Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “investment”

Please, Stop Whining About Spending! – Tom Rossi

The words “tax” and “spend” get thrown around a lot by our beloved politicians – especially by the Republicans. The simpletonistic, cave-man assumption we are all to follow along with is: “Taxes bad, spending bad. Ugh! Atouk zugzug Lana!”

The idea actually is pretty simple – government spending necessitates taxes, and the more taxes, the less money in your pocket. Fair enough, but also myopic.

Everyone, except a handful of fringe lunatics, agrees that some spending is necessary. In general, Democrats believe we have to spend money on some kinds of public health programs and things like that, while Republicans always seem to think we need a more military might.

Right there, something should become obvious – not all spending is created equal. What surprises me is that the anti-spending crowd is opposed to moderate spending now, that would prevent mega-spending becoming necessary later. Now we’re talking about my favorite word: infrastructure.

America’s infrastructure is in a sorry state. That isn’t some nutty, liberal viewpoint, it’s the opinion of the American Society of Civil Engineers. Here’s the report card they gave the U.S. in 2009:

2009 Grades

Aviation D

Bridges C

Dams D

Drinking Water D-

Energy D+

Hazardous Waste D

Inland Waterways D-

Levees D-

Public Parks and Recreation C-

Rail C-

Roads D-

Schools D

Solid Waste C+

Transit D

Wastewater D-

America’s Infrastructure GPA: D
Estimated 5 Year Investment Need: $2.2 Trillion

Why do I always harp about this? Because these elements are the life’s blood of America. The individual pieces of our infrastructure are aging and deteriorating, and it will eventually cost us… big.

Even the most hardcore of bottom-liners have to see that our economy will utterly fail if our water, transportation, flood control, energy, waste, and educational systems and facilities start to falter with increased frequency. And, at this point, we’re not even talking about preventative maintenance. We’re trying to keep up with massive failures.

How do you treat your own home, and your own car? Car owners know that skipping their oil changes at “Jiffy Lube” to save $35 will most likely lead to a ruined engine, at a cost just slightly higher than $35.

Homeowners know that “saving” the expense of fixing a little leak in the roof that appears one day will certainly mean a nightmare, where the entire roof will have to be replaced and the house will probably suffer water damage.

Fixing water pipes or levees before they burst, fixing bridges before they fall into the river, and repairing roads before they completely shut down transportation can save ten times what these repair jobs cost.

And the dollar-cost isn’t anywhere near the whole story. Any of these infrastructure failures causes huge logistical catastrophes, as well. Imagine what it would be like if the bridge or the freeway you take to work was out of commission for 6 months, or if you had to go without running water for as long.

floodCapture

Another big reason to start investing more in our infrastructure is that it would create many, many jobs. We could put Americans to work physically fixing America. Sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it? And it wouldn’t be giving away money for the sake of it, it would be directly improving our country in so many ways.

I’m tired of all the anti-spending ranting. We need more spending, not less. We just need to focus our spending on constructive activities.

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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Oh, Those Tax and Spend Republicans – Tom Rossi

On the news the other night was a story that almost made me change the channel. I’m glad I didn’t. At first, it seemed like the typical, NBC news fluff piece about a kitten being rescued from a tree by a nine-year-old dressed as a fireman or something. But the piece had a diamond in the fluff.

The city of Allen, Texas has something to brag about. Something to show off – a new football stadium. What’s such a big deal? Lot’s of places have a football stadium, maybe even a really nice one. But in Allen, the stadium is for…

a high school.

I’m not going to talk about the ridiculous excess of spending $60million in bond money to build a high school football stadium. Lot of people have been talking about that for three years. What caught my attention was a comment made by an Allen resident (I’m not sure if he was involved in the project) in an interview at the stadium.

He said the $60million was an “investment in the future of the kids and in the future of the town.” The money was supplied by a bond initiative that was approved by 64% of the area voters. Interviews with fans confirm the sentiment by the supporter mentioned above saying, again and again, that it was “worth it.”

Students walk across an indoor practice field, part of the new $60 million football stadium at Allen High School

I’m captivated. I can’t know the individual politics of anyone in any of these video interviews, but Texas is an extreme conservative stronghold. And here are a bunch of Texans speaking the language of progressivism: investing in your community, investing in the future, sacrificing money for a greater purpose. Wow.

If these people could only make the HUGE leap from football to things like water, the climate, clean air, transportation, and sustainable energy, we would really be onto something.

The other thing that fascinates me now is that this piece really seems to have disappeared from NBC. I have searched and searched, and it’s just gone. Even though I made a note of it being on NBC, I also searched on all major and local (bay area) networks and stations’ web sites. I finally found the entire episode of NBC Nightly News on Youtube:

Why would this be missing from NBC’s own web site? Besides the taboo “investment” talk – I actually saw a language “translator” for Republicans that said that the word, “investment” actually means, “spending” – the piece talked about the 64% of voter approval garnered by the bond measure. What this means is that 36% of voters in that area are paying taxes for an “investment” that they didn’t want. Hmmm… Sounds kind of socialistic and/or dictatorial to me. I’m usually skeptical of conspiracy theories, but this piece might have just been a little too embarrassing to Republicans.

We have entered Bizarro World. At the Republican National Convention, Romney and Ryan are berating President Obama for cutting medicare… like they have been demanding for years. They’re claiming that Obama wants to raise taxes on the middle class. And they’re shouting about his “crony capitalism.”

Am I on drugs? Am I in a coma and having bad dreams? Maybe not. In football, if one team does something new or uses a certain kind of system and wins, the other teams imitate it. Football and politics have a lot in common.

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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Socially Responsible Investing – Some Reading Material

Yesterday, I began a series on Socially Responsible Investing. Whenever I encounter a new topic, I look for books to provide a basic level of information. This is, I realize very different from the millennials with whom I work. They worship at the keyboards of the Goddess Google and pick up an initial picture with amazing ease. If you are considering investing and want to consider companies that live up to a level of responsible business principles, here are a few suggestions.

I generally love the For Dummies books. They give you a clear foundation for whatever topic they chose. There is no need to read in chronological order and the information is very clear. Socially Responsible Investing for Dummies, more than anything else, gave me the confidence to take a first step and begin investing.

The second book I used is Green Investing. This book profiles about 100 companies with an environmental emphasis. I used this book to decide on 12 companies that I was going to focus on. I did my due diligence by checking websites with more recent news or commentary, but the book gave me somewhere to start.

If you do decide to try investing in socially conscious companies, these are solid books to begin with. There is so much information out there that it can be daunting. The volatility of the market as we have witnessed is scary and, as most investors write on their site, you should not be exposing money that you cannot afford to lose. However, if you decide to invest, this is investing in the future. For many of these companies, without serious investment, they will not be able to research and market their products and we will remain with products that are not sustainable. If we are to move the economy on, it will be done by the grassroots decisions of millions of people who care.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/

 

 

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