Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Minnesota Freeloaders

I'm frustrated.
I'm confused.

I don't think I am really arrogant or cocky.  I definitely don't think that the way I think of things is the "right" way if it means that to be "right" the views of others would have to be "wrong."  But, still I am confused.  I simply don't understand many of the views of my peers.  For the most part, I don't bother them with my views regardless if they bother me with theirs.

Jeepers.  The last thing I want to be is political or be a guy that rants about current events.   It truly is the last thing I want to be.  I feel like I am forced to be the crazy extremist political ranter in light of the ideas of our state.  I feel for the most part I am pleading with everyone around me and expressing views on things that they do not share.  But, does nobody else see the financial state of Minnesota and our world the way I do?  I mean, you are all intelligent people and are perfectly capable to make decisions.  Each and every person in this world deserves to state their opinion and be heard.  Everyone deserves to be able to hold their opinion without criticism or guilt.  I guess to me, I don't understand why my views might be the unpopular ones.  Here's what I am confused about today.

The Minnesota Vikings more or less believe that they "deserve" a new stadium to play in if they are to remain in Minnesota.  It isn't that they want permission to build one.  They don't even want an option on land or a tax break.  They more or less want us to build it for them.  I think they are willing to chip in a little money, but the bulk of this stadium they want for free.  The project began with an estimated $500 million dollar budget and has since expanded into a $1.2 billion dollar project.  To put this into perspective, that $1.2 billion dollar amount divides out to be $224.51 for each and every person in Minnesota.  This is every man, woman, and child using 2011 census numbers, not just taxpayers.  How could this ever be a viable endeavour?  How could this even ever be a remote consideration?  What would ever give government the power to spend $224 of my money without any sort of choice in the matter on my part?  Well, since my daughter is still a minor, I guess I get to pay $448.  Better still, right? 

I have had multiple discussions with people about this topic and they seem to just shrug it off and not care about it.  Think about this seriously.  Do you want government to forcedly take money from everyone in the state disregarding their will?  Is it a fair situation to you since you want to Vikings to stay in Minnesota?  Are you really so selfish to think that keeping the Vikings in Minnesota by bribing them with a new stadium "works" for everybody whether they like football or not?  Or, do you just disregard others completely?

In 2011, it was the original projection that the state of Minnesota had a rather large deficit.  The state of Minnesota actually shut down for a while last year because of budget proposal failures.  But, then the topic got changed to the Vikings "needing" a new stadium and the budget "crisis" disappeared and was replaced with a surplus.

Now, in light of negative talks about the new stadium, Minnesota tax payers have been notified that the state capital building is more or less "in ruins" and they might need $241 million to fix that up.  Just so we are clear on this.  The figure I saw on the news for repair of the building was $241 MILLION dollars.  Yes, $241 MILLION dollars to REPAIR a building.  I bet I could have at LEAST 482 huge pole buildings built and furnished for $241 million.  I bet our state government could all fit into one or two of them.  That would leave about 480 of them empty for use for housing or some other noble cause.  How can the state government ever justify this sort of spending?  How can all of you, my peers, not be really, really pissed about this?  It's your money.  It's my money. 

Precedent for this silly spending was set in 2007 when the state of Minnesota added additional sales taxes to help fund a $522 million dollar stadium for the Twins baseball club.  That worked like a charm when it rained most of this past spring and game after game was cancelled.  When there was a chance of poor weather, attendance was next to nothing, yet the games went on.  But, they were better off there than in the Metrodome, right? 

What are some of the arguments for the new stadium?

It will create jobs.

It will create jobs.  I agree completely.  While it is being built, a lot of new jobs will exist.  But, after it is completed, most of those jobs will end.  So, we could argue that job creation, even it if is short term (1-3 years) is still a good thing.  Again, I would agree.  But, I would ask you to consider at what cost per job for these jobs?  What about fixing up our state highways, streets and bridges?  Why don't we demolish some of the rundown buildings in the metro and create some parking ramps or something to help everybody have good access to the events that we already have?  Could we level out a block of decrepit buildings and make a park or something?  Don't these things create jobs?  I mean, the situation isn't really any different except these works would benefit everyone rather than just Vikings fans.  Also, I don't know about you, but I get around the metro and out state quite a bit.  Our roads are rough and terrible.

The argument has been made to me that the actual finished Viking facility would employ more people long term.  I guess I can see some property management and public relations sort of jobs, but I really can't see the point of them.  Creating jobs in a sense of day to day operations for an establishment that is built and operated with tax money is nothing more than another liability.  As far as food service goes, I think the discussion is even more moot.  There will not be any significant new food service or janitorial jobs created for the new Vikings stadium that don't directly damage the supply of jobs available at the Metrodome.  Don't kid yourself.  The food service people work their butts off and get paid very little because the margins are fairly tight on food service.  The managers of those food service companies will continue to trim back jobs at one location and move staff to the other and will likely even use most of the same staff.  It isn't like they are going to schedule huge events at the Metrodome on the same day as Vikings games.  It isn't going to happen.  Think of it this way:  Susie works at the wiener stand on the Metrodome on Tuesday for an event and then again on Friday for Monster Trucks.  Then, Susie works the wiener stand at the Twins game Saturday.  Then on Sunday,  Susie works the wiener stand at the preseason rally at the new Vikings stadium.  Susie CAN work at all locations on different days.  And, why wouldn't she want to?  I see no new jobs here.  Well, maybe there is a few, but again, try to justify spending over a billion dollars to create these jobs.

The new complex will make over $85,000 per event in parking alone.

This is really silly and it makes an assumption.  This statement assumes that the events will all sell out.  This statement assumes that all parking will be purchased at full retail.  You cannot believe that if Xcel Energy, Coke, Pepsi, Target, or anyone else wanted to throw a big party for their employees and take them to a game that the management of the new stadium wouldn't cut them a deal on parking for multiple cars?  You better believe they would give them a break.  They better.  Vikings stadium management would be fools not to.  It's only good business.  Either way, the Twins pitched us all on a profitability scale figuring that almost all of the seats were full.  How much do they make if nobody goes to the games?  Hard to bank on unrealized income.

The new complex will bring lots of tax money into Minnesota.

I guess I don't understand this idea, either.  Who is this additional tax money coming from?  The players?  Most of the players don't even live in Minnesota.  Is this additional tax money coming from fans?  Is it from increased capacity of the new complex?  If it is, it is also banking on unrealized income from an unproven source.  I don't remember too many sold out Vikings games in this lifetime.  So, does that mean if we the people build a new stadium that seats more people that magically more people will come?  No, it doesn't mean that at all.  In fact, it is financially irresponsible to assume that it would.  But, it comes to your opinion about it, not mine.  I do not want my money handled irresponsibly.  Do you?

I think the only way I could see more tax money coming into Minnesota is that the property values of housing and of the property the new stadium is built on would change.  There is potential for huge property tax gains.  But, that really seems to help out the city and county where the new stadium is.  It does not help out anyone else in Minnesota.

The new stadium is an investment in the future of our state.

I just don't think so.  I think roads are an investment.  I think education is an investment.  I think parks are an investment.  I do not think that a stadium is.  Even if we build it, we aren't guaranteed that the Vikings won't leave five years from now anyway.  Or, maybe ten years from now they will demand another new stadium that costs $5 billion?  Who is to say?  I do think that if the stadium idea was such an absolute cash cow and a terrific multi-billion dollar making idea, the owner of the Vikings would want to build it himself.  Why wouldn't he?  He could afford it.  He doesn't build it himself because then he is tied to Minnesota.  If he built it himself, it would be his neck in the line if it didn't work out, not the tax payers of Minnesota.  These risks are not acceptable to him.  So, the other way to get the stadium is to threaten to leave and watch Minnesotans that like football kick, scream, and cry about it.  Then, when enough pressure gets put on politicians, the Vikings get their stadium for free.

The Vikings will leave without a new stadium.

Wow.  Well, it was fun while it lasted.  Sorry Vikings, but this just isn't working out.  You can't win a Superbowl and a good portion of your players are being bailed out of jail regularly.  I'm sorry, Vikings, but I think we need to see other people.  Really, let them leave if they want to.  If they don't want to be in Minnesota, let them go.  Are you willing to pay $1.2 billion dollars so they stay?  If they leave the state, they will still be on television, would they?  Or, if they leave the state do they just ride off into the sunset on a dusty saddle with worn out spurs?  Seriously?  What appeal does any of this argument have to a person like me that just doesn't care about the Vikings?

Last but not least is my favorite argument.

Well, I like football so I want a new stadium.  If it was something you liked, you would want it, too.

Wrong again.  If our state had a product and giving money to the state via taxes actually earned something, an investment in a project of the state might be more appealing.  But, when our state does little other than argue over insignificant things, blow billions and billions of dollars of our money, lie right to our face in the media, and place blame in a he said/she said fashion the idea of believing or backing any of the politicians or their ideas has very little luster.  I'm sorry, but I just don't trust them.  I don't trust the governor.  I don't trust any of the house or senate politicians.  I think they look out for themselves, their careers, and they pass legislation to help out those that got them elected.  They do this much of the time at the expense of what would be decent or good.  There frankly is NO project that I can think of that could benefit me that I would think the using tax dollars from everyone in Minnesota would be justified. I would never think it's okay to steal money from you so I can be entertained on the weekends.

But, what do I know.  I am just a crazy political ranter.

Monday, February 20, 2012

You lose with big gas prices.

Gas prices being high.  Who benefits? Why?  How?

Obama and his administration benefit.

Obama campaigned for "green" energy and still gets support for this unrealized campaign idea.  What's the reality?

Big gas prices benefit him and his administration.  How do they? 

Well, ultra liberals will support him despite high energy costs because not unlike ANY  "ultra" stance, they do not want to be confused with facts or reality because their minds are already made up.  Their persistence is respectable, but the inability to accept true reality makes them unreliable sources of facts.  Also, if they are crazy (like PETA crazy) they would not care about spending their inheritance on gasoline because they are under the illusion that it needs to be expensive to do "the right thing" or what they might think "the right thing" is.  So, ultra liberals will love Obama despite whatever energy costs are because they are sure they are correct.

More moderate liberals will tolerate these inflated fuel prices because gas might not be nearly as big or a topic to them in their world as say abortion, gay marriage or naturalization of illegal immigrants.  These people realize that if they fail financially due to excess government taxes, fees, spending, and fuel costs, that the Obama administration has created multiple safety nets for them to live anyway funded by the tax dollars of others.  They are under the impression that this is America and they have a "right" to money and a "right" to a good living.

Obama has also deficit spent more money than all other presidents through Bush combined.  A high gas price brings in billions of additional monies in gas taxes and this may help ease the drought of federal money that states have available to them.  A representative of the state of New York was on record a couple years back praising high gas prices for helping them balance their budget as a state.   Most states have a gas tax of some sort and many of these states use a tax based on the dollar, not on the gallon.  So, higher gas prices equals more money for state government.  More money for state government means state government spends more money.  All in all this just means less money for consumers.

A few of Obama's biggest financial backers are Wall Street banks and oil companies.  British Petroleum is a huge contributor to the Obama cause.  So is Goldman Sachs.  Do you remember them?  They are one of the banks "too big to fail" and they received $10 billion dollars of "stimulus" money because they were in such financial peril.  Wait, do you mean Obama has helped out some of the banks that gave him campaign money?  Really?

A high gas price certainly helps out any gas company in the world.  In the days of Bush, liberals everywhere would be crying foul and burning crosses on the White House lawn if G.W. would have directly had a hand in helping out oil companies.  How does Obama directly have a hand in high gas prices?  By banning offshore drilling, his administration has created higher demand and thus higher prices.  By letting drilling permits expire without renewal, he has further increased demand and prices and also unemployed thousands of America workers.  His excuse for banning drilling and permit renewal was because of the Horizon accident in the Gulf of Mexico where millions and millions of gallons of crude oil were spilled when a rig blew up and the safety valve failed.  The idea that because of disaster, ALL oil drilling and exploration is hazardous to the environment would be same thinking that if one school bus crashes, ALL school buses are unsafe.  Or, if we have one car accident in this country, all car driving will result in an accident.  Or, if we have one case of food poisoning in this country, food should be banned because food isn't safe.  Obama was on record "punishing" BP for their negligence, but then helped gas prices soar and remain high for a prolonged period of time and that allowed BP to pay for their "punishment" money right out of excess cash flow. Convenient. 

Big banks benefit.

Yes, that's right.  Banks benefit greatly from a high gas price.  So, all this time spent by Obama and other politicians complaining about "big banking" and how the banks "rip off" consumers is a complete crock of crap.  Don't get me wrong, I am not defending the banks.  I am just stating the FACT that bank fees are based on the dollar, not on the gallon when it comes to gas.  The banks that run Visa/Mastercard/Amex can now charge me the retailer a lot more money for their services even though I am handling less gasoline.  Every gasoline retailer pays credit card fees based on the dollar, not on the gallon.  Also, if you charge your gas on a credit card and don't get the balance paid monthly, more than likely the dollar amount of gas consumed is higher than it used to be.  Then, the banks make more interest off of you, the consumer.  What better way to earn money off of the public than increase fees on something that most people cannot operate without?  As a consumer, you end up paying for it in the long run as retailers cannot continue to absorb more and more overhead when already faced with low margins.

Wall Street traders benefit.

Banks also back Wall Street traders in the gasoline and oil markets.  Even though the markets are volatile, the markets end up being manipulated by their trading.  Figure it this way:  If you are a market trader and are averaging 5% profit per trade, do you make more money in the product is worth $10, or in the product is worth $100?  If the margins remain, the traders cash in on high gas prices.  Also, in the stock market, if enough people buy up supplies and hold onto them, they price has to go up.  It's because of supply and demand.  Now, if you and a bunch of your billionaire buddies want to make a bunch of money, why wouldn't you buy up as much of the supply as possible, sit on that supply until the market goes up, and them dump it all on the market?  Then, as the market prices fall from being saturated with product, you buy it again at the bottom price, hold on to it until demand gets high again, then sell it again high.  Rinse, recycle, repeat.  This is what is happening right now every single day.  But, instead of the traders making 5% on $10 crude, they are making 5% on $100 crude.

Alternative energy sources benefit.

Obama was on record a couple years ago saying that to make solar or wind power a viable energy option, fossil fuels would have to go up drastically in price.  This is and has happened.  The Al Gores of the world are celebrating I'm sure as he has made billions and billions of dollars preaching his unproven climate claims.

Our government has justified spending in companies like Solyndra for this very reason.  The premise is that before when fossil fuels were cheap, we didn't NEED to look for other choices.  Now that fossil fuels aren't cheap, we NEED to.  The problem with this theory is that the government fails to acknowledge that they are the ones causing the inflated fuel prices in the first place.  Doesn't really seem like much of a crisis if they are in control of it, does it?

Who doesn't benefit?  Everyone else.

Without a choice in the matter you get to pay more for everything.

Taxes.  Sales tax will increase on each and every item you buy.  Why?  Because each and every item that is sold in this country will have to cost more to offset additional overhead due to additional fuel costs in trucking and production of these items.  The government wins again because anytime that goods cost more, they collect more tax.  This is just simple math.  If you are paying 10% sales tax on an item that costs $2.00, you pay $.20.  Increase the cost of that item to $3.00 and now you pay $.30.  This applies to any taxed item.  Government wins.  You lose.

Crops are grown and harvested using diesel fuel.  Corn is used in 75-95% of products in the grocery store (depending on where I sourced).  So, soda will be more expensive because of the high fructose corn syrup.  Ketchup will go up.  Also Oreo cookies, Wonderbread, Corn Flakes, Eggo Waffles and about a million other products.  When the cost of production of corn goes up, the cost of the finished goods almost has to go up.  A high petroleum market also means drastic increases in fertilizer costs, too. This increased cost of production will have an effect on every product that is farmed in this country.  What's the solution?  Import more crops?  I mean, we have government mandated ethanol blended into our gasoline in this country, but we aren't buying the ethanol here.  We are importing it from South America because it's cheaper.  Should we do this with all of our food, too?

Chickens, cows and pigs all eat crops or by-products of crops, so the price of meat goes up.  This increase comes from a few other different ways here, too.  Inflated fuel cost adds to increased feed input costs for animals, increased waste handling costs, and also increased costs for trucking and shipping the animals.  As a consumer, you lose again.

Everything you can buy in this country is trucked, trained, or boated to you.  Many of the things you buy are handled all three of those ways.  With higher fuel costs, the added costs of fuel gets passed down to the consumer.  Every shirt, computer, candy bar, cell phone pair of socks, anything and everything is shipped, trucked or trained to you.  As a consumer again, you lose.

Tires for your car have already seen a huge price increase from a high crude oil market.  Not only are they manufactured from oil, but they are also shipped and freighted many times before they get to you.  Again, you are paying more as a consumer.

The government in Minnesota is talking about reducing the gas tax and adding a mileage tax.  Although the government wants you to drive a very fuel efficient car, they aren't making enough money off of you if you do since you buy less gas.  Their solution is to tax you additionally for your mileage.  So, even though the government has manipulated gas pricing so you have to pay dearly, they are still unhappy with how much money you give them and they still want more of your money.

I could site dozens and dozens of examples here, but I hope you get the idea.  Don't get me wrong.  I am not opposed to green, renewable energy.  But, if the government destroys our economy and keeps us broke, how will we be able to afford to try new things that could lead to breakthroughs in energy?  Do you think the government should be telling us how to solve these problems?   Truly there is no innovation in government.  All innovation, creativity and problem solving comes from sources outside of government each and every time.  I don't know about you, but I frankly don't think government is the most qualified for the job of creating new ways to be environmentally friendly coupled with financial responsibility.  They can't even deliver our mail without going broke.  Do you think they can handle this?

Is your life better now than it was?