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An Early Halloween Fright for Wall St.: Elizabeth Warren for Treasury Secretary

People Magazine web site has the teaser An Early Halloween Fright for Wall St.: Elizabeth Warren for Treasury Secretary.
But is the freshman senator from Massachusetts herself on board with a run for the White House? Warren wrinkles her nose. "I don't think so," she tells PEOPLE in an interview conducted at Warren's Cambridge, Massachusetts, home for this week's issue. "If there's any lesson I've learned in the last five years, it's don't be so sure about what lies ahead. There are amazing doors that could open."
I say where there is hope there is fire.  Or was that smoke?

State Senate Debate between Anne Gobi and Mike Valanzola

I attended a debate in Wales last night between the candidates for the State Senate seat that includes Sturbridge where I live. Anne Gobi is a current State Representative. Mike Valanzola has been on the Board of Selectmen for Wales  and he is currently the head of the Tantasqua Regional School committee that encompasses 5 towns including Sturbridge and Wales. Valanzola seemed to be quite eloquent and dogmatic in putting forth his point of view. I don't think Anne Gobi did quite as good a job at touting the value of her experience as a a State Representative. Some of the things I point out below as negatives for Valanzola are positives for Gobi because she decidely does not think along the same lines as Valanzola. Valanzola's focus on Wales has narrowed his views on what the job is that he is running for. When he gets to the Senate, he will have to work with Senators who represent other parts of the state. In fact he will be representing other parts of the state other than just Wales. The interests of the other Senators for their parts compete with his interests for his part. He will have to learn to work with these people. He will even have to look after the interests of the other parts of his Senatorial district other than just Wales. He can't just focus on what he wants without regard to what the other Senators need if he is going get any cooperation from them. You have to give some cooperation to get some cooperation. Working on the Board of selectmen and on the regional school committee, he has a distinctly management focus. He wants to get as much out of the workers in the town and the schools as he can get for as little money as he can spend. That is good for the taxpayers as taxpayers. But the taxpayers are also workers. If you squeeze the workers and help other business owners to squeeze the workers, then you may harm the voters/taxpayers in their roles as workers. When he decries the power of the unions to extract better working conditions and pay from the state than what the state wants to pay, he fails to realize that the lack of unions for all the people in his town who are workers impedes their abilities to get a fair wage and working conditions. Some of these people in his town who are workers seem to also fail to make this connection. I can't imagine that every person in the town of Wales is a small (or even large) business owner. He emphasized having grown up in Wales, learning his values in Wales, and living his adult life in Wales. That is a great point of view, but he doesn't seem to understand that it also restricts his view. He has to consider the greater world outside of Wales. He didn't get all of his education in Wales. He had to go to college outside of Wales. Not all people who live in Wales earn their livings from jobs in Wales. Other parts of the state must prosper for the people of Wales to prosper. The great universities and businesses of the state depend on the prospering of the great cities of the state. In turn, the well being of Wales depends to a larger degree than he seems to understand on the well being of other parts of the state including the cities. Valanzola kept hitting Gobi with the claim that the state budget has gone up $10 billion over the last 8 years, but local funding has been cut. The state budget went up by 38% he claimed, while local aid went down by a similar percent. He kept wondering how this could be. I decided to do a little research of my own. All numbers below are in $ millions. I couldn't find numbers for what was spent, but since the state has a balanced budget, the revenues will have to stand in as a close approximation for what was spent.
Governor Year Revenue For All Budgeted Funds Local Aid
Total State Taxes Federal Reimbursements Total Revenue
Mitt Romney 2007 $16,327.3 $ 6,170.1 $25,297.1 $ 4,604.0 Includes Lottery
2008 $17,089.7 $6,428.5 $26,590.4 $ 5,648.6 Includes Lottery
2009 $28,166.7 $
2010 $26,930.1 $ 4,973.9
2011 $29,432.6 $ 4,825.4
2012 $30,597.9 $ 4,844.8
2013 $21,200.3 $ 9,449.5 $32,477.0 $ 5,070.1
Deval Patrick 2014 $19,712.0 $ 8,554.6 $33,858.5 $ 5,231.4
So total revenue went up $8,561 or 33.8%, local aid went up $627 or 13.6% From the peak year of local aid in 2008 to 2014 it went down $417.2 or 7.4%. From 2007 to 2008, local aid went up $1,044.6 or 22.78% while total revenue went up $1,293.4 or only 5.1%. I don't have a local aid number for 2009.
I noticed that Valanzola made passing reference to the Quinn Bill in his litany of complaints about how the state is being run. For those who aren't up on these things it is the Quinn Bill or Police Career Incentive Program. I am not sure he made it clear, but from his tone that I heard I presume his complaint has to be the state's recent underfunding of this program. How ironic that in other parts of his talk he decries unions and the costs they put on the state, and on the other hand he decries the underfunding of a benefit that was extracted from the state by the strong police unions. In case I haven't made it clear in my comments in this post, I think that Mike Valanzola shouldn't be allowed anywhere near state government.
Then there was the issue of driver's licenses for undocumented workers. Valanzola is against. Apparently Gobi voted for on one occasion. Gobi failed to point out that by refusing to give driver's licenses to undocumented workers, we take away their incentive to learn how to drive in this country. Valanzola's position will only increase the numbers of undocumented workers who may be driving without having studied the laws for driving in Massachusetts. This is just another example of Valanzola's constrained world view that prevents him from seeing the larger consequences of what he advocates.
October 23, 2014 14:03 I just remembered the frequent complaint that Valanzola had about the House shutting off amendments on the last vote on local aid. To refresh my memory on what Anne Gobi had to say about the dates involved, I found an April Mass Live article Massachusetts' $36.2 billion budget bill is peppered with add-ons.
House leaders say amendments to increase local aid will not be considered during the budget debate, since the House and Senate previously approved a resolution calling for a $25 million increase in unrestricted aid for cities and towns and $100 million more in Chapter 70 aid for public school districts. Still, Republicans hope to offer a proposal that would require the state to return to cities and towns at least 50 percent of any unanticipated tax revenue surplus at the end of the next fiscal year.

As Gobi explained, the cutoff of amendments was agreed to by the Republicans because this could allow the towns and cities to know in April the level of local aid that they would get for the year.  Since this was prime planning time for them, it was better to know in April than to have to hold their budgets open until the July passage of the bill.  According to Gobi, the bill was eventually passed unanimously.  Valanzola couldn't seem to get his head around this explanation as demonstrated by his repeating his complaint several times. He kept getting the same answer from Gobi.  I wonder if he expected the answer to change if  he kept repeating the complaint. Presumably some of the people in the audience were able to understand Gobi's explanation.
       
        

Charlie Baker Finds Solution To Public Housing Crisis

Writing my previous post, Does Charlie Baker Care About People More Than Dollars?, finally gave me the incentive to look up a Charlie Baker quote that I had read, but had forgotten where I read it. I found it in the September 30, 2014 The Boston Globe article Baker embraces housing program that requires work or studies.  To make my point let me change the order of some excerpts from that article.
“I’ve never met anybody who’s been in public housing or on public assistance who wanted to be there,” Baker told Worcester Housing Authority officials during a roundtable discussion about the program.
With Baker's compassionate care for people rather than dollars, he is obviously preparing to spend money to make life more bearable in public housing.  Isn't that what you would do if you saw such a problem, and it affected you to the core?
Charlie Baker, a Republican who has made welfare reform a central issue in his campaign for governor, promoted a controversial program Tuesday that limits how long residents can remain in public housing if they are not working or enrolled in school. Under the program, called A Better Life, residents in Worcester public housing face eviction after three years if they or another adult in their household is not employed or enrolled in school full-time. Residents over 55 and those with a disability are exempt.
So, Baker is essentially saying that "since you don't want to be in public housing, we'll cater to your wishes and throw you out after three years.  Did I read your wishes correctly?  Do I have a heart, or what?" Sometimes people don't need any more negative incentives to change their lives. What they need is the means to change their lives. I wonder if Charlie Baker ever considered that providing the means to people who don't have it might be a better option than punishing people for not doing what they cannot do. I wonder if he ever stopped to consider what people might need that they don't have.

Does Charlie Baker Care About People More Than Dollars?

This has been an interesting few days for The Boston Globe.  Today they had the article Coakley, Baker face off in first head-to-head TV debate.
Baker’s desire to cultivate a softer image — a contrast with the hard-edged tone he presented in his 2010 campaign for governor — was evident throughout the night. When he was asked what the biggest misconception about him is, he said he chafed at the image painted by Democrats that he cares more about numbers than people. “For me, it’s always been about people, and it bothers me that a guy who is pretty facile with math, which does matter when you’re talking about a $38 billion budget, is somehow considered to be somebody who doesn’t care about people,” he said.
Yesterday, The Boston Globe had the article Mental health record may be predictor for Baker.
 Charlie Baker walked in unannounced to tour Danvers State Hospital, and his face grew ashen as he witnessed patients jammed in rooms with little space, worn bedding, and most everything in disarray. It was early 1991, Baker was Massachusetts' new undersecretary for health, and the 34-year-old Harvard grad was having his first look at the state's decrepit mental hospitals. "It was almost like he was thinking, 'My God, I have never seen anything like this,' " said Bernie Carey, executive director of the Massachusetts Association for Mental Health, who joined Baker for that tour.
So how do you think this story ends given that Charlie Baker is “For me, it’s always been about people"?  Do you suppose he saw the horrors and vowed to fix the problem by fully funding our mental health facilities.  Would he spend the money to give these patients better conditions in the hospital's where they desperately needed better treatment?  If you have been around long enough, did you read the news stories published after 1991 how the Massachusetts mental health facilities became a model of humane treatment that the world has gladly followed?  Maybe you can search the archives of The Boston Globe for those stories.  I certainly don't remember them  when I was living in Massachusetts from 1976 to 1994. I won't keep you in suspense any longer. Here is what yesterday's article had to say.
Soon after, a special state commission recommended closing nine of the state's most antiquated institutions, including Danvers and two other hospitals for mentally ill patients, and moving much of that care to the community. It was Baker's job to get it done. His strategy involved a first-in-the-nation use of a for-profit company with power to approve or deny treatments for low-income mental health patients. Baker's blueprint saved Massachusetts millions of dollars at a time when the state was staring at a nearly $2 billion deficit, but it left thousands of mental health patients often waiting weeks for treatments. The controversial approach became his template for rescuing financially ailing Harvard Pilgrim Health Care a decade later. The aftershocks of both initiatives are still being felt as the now 57-year-old Republican runs for governor, and those experiences, say Baker supporters and critics, provide a window into how he might handle similarly fraught and costly issues if elected.
Here are some more carefully chosen words from the article.
Over the next several years, suicide rates among mental health patients who had received state services soared. That prompted a blistering 1997 report from a legislative panel that criticized the Weld administration for lax monitoring of patients and failing to investigate their deaths in a timely way. Two years later, a Brandeis University study gave the state high marks for innovative community-based mental health programs launched during the 1990s, but found too many patients waiting for services. The researchers also found that claims were paid more quickly, the state reaped savings, and some health care providers felt that Massachusetts’ long-fragmented mental health services were better coordinated.
As we have been finding out in the run-up and aftermath to the adoption of Obama's ACA, the US has some of the finest medical care for those who can get it.  For those people who can't get it, the system sucks.  Brandeis University showed that if you take off your eyeglasses and squint just right, you can find a lot of merit in our current system.  The people who committed suicide aren't around to tell you about what you missed. Here, let me pile on some more with tis excerpt from  the article.

After Baker left state government and became chief executive at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care in 1999, he continued to champion privatizing mental health services. With Harvard Pilgrim teetering on bankruptcy in 2000, Baker clamped down on mental health costs by bringing in ValueOptions — the same for-profit company that managed those services in the state’s Medicaid program.

Within months, a number of mental health specialists dropped Harvard Pilgrim patients because of low reimbursements for services. That exacerbated a phenomenon known as “stuck kids,” children who were deemed well enough to leave psychiatric hospital units but had nowhere to go because of a lack of community-based services.
However, here is the capper to explain how Baker cares about people, not just numbers.
He defends his decision to bring in a for-profit company to manage mental health services in state government, noting in an interview, “If it was such a bad idea, how come the Commonwealth is still running the same model 20 years later?”
Charlie, you closed the state mental hospitals.  You diverted the money you saved to other programs other than mental health. How was the state supposed to go back and fix the permanent damage that you had done?   How will we fix the damage you will do if you are elected Governor?  Will we be suffereing the consequences for more than 20 years as we have from your last reign of error?
See my subsequent post Charlie Baker Finds Solution To Public Housing Crisis.

What Happens When We Raise The Minimum Wage?

Brave New Films has put together the video What Happens When We Raise The Minimum Wage?
People are stretched -working two or even three jobs, juggling family responsibilities, doing everything possible to keep their heads above water -just to fall short every month. Is that what the American Dream is all about? But what if we raised the minimum wage? That hard work would pay off. People would be able to make ends meet, they could quit their second jobs, and spend more time with their families. When that happens, whole communities are improved. Raising the minimum wage means millions of extra dollars in people's pockets. Families spend their money at Main street businesses, strengthening our local economy. We've already seen this happening. The 13 states that raised their minimum wage in January of this year have added more jobs and have lower unemployment than the 37 states that did not. Hard working families deserve to thrive, not barely survive. Raise the minimum wage. It's good for families. It's good for business. It's good for our community.


There are millions unemployed because some people are working two or three jobs to get by.  If those people could get by on the income from one job, there would be millions of jobs opened up to other people.

The 40 (actually 44) hour week was invented in 1938 to help spread the work that needed to be done to employ more people for that same amount of work.  If some people are currently working 80 or 120 hour weeks, then other people are put out of work.  It is not the fault of the people working long hours.  It's not that they want to work those hours, but they have to in order to survive.

See Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938: Maximum Struggle for a Minimum Wage

Against a history of judicial opposition, the depression-born FLSA had survived, not unscathed, more than a year of Congressional altercation. In its final form, the act applied to industries whose combined employment represented only about one-fifth of the labor force. In these industries, it banned oppressive child labor and set the minimum hourly wage at 25 cents, and the maximum workweek at 44 hours

Germany is currently using the idea of limiting the work week to keep unemployment down.

Lest you think I didn't notice, the cause and effect relation noted in the video is not a foregone conclusion.  See RichardH's post Diversion–Highway Fatalities and Lemons.  I'll let you come up with your own ideas of how there could have been a correlation between raising a state's minimum wage and lower unemployment in that state without the correlation being causal. What these facts do seem to indicate to me, though I haven't thought it through completely, that at least there can be a raising of the minimum wage without causing high unemployment as my explanation above makes plausible.


How is it that the people in the 1930s could figure out that increasing the minimum wage and limiting the work week would actually reduce unemployment. Why is it that we have forgotten what they figured out, and cannot even refigure it out for ourselves? I think there may be a very good reason for our current failure. The people who want to get rid of these labor laws do remember how and why it was figured out in the 1930s. Therefore, this time around they can deploy propaganda techniques to get us thinking in a direction that will not lead us to the revelation I have made in this blog. (Remember that Germany, among others, still remember the lesson of the 1930s and are still using what they learned. You might ponder why that might be true.)
There is another aspect to consider. There is a never ending competition between labor and management to adapt to new rules. This is like the competition between law enforcement and the criminal. Another example is the competition in war between defense and offense. In this case, management has adapted to the labor policies put in place in the 1930s and carried forward to this day. With minimum wage, and maximum work week (before time-and-a-half pay kicks in), the new ploy is to cut hours to avoid benefits and overtime pay. Some employees today in some industries cannot get more work than 20 hours a week in any one job. That is another driving force for people to have multiple jobs. We may not be able to get the economy working again just by putting more teeth into the labor laws that we used to have. We may have to come up with new strategies for wage and hour laws in this never ending competition between labor and management. Perhaps we need a new rule that if you have employees (or potential employees) who want to work up to the maximum work-week, and you have the work for them to do, then you may not split that job amongst multiple people.

How a US and International Atomic Energy Agency Deception Haunts the Nuclear Talks

Truth-Out has the article How a US and International Atomic Energy Agency Deception Haunts the Nuclear Talks  by Gareth Porter.
Senior administration officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry have said that Iran must "come clean" about its past nuclear weapons work as part of the comprehensive settlement that is now being negotiated. ... The clever dissimulation by the Bush administration and Heinonen continues to cast a long shadow over the talks.
That's all I am going to excerpt.  You'll have to read the article to see what the deception is and what is the evidence that this deception exists. You cannot expect to read snippets from this blog and think you have learned anything.  That's just not the way I run this blog.  If that's not what you want out of a blog, then this blog is not for you.

Stop Litter – Vote Yes On 2

I may have found a way to make the point about litter thrown into my yard.  This is what I collected in the area where I decided to plant the lawn sign.
Stop Litter lawn sign and collection of litter

To get your lawn sign, see my previous post.       
        

Goldman Makes It Official That the Stock Market is Manipulated, Buybacks Drive Valuations

Naked Capitalism has the article Goldman Makes It Official That the Stock Market is Manipulated, Buybacks Drive Valuations.
In fact, these companies are being gradually liquidated. Issuing debt, which public companies have done in copious volumes since the crash, and using it to buy shares is dissipating corporate assets. They are over time shrinking their businesses.
As an investor, this is something to keep in mind.  I am not exactly sure what you do with this information, though.

President Bill Clinton “interviews” Martha Coakley

Here is part of Bill Clinton's talk in Worcester the other day.
If we're going to make sure Martha gets the job, as next governor of Massachusetts, we just need to get more people heading out to the polls to do the hiring on November 4! Learn how you can get involved: MarthaCoakley.com


What he said about his  grand daughter at the end had a surprising ending.  It is something I learned when I did a research paper as a Sophomore in college around 1962.  It is one of the things that turned me from a Republican to a Democrat.

What he said about interviews is also something that I learned from courses my employers sent me to.  The best way to judge what a potential hire will do on the job is to look at what they have done on previous jobs.

Here is the page where you can make a donation if you are so inclined.
       
        

Learn To Code

Thanks to Carol Peter for posting this on her Facebook page. Learn to Code Tutorial for beginners.
Picture of learning to code some angry brirds

Learn the basic concepts of Computer Science with drag and drop programming. This is a game-like, self-directed tutorial starring video lectures by Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Angry Birds and Plants vs. Zombies. Learn repeat-loops, conditionals, and basic algorithms. Available in 34 languages. Ages 4-104 | Modern browsers, smartphones, tablets

I learned all this in my 40 or more years of writing software (programs) (code).  You can learn it in less than an hour. :-)

Gee, I am glad that I retired before this younger generation got to take my job away.