Saturday, September 25, 2010

Selling outrage and seducing the citizen.

The rich are angry according to Paul Krugman in his New York Times column Monday. The rich are outraged that the tax cuts they were given in the beginning of this century are expiring at the end of this year.
The rich want everyone else in the country to be outraged too and are willing to put their money where their priorities are. The primary method is the creation and funding of nonprofit advocacy groups like Americans for Job Security. Then there is Citizens for the Republic run by men known as Regan's money men for two decades. This organization is yet another almost solely funded by the Koch brothers. These two men, who inherited the huge corporation Koch Industries, are the money behind the money pushing the Tea Party's "grass roots" influence.
"…among the undeniably rich, a belligerent sense of entitlement has taken hold: it's their money, and they have the right to keep it."

Largest home in Kentucky owned by Papa John's founder.

The nonprofit advocacy groups raise money and avoid taxation by calling huge donations dues. These groups have no purpose other than to cover various money trails all over the country, funding advertising, websites, blogs, YouTube videos, online chatter and enthusiastic talking heads who are inflating outrage at the logic of paying taxes to support the country.

I mention these groups because they are examples of hundred more that exist to get our votes behind their agenda. They believe when we see their incessant warm and fuzzy shots of the majesty of our national parks and the flag flying briskly in a small town parade, we will once again believe the words well crafted to seduce and follow that thinking all the way to the voting booth.

You see 95% of the country is not extremely wealthy. Fourteen point three percent of the country [one in 7] people in America are poor. The poor do not vote in numbers anywhere close to their part of the population. Fifty to 60% of the citizens vote. These nonprofit advocacy groups know this. They have set their eye on the up to 80% who are not poor and not very wealthy.

To succeed in the self-serving agenda of the rich all they have to do is poke us into their outrage.

Three quarters of the annual budget of the country is spent on the military, Social Security and Medicare. I would analyze this for you but I know your eyes will just glaze over!

Suffice it to say the working population has paid into Social Security and Medicare. Yet when you hear candidates supported by these advocacy groups one of the things they want to do is cut these two safety net programs. Another idea they have is to privatize Social Security so that there is fresh money for the stock market which leads to fresh commissions and income for the banks and brokerage firms which we the people bailed out when they ran the financial industry into the ground.

Remember that? Sure you do.
Back in 1994 when the Contract for America was launched taxes were at the point they would be again when the tax cuts expire at the end of December. When we survived the predicted Y2K doom of the new century, the federal budget had a surplus. Learned economists were predicting major financial problems if the surplus continued! This tells you just how accurate learned economists can predict the economy in the future.

Now we have had seven years of wild abandon in spending and two wars. We have had three years of continuing war and an almost total financial collapse. You can blame this on many things. There are nonprofit advocacy groups who will write you a long list of who to blame. But when you spend more money than you bring in you are not going to be solvent. Closing our eyes and doing what was done before will not work.

That is the definition of crazy.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Well bred horses and homeless people.

The State of Kentucky and the City of Lexington will be hosting the World Equestrian Games for sixteen days beginning this next Saturday. As you may or may not know we have the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington. The Park was created on a former Saddlebred Horse farm and purchased by the State in the late 70's. The Park was originally created in celebration of the Thoroughbred horse. Now the Park is run for all breeds and types of horses. The Kentucky Horse Park is where the World Equestrian Games will be held.
The Games are a big deal here; a really big deal. The have never been held in the United States. In fact they have never been held outside Europe. It took years of work to get them scheduled here when awarded for this year in 2005. The State has made $75 million dollars in improvements to the Park in preparation for the wide range of events and accommodations for visitors from around the world. A corporate sponsor has paid $75 to add their name to the official name of the Games. This sponsor is Alltech.

At that time before a world wide recession, it was anticipated over 600,000 people would purchase tickets and attend. As of today 325,000 tickets have been purchased. Looking at their website it's quite a clicking exercise to find out the price of tickets. I did find general admission tickets for a week day afternoon event cost $30. Feel free to investigate further if you're curious. I'm sure they are quite pricy for the good seats.

Approximately 500 horses are being airlifted this week from Europe, Australia and South America. This is the largest commercial airlift of horses ever. The FEDEX planes used in shipping these very well bred horses is specially outfitted for comfortable horse transport. As many as 24 attendants work each flight. Food is horse gourmet and their health and comfort is tantamount to ultra first class.

As many as 995 competitors will be coming from fifty-eight countries.
It is estimated even at a lower level of ticket sales the economic impact of the Games will be over $160 million. Hotels within driving distance are booking fast. Homes are being shared for a fee. Restaurants are creating special Equestrian Games menu. There are festivals, trade group shows, concerts and a myriad of events scheduled to entertain visitors and encourage them to leave bags of money here with us.Further news reported by WLEX-TV yesterday:
Discussion among people familiar with the way other Kentucky cities have handled large events, suspect police will be rounding up the homeless and depositing them in the temporary shelters just prior to the start of the Games.
Lexington's homeless are being offered two temporary shelters to sleep in while the city plays host to the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.

Catholic Action Center director Ginny Ramsey told the Lexington Herald-Leader that between 100 and 130 people routinely sleep on Lexington's streets, particularly Phoenix Park, during the warm weather. The group is opening the shelters from Sept. 22 through Oct. 10.
I mention the reported $1 billion short-fall predicted for the 2010-2011 budget. All State departments were asked to cut 4% from their previous budgets. Non-merit State employees are being laid off. The Legislature had to go into special session to pass a budget that does not seem to meet the needs of the state in the areas of education, Medicaid and infrastructure upkeep.

Regardless of this, $75 million was spent to improve the Horse Park and prepare for a corporate sponsored [Alltech] event. The $160+ million predicted return is not to the state. It's a return to hotels, restaurants and industry businesses.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Painting bridges between luxury and charity.

This week it was announced that painting of the Clark Memorial Bridge spanning the Ohio River between Louisville Kentucky and Clarksville Indiana has begun. The contract was posted in March 2010 and the work has already begun. This is a wonderful thing. The color has been chosen and paint purchased. Evidently they have all their brushes and scaffolding ready. Soon we will have a lovely buttercup yellow bridge. The excitement here is palpable.
Why buttercup yellow? In a phone interview with Leni Schwendinger, a Brooklyn-based design and lighting consultant, she said the inspiration for choosing the color was “about celebrating the color of bourbon,” as reflected in the nearby Whiskey Row restaurant and housing development along Main Street, as well as “the liquid gold of a sunset and sunrise.” She went on to say the trend is to make infrastructure more friendly and welcoming! I was surprised it took someone from Brooklyn to make this connection.

All this painting and spiffing up of the general area downtown on the river is in advance of the new KFC YUM Center opening in October.

It was also announced this week, after the arena has been built and the final touches are being made, that there should be no problem with parking at all. As long as all the people who work in all the office towers near the arena "clear the hell out" after work. No lolly gagging now. No stopping at the entertainment district bars and clubs for an after work drink! Get the heck out of there and go home!

It's a miracle our building a fabulous $100 million plus sports arena on the banks of the Ohio River in Louisville, tucked right beside the Clark Memorial Bridge so close you can practically touch the building while riding to work, and getting it built and finished on time.. After all, the last bridge that got painted here took over a decade and cost 400% more than originally estimated.

The Kennedy Bridge, another span between Louisville Kentucky and Clarksville Indiana and within sight of the older Clark Memorial Bridge, was painted recently. The painting began in the last century and was finished in 2008. The original cost to paint it was $14 million and the final cost was $57 million. It seems there were a few unforeseen problems. Problems like a bridge inspector soliciting bribes from contractors, several sets of contractors who accepted the work and found out it was just too much for them, as well as arguments about the color. A local well placed and respected colorist said a nice dark green with brown accents. Considering how much the paint job cost, green would have been appropriate. There were arguments about that being too dark and too distinctive when the paint inevitably flaked.

The Kennedy Bridge got painted a nice beige. On stormy days it sort of melds into the color of he river.

Speaking of the brand spanking new KFC YUM Center, University of Louisville basketball will play the coming season there. There are new luxurious sky boxes, as there are in the Papa John's Cardinal Football Stadium. All the big corporations and medical practices are renting them. I'm sure just like the Speed Ball every winter and the sixth floor seats for The Derby, luxury sports boxes are in demand, expensive and the place for the well heeled to meet people just like them.

It was surprising to learn that Dismas Charities, Inc., a non-profit halfway rehabilitation house corporation was one of those renting suites; one at the football stadium and one at the basketball arena. The cost was something over $137,000 to rent the boxes for a year.

Ray Weis, the CEO who by the way is paid an annual salary of over $600,000 to manage the corporation which operates 27 halfway houses under contract to the Federal and State Governments in 12 states. The Executive Vice President, Jan Kempf received over $450,000 in annual salary. These salary amounts are for the year 2008.

As you can imagine the Letters to the Editor are running strongly against Dismas Charities. Mr. Weis announced the monies for the suite rent came from investment income. The investment money came from the sale of real estate in Atlanta. I've not seen a report of where the money for the real estate came from but knowing the Courier Journal investigative reporters, we'll soon learn.

A further dicey bit of information was dug up by a member of the Metro Council. It seems last August four members of the council chipped in funds from their discretionary budgets and granted Dismas $2800 to purchase a lawn mower. This mower is used by former prison inmates to mow the grass growing in abandoned cemeteries in the county. Dismas is being paid to do this work by local government.
Dismas House Headquarters, Louisville, KY
Back in 1964 when the nonprofit 501(c/r) was established I'm sure the intent was admirable and the good work of helping prisoners gain a place in society again is good work. Somewhere, probably about the time executives of Dismas began being paid like top corporate executives the began believing it was a good use of funds to rent luxury sports boxes.