Posts Tagged ‘recession’

Will Any Statesmen Emerge When the Georgia Legislature Goes into Session Monday?

January 10, 2009

This is the year that we are going to find out who are the real statesmen in the Georgia legislature,  or we may find there are none.  This is going to be a one of the most challenging sessions of the legislature,  and if the lawmakers simply sit on their votes and let things slide they will be committing not only a severe dereliction of duty,  but an immoral act.

Georgia State Capitol

Georgia State Capitol

Just look at the gargantuan problems facing this state. 

First of all, the recession is going to put great pressure on the state budget.  When tax revenues drop, as they always do in disastrous economic times,  programs have to cut.

Even though those tax revenues are much less,  the need for state funds are not.  Education, number one priority for most people, including lawmakers, has already been severely cut,  and more and even greater cuts are in the offing.  This will have harmful effects on the state economy because industry wants well educated people.

Transportation is an area that simply cannot be ignored.  It virtually was in the last session of the legislature since it did not pass a comprehensive transportation plan for the state.  Gridlock in the Atlanta area gets worse by the day. The state continues to emphasize road building and adding lanes to existing roads, and simply will not switch a good percentage of the dollars to mass transit.  Instead of pouring millions and millions of dollars worth of concrete and asphalt, it needs to divert a lot of that money to rail, the most efficient way to transport masses of people.  

I am really sick of the never-ending construction on I-85.  It causes miserable driving conditions and is not solving the problem.  Instead of adding lanes, they should be laying rails.  I know I have stated that before,  but it seems so obvious to me and I can’t understand why the legislators can’t grasp the facts about rail.   At least some of the states political leaders are warming up to rail, including Lt. Governor Cagle.

Believe me, even though everyone knows that the state government is going to have to concentrate on the greatest needs for the most people,   there will be a lot of people trying to get state funding for their pet projects,  and there will be legislators who will try to send sparse state funds their way.

Governor Perdue is talking about shifting a lot of emphasis to infrastructure, not only because of bridges and other infrastructure  needing to be upgraded,  but also to provide jobs.  That sounds Democratic,  the sort of thing that Barack Obama wants to do for the country, following the lead of  FDR in the early 1930’s.  Democratic or or not,  he appears to be on the right track considering the times we are in.

Yes, this is going to be the session when we learn who really in the Georgia legislature cares about the greater good for the common welfare of the people of this state.  If it is business as usual,  this state is in real trouble during these extraordinarily troubled times.

Another big issue will be attempts to change the way taxes are paid in Georgia.  We’ll  look at that in future posts.

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Where to be in a Big National Recession – Columbus, Georgia

January 8, 2009

After Wednesdays’ Rotary Club of Columbus meeting, I buttonholed Mike Gaymon, president of the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce,  to discuss the shape of the Columbus area economy and what 2009 will bring.  I got the idea from the Rotary  program, which was “The Fearless Financial Forecasters,” three Rotary Club stock brokers who discussed the past year’s performace by the stock market, which was dismal, as you know, and picked some possibly winning stocks for this year.  Their picks made no difference to me because I don’t plan to buy any stocks, anyway.  In times like these, retired folks like me deal mainly in safe investments such as U.S. Treasury Bonds.  But, they did trigger my thoughts about the local economy.

Michael Gaymon, president, Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce

Michael Gaymon, president, Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce

You always expect a Chamber of Commerce type to paint a rosy picture, and Mike didn’t let me down, but he also is a realist and balanced his optimism with  sobering thoughts about the recession we are in.  Yes, the home building and selling industry is hurting in our area and will continue to have problems in 2009, just as it will nationally, and the automobile sector is not doing well, which was especially emphasized with the collapse of Bill Heard Chevrolet at the close of 2008.  Car sales are down and not expected to bounce back any time soon.  Gaymon also told me, “Some of the big box stores are hurting in Columbus, not the discount stores like Wal-Mart, but those that are not discount stores, and some may even close.  While some of the Columbus big box stores are doing better than others in the chains, it really doesn’t matter if the chain closes nationally.”

Even with all that, though,  2009 promises to be a very good year, with the Kia plant at West Point infusing  jobs and spin-off businesses, and AFLAC continuing to do well and adding jobs, and with the build-up at Fort Benning providing a huge stimulus to the Columbus area economy.

“We will continue to feel the effect of the national recession, but the recession in Columbus will be much less than the rest of the Southeast and the country.  Fort Benning is spending $2 billion dollars on new construction, getting ready for the infusion of new troops. The post provides a monthly payroll of $110 million, and a monthly payroll for contractors of $210 million. That’s $330 million every month, with a lot of it going directly into the Columbus economy. And that is going to increase dramatically over the next two years.”

This boils down to the encouraging fact that Columbus, Georgia is a very good place to be during economic downturns like the huge one the country is now experiencing.

Though Hit by State Budget Cuts, Chattahoochee Valley Libraries System Plans No Reductions in Services

November 13, 2008
  The Chattahoochee Valley Libraries system has no plans to reduce services anytime soon, even though there is a budget crunch. That’s what Director Claudya Muller told me. The Chattahoochee Valley Libraries system is receiving less state money now, more than six percent less. She said she does not foresee services cut, at least, not until July of 2010, providing the state doesn’t levy more cuts.  Considering that library services are in greater demand during economic slowdowns, that is good news. 

    And the demand is definitely greater. Muller  told me that usage increased by eleven percent in October over October of last year. She definitely credited that to what’s happening to the economy. Demand is going to get even greater, not just because of the economy, but because of the influx of 30,000 more people into the area as the BRAC expansion at Fort Benning goes into effect. 

  So far the library is making up some of the state money lost by not filling two high-salary – high for Columbus (that’s my remark) – positions. We are talking a hundred thousand dollars.  One is a secretarial position and the other in the Genealogy Department. She hopes to use volunteers to pick up the slack.

  Muller says our library system has gone from worst in the state to third best, but she wants to even better than that.  For instance, she says the system gets $700,000 a year for new materials, when the national norm for the population size the system serves is $1.2 million. 

  How can it get more money? It can appeal to donors and it will, but counting on private charity for most of it is unrealistic. The Muscogee County School Board could raise the system’s tax millage. It’s now 1.5 mills.  Muller would like to see that increased to 2 mills over time.  It can do that since the school board can spend up to 5 mills on the library, the Columbus Museum, and the school crossing-guard program.

  There are even more complications to this story, such as funding for the new Mildred Terry Branch not keeping up with increased construction costs and the system having to dip into operating reserves to finish the branch. You have to wonder what would happen if those operating reserves were actually needed for operating expenses.

   Since most of us aren’t billionaires, we can’t pour money into the system to help it when it is needed most. But, we can give something that adds up to a lot of money saved for the libraries; we can give of our time. About 300 people now serve as volunteers. The time given amounts to what it would cost to pay seven full-time jobs at the library.

  I’m giving a paltry four hours each month clerking in the Friends of Libraries bookstore. I enjoy meeting all types of people who come in to buy very reasonably priced books; so I’ll have no problem at least doubling that. Also, I serve on the Friends board. If you love books (and CDs, DVDs, Audio Cassettes, computers, lectures, moivies) and want to support a very worthwhile asset to our community, join me in volunteering.  You are needed.

  And you will be treated to lunch at least ONCE A YEAR!

  Columbus Public Library Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon

Columbus Public Library Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon

Public Libraries and Hard Times

November 12, 2008

 

Columbus Public Library, Columbus, Georgis

Columbus Public Library, Columbus, Georgia

   Just about every business is affected by a recession, including bookstores. This affects libraries since people turn to them for free books and entertainment. It doesn’t cost anything to check out a book, VCR tape, audio cassette, movie DVD, or music CD, or use a computer at the library. And there are free events there: things like movies, lectures, book signings. That’s why, instead of cutting back on services, which is on the horizon, including Chattahoochee Valley Libraries libraries, they need to be expanded.   

    And if you love to collect books, you can buy them at the Muscogee County Friends of Libraries Store.  Prices run from 50 cents for paperbacks, to a dollar for recent hardback releases, to up to five dollars for hardbacks copyrighted this year.  All of the proceeds go to the Chattahoochee Valley Libraries.

  There is one way that we can help during this unfortunate situation. We can volunteer our time.  Libraries use a lot of volunteers.

 The Firends of Libraries Store at the Columbus Public Library needs more of them.  Being a member of Friends, I work in the store about four hours a month. I plan to more than double that.  In keeping with my full disclosure policy, I’ll tell you that I’m also on the Muscogee County Friends of Libraries Board of Directors.  

  Yes, I am biased when it comes to supporting public libraries. They are essential to the intellectual well being of any community.

The Fruits of Ignoring the Economic Lessons of the Past

September 18, 2008

    Now we are staring the big green monster in the eye and seeing what Mr. Greed can do to us…again. Mr. Greed has been very successful in transferring billions of our tax dollars into his coffers, and he continues to get away with it.

  He took big lending risks in order to rake in big profits, and he did. Now his risky practices have come a cropper and he is being bailed out with our tax dollars. Some of his mammoth financial institutions are now nationalized, but what does he care? He’s already transferred the billions he has made, including golden parachute millions, into Swiss bank accounts.

  How did this happen? Simple. Deregulation. He was able to change the government’s rules in order to take big chances with other people’s money.

  Yes, history does repeat itself, mainly because some do not take heed of what happened in the past. What happened in 1929 is happening right now. Easy credit and risky loans encouraged consumers to go deeply into debt.  When consumers stopped buying in order to make payments on their loans, demand plumeted, businesses failed, out of work consumers defaulted on debts and financial  institutions went under.

  This Great Depression caused a rebirth of government regulations to prevent this disaster from happening again. But, the deregulators took  power again, and here we go again.

  I said the rebirth of regulations because they really started in earnest in 1906 when Republican President Teddy Roosevelt decided to take on big business, breaking up a lot of monopolies. The pro-monoply crowd regained power and we’ve had a lot of mergers in the last few decades. So, in that area, here we go again, also.

  The powers that  be are now trying to prevent another depression by having the  government step in and bail out the banks and those who insure loans. Let’s hope it works. This didn’t have to happen, though. Poper regulation could have prevented it.

  Santayana and Anonymous got it right when they said:

  “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
George Santayana 
 

  “History repeats itself  because no one was listening the first time.”
Anonymous