I really love this concept but question its potential without some toothy legislation to support it. Truman’s sends cleaning supplies via Fedex or UPS in a cardboard box which you refill with concentrates that they also send you – via similar albeit smaller chipping containers. I heard the product described as “only slightly more expensive than the better cleaning products you get in the store.” I will add that they are also significantly less convenient.
If the question is feeling good about our personal footprint, these green (ish) but inconvenient products may allow us, affluent societally-conscious city-dwellers, to do something and send the right message to our children, but most Americans cannot afford to pay many times more than dollar-store prices, and jump through a bunch of hoops, to attain one-percenter benefits.
On the other hand, if the question is reducing the amount of waste society creates, the right answer is to support reusability with meaningful garbage collection fees calculated by usage – in other words, charge people for what they throw away. This would require an entirely new model for waste management. Garbage cans or trucks might need scales and geometric volume scanners for calculating each house’s waste. If you throw away a lot of stuff, you are going to pay a lot of money. If you reuse and repurpose everything (don’t get me started on recycling), you could pay close to nothing. Sounds like a fun home-ec game to play with the family, and it offers real cash prizes!
Of course there are the political obstacles. The exact same politicians who would hop all over the green elements of this concept would oppose its regressive taxation appearance. Regressive taxation is one that hurts poor people and is insignificant to rich people. But that too is manageable if collection rates vary by neighborhoods with lower rates in poor neighborhoods and exorbitant rates in rich neighborhoods (similar to property taxes). The program only works if everyone feels it when they don’t comply, so it would need to feel relatively expensive to everyone across the spectrum.
I am a firm believer that government should stay out of the way of self-interest. But where government is effective and needed is in preventing people from pursuing self-interest that harms others (that’s why we have police and courts for example). I think garbage creation – as necessary as it is – can fit this category. And who knew there were so many great Simpson’s GIFs about garbage!
Much has been said today about President Trump’s ban on transgenders in the military. I have been listening to NPR and it seems to be the only story worthy of coverage. I want to call in and suggest that, in their own best interest, they just stop.
In the six months leading up to the last election, it seemed that the top story that liberal politicians or the left-leaning media wanted to cover was which bathroom transgenders can use. While the Republicans were acknowledging the loss of opportunity, shrinking family buying power, and fears of national security, the Democrats were myopically focused on bathrooms for less than 0.3% of the population.
Before I continue let me say that I believe that transgenders deserve the exact same rights as all Americans, and if they are competent and wish to serve their country, they should be allowed to do so. But my point isn’t one of rights, but rather how political parties accomplish their objectives.
The simple fact is that issues around transgenders hurt Democrats. The press has been quick to point out that the amount the military spends on healthcare for transgenders – Trump’s reason for banning them – is really small. Yet they fail to acknowledge that part of the reason it is small is that there just aren’t many of them in the military. In fact, there aren’t many of them anywhere. This group isn’t getting anyone elected. Meanwhile, the really really big group that the Democratic party counts upon, middle-America union workers, lower-middle-class families, and veterans, simply isn’t supportive of this issue.
But the intellectual liberal protectors of the Democrat party see this as an attack on their interpretation of the Democrat ideal. Equal rights are not negotiable, and when given the opportunity to stand self-righteous, they will rise to the call even if it puts them at odds with the majority of their party.
Trump didn’t put a ban on transgenders in the military because he thinks it makes the military better. He did it because he knows that it further fractures the Democrat party and distracts American voters away from the things they care about – like the President’s own failed promises on health care and immigration.
The National Endowment for the Arts works for a few institutions and artists, but the amount of ill-will it creates offsets the good. The art world – and country – would be better off without it.
The NEA has lost its relevance. There was a time when the art world revolved around Europe. The creators of The NEA sought to ensure that the post-war America was as competitive in the arts as we had proven to be in manufacturing and commerce. Within a generation, they had accomplished their mission. By the mid-1980s, New York had overtaken Paris as the center of the art world. Today, the US has more galleries, art professionals, and museums than any other nation. We also have the most artists. In fact, there are too many artists and too much art being made.
Yikes, what? The art world hates to see this written but knows it to be true. Regularly, conversations between members of the community often try to quantify the problem. It seems that for every institutionally recognized artist, there are ten unheralded artists making a living through gallery sales. For every shown artist, there are another ten selling out of their garage. And for every one of those, there are another ten that will never sell any work at all. That is a lot – and an almost uncalculatable number – of artists working in the US.
The NEA isn’t needed. The private sector is very good – even better than the public sector – at supporting the arts. Every city has their benefactors and it is because of them (not the government) that we have public art and museums. In most cities, every new building must allocate a percentage of building costs to public art. And many organizations (US Artists, Bemis, Artadia to name a few) have demonstrated that they are better at giving out NEA styled grants than the government was. Of course, the community wants government money and more of it, but what community doesn’t want more free stuff? The arts in the US are thriving and would continue to do well without the coins tossed at it by the NEA.
Accessible – easy to grasp and like – art doesn’t need the NEA to fund it. There are lots of ways to get this made and displayed. Benefactors put it up in parks, buildings hang it in their lobbies, and decorative galleries and design shops sell it out of their storefronts.
Really good art is inaccessible to a vast majority of the population and shouldn’t be paid for with tax dollars. It is often head-scratching and not pretty to look at. People may not care, or don’t want to invest the time and understanding. In some cases, they may even find it offensive. These folks would rather see that money go to something they care about – even if it’s only enough to fix a few potholes. Some argue, that this is precisely the reason the government should fund the arts, but again, there are plenty of better sources of financing available and far too much art already.
Too much of what passes for good art today will not be remembered by history. Popular artists often make art that appeals to their contemporaries but lacks political balance. Most work in a political echo chamber where their fellow artists, curators, gallerists, and collectors all have very similar views. As a result, preaching to the choir – and doing so with hyperbole! – tends to get an artist noticed and may be required for public grants.
Yet, as I have argued for years, this does not make for good art! Good art – like good thought – recognizes that solutions are hard, people’s opinions are diverse (even those of educated ones), and that gray is more interesting than black or white.
The NEA provides little benefit relative to the other sources of financing available to the art community. Meanwhile, it creates significantly more negative controversy than other possible uses for the same funds. To repeat my favorite Penn Jillette quote,
You get no moral credit for forcing other people to do what you think is right. There is great joy in helping people, but no joy in [being forced to do it].
I put my money where my mouth is. I care about art and I support it. I buy it, I view it, and I give money to organizations that allow good artists to make more of it. I do not feel I have a right to force regular taxpayers to share in my passion.
[Featured Image. Honey Grid #2 by Karen Finley, an American artist who notoriously directed her 1980s NEA grant toward a shocking performance piece. This author was fortunate to see her at Metro (then Cabaret Metro) in 1991.]
An unbiased reading of the issue makes it clear that it isn’t the Governor who is at fault
Are you one of those people who thinks that the budget stalemate is all Governor Rauners’s fault? If so, ask yourself this question. Are you receiving your information from union sources and Michael Madigan’s political machine? Are you subscribing to sites and publications that have union leanings or an interest in keeping Democrats in office? If so, you must recognize that the demonization of the Governor is in the best interests of both the unions and Michael Madigan and the information they distribute will be biased.
If you want to truly understand what is going on in the state of Illinois, you must look to sources that have no dog in the fight except the betterment of all the people who live here. The best source of this information is the better newspapers in the state, in particular, The Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times. Now I recognize that journalistically, each has had their problems, but in general, their editorial departments are reasoned, logical people without a particular agenda. To that end, I suggest that you read today’s editorial in the Tribune, The governor who won’t back down: A focused Rauner says he’s running in 2018. If you enjoy your slanted sites – as is completely reasonable – recognize that they are preaching to the choir and balance out that information with slanted sites from the other side as well. Learn both sides of the argument to make yourself smarter. You might also want to consider Politico.com, a very good source for political news of all sorts.
Back to the issue at hand, the Tribune does a very good of pointing out that Governor Rauner, who takes no salary and has spent millions of his own money trying to right the wrongs of his predecessors, has prepared a very reasonable budget deal which Madigan has simply ignored. And while Bruce Rauner is traveling the state working tirelessly trying to sell it, the Speaker is, well, on vacation.
For years, the Democrat machine has purchased votes with money that the taxpayers would pay down the road. As the end of that road approaches, we are in a position of not being able to meet those obligations without hurting the taxpayers of today – regular Illinois people – you! The governor acknowledges that this is an inevitability, he simply asks, requests, maybe demands, that in return the Machine stop engaging in the practices that got us into this mess.
Meanwhile, the Speaker realizes that the loss of those “tools” will make it more difficult to keep Democrats in power. Without the ability to promise teachers, first responders, and government workers more pensions, higher wages, more job security, and reduced workload, Democrat candidates will have to run on their own merit. The playing field will be level as it is in most other states.
Political bickering aside, the Governor’s requests are not just reasonable but they are requirements of a properly functioning democratic state (democratic with a small “d”). We should all see this issue for what it is, an old man trying to hold and increase the power of him and his friends at all costs vs a reformer whose sole objective is to prevent that from taking the State down.
This morning as I was walking my children to school a popular teacher enthusiastically handed me a flyer about the upcoming “Day of Action.” As I read it I was interested to note the things the Union hopes to accomplish on behalf of my children on April 1.
Demand: Tax the rich!
Expect that education and social services be properly funded
Put TIF money back into schools
Now first, I take exception to the idiotic and inflammatory “tax the rich” mantra. Our school is located in a neighborhood where the average home price is over $1 million dollars. Is the Union or that friendly teacher really hoping to hurt the parents of his students? Last I checked, they were already paying some of the highest taxes in the country. In addition, these are the most generous donors to the school. Whenever I hear these statements, I wonder if the writer believes that those better off really need to give more or if they need to be punished just for making more. But maybe I digress.
The rest of this all seems good. More for education means books, additional programs, a school nurse, and reduced class size. TIF Funds means physical improvement to the schools, improved HVAC, water fountains that work, and a general all around reduction in our school’s dumpiness. These are things I can get behind.
Unfortunately, in today’s newspaper the exact same CTU claims that Friday’s Strike (note their changing choice of nouns) is legal because it is in protest of the CPS’s failure to pay “raises based on experience and educational attainment.” (Chicago Tribune, 3/30/2016).
So in the document to get the parents on their side, CTU says that Friday is a day-of-action in support of better educational services and nicer schools. Yet to the courts, CTU says they are striking to get raises! Which is it?
If history is a precedent, the answer is pretty clear. Last time we had a strike, there were ten things on the strike priority list, the last two were compensation and job security. I wish I still had the list, but smaller class sizes, facility improvements, and even central air conditioning listed higher. Not surprisingly, when the strike was over, the only things that were addressed were issues compensation and job security – the only thing the Union really cares about.
This (in particular) is not a criticism of the Union. It is their job. The pipe fitter’s union doesn’t care about the lives of pipes. They are paid to care about electricians. By the same token, the teacher’s union is not paid to care about children, they are paid care about teachers. Now, do teachers care about students? Absolutely! But there is occasionally a conflict between what is best for a student and what is best for a teacher. The Union’s job is to take the teachers’ side, play the hardball, and protect the teachers from the associated ugliness.
Unfortunately, in this case, the Union is playing a game that they can win only if the city loses. Property taxes (for those paying them) have skyrocketed this year. City service fees have similarly jumped, while the actual services offered have been reduced. The only way to give the Union what it wants is to further increase taxes or further slash services. This environment of rising taxes and falling services is exactly what precipitated the exodus of the middle-class from Detroit.
People argue that this won’t happen here. People in Chicago are loyal and they love it here in spite of the machine politics, union corruption, and high taxes. Yet only days ago the Tribune ran this headline…
At the time of this posting, my blog was called A Common Sense Conservative. The name and URL were changed in July 2021. I still own the URL and will sell it to Mr. Trump for one million dollars.
Much to the horror of my brand manager, Donald Trump has taken to calling himself, “a common sense conservative.” Well, sorry Donald, in the wild-west world of internet domain land-grabbing I am the de facto owner of that term and you are going to have to pass some pretty stiff tests before I let you run around stealing my spuriously claimed handle.
Personally, I think Donald Trump is a blowhard and a bully. He’s not the schoolyard troublemaker with the biggest fists, he’s the one with the mouth so fast, that his zingers win the fight before the first punch is thrown. I respected these guys when I was a kid but I feared them too. Like all bullies, they know their skill and use it to belittle others and artificially increase their relative stature. I would really like to see how successful his name calling or water bottle spilling is in a dust-up with Ronda Rousey. (God, will you please let this happen?)
But I suppose a common sense conservative can be a bully and a blowhard. Readers of this blog are learning a few of the things I care about (as am I). But off the top of my head, the list looks about like this.
An instinctual understanding of economics – in particular that smaller governments make healthier companies, healthy companies make better jobs, and better jobs make happier people.
That people are happier earning than being given to.
The recognition that “collective bargaining … cannot be transplanted into the public service” (FDR, August 16, 1937)” and why.
Fiscal responsibility which requires that the government cannot spend more than it takes in.
That no one gets credit for forcing other people to do what they think is right (Penn Jilette) and no one gets credit for spending other people’s money.
The appreciation of capitalist democracy as a free-est form of government and the US’s place in the creation of the 123 that currently exist.
The intention to support civil rights continuing march forward without hindrance.
A commitment to support women’s health issues.
A commitment of inclusion for all people.
Trump does pretty well on this list. He may use rhetoric that we are not used to hearing (or makes our ears bleed), but he understands business, and what companies need to succeed, he understands the benefits of a balanced budget and the consequences of the contrary, he recognizes the importance of a strong and active American military, he supports civil rights – in a common sense way if not an active one, and he has supported Planned Parenthood over and over – not for its abortion component but as a valuable resource to women.
The place where Trump strays from the litmus of a common sense conservative, is this last one – the inclusion of Hispanics. Although his plan to get Mexico to pay for a wall turns out to be slightly less ridiculous than it originally sounded, it still ignores the threat of tunnels, the three other borders, and the inefficacy of physical walls in general. Furthermore, his deportation plan is inhumane and fortunately impossible to carry out. It is very likely that both of these promises will eventually be reduced to metaphors for a secure border, and better documentation of people here illegally.
Last night, following Trump’s super Tuesday victory he held a lively press conference rather than a teleprompter speech. He took a surprising, humbler tone, turned down his insults, and offered lots of praise for his competitors. Megyn Kelly (the biggest winner of this campaign so far), a woman known for telling it straight with respect to The Donald called it “presidential” and “very smart”.
As for a common sense conservative, I am not willing to concede my title, but for the first time ever, I have to admit, I think he looked pretty good.
It has been well discussed lately that the untimely death of Antonin Scalia is igniting a fight in Washington with the Democrats and Republicans wrestling over which President gets to appoint a successor. What I think it is more interesting is the impact this series of events will have on the discussion topics during this election cycle. Serious issues of gun control, affirmative action, and abortion will replace the circus of giant-wall building, mass deportation, and who took money from whom.
In fact, some have speculated that the conversation shift will ultimately turn into a referendum on Roe v Wade. Just as Bernie Sanders has made it clear that his nominees would have to commit to overturning Citizens United, every Republican candidate will eventually promise to appoint a justice willing to fight for the rights of the unborn. Eventually the Dems will be dragged into the conversation and will promise to nominate one of the opposite leaning. And for the first time in 40 years’ abortion will be put to the vote.
Following which, absolutely nothing will change.
Republican candidates have built their primary election platforms on right to life promises for decades. Candidate after candidate has sworn up and down that he would be the President to repeal Roe v Wade. Our conservative politicians make promises early in the election cycle to invigorate their evangelical supporters and then forget all about them once they make it into the general election. Following victories, many have nominated justices who should have been able to make a difference. But not a one of them ever even got the ball rolling. There are many consistently hollow promises in Washington and one of them is “I will end abortion in America!”
The simple reason this is the case is that overturning Roe v Wade would be nothing short of political suicide for the responsible President and his associated party.
Consider that most of the voters in America are women and most of those women are pro-choice. In general, women vote like men with the economy and jobs as their biggest concerns, but while men don’t have a shared motivating issue that gets them to the polls and puts their check books to work, women’s most important threshold voting issue is abortion. Pro-choice women are likely the most powerful dormant voting bloc in the country. This army of voters would come out in numbers unlike anything we have seen before. Incumbents from the Executive on down would be run from office.
But the movement wouldn’t stop there. This group also has tremendous fund raising potential. While their male counterparts are already pushed to the limit of their political giving, women currently give at less than half the rate of men and when called on, could raise unheralded sums. These funds would go to pro-choice lawyers and political action groups who would fill the judicial system with lawsuits. Some out of spite, some out of strategy, but all with the intent of creating a new precedent for federally legalized abortion.
No one would want to reinstate Roe v Wade. It’s a well-known fact among legal scholars from both sides of the aisle that it is a terrible piece of legislation. It is poorly reasoned, not grounded in law, and lacks intellectual legitimacy. Without getting too academic, one of the laws many flaws is that it is based on the constitutional right of privacy which does not exist. Another is that it claims not to opine when life begins, but then forbids states from regulations that place life’s beginning prenatally. A third is that it forbids due process with respect to abortion even though due process is a prerequisite of personal liberty. If, you are thinking, “no way, he must be biased,” I am not. Try a Google search of “problems with Roe Vs Wade” and read what the legal scholars say.
The legal left knows that Roe v Wade is a specious argument that is ripe for turnover. Meanwhile its sloppy shortcomings are exactly the fuel that keeps the pro-life’s hope furnace burning. And that pro-life movement is already going at pretty much full-steam. If pro-choice America found their reproductive rights seriously threatened, if the Supreme Court actually followed through on the conservative promise to end federally legal abortion, a sleeping dragon would be awake unlike anything the American political landscape has ever seen. Pro-choice voters, vast sums of money, political action groups, and thousands of liberal lawyers would mobilize under the banner of finding a new precedent for federally legalized abortion and creating a new law that was better constructed, based in sound legal arguments, and would stand up to the toughest scrutiny the right could throw at it.
It wouldn’t be all roses for the left. If Roe v Wade were overturned, there would be a period of time when abortions would not be legal at the federal level (they would still be legal in many states). However, the end result would be an environment where a woman’s right to a legal abortion was more strongly protected than it ever has been. What seems like the worst thing that could ever happen to the pro-life movement would probably end up being the best thing that could ever happen for abortion rights.
Consider what I say. If you are woman (or man) who votes only on the issue of abortion rights, you are wasting your vote. Stop worrying, it’s not going to change and if it did it might be for the better.
The untimely death of Justice Antonin Scalia this weekend has started a partisan battle in Washington. The President is saying that he will nominate someone in due time which probably means about one month. Mitch McConnell, Leader of the Senate, is saying that no nominee of any stripes will be confirmed by the end of the President’s term, and this is an issue that must be left for the next President.
The Republican leadership does a lot of infuriating and seemingly obstructionist things, but is this one Dems should be up in arms about? No, not at all. Whether you are a Republican or Democrat it should make no difference.
History offers very little in the way of precedent. In the last 80 years, there have been only two Supreme Court nominations during a presidential election.
The one that was confirmed was Anthony Kennedy but he was the third appointee for a seat that had been open for some time, so it doesn’t really count. Remember the vilification of Robert Bork? I met him a couple times. Nice guy, but comically disheveled.
The only true nomination during this period was Lyndon Johnson’s 1968 nomination which was not confirmed.
But it should be noted that during the 1968 hearings, the “Thurmond Rule” was created. The Thurmond Rule, named for long-time senator, Strom Thurmond, states just what Mitch McConnell voiced on Saturday – that no court nominations will be confirmed during an election year. Far more a guideline than a rule, it does still illustrate that the modern historical precedent is on McConnell’s side.
That may be little relief to you if you are a Democrat but there are better reasons to un-knot your knickers. First, just consider the simple mathematics behind it. The President knows that if he can get a candidate nominated before he goes, he has 100% chance of making it a Democrat (or one sympathetic to Democratic positions). If he passes and allows the next President to fill the seat, the uncertainty of the election reduces his odds to 50%.
On the other side of the aisle, the Republicans know that if they can’t hold off an Obama nomination, they stand a 0% chance of getting one of their nominees in place. But if they force the delay until there is a new President, their odds improve to 50%.
Maybe this is obvious, but from a political finagling perspective it illustrates that either side should do exactly what they are doing, and if the tables were reversed, it would be the Republican President promising to shove a nominee through the system and the Democrats promising to block it.
If my Democratic friends, continue to be enraged, here’s my final attempt to talk you off the ledge. Republican Presidents are notoriously rotten at picking conservative judges. To list a few examples, John Paul Stevens, nominated by Gerald Ford, was a leader of liberal jurisprudence at the time of his retirement. David Souter was appointed by George H Bush and is considered one of the most liberal judges on the bench. And most recently John Roberts, that handsome devil and Chief Justice appointed by George W Bush was the deciding vote upholding Obamacare.
In nonpartisan times, I think the Senate would probably have the power to determine which President gets to appoint the next nominee, and in this day and age I think the it’s a foregone conclusion that the Republicans will hold true to their promise – and suffer little damage for it. Still, judges are fair by nature and those who make it to this level should not be feared. Reserve your emotions for the positions that the candidates can control and don’t worry about the ones that are determined by simple math.
PS. It’s been nearly 8 weeks since I posted. I feel bad about that although my apology is largely directed at myself for getting too busy to do what I care about. I came out of the holidays with a new tutoring responsibility, a short eBook that I wanted to publish on learning multiplication tables without memorization, some 8-Bit Bats to sell, and several friends awaiting my attention on proposed business plans. I am still not caught up, but I am working back toward balance and more regular posts will return over the coming weeks.
Most Chicago readers have never visited Rockford Illinois – although many say they have. “Yeah, that’s the place with the Clock Tower.” Yes. It has a clock tower. Yes, you drove by the clock tower while you drove by Rockford, but you did not visit Rockford. And I’ll be honest, three’s not much reason to do so.
Rockford has a long and storied history of depression. Starting in the 1980s when unemployment hit 22% it started getting ranked as the worst city to live in the nation. Over the last 35 years it has stayed on many of those lists bouncing up or down, jockeying for position with Flint, Detroit, and Baltimore. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the current unemployment rate is 6.9% – 25% higher than the national average. Wages are on average 10% lower.
In the early part of the 20th century, however, Rockford was a thriving community. For many years, it was the second largest city in Illinois and supported many companies in aerospace, hardware, and machined metals. Amerock, Ingersoll, Sundstrand, Barber Colman, and Woodward Governor were the bedrocks of this manufacturing community, and the downtown bustled with shops, restaurant, theaters, churches and lots and lots of people! In 1940s and 1950s it was a picturesque American town.
I can only guess, but it may have been that appeal that lead the mid-century civic leaders to make the mistakes they did. As automobile transportation and trucking logistics began to shape the American suburbs, Rockford’s leaders elected to eschew a highway that went through town in favor of one that went around town. Their thinking was likely that the eminent-domain acquisition and demolition of property followed by the scarring construction would disrupt Rockford’s quaint urban appeal. And they were right.
But what they didn’t realize was that the new highway built along the outskirts of town would be a powerful draw and many of those businesses would move toward the outskirts taking with them all those people. Mega in-door shopping malls were built, businesses moved to improve access to transportation, and people simply lost their reasons to be downtown. It began to die. The department stores and restaurants began to suffer.
Meanwhile, there was another powerful demographic shift at work. The manufacturing industry that provided the jobs for Rockford’s working class was moving to Mexico and China where labor was cheaper. One by one the major corporations closed their manufacturing centers. Today, only Woodward Governor is still a presence.
The image in the upper right corner of this blog is some of what is left of the Barber Colman plant. I think it looks like a scene from Fallout 4.
This is when Rockford’s civic leaders made their second grand mistake. Thinking they were taking a page from a European playbook, and hoping to return vitality to the downtown area, they – get this – paved over the streets and created a “walking mall” (what the what what?). The unanticipated consequence of no cars was no people. Of the 50 or so business that were there, all but two closed. The “pedestrian mall”, as they called it, became a no-pedestrian wasteland. The theaters and churches hung on a little longer but eventually they went away too.
They church buildings are still there and you can buy them. My childhood church which is referenced in a previous post recently sold for about $500K.
Rather than admit defeat, the City leaders defiantly erected a huge (I mean 30 ton!) contemporary sculpture called “The Symbol” by Alexander Liberman that the citizens hated.
There was no precedent for modern art appreciation in Rockford. With their hubris, the city leaders were shoving their misinterpreted definition of modernity down the citizens’ throats. No matter how many times they barked with unconvincing bravado that “this sculpture represents the intersection of culture and manufacturing blah blah something else blah” the people of Rockford still saw no reason to call it anything other than the “The Monstrosity.”
Soon after this the Rockford Public School Board (more civic leaders) was caught in a funding scandal and the ensuing lawsuits decimated the boards coffers ensuring that Rockford’s children would receive second rate educations for generations to come. Most recently Rockford built a $8MM bridge from one park that no one goes to to another park that no one goes to. One has to wonder, when will it end?
Meanwhile many of the valuable downtown buildings that were abandoned when I was a kid in the 70s and 80s still sit in shambles. These beautiful buildings deserve to be developed and could be great projects for community investors. A truly revitalized downtown could bring business, people, artists, civic pride, and best of all tax dollars. Unfortunately the continuing weak civic leadership has only been able to:
Tacitly encourage a pocket of retail development at State Street and the river. This effort and the city’s commitment to it ebbs and flows with seeming revitalization some years and decay in others.
Encourage social service organizations to occupy the buildings downtown bolstered by state, city, and federal grants. The problem with this is although social services are important to every community, they do not build a neighborhood and their presence tends to repel the they crowds that the residential, retail and restaurants developers are trying to attract.
But with bold leadership, downtown Rockford could be the jewel in Northern Illinois’ crown. It requires municipal expenditures, but not much relative to what will ultimately be recouped by the entrance of sustainable tax payers.
First. Rockford needs to incent the social service organizations to move their operations out of the city hub. The focus needs to be retail, restaurants, and for-profit businesses and the end-goal needs to be up-market residential.
Second. Offer developers financing or TIF incentives to renovate whatever they can make a case for. Like many of the towns in which I have lived, this type of development starts with funky residential lofts and coffee shops. Some of this is already happening. With cultivation they will be followed by boutiques and apartment renovators. Then mid-sized and and start-up white collar offices. And finally Those huge old decrepit houses on Main street will become attractive renovation opportunities.
Third. Rockford needs great egress and ingress into the downtown area. There needs to be wide roads with properly timed traffic lights – fast streets that allow people who live there to get to work fast and allow people who want to visit a way to get there without hassle. Any remnant of that damned mall has to go. On a positive note, all the abandoned lots and demolished buildings means there is plenty of parking, so there’s that!
This strategy has proven successful in many cities throughout the US including Chicago and Omaha. In Chicago’s Bucktown/Wicker Park neighborhood it happened organically. Thirty years ago you couldn’t safely walk there and now people are investing millions of dollars in crumbling old mansions because the neighborhood housing market can support it. In Omaha, it happened intentionally when the city made investment attractive around a couple funky blocks called the Old Market and rejuvenated much of downtown.
For years Rockford’s leaders have blamed their problems on the migration of machine tool industry to other countries. But the truth is, these same leaders have done more damage with their terrible decisions – trying to protect something that was already dead – than any damage caused by the march of progress. The more Rockford unwinds these mistakes and embraces the best practices of similar communities, the better the chance of a real resurgence.
Thanks to my friends at Rockford Rocked inspiring for this post. You can visit them on Facebook. Antique photos from Bob Anderson.
There has been a lot of talk recently about the gap between the wealthiest Americans and the poorest Americans. If you listen to our President and Democratic candidates, it’s the biggest problem facing America. That is why, according to them, it is so important that we increase the minimum wage. But does increasing the minimum wage accomplish this objective? Is there a policy that does? Is this really the problem, or is it just some focus group tested rhetoric that polls well with Democratic voters?
To find out I ran some numbers on my own. It has been widely reported that the top 1% of Americans makes in excess of $300,000 per year. With that as our starting point, the proposal to increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 would decrease the income gap by 2% (change in gap/gap). That’s not a noticeable enough dent to merit an increase on this issue alone. In fact if we increase the minimum wage to 15 bucks an hour as many progressives have called for, the decrease is still a mere 5 1/2%. So clearly increasing the minimum wage in-line with proposed legislation does not decrease the income gap in a meaningful way.
On the other side of the coin, there is a policy that dramatically decreases the income gap. If we cap incomes at 200K or institute a 100% tax rate for every dollar earned over 200k, we can decrease the income gap by 35%. Decrease the income ceiling to $100K and the income gap drops 70%. Clearly this accomplishes the stated objective, but no one in their right mind wants to see this sort of policy instituted. It would destroy aspirational productivity and decimate our tax base.
So if moving the bottom – i.e. increasing minimum wages – does not affect the income gap, and moving the top – i.e. capping wages – isn’t something even progressives want to do, then clearly the gap is not the problem. As long as we are lucky and our entrepreneurial spirit is in tact, people will always figure out how to make more money which increases the size of the pie and increases potential tax revenue so the top earners are not the problem.
The real problem is just poverty. People in poverty need options to move up and away from the bottom. They need better education and training. They need options when their schools are not meeting their needs. They also need jobs, and our neighbor states offer great lessons in how to create them – reduce costs, and reduce corporate tax rates (not sweetheart deals), and create a pro-business and pro-hiring environment. Growing companies need people. They also need a government that is more focused on job training than on welfare.
The minimum wage is going up. Some people will make a little more money and some companies will hire less. But it won’t affect the income gap, nor will it lead to people currently making minimum wage to making more than minimum wage. They will still be minimum wage workers.
So although the income gap is a convenient and emotionally satisfying rallying cry for the left, it obscures the real issue which is not that rich people make too much money, but that the poorest Americans – generally urban blacks – lack the opportunities and options to better their situation. Let’s get this minimum wage thing behind us so we can focus on the problems that really matter like public schools and job growth.