The City of Detroit can’t maintain her Parks but the Private Sector Can

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 10th, 2013

Week in Review

Detroit, the Motor City, the automotive capital of the world (at one time), is an example of what government should NOT do.  The city got rich off of the automotive industry.  They imposed a city income tax.  Greatly expanded the size of city government.  With the public sector unions negotiating generous pay and benefit packages.  Just as the UAW was giving their members generous pay and benefit packages.  And why not?  Detroit WAS the Motor City.  And nothing was going to stop that cash cow.  What could possibly go wrong?

As it turned out, a lot.  Competition came in and offered quality cars for less.  And the great decline of the Big Three began.  As did all that tax revenue to fund that expanded government with those generous pay and benefit packages.  Fast forward to today and Detroit is a shell of what it once was.  Half of its population is gone.  Drowning under the cost of that expansive city government.  And forced to close city parks because there’s just no money left after paying for those generous pay and benefit packages (see Detroit to Lose 51 Parks – Impact on Residents by Marilisa Sachteleben by Marilisa Sachteleben posted 2/4/2013 on Yahoo! News).

Detroit’s City Council nixed a plan to lease Belle Isle to the State of Michigan last week. In response, Mayor Dave Bing announced plans to close 51 area parks, cut maintenance at others, and greatly reduce recreation center budgets overall, says the Detroit Free Press…

The Detroit Free Press reports that revenue lost from the collapsed Belle Isle deal means that groundskeeping on Belle Isle will be limited. The Belle Isle Conservancy was able to get the island’s historical aquarium reopened in 2012 after being shut down for several years. With less money, it may be difficult for Belle Isle attractions to remain open…

Detroit resident Syed Mohiuddin of the Michigan Muslim Community Council is very concerned about park closures. He said, “My wife and I live downtown, and we are definitely affected by the announcement. Park closures are not an option. To the contrary, we need to invest more in parks to make our neighborhoods safer and community healthy. How do we do that given the state of our budget? Partnerships. Corporations, suburban religious groups, and others can and should partner with city government and community organizations and find solutions for each and every park. They are just too important to sacrifice, not in the name of politics, not in the name of budgets.”

He’s right, you know.

One local park group came up with such a solution: the Clark Park Coalition. Clark Park, at 1130 Clark St. in Detroit’s Southwest-Mexicantown neighborhood, was forced to close over 20 years ago due to financial troubles in Detroit. Concerned neighbors, activists, organizations, and youth programs put their heads together to preserve Clark Park. They formed a nonprofit partnership with the city recreation department.

Currently, Clark Park’s collective provides year-round programs to over 1,200 youths in the area. It maintains a regulation-size outdoor ice hockey rink (the only one in Metro Detroit). Free daily summer lunches are served to over 100 youth. Activities at Clark Park include baseball, arts and crafts, field trips, soccer, golf, fitness training, softball, tennis, roller hockey, gardening, and ice skating. Kids can come to the park center for homework help, mentoring, and computer assistance. There are community service activities for school projects and even opportunities for kids to find jobs.

Imagine that.  The City of Detroit is going bankrupt.  They can’t afford basic maintenance at their parks.  And look at all the private sector did at Clark Park.  This just goes to show you what the private sector can do.  And what the public sector can’t do.  The lesson?  Cities should privatize as much as they can.  And embrace partnerships.  Corporations.  Suburban religious groups.  And community organizations.

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Email and Electronic Bill Paying as well as Retiree Benefits are Bankrupting the U.S. Postal Service

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 10th, 2013

Week in Review

The United States is not the only country having trouble with their postal service.  Email and electronic bill paying have taken away a huge source of revenue for the postal service in the US.  As well as in the UK (see Post Office will shut one in five branches after ‘losing £40m a year’ by Anna Edwards posted 2/7/2013 pm the Daily Mail).

The Post Office said they were losing £40 million [$63 million US] a year, so it was seeking retail partners for 70 branches, enabling them to stay in their current locations…

CWU general secretary Billy Hayes said the announcement was a ‘huge blow’ to the Post Office network, saying: ‘Staff will be in shock at the scale of what will effectively be the closures of Crown post offices across the country.

‘This move will have a huge impact on the high streets of small towns earmarked to lose their Crown post office.

‘These offices provide a dedicated specialist service to communities which will not be replicated by a window or two in a bigger shop…

‘It leaves huge questions about the future of the Post Office – how can it realistically deliver services for passport applications, identity services and a range of financial services while being dramatically pruned back? What does it mean for Metropolitan Police plans to move into London post offices?’

Robert Hammond, of Consumer Focus, said: ‘The Post Office network must change if it is to be sustainable.

‘These changes to Crown post offices are part of the biggest-ever programme of change to the network and consumers will want to see Post Office services that are high-quality and accessible, and offer the products and services they need. This is more important than the issue of who operates the post office itself.

People are using Royal Mail less in the UK.  So to save the postal service the UK is taking drastic action.  Basically privatizing as much of it as they can.  By partnering with other retail outlets that can cut the overhead cost of standalone post offices.  Some people may not be happy about these developments.  But it’s their own fault for using email.  And paying their bills online.  If they want to keep the postal service this may be their only chance.  Something the Americans should consider.  Based on the money they’re losing (see Postal Service loses less, but still in trouble by Jennifer Liberto posted 2/8/2013 on CNN Money).

In the three months ended Dec. 31, the agency lost $1.3 billion — considerably less than the $3.3 billion lost in the year-earlier period.

The service was hurt as the volume of first-class mail, which most consumers use to pay bills and stay in touch, decreased by 4.5.%, said USPS chief financial officer Joseph Corbett. But it got help as shipping and package volume for the busy holiday season increased 4% compared to the prior year.

Still, the service is in trouble. The key culprit remains a 2006 congressional mandate, under which it has to pre-fund healthcare benefits for future retirees. The USPS has been borrowing billions of dollars from taxpayers to make up for the shortfalls…

The Postal Service on Wednesday unveiled a plan to end Saturday delivery of mail, a move which is expected to save $2 billion a year, a drop in the bucket compared to the $16 billion loss the organization reported for 2012.

The US has about 5-times the population of the UK.  So if we multiplied their losses (in US dollars) by 5 it comes to $316 million.  A far cry from the $16 BILLION lost in 2012.  The U.S. Postal Service has a far greater crisis on its hands than the Royal Mail.  And it goes to that unfunded retiree health care plan that the U.S. government is now forcing them to fund.  Compounding the problem of email and electronic bill paying.

Employers who provide retiree pensions and health care benefits are supposed to put money aside for their current workers’ retirement.  In accounting terminology, this retirement expense should be expensed on the income statement (lowering profits) with a credit going to the balance sheet to show the money owed.  A liability.  When a person retires and starts incurring retirement costs the employer pays for these and debits that liability account.  Reducing it.  And credits a cash account.  Reducing it.  When an employer pays a retiree it should be entirely a balance sheet transaction.  Completely off the income statement.  With no impact on profitability.  This payment should reduce their cash balances.  As well as their liability account for retirees.  For as they pay their retirees it reduces what they owe their retirees.

The U.S. Postal Service didn’t do this.  They simply paid and expensed these retirement benefits as they incurred them.  Greatly understating their retirees’ costs.  And overstating their profitability.  Leaving a massive unfunded retiree health care liability.  Funding this massive unfunded liability is bankrupting the U.S. Postal Service.  Or rather these massive retiree costs they were hiding off the books are now bankrupting the U.S. Postal Service.  Unions want to go back to NOT funding these retirement costs.  And have the U.S. taxpayer bail them out.  Just like they bailed out the UAW retirement plans when GM and Chrysler went bankrupt.

The U.S. needs not only to privatize portions of the U.S. Postal Service like the UK they also need to privatize pensions and health care plans.  Like most businesses have.  Give employees money to put away for their own retirement needs.  For the old ways just don’t work anymore.

Funny how progressives hate all of the other old ways.  Like thrift, going to church, waiting until marriage before having sex, etc.  But pensions?  Retiree health care benefits?  No, when it comes to these things they’re all for going back to the Fifties.

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Methadone Overdoses kill more Teens and Young Adults than Guns Do

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 10th, 2013

Week in Review

Colorado and Washington have recently decriminalized marijuana.  Pot shops can now legally sell marijuana without violating state law.  They are still violating federal law but the Obama administration has stated that they won’t prosecute recreational users in those states.  Even the United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW) is looking to organize these pot shops.  It seems everyone wants to cash in on greater drug use.  And why not?  What could possibly go wrong with that (see Drug Users Turn Death Dealers as Methadone From Bain Hits Street by Sydney P. Freedberg posted 2/8/2013 on Bloomberg)?

While the number of U.S. overdose deaths involving methadone peaked in 2007, it was still almost six times higher in 2010, the most recent year for which data are available, than in 1999.  The data don’t reflect the source of the methadone—whether it’s addiction clinics or pain prescriptions.  More than one drug might be involved in each death.

So how many overdose deaths where there in 2010?  About 4,500.  More than the 3,889 dead from firearms in 2010 for ages 15-24.  Common ages for drug addiction.  So to stop these needless deaths we should do everything we can to prevent drug addiction.  From keeping addictive opiates illegal.  And any drugs that may serve as a gateway to these harder and more dangerous addictive drugs.  Such as marijuana.   Often the first drug many addicts start with.  We should do everything we can to get these drugs away from our kids.  Even if it only saves one life.  The rational President Obama uses for sweeping changes in gun control laws that many on the Left even concede will not prevent the kinds of tragedies like that in Newtown, Connecticut.  Yet President Obama has stated that he won’t prosecute recreational marijuana users in Colorado and Washington.  Even though more teens and young adults die from drug overdoses than from guns.

In the small towns where CRC has clinics, its methadone has surfaced in criminal cases, police and prosecutors say. Dearborn County, Indiana, officials are planning a $10 million expansion to the local jail, needed partly because of crimes tied to CRC’s clinic in Lawrenceburg, said prosecutor F. Aaron Negangard.

“We’ve had people come down to the methadone clinic and rob a bank because they need money to pay for methadone,” he said. “We’ve had people at the McDonald’s shooting up. Whether it’s dealing or someone giving take-homes to a friend, it’s been a huge problem…”

In Virginia, 3-year-old Trevor Hylton died on Sept. 30, 2009, after drinking methadone that his mother, Lisa Michelle Hylton, said she left on a kitchen counter in a cough-syrup cup.

Not only does drug addiction destroy the lives of the drug addicts but of the people around them.  Those people robbing banks to pay for their legal methadone.  And once they get it they go and shoot up at the local McDonald’s.  Where young and impressionable kids can be found.  It’s a “huge problem.”  Also, a 2-year old died from this legal substance when it was brought into the house.  Clearly something should be done to stop drug use.  Even if it only saves one life.  Because it is  destroying the lives of addicts.  And those around them.

In methadone maintenance treatment, an almost 50-year-old field, drug addicts get daily doses of the synthetic narcotic. In appropriate amounts, it alleviates the symptoms of withdrawal from heroin or other opiates without getting users high. In combination with counseling, methadone can help addicts stay off illegal drugs and live with more stability, research shows.

Counseling is “the backbone of addiction treatment,” said Elinore F. McCance-Katz, a physician who has advised California state officials on treating opiate dependency. Without it, there’s a “good possibility” that patients won’t reduce or stop their drug use, she said.

Once addicted it’s a bitch to kick.  A lot of people fail trying.  Some don’t even try.  As getting high is more fun than trying to get clean.  Further proof that we need to do something to stop drug use.  Even if it saves only one life.

With the Obama administration looking the other way to flagrant violations of federal drug laws in Colorado and Washington and the UFCW helping to decriminalize marijuana to profit off of drug use one has to wonder why anyone cares about a story about methadone addiction.  This is not the kind of story you want to run when you’re trying to ease drug laws to lock in the youth and drug addict vote.  So why is this even in the news?

Bain Capital, the private equity firm co-founded by former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, paid $723 million for CRC in 2006, corporate filings show. Romney, who left Bain in 1999, had no input in its investments or management of companies after that, he has said…

“With a nonprofit, the incentive is to get people to treatment and wean them off,” Bragg said. “When you have a for-profit and cash-only business, there is no incentive to detox them. In fact, there’s an incentive not to detox them because of the continual cash flow.”

Oh, that’s why.  It’s Mitt Romney’s fault.  Of course.  And that contemptible profit incentive.  It’s never the drug addict’s fault.  Or the societal decay that condones drug use.  Because kids are going to be kids.  They’re going to experiment with drugs as much as they will experiment with sex.  No point telling them not to.  Because kids have to be kids.  Besides, who are they hurting?

Virdie Channing Compton, 30, of Council, Virginia, was on methadone maintenance for more than four years at a CRC clinic in Cedar Bluff after opiate abuse that began in his teens, he said in an interview. After a year or two, he was shooting up his take-homes, he said, and abusing other drugs.

“I was strung out” worse than before, Compton said. He beat the clinic’s drug tests, he said, by sneaking in clean urine in a bottle tucked in his underwear.

On June 3, 2011, Compton had gotten his dose at the clinic and was driving through Council in an unlicensed farm truck when he veered into some oncoming motorcycles. He hit William Van Nortwick, a retired teacher from Safety Harbor, Florida, who was traveling with two sons and a friend on vacation.

Van Nortwick died. Tests showed Compton was under the influence of methadone and Alprazolam, an anti-anxiety drug. He pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter. He’s serving a nine- year prison sentence.

Kids can hurt a great deal of people when they grow up into drug addicts.  Would that have happened if Bain Capital didn’t take over these methadone clinics?  Probably not.  As these clinics would have been shut down by the state due to budget problems.  Which is why they were privatized in the first place.  So these people may have survived.  But this guy would have still been a drug addict.  An untreated drug addict.  Who may have continued to work his way up to harder drug use.  And turned to crime to support his habit.  Perhaps even becoming a drug dealer.  Possible taking even more lives in the long run with his untreated addiction.  Maybe sharing needles in a heroin addiction.  Catching and spreading AIDS.  Or simply dying earlier from a drug overdose.

Some states are more stringent than others. Ohio has banned for-profit methadone clinics for decades, after state mental- health advocates and leaders decided addiction care was “more in line with the mission of not-for-profit organizations,” said Stacey Frohnapfel-Hasson, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services.

That doesn’t keep CRC from treating Ohio addicts. The company’s East Indiana Treatment Center in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, saw 2,479 patients in 2011, state records show; only 380 of them were Indiana residents. Almost 45 percent, or 1,111 were from Ohio. Most of the others, 987, were from Kentucky.

Part of the reason for the inflow: Indiana’s rules on take- home doses are more lenient than those in Kentucky or Ohio, said Vidya Kora, a past president of the Indiana State Medical Association. Kora, a LaPorte County commissioner and former coroner, has called for turning all methadone clinic operations over to non-profit agencies.

While Indiana adopted legislation in 2008 aimed at mandating marijuana testing for methadone patients, creating a central registry of patients and decreasing the maximum number of take-home doses to 14 from 30, the rules are still less stringent than others, said state Senator Ron Grooms, a Republican whose southern Indiana district includes a CRC clinic in Jeffersonville.

Apparently using marijuana is a problem for methadone patients.  Do they test for beer and bourbon?  For according to marijuana proponents smoking marijuana is no different from drinking beer or bourbon.

When the Netherlands decriminalized marijuana one of the unintended consequences was the drug tourism that it attracted.  And the crime.  Causing them to later demand proof of residency before buying marijuana in their coffee shops.  The more potent marijuana with higher levels of THC has caused further unintended consequences.  Which they want to prevent the sale of.  Complicating their drug policies.  Something Colorado and Washington will have to deal with.  And the states that are in close proximity to them.

If they kept all drugs illegal there would probably be at least one child less that experiments with marijuana.  And moves on to a heroin addiction and a methadone detoxification.  Shouldn’t we do this?  Even if it only saves one child?

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Bad Keynesian Policies cause influx of Romanian and Bulgarian Migration into Germany

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 10th, 2013

Week in Review

It is interesting that countries that get into trouble using Keynesian economic policies tend to go to countries that relied on Keynesian policies less for help.  States with high government spending and bloated public sectors turn to countries with less government spending and less bloated public sectors for help.  Yet Keynesian economic policies are still the dominant polices of many nations.  Including the US, the UK, China, countries within the Eurozone, Bulgaria and Romania (see German warning over Romanian and Bulgarian migration by Rosa Silverman posted 2/6/2013 on The Telegraph).

German cities have warned that an influx of Romanian and Bulgarian economic migrants will cost them dear and put the “social peace” at risk…

Berlin, Hamburg, Dortmund and Hanover have seen a six-fold increase in economic migration from the two countries since 2006, which they say has left them struggling to cope…

The warning comes amid fears in Britain that tens of thousands more Romanians and Bulgarians will come here each year after formal restrictions on the numbers of low-skilled workers from the two countries end next year.

A report by the campaign group Migration Watch UK warned last month that up to 70,000 migrants could arrive annually from then.

Of course the question that just begs to be asked is why are Romanians and Bulgarians leaving their countries in the first place?  The Cold War is over.  The communists are gone.  These are beautiful countries.  Blessed with farm land.  And natural resources.  With some great people.  And a lot of history.  So why leave?  Because they caught the Keynesian contagion during the Nineties.  Their central banks kept interest rates artificially low to stimulate economic activity.  Which they did.  But a lot of that economic activity was artificial.  A bubble.  Times were good.  They expanded government employment.  And government pay and benefits.  And then the 2007-2008 financial crisis came along.  Bursting that bubble.  Leaving these nations with budget deficits.

Both nations were on track to join the Eurozone.  Working hard to meet the Maastricht criteria.  Conditional for entry into the common currency of the Eurozone.  After the financial collapse meeting the Maastricht criteria became more difficult.  As the fall in economic activity and the rise in the unemployment rates of these countries caused tax revenue to fall.  Creating deficits that approached or exceeded those permitted under the Maastricht criteria.  And the Keynesian cure for a recession, easy credit and more government spending, just made those deficits worse.  And it caused inflation to rise to or above that permissible under the Maastricht criteria.  They had to borrow money to meet their spending obligations.   And a condition of those loans was to bring their spending down to acceptable levels.  Like that to meet the Maastricht criteria.

Long story short the damage these Keynesian policies caused required very painful austerity to fix.  High unemployment and austerity makes people want to leave home for sunnier economic climes.  As Germany has been the bedrock of the Eurozone because of their more responsible governing and restraint in government spending these people went to Germany.  And to the UK.  Who didn’t join the Eurozone.  And aren’t mired in the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis.  Though they are implementing a little austerity of their own to bring down their budget deficits.

High government spending and large deficits cause trouble.  The U.S. has numbers worse than both Bulgaria and Romania.  Which means there is trouble ahead.  But unlike other nations the United States’ population won’t be able to travel to sunnier economic climes.  For no country will be able to absorb that amount of migration.  Not even Germany.  Or the UK.  Combined.

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Birth Control and Abortion may lead to Higher Incidences of Birth Defects

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 10th, 2013

Week in Review

When we interfere with natural physiological functions of the human body bad things happen.  People who smoke a lot of cigarettes can get emphysema, lung cancer and heart disease.  People who drink excessive amounts of alcohol can suffer from liver disease.  Consuming too much sugar can lead to diabetes.  Drinking contaminated water can lead to dysentery and cholera.  If we take too many blows to the head we can suffer brain damage.  And so on.

The human body is an incredibly complex machine.  With many subsystems doing remarkable things.  And any time we interfere with these systems bad things happen.  Our doctors warn us all the time not to interfere with the normal functioning of these systems.  And they do this for all systems save one.  The reproductive system (see Older mothers driving up birth defect rate by Stephen Adams posted 2/6/2013 on The Telegraph).

Increasing numbers of older mothers and use of IVF has led to a marked increase in the number of babies born with birth defects since the 1980s, say researchers.

They looked at 5.4 million births across 14 European countries between 1984 and 2007.

They found that the rate of multiple births had increased by about 50 per over that timescale; while the rate of those births which also had congenital birth defects had doubled…

Professor Helen Dolk, from the Centre for Maternal Fetal and Infant Research, University of Ulster, and the co-author of the study, said: “The increase in multiple birth rates may be explained by changes in maternal age and increased use of assisted reproductive technology (ART).

“It is clear that more research needs to be done to determine the contribution of ART to the risk of congenital anomalies in multiple births.”

The study, based on data from a network of clinicians called the European Surveillance of Congenital Anomalies (EUROCAT), is published in the journal BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

Women attack their reproductive systems for years.  They take birth control.  Such as hormonal contraceptives.  Which prevent the physiological process the body is trying to do.  They have abortions.  Which interrupts the physiological change their body is going through.  While their bodies try to conceive women fight against this physiological process for years.  Delaying their child-bearing years.  Which is unnatural.  In fact, the female body is trying to conceive a child long before a girl is emotionally mature and even capable of caring for a child.

Before the sexual revolution most women were married and having their children in their twenties.  Allowing their bodies to complete the physiological process they were trying to complete.  So it’s no surprise that altering this physiological process may lead to complications in birth.  As well as a rise in breast cancer that also shows some correlation between birth control and abortion.

Incidences of birth defects and breast cancer have risen since the sexual revolution of the Sixties.  There could be other contributing factors.  But the prevention and delaying of a natural physiological process may be complicit in the rise of birth defects and breast cancer.  Just as smoking cigarettes can cause emphysema, lung cancer and heart disease.  Just as drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can cause liver disease.  Just as consuming too much sugar can cause diabetes.  Just as drinking contaminated water can lead to dysentery and cholera.  And just as too many blows to the head can cause brain damage.  Unnatural attacks on these physiological systems can all lead to bad things happening later in life.  And probably should be avoided.

Women may benefit by having their children earlier rather than later.  And once they have their children the use of birth control and abortion will be moot in regards to birth defects.  For they will not be having children that these physiologically altering processes can affect.

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