Time for a few more tough decisions
ESHB 1086 (the Washington state budget bill) is now available for examination. Some questions and suggestions came to mind after a quick glance, and considering some proposed changes that will negatively impact retirees and schools:
What does the state get for its investment of $1.4 million in archaeology and historic preservation?
What rate of return does the state expect from its Convention and Trade Center expenditure of $66.8 million?
Should the state really spend $1.3 million to open five new liquor stores now or could that investment be postponed?
And will $2.8 million spent to keep nine state liquor stores open Sundays, opening state liquor stores on seven holidays, and opening six mall locations during the holiday season have enough profit to pay for the expenditure?
If we returned to the old method of having the Legislature determine raises the state would no longer have to pay $361,000 to the Citizens' Commission on Salaries for Elected Officials. (This would take a constitutional amendment.)
During these stressful economic times is it necessary to fund special interest commissions such as Commission on African-American Affairs ($453,000), Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs ($437,000), Commission on Hispanic Affairs ($477,000) and Governor's Office of Indian Affairs ($508,000)?
The Cascade's split our state but is it really necessary to fund both a Washington State Historical Society (nearly $5 million) and the Eastern Washington State Historical Society ($3 million)?
Maybe in these tough times the Washington State Arts Commission ($6 million) could take a break.
What if the state's colleges were to stop duplicating degree programs and have those programs split among the four-year colleges? Could that result in a savings?
Surely there are good reasons for keeping items in the budget, but maybe it's time to make a few more tough decisions and eliminate or postpone a few more expenditures.
Retired teachers deserve COLA
If I seem to whine, it's to keep from crying. Retired, elderly teachers in Plan 1 paid our 6 percent into our retirement fund in good faith. Years ago, our governor and Legislature borrowed our money on the promise they would pay it back.
Today, along with increased health-insurance premiums, they want to take away our cost-of-living-allowance - COLA, a paltry 1.5 percent - to balance the 2011-13 budget.
We worked for low wages, counting on a reasonable retirement. We educated your children, knowing they were important to our future. We feel punished for our career choice, wishing we'd been firefighters.
Please help us. Tell your state representatives to pay us our COLA.
Peter S. Bixby
Forum looks at ‘Three Views of Government'
Cutbacks must come, yet what I seem to read is, "Something for everybody, for nothing."
That sentiment abounds in our Legislature. Everyone wants a balanced budget but not at the honest cost cuts to party line and special interests.
The tea party movement arose to give voice to grassroots concerns. But what are those exactly?
So often there is bemoaning that nothing can be done about local problems or concerns because of corporate, governmental, insurance or legal mandates.
The Grandmothers Roundtable decided to invite multiple speakers, from all sorts of views, to help us to understand what the impacts are to taxpayers.
Over the past year we listened to education, banking, business, city and county officials. What appeared evident was the direct political influence over all aspects of community activities.
"Three Views of Government" is the title for the next Grandmothers Roundtable forum.
All of us need to be informed about what the Republican Party, Democratic Party and the tea party movement do to bring about policies that affect all of us.
Questions arose about what do we need to expect from our political leaders? What do we expect of ourselves?
We do belong to a democracy and questioning is a good thing. Apathy is the straightest line for people to be stretched to the limit by a few, until something like what is happening in the Middle East occurs.
You are invited to come to Walla Walla Community College on March 7 at 7 p.m. to room 185 to inform yourselves about where each of us fits in as participating citizens.
All of us are responsible, one way or another, for the direction our economy is going.
Next bubble burst could be worse
Recently, the FCIC announced the findings from its 18-month investigation into the housing-market crash. As was expected, the commission's report pointed a long finger at the "lack of regulation."
Logically speaking, it would be natural to assume the FCIC would include expert testimony from economists and others who actually predicted the crisis in advance, notably those of the Austrian school of thought, such as Peter Schiff and even Ron Paul.
Unsurprisingly, no such inclusions were made.
The commission's underlying factors: Excessive borrowing, an expansion in the subprime lending market, along with loose regulatory oversight, only call for more government intervention into the marketplace. These findings beg the simple question; "Why did these factors occur?"
Could the Fed's easy credit policy, which created the dot-com bubble from 1995-2000, followed by the inflationary increase in liquidity during 2001 as a direct response to that bubble's crash, contributed to excessive borrowing?
Could government mandates under the Clinton years and the Bush years to increase loans made by government-sponsored enterprises, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to the subprime market actually increase subprime lending?
Indeed the government, particularly the Federal Reserve, spiked the punch bowl and watched as Wall Street got drunk.
Somehow, at disadvantage toward an understanding of economics, these government actions are incorrectly labeled the "free market," "limited government" policies of President Bush.
Certainly, hundreds of billions of dollars of stimulus money and the $700 billion TARP bill, only to name a couple, don't reflect free market principles.
Unfortunately for us, our current administration believes the cause will also be the cure.
Instead of allowing interest rates to rise, Bernanke is stopping at nothing to keep them at even lower rates than before the crash.
To his dismay, QE2 seems to be having the exact opposite effect.
Rather than allowing the market to redress the imbalances between the savings rate of the country and the interest rates during the peak years of the housing bubble, the government is doing all it can to artificially keep prices propped up.
The result is likely another bubble, this time in the bond market, which will be far more devastating to the global economy than anything we witnessed in 2008.
Harry Truman also visited county
Seven presidents have visited Walla Walla County, not six as Rick Eskil reported on the front page of Monday's Union-Bulletin.
On May 10, 1950, President Harry Truman arrived at Wallula at 9:02 p.m. He spoke from the rear platform of his train car on a whistle stop tour of Idaho, Oregon and Washington.
I was 3 years old at the time and I saw him speak. At 9:42 p.m. he arrived at Pasco.
See trumanlibrary.org and type in the subject "Harry Truman at Wallula, Wash."
Clarification offered on Anglican
I have noted several ads in the U-B inviting interested persons to join a new Anglican Parish in the area through the Anglican Church of North America. May God bless their ministry.
At the same time it needs to be made clear it is not to be confused with the Episcopal Church, which is the presence of the World Wide Anglican Communion in the United States.
There is no trademark or copyright to the name Anglican, so just about anyone can use it. There is, however, a World Wide Anglican Communion under the titular head of the Archbishop of Canterbury in England.
It is an outgrowth of the Church of England, a reformed Church in the Catholic tradition that is deeply anchored in the earliest traditions of Christianity. The Episcopal Church is a member of that World Wide Anglican Communion. Its presiding bishop, Katherine Jefferts Schori, serves as a member of the Anglican Communion Primates Standing Committee, an assembly of the archbishops of Anglican Churches in various countries.
Here in the valley, the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion are represented by St. Paul's in Walla Walla, St. James' in Milton-Freewater and Grace Church in Dayton.
With that clarification, I trust those who find themselves nourished by this new group will be richly blessed in their worship and their lives.
The Rev. Steven E. Woolley
Episcopal priest (retired)
Labor movement benefitted all
I watched the coverage of the labor unrest in Wisconsin and thought I was stepping back in time to the 19th century. Why, because that is what union busting looked like with workers on one side and government and businesses teamed up to thwart workers' rights on the other side.
And when segments of the middle class cheer on the governor of Wisconsin, I have to wonder why. All workers whether conservative or progressive, benefited from the labor movement.
Consider what over 200 years of protest has gained workers - a 40-hour work week, sick leave with pay, vacation time, overtime pay, child labor laws and workers compensation and workers unemployment insurance. Corporations and the government did not push for these rights, workers did.
The question is, why should we care about the sacrifices that past workers made to get these rights?
We need to care because for the last 30 years the labor movement and its supporters have been demonized to create a false picture of labor unions as bad for business and downright evil. Success, many American' think unions are the problem.
The link between the benefits workers have today has been disconnected from the labor movement that successfully fought and won those rights.
The final question is, why go to so much trouble to change perceptions? Because those hard fought rights can be rolled back.
We have already seen conservatives rail against unemployment insurance as "welfare," when in fact it is an insurance program. I paid into the system for 40 years but luckily never had to use the benefit, but it was there as insurance if I needed the support.
Changed perception - an insurance benefit for those out of work becomes "government welfare." All rights can be taken away especially when those in power think there is a profit motive. What happens when corporations propose lower wages and longer hours to get U.S. jobs back? $5 an hour, $2 an hour?
Who will stand up for you once the labor movement has been delegitimized? Corporations? Government?
Mary Lou Yocum
Half a solution
In the present effort to decrease the national budget deficit one side is fully intent on hobbling us in this fight. Theirs is a half-(fill in the blank) solution.
If you get in a fist fight it's best if you don't have one hand tied behind your back.
We can all take credit for this mess we are in. Solving the deficit mess without wrecking our future is the biggest problem we have faced since World War II and the Great Depression. Cutting spending significantly, without beggaring the nation's future, is necessary.
Increasing revenue is also absolutely necessary. Without this second leg added to the deficit reduction efforts, we're doomed to fail. Federal taxes as a share of the nation's revenue are, in fact, the lowest they have been since 1950 and 13 percent lower than 2008. With all the furor, who knew?
The tax increase on the top two percent would have been a three-and-a-half percent increase. It would have generated $40 billion in revenue in 2011. It wasn't like President Obama was going to kneel on the chests of the rich and pull out their eye teeth with pliers, although that was the strident tone used by many. They even convinced a huge number of the hard-working-just-getting-by members of the middle class to join them in their clarion cry for no more taxes for the wealthy. Go figure.
Those wielding the pliers and pulling teeth in reality are the big banks and corporations and their handmaidens in Congress. They are successfully creating a toothless middle class.
When Americans were polled about cutting spending they were four square for it. When polled about what specific areas they would cut, it turned out there was a clear majority only in one area: cutting aid to the world's poor.
Let's summarize: Apparently, no sector of American society is willing to sacrifice for the common good. The public wants the benefits of government (picking and choosing what they think is justified) but they do not want to pay for them either in higher taxes or in deep spending cuts.
The wealthy have the best Congress money can buy, with a few exceptions. Members of Congress, again with a few exceptions, have little willpower to make really tough choices (cut spending and raise revenue) because they fear they won't be re-elected and/or their masters will be angry.