Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Open markets help all
Dear City Council, Please take notice of your City Attorney Dan Kearns' guidance when he stated, "This is not a black or white issue." It appears that both the former planning commission and Walmart were lacking in their communications between each other.
Mr. Kearns was also quoted in the Hood River News, saying the "Decisions and Conditions" ruling made in 1991 was "not a model of clarity." Two wrongs don't make a right.
Now is the time to do what is right for the people of Hood River. White Salmon, Mosier, Cascade Locks, et al. I want to be clear on my definition of "do what is right for the people." I mean free market pricing.
Free markets allow the consumer to shop and purchase products at stores that offer like products and services. If competition is stopped, market pricing goes up. Long distance service providers like Sprint and MCI drove AT&T to lower their prices due to competition for consumers. Nobody complains about "slamming" and we no longer see long distance advertising like we did in the late 1980s and early '90s. Prices fell because consumers had a choice.
Councilors, when was the last time you as a consumer saw the fuel stations get into a gasoline price war? No, I can't remember, either. They won't allow it to happen anymore and therefore, there are no free market forces to help lower the price of gasoline.
In Hood River, we have a duopoly of grocery stores: Rosauers and Safeway. Having three choices will benefit your constituents by competing for those food dollars. If Walmart fails to deliver a good product at a price they are willing to pay, shoppers will continue to have their current two choices.
Rosauers and Safeway are not going to fold. I do not remember anybody trying to stop Rosauers from expanding their store. They added their nice new Huckleberries natural foods and nutrition section which was in direct market competition with both Mother's Market Place and Daniel's Health and Nutrition here in Hood River. They are still here in business.
Best Western Hood River Inn is adding a new floor of rooms and nobody was defending the B&Bs, Prater's Motel, Oak Street Hotel, Hood River Hotel, et al, by trying to stop Best Western. That is free enterprise and I am happy for their growth.
It is time to open competition in Hood River to help the less wealthy, the retired seniors on fixed incomes, help the low-income workers, and those who are on food stamps put more food on their tables. Allow the food to come into our community by voting and allowing the expansion for food at Walmart.
Don't do it for Walmart; do it for us. You will be glad you did it for the people.
Bring dollars home
Several writers have noted that selling our coal to China diminishes an important natural resource, a resource we should manage for ourselves. While there might be some validity to this statement, I'm thankful other nations have not chosen this path.
As a nation we import more than half the oil we consume, oil that comes from countries like Mexico, Canada and the Middle East. Our lives in the Gorge would be greatly affected if other countries weren't willing to sell us their natural resources.
When we import oil we pay in dollars, dollars that leave the U.S. and end up in other countries. We get these dollars back when people outside the USA buy our exports. Currently we have a large imbalance with more dollars leaving and fewer dollars coming home.
The United States is rich in coal and as an export; selling coal will help by bring dollars home. Before jumping on the "just say no" bandwagon, I'm looking to understand the options available and see if acceptable solutions can be presented. My hope is to see balanced reporting in our newspaper with a thorough and open vetting of this issue.
In reference to the Dec. 10 letter by Steve Nybroten:
Mr. Nybroten notes that our population continues to grow yet we move to reduce energy sources and have no common sense plans to replace this energy. There are common sense plans out there. I suggest reading the book "Reinventing Fire: A New Vision," by Amory B. Lovins and the Rocky Mountain Institute.
This book lays out a road map to eliminate the use of oil and coal in the U.S. by 2050. The path laid out requires no act of Congress (thankfully) nor any new national taxes, subsidies or mandates. It will also save us $5 trillion over continuing with business as usual. There is hope.
Does history repeat itself? If so, there's likely trouble ahead.
Responding to the Great Depression, Herbert Hoover's administration adopted an austerity program and the unemployment rate spiked from 8.7 percent in 1930 to 24.9 percent in 1933 when Franklin Roosevelt became president.
Unemployment then plummeted to 14.3 percent in 1937 as Roosevelt's administration raised taxes, especially on the rich, and greatly increased government spending on jobs creation programs (e.g., CCC in 1933 and WPA in 1935). Concurrently, GDP rose 7.7 percent, 8.1 percent, and a record 14.1 percent in 1934, 1935 and 1936, respectively.
The top income tax rate was raised from 25 percent to 63 percent in 1932, then to 79 percent in 1936, and it stayed at least 70 percent (90 percent under Truman and Eisenhower) until drastically reduced under Reagan to near the 35 percent rate today.
But following re-election in 1936, Roosevelt worried about the increasing deficit and cut spending in 1937 whereby unemployment increased to 19.0 percent in 1938. Government borrowed and spent heavily from 1939 until 1945, preparing for and fighting World War II.
After the war, despite the 1945 deficit being 123 percent of GDP, the economy boomed like never before (www.huppi.com/kangaroo/Timeline.htm). This boom completed recovery from the Great Depression, spurring the private sector and reducing the deficit.
In tough economic times with high unemployment, austerity causes higher unemployment whereas increased taxes and government spending is needed initially to jump-start the economy.
Citing this history, some award-winning economists wanted Obama's 2009 economic stimulus package to be larger and entirely job creation, as intended, rather than partially tax cuts to get Republican votes needed for passage.
Nevertheless, the stimulus did save or create between 1.4 and 3.3 million jobs according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (www.factcheck.org/2010/09/did-the-stimulus-create-jobs), enough to avert a Great Depression but not a Great Recession. So now further government spending to create jobs and spur the private sector is needed.
Additionally, to avoid another 2008-like economic collapse, we must re-enact more regulations made in response to the Great Depression, but repealed since 1980. A prime example is the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, separating commercial and investment banks, repealed in 1999. Only a start on such re-enactments was made in 2010.
But with present-day Republicans dead-set on austerity, tax cuts for the rich and deregulation, will we have to learn lessons from the Great Depression all over again?
Buy local products
Buying local goes beyond supporting local businesses: If it is possible, purchase products that are manufactured locally with local resources, or at least manufactured in Oregon and Washington.
If a product says "Made in the USA," that could mean that it was manufactured in one of the U.S. territories in the South Pacific where U.S. labor practices are not followed.
The Island of Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands, for instance, can lawfully apply the label "made in the USA," but that island is populated with sweatshops and slave labor.
If you purchase a dress at Ananas boutique, for example, in downtown Hood River, you have the privilege of supporting local business and local labor. A dress there may cost more than a similar dress at Walmart, but it was not made by slaves, and you'll be supporting a local business.
This practice builds a stronger local economy. Purchasing locally made products is not always possible, of course, but it is a direction that we should all endeavor to steer. We must try to keep our dollars (Federal Reserve notes) and even our local currency (RiverHOURS), re-circulating as much as possible within our geographic area.
I very much like that we can enjoy products produced from around the world, but a set of wooden toy blocks ought to be manufactured and sold right here in the Gorge and not come from China.
If I had a toddler, I'd find a local wood worker and have her cut me up a fine selection of building blocks from one of our own Douglas fir trees. That would be cool!
Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukah.
Mill A, Wash.
Thank you, Hood River County voters and library supporters. I love having our library back!
I needed an article that wasn't available online yet and the library staff was able to copy and courier it via their regular shuttle to the Parkdale Branch the next day for a reasonable fee. A priceless service!
Someone chose two cedar bark star ornaments at my booth at the Last Chance Holiday Bazaar in Odell on Dec. 11, and inadvertently forgot to pay for them.
Please call me to arrange payment (509-364-3578). Thank you.
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Oil train car being transported by truck
A damaged rail car from the June 3, 2016 oil train derailment and fire is transported from the crash site via truck on I84. Enlarge