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Economy

Note to Nashville: Privatization is good, except when it’s idiotic

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Note to Nashville Privatization is good except when its idiotic

This will be the first and hopefully the last time I speak out against a government plan to privatize anything. But as much as I like a blanket approach to taking control away from government in the vast majority of situations, the plan to privatize public parking in Nashville is so loaded with problems, it shouldn’t move forward.

I first heard the details of the plan when I read about the rare occurrence of a Democratic mayor wanting to privatize an element of city government. Generally, Democrats push for more control over their territories, not less, which is why I was hoping to find an instance where the realities of limited-government federalism and capitalistic privatization was seeping into the psyche of a Democratic leader. What I found was appalling: a desperate mayor, David Briley, throwing anything he could against the fiscal walls in hopes of making it stick. His city faces a woeful budget shortfall, something that should not be happening in a city as vibrant and growing as Nashville.

But, they need money immediately to make up the shortfall before the end of the fiscal year and this seems to be their last resort following an atrocious set of attempts to sell off public land to make up the cash difference. The attempt was so botched, the city council passed a resolution preventing such an attempt from being used in the future to cover operating expenses. But now, they’re ready to push the parking privatization scheme through with a rubber stamp and hopes nobody will look closely at the details.

The latter is unlikely, as many are already speaking out. Mayoral candidate Carol M. Swain urged the city to halt the plans, clearly pointing out it’s a very bad deal:

Nashville must oppose Mayor David Briley’s public parking privatization plan

We the People of Davidson County and surrounding areas will be adversely impacted if Mayor Briley, who is up for re-election, can push through this deal that would entail a 30-year commitment.

No agreement of this magnitude should be for more than any one term of the mayor’s office.

Once they have the contract, there is nothing to prevent the bid-winning private company from also raising rates until they match rates common to larger cities such as Chicago and New York City.

As Swain noted, this is a 30-year deal that essentially turns a public revenue source into a for-profit scheme that will sacrifice the people’s control for decades in exchange for saving a single year’s budget. The loss of future revenues and control aren’t the only things at stake, though. The deal will include increases across the board for citizens of Nashville, including:

  • A rise in the number of parking spots designated as paid that will essentially double them over four years
  • Increased cost per hour by 25 cents
  • More than doubling fines from $11 to $25
  • Decreasing free parking times by four hours per weekday
  • Removing free parking on weekends
  • Removing free parking for green vehicles

The mayor is pushing the deal as a way to innovate and catch up with the rest of the nation, citing technological improvements. But any such improvements could be made by the city, as could the changes to the times, costs, and fines, so his points are moot. The reality is this: They need cash now and they don’t have any other schemes that can work this quickly.

There’s a solution to all this: cut budgets. Fiscal responsibility should not be obfuscated by get-cash-quick schemes that will harm Nashville’s citizens. Make cuts. Increase revenues long term. Make Nashville as business-friendly as possible. These are the ways that work in America. Corrupt land deals and desperate privatization schemes always hurt in the long run. This time, they’re hurting Nashville in the short term as well.

Nashville’s parking plan is the equivalent of taking an important part of many citizens’ daily lives and pawning it off to pay the city’s bills. They’re giving up 30 years of control to save a single year’s budget.

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Economy

Carlson vs. Shapiro: A way forward

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Carlson vs Shapiro A way forward

Tucker Carlson has recently caused quite a stir. He’s taken a very populist view of the role of government when it comes to intervening in the market, going so far as to suggest such things the mandated limiting of automation. To justify this, he points to the fact that as the market changes and certain skills become more or less in demand, many people get left behind. As coal plants shutdown, miners are left without work, as kiosks are deployed, fast food workers are back on the street, and truckers may soon be replaced with self-driving trucks. The solution to these issues, Carlson suggests, lies in retraining programs dictated by the government or subsidies to keep unprofitable businesses going.

On the other side of the issue are those who count on the free-market to work things out, people like Ben Shapiro. Shapiro and others acknowledge that some people will get left behind by technological advancement and the market changes that follow. However, they point out that in the end, most of those people can and do relocate or retrain on their own, and ultimately more people are helped by those changes than are hurt by them.

Both make good points. Carlson is right that it isn’t fair that people have to suffer in the name of progress and Shapiro is right that government intervention tends to exacerbate the problem. After all, many of those miners would still have jobs if government regulations weren’t making the coal plants shutdown in the first place. Yet, I think both are missing something important.

To get at what that is, we need to go all the way back to 2007 and the election of Barack Obama. Much was made – on both sides of the isle – about Obama’s background; particularly that of his role as a “community organizer.” Democrats considered it a positive, showing his concern for the people around him. Republicans mocked it almost universally because… few every really said. There was actually a solid line of attack on this – much of Obama’s work was with Acorn, a now discredited organization that did little more than encourage people to sign up for government benefits. Yet, that’s not what was done. During the Republican Convention that year, the likes of Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin spoke of Obama’s community organizer background in terms and tones of obvious mockery and derision, as though the concept were beneath them. This struck me as strange. Wasn’t the GOP the party of personal responsibility? Of small government? Wouldn’t someone who worked within his community to make it better be someone to lift up? Shouldn’t the GOP be wishing for more community organizers who worked along small government and free market principles rather than those of Acorn? If any of this was discussed, it didn’t make it to my eyes and years. As such, it seemed that the Republican Party was undermining its own principles with this attack. Many others thought so as well. I read more than a few comments from people saying that this attack and others like it were pushing people away from the GOP.

Fast forward four years to the Romney campaign. Everyone remembers the “47% percent are going to vote for Obama no matter what” remark and the damage that did. It made Romney seem even more elitist and out of touch. Again, this was largely self-inflicted, instead of leaning into the comment and explaining why that was, emphasizing the fact that the support for Obama and Democrats in general was largely based on false pretenses, the campaign tried to backtrack. Some of the right wing commentators actually did own it and try to use it as a positive. Unfortunately, it morphed into a “makers and takers” narrative, dividing the country between those who create new products and jobs and those who don’t.

The main problem with his line of thinking is that it tends to lump in the average blue-collar, and most white-collar, workers in with people who are happy to stay in the welfare system. Naturally, most people fit into this category, people who go to work every day so they can collect a paycheck and continue to raise their families. The maker vs. taker outlook naturally makes them feel left out, as though their own contributions are without value. The result is that people either stay home on voting day or vote for the side that at least pretends to care about them. If not for the candidacy of Donald Trump and his deliberate appeal to those very same voters, we would still be stuck in that same narrative.

However, we really haven’t found a solid replacement. The Carlson view tends to elevate the role of government more than conservatives are comfortable with while down-playing the market’s benefits. The Shapiro view tends to dehumanize the individuals who work down in the trenches every day, treating them more like cogs in the free-market machine. For the record, I think Carlson is aware of the potential dangers of government intervention and Shapiro doesn’t actually think of people as cogs. The issue that both are struggling with is to find a way to talk about the way a changing market affects people without falling into either trap.

So how do we resolve this? How do we begin to address the individuals that make up our society and recognize their individual worth and dignity without invoking the state in a misguided attempt to enforce it?

I had been puzzling this for some time, unable to find a satisfactory answer until the daily Mass readings brought to my attention a passage I’d read many times before. This time though, it seemed like a giant neon sign point the way to an answer. In Romans, St. Paul addresses the congregation in Rome, a group of Christians that apparently was having a problem with some people acting like they were better than others, and with the subsequent envy of those who don’t have the more visibly prominent gifts. I’ll let St. Paul explain (Romans 12: 3-8):

For by the grace given to me I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than one ought to think, but to think soberly, each according to the measure of faith that God has apportioned.

For as in one body we have many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ* and individually parts of one another.

Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us exercise them: if prophecy, in proportion to the faith; if ministry, in ministering; if one is a teacher, in teaching; if one exhorts, in exhortation; if one contributes, in generosity; if one is over others, with diligence; if one does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

What St. Paul is telling us, is that we all have different gifts and as such, a different part to play. Some are more obvious than others, more significant. Yet, that doesn’t mean that others are not worth doing, even necessary. St. Paul applies the same thinking elsewhere, pointing out how silly it is to worry about whether the head or the foot is more important. The thing to keep in mind is that they need each other. The head isn’t getting far without the feet and the feet won’t have a place to go to without the head making decisions. Sure, the head has the bigger role, but it still needs the feet.

To bring it back to the Carlson/Shapiro debate, we need to reframe our discussion of economics to recognize the reality that St. Paul is pointing us toward. We all have a role, from the janitor, to the burger flipper, to the CEO. Clearly, the CEO has the bigger impact on society, yet he still needs others to perform their roles well. Bill Gates needed a team of programmers to turn his ideas into reality. Even more than that, patent clerks, lawyers, construction workers, and countless others had to do their jobs well in order for Gates to build his idea into the giant that is Microsoft. Are their contributions smaller? Yes. But they are no less necessary. Even President Trump owes some small part of his success to some guy with a shovel who broke ground on one of his properties.

What is the point of this? Why bring this up at all? By taking our cues from St. Paul, we can remember that every person, no matter their role has value, that they are contributing. That success need not be defined by whether or not you own your own business. That just because you are working by the hour and punching a clock, you are not a taker. You are a worker and a maker, making a life for yourself and those you love.

There are many questions to be explored in later articles such as social mobility, the role of automation, and how to manage when a business closes. This is not an end to the debate over how we should manage economic and technological change. Rather, it is a way to breathe some much needed fresh air into this debate.

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Economy

Shannon Grove on high speed rail: ‘The more we look at this project, the more uncertainties come to light’

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Shannon Grove on high speed rail The more we look at this project the more uncertainties come to lig

SACRAMENTO – Senate Republican Leader Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) issued the following statement after the Assembly Transportation Committee held an extensive hearing on the California High-Speed Rail project today.

“The more we look at this project, the more uncertainties come to light. Whether it is the loss of federal funds, the looming deadlines, or the failure to comply with the requirements of Proposition 1A, these hearings have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that the California High-Speed Rail Authority is incapable of building anything that resembles what they promised the voters.

“Sacramento Democrats can no longer pretend they don’t know this project is off the rails. It is a shameful waste of taxpayers’ dollars and we must stop throwing our hard-earned money down the drain. It is time to kill the big rail fail,” said Senate Republican Leader Shannon Grove.

###

Senate Republican Leader Shannon Grove represents California’s 16th Senate District which encompasses large portions of Kern, Tulare and San Bernardino counties and including the cities of Bakersfield, Barstow, California City, Exeter, Frazier Mountain, Joshua Tree, Mojave, Needles, Ridgecrest, Rosamond, Taft, Tehachapi, Twentynine Palms, Tulare, Visalia, Yucca Valley and portions of the Kern River Valley. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

For press inquiries or questions, please contact Jacqui Nguyen, press secretary for the Senate Republican Caucus, at 858.999.7706.

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Economy

Gary Vaynerchuk never talks about politics, but he’s great when he does

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Gary Vaynerchuk never talks about politics but hes great when he does

Language warning, in case you’ve never listened to Gary Vaynerchuk before. I have, and he’s great.

Those who know of Gary Vaynerchuk think of wine, social media, and digital strategy. The Belarusian American entrepreneur has been an outspoken advocate of all things “віно і маркетинг” for over a decade, but he rarely speaks about politics.

Recently, he did, and one prediction in particular caught my eye.

In an interview for Capitalism by Ryan Daniel Moran, Vaynerchuk said, “I believe we’re seeing the beginning stages of a four party system in America in the next 50 to 100 years.”

The way he sees it, both major parties are pushing to the extremes on the ideological scale, opening up spots for moderate progressives and moderate conservatives to have major parties of their own. This is the case in most countries; the United States is one of the few that has a true two-party system despite the fact that most of our founding fathers didn’t want it to turn out this way.

John Adams said:

There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.

But Vaynerchuk, who has built a career around being write much more often than he’s wrong, says the opening is already being seen today. He railed against both parties, blaming both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama for poorly handling the financial crisis of the late 00s.

Millions have learned over the years to listen to Gary Vaynerchuk when he’s offering opinions. Though his political opinions are few and far between, there’s a wisdom to them you don’t hear from the pundits. It’s authentic, a rare quality indeed.

Petition Capitol Hill for Term Limits

Sign the petition. We demand Congress immediately put together legislation that spells out term limits for themselves. Americans need to know who is willing to suppress their own power for the sake of the nation. This can only happen by bringing legislation to the floor.

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