has some truth, but here is a question I ask.

Would this "economic stimulation effect" still happen if the tax cuts were accompanied with equal spending cuts on the part of the federal government?

In other words, of course the economy is stimulated as it's getting a double barreled influx of cash.

Lower taxes, but federal spending remains high.

The economy would really suffer if tax cuts were equaled with big cuts in federal spending. Cuts in entitlements, military spending, highways and infrastructure as well as hurricane relief, for instance. If the tax cuts caused these huge spending cuts, then the economy would not be doing so well.

Or, at least I don't think it would be doing well.

Basically the economy is doing well because low interest rates have allowed us to put things on the credit card.

We have low taxes while the federal government continues to dump money into the economy. The federal government can continue to spend money on keeping infrastructure running.

The best of both worlds. That is until the credit card comes due.

Still one might also have to ask, "what else would any president do?" Walk away from hurricane relief?

I never voted for Bush though.

Bringing the troops home from Iraq could save money.

Anyway, our government is spending lots and keeping taxes low. Some say "spending like a drunken sailor," but what other choices does it have?

Will this credit card ever come due?

That's a good question.

Sometimes I wonder. It seems like it's "easy money." Maybe the federal government will eventually declare some form of bankruptcy.

Then what will happen?

Could life just go on with little consequence to the economy?

Life goes on like this is just some sort of "paper shuffling" matter.

Then again maybe not. Who knows.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Under the futuristic Skytrain into Vancouver, BC.


An abandoned shopping cart. Futuristic, or down to earth. Image taken near Scott Road in Surrey.

Just one image I saw as most people blast by in their cars. Several weeks ago, I did a combination bike, bus and Skytrain trip to Vancouver, BC from Bellingham.

"Transportation diversity."

It was a good trip. Spent a night in the YMCA Hotel on Burrard St. Enjoyed dancing that night in Vancouver's gay scene and came back to Bellingham next day.

Trip included bicycling from Bellingham to Whiterock, BC. then taking the 351 bus to downtown Vancouver, from Whiterock. Coming back I rode the Skytrain with my bike to Surrey, BC. Then bicycled to Blaine, WA. and picked up a WTA bus to Bellingham.

The future is emerging. Remember Bike To Work and School Day May 19.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Picture of Farmer's Market Structure in Bellingham, WA.

Last Saturday was the first day with booths under the main canopy. Some of the steel came from old Highway 99 bridge across the Skagit River. When the old bridge was torn down, steel was recycled.

I went to the Farmer's market to join Mount Baker Bike Club's annual "Ride With Your Politician" event. That is where they invite local politicians to go on a bike ride. They check out the good things and bad things about riding around town from the standpoint of a bicyclist.

Last year, several politicians showed up, but only one made it this year. Others, who are regulars, had "out of town" engagements.

Soon after the ride, I had an out of town engagement also. I rode my bike 8 miles out into the county to "Salon Q." That's a discussion group which meets in someone's living room. Discusses gay and trans-gender issues.

Then it was a bike trip back into town for a dinner and dancing with "Bellingham Leathermen." I'm not really into leather, I'm more into spandex, but the Leathermen were fun to spend time with. A few folks came down from Vancouver, BC. and up from Seattle, WA. to join the Bellingham gathering.

It was a very social day for me. More interesting things going on in this great city than usual.

Next day, I realized I had left my jacket out at Salon Q so I went on another bike ride to retrieve it. Made that into a loop in Whatcom County. Much of the loop was along Smith Road.

Both days were spectacularly sunny and Mount Baker was very clear out in the county. Summer's haze and auto exhaust hasn't had time to build up yet.

On June 4th, the Farmer's Market will see "Fourth Corner Pride Festival." Pride Festival is the closest thing that Bellingham has to a gay pride event. Rather than a march, it's a festival where many organizations have booths. Festival is jointly sponsored by organizations such as the Evergreen Aids Foundation, P-FLag and the Pride Foundation.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Wiretapping may not be good, but

If Bush is into wiretapping, would he bother listening to my phone calls? I doubt he would take time to read my letters.

No I am not worried that the "government" will find my blog. It's not ment to be private anyway. If "they" are listening in, maybe that's how we can communicate with our government?

I hope the government finds my blog. I did get a nice e-mail from one of our city council members.

In the old Soviet Union, I heard that some folks were living in a big apartment complex. They had trouble getting their heating fixed. When they filled out a repair request form, nothing happened for days. Then they heard that there was a bugging device in the light fixture. They shouted the repair request toward the light fixture and the heat was fixed next day.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Are greenway levies bad for renters?

I plan to vote yes for Bellingham's Greenways, but there was an interesting point made in a May 10th letter to the editor of Bellingham Herald. Letter basically said "Greenways too costly for renters."

It's still cheaper than driving a car. Greenways = transportation.

It is true that the property taxes, our landlords pay, are passed along to renters. The Greenways have added a bit to property taxes over the years.

This levy is just a continuation of the tax that has been collected over past years. The past levy is expiring. It will not raise taxes, just keep taxes from going down a bit, due to the old levy's expiration.

Still this little bit of added cost is worth it, in my calculations.

The Greenways is "transportation." It still costs a lot less than owning a car. That's how I see things. Making it safer to get around town by bicycle is worth the money saved as an alternative to driving.

Of course there are other things paid by by Greenways; like some park and ball field facilities. These are good things to have also. Encouraging recreation for public health can save lots of money on health care costs and insurance expenses.

So I see this as more than icing on a cake. It can be transportation and health. Pragmatic and cheaper than a lot of things we pay for.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Soft Landing Off Of Peak Oil


For people who drive, it's getting more expensive, but the sky is not falling on American life.

Many folks talk like "Chicken Little" who said the sky was falling. They notice that oil is used in products from food to clothing. They say the "thousand mile salad" is going to die.

No, that cornucopia of food at our supermarkets from all over the world can continue, maybe just a bit modified. Apples from New Zealand, grapes from Chile. It all takes oil to grow and ship, but oil is only one "line item" in a bigger picture.

Sure the price of products will inch up, but oil is only one part of the story. Oil costs can be absorbed into the "thousand mile salad" fairly easily. Energy prices are hidden among labor, land, technology, capital and other items in the cost of doing business.

Driving will really be the problem, not shopping.

The American economy will survive. It will just have to adjust the price for it's cornucopia a bit.

Local bus fares may go up to 75 cents to reflect a fuel surcharge, but the biggest costs are still labor for driver's wages and so forth. The WTA bus is sure a bargain at 50 cents per ride and 75 cents is still workable.

Most of this "pie chart" continues to be paid by the tax district anyway with the fare box just one sliver.

My point is that driving cars will be hit hard, but the rest of the economy will adjust more easily.

All these Bellingham people keep running around saying "the American economy is finished." "No more thousand mile salad, no more American petrochemical agriculture."

I say hogwash.

The American economy of products and services will adjust to oil's "line item" shock. The price pie for products is much bigger than that. The price can go up slightly, but business can keep going.

Car drivers are the one's who will suffer the most. Car drivers are also being hit by the cost of space for roads leading to traffic congestion as they can't afford to build more lanes. They are even hit with the "driveway runoff" problems in Lake Whatcom Watershed. Oil is just one line item in the automobile's illnesses.

The Chicken Littles will not be able to continue driving with their bumper stickers that say "buy local." They will have to bike or walk to the Food Co-op, but they will still find that cornucopia of apples from New Zealand.

The economy will not collapse, most likely. Not in my lifetime at least. It may change a bit, but still survive. Car drivers will have to change the most. Maybe they will still be able to drive, but long commutes will become the most costly. Much more costly than the thousand mile salad.

Those wonderful crisp (remember it's now autumn in New Zealand) apples will still sit in the bin next to the "buy local" posters on the wall at the Food Co-op.

Even the Co-op is now a "thousand mile cornucopia," but that's okay.

Even the milk isn't really that local. Dairy farmers get their hay and feed corn shipped in. It comes from far afield.

Field's afar?

The carton of "chocolate milk" that fuels my bicycle will still fetch it's inputs from all over; including the tropics where cocoa beans are grown. It may go up in price, but not unbearably.

As gas goes up 50 cents, I noticed only a dime "price hike" in my chocolate milk. The fuel costs that dairy farmers face are hidden in the bigger picture of labor costs, capital expenses and so forth.

America can survive a long time after peek oil. There is even plenty of tar sands in places like Alberta, if need be. We got clean coal. We can learn to use solar, wind. No need to say "good by" to the thousand mile salad.

Automobile driving will have to be reconsidered, but most of the rest of our economy can just be modified slightly.

Maybe people will still drive as electric cars and nuclear power could save them. Problem is the roads are too congested, even if we get our energy from nuclear.

Maybe computers will drive the cars so more can fit on I-5. Then "technology fix" can even reduce traffic.

Driving is the thing that will take the biggest hit, but the rest of our economy can adjust without too much trouble. The sky will not fall.

Speaking of sky falling, there is the green house effect. That's a big problem also.

Again, it's cars and driving habits, not the thousand mile salad, that will feel the most need to change. Everything can adjust if we are flexible and don't get too hot under the collar.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Parkade Plaza in Spokane. Can Bellingham learn from this example?

Every once in a while, they discuss parking garages for downtown Bellingham. If people were like me, (non drivers) parking garages wouldn't be needed. Usually folks say, "you can't build a pretty parking garage," but if parking garages can be pretty, Spokane has a good one. I got images of my favorite parking structure as I passed through Spokane, WA. on my 2007 bicycle tour.

Parkade Plaza was built in 1967. I think it's 11 stories, or maybe that's to the top of the sign. Graceful concrete form.

I took lower photo from Riverfront Park in 2005.

See my Parkade Plaza images on Flickr.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Star Spangled Banner in Spanish

Teach an old dog new tricks.

Okay with me, but a friend pointed out. "We now have to learn more than one language to get a job."

Being bilingual gives one a "leg up" on a resume in our increasingly multi-cultural society. This is true especially for work that involves public relations, such as being a receptionist, teacher, working in a medical office.

With so much of the public speaking Spanish, employers are looking for bilingual skills when filling positions that deal with the public. Many are having to learn more than one language to compete.

It's another requirement, another hassle, or some might say another opportunity, challenge.

In places like Europe, I hear people often speak several languages. They say we have been spoiled, here in America, with a large country speaking mostly one language. Imagine living in Luxemburg with French, Dutch, German, English all around you.

I've often wondered how people speaking several tongues can keep them all separated.

Part of the problem is the competitive nature of our job market.

On a similar note, there are the horror stories of foreign whizzes in math, engineering, you name it, who can run circles around American students. They can be overseas, or immigrate here. We are either hit with out-sourcing or other applicants waiting in line.

If we don't buckle down and go back to school, work and study all night, we slip behind.

They say, "pay more taxes for American education." Keeping up with the foreigners and the Jones'

More, more, faster, faster, move it, move it.

Not to mention rising housing / health care costs in our modern and more crowded world.

No time for sleep or contemplation.

All this just as the post war baby boom reaches retirement age. Getting ready to put one's feet up and relax a bit.

There's a silver lining. Those industrious illegal immigrants might get some sort of amnesty, so they can start paying Social Security taxes. Then post war baby boomers can retire.