Saturday, June 09, 2012

One Fine Day

The words the president had to walk back:

The truth of the matter is that, as I said, we’ve created 4.3 million jobs over the last 27 months, over 800,000 just this year alone. The private sector is doing fine. Where we’re seeing weaknesses in our economy have to do with state and local government — oftentimes, cuts initiated by governors or mayors who are not getting the kind of help that they have in the past from the federal government and who don’t have the same kind of flexibility as the federal government in dealing with fewer revenues coming in.

The private sector is doing fine, he says. Millions disagree, including one who is running for president:

“Is he really that out of touch? I think he’s defining what it means to be detached and out of touch with the American people,” Romney told supporters in a park in Council Bluffs, Iowa. “Has there ever been an American president who is so far from reality?”

Obama quickly had to walk it back:

 Listen, it is absolutely clear that the economy is not doing fine. That’s the reason I had the press conference. That’s why I spent yesterday, the day before yesterday, this past week, this past month, and this past year talking about how we can make the economy stronger.

The economy is not doing fine. There are too many people out of work. The housing market is still weak and too many homes underwater. And that’s precisely why I asked Congress to start taking some steps that can make a difference.
A couple of thoughts:

  • The problem for Obama is that while there have been a few improvements here and there, it's not enough.
  • "Fine" means something different than "better." You can argue better, but fine won't work when millions remain out of work.
  • Obama is especially concerned about cuts in local government, but he doesn't really get to the reason the cuts are happening. State and municipal governments cannot print money. Government at the local level has to rely, in the main, on what it can collect from its citizens, especially those who work in the private sector. 
  • That money isn't there, so something has to give. 
And if you look at what local governments spend their money on, sometimes you understand why the money isn't there. Consider the story of the Vadnais Sports Center:

The Vadnais Sports Center, controversial from the start, has sunk into a financial morass that has city leaders faced with the choice of cutting ties with the arena and defaulting on $26 million in bonds or assessing taxpayers $1 million to keep it running.

Revenues have fallen short of projections. Expenses have exceeded budget. And the center that officials promised Vadnais Heights residents would be able pay its own way without their help has been delinquent in remitting a year's worth of sales taxes to the state.

"I'm not sure we can afford this facility," said Council Member Joe Murphy. "It will be expensive to keep."

With two sheets of ice and the state's second-tallest dome covering a 100,000-square-foot turf field, the complex was supposed to become a destination that spurred economic development along Hwy. 61 and the surrounding area in the city in northern Ramsey County.

There were a number of problems here. First of all, while Vadnais Heights is lovely this time of year, it's one of the more obscure suburbs in the Twin Cities. Most people west of the Mississippi River and south of the Minnesota River would have a difficult time finding Vadnais Heights without using a map. Second, Vadnais Heights only has a population of about 12,000 people and while there are some businesses in the area, it's mostly a middle-class area. The idea that a community of that size could afford to sink over $100 million in a civic building without any real assurances of help from Ramsey County or the state is amazing. And trust me on this -- if you are willing to make certain assumptions, you could project revenue assumptions of !ELEVEN1TY!! million dollars, but it wouldn't mean the assumptions are true.

Would you support the City of Vadnais Heights receiving federal assistance to bail out their facility? How about similar municipal buildings? Just about every suburb around the Twin Cities has built a Xanadu of some sort. If you drive east on 694 through Ramsey County, you can easily reach New Brighton's Eagle's Nest indoor playground,  Shoreview's Dells-style water park and the facility in Vadnais Heights. And there are dozens more. These are nice things to have, I suppose. But are they worth permanent support? And if you have to choose between paying for police officers or debt service on optional municipal amenities, what would you choose?

Most of us have to make these choices. Barack Obama and his friends still don't seem to understand that we have long since reached the point where choices need to be made at all levels of government.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I drive by that Vadnis sports complex about 3 times a week and wonder how it was doing since I never saw anyone there.

As for Obama, his comments show that all he cares about is the government. He said we need more money for teachers and police and fire fighters. Why is the federal government trying to dole out more money for local issues that are currently breaking the bank with their pensions?
While Romney may not be as conservative as I would like, I'll take the rich white guy who wants all of America to succeed over the rich black guy who hasn't got a clue.