The Real Problem With ACORN<1>

Added 2/12/2010

I found myself glued to the television last week as Fox broadcast its special investigation of ACORN. It was a terrific piece of journalism

-- something worthy of 60 Minutes in its heyday.

But the real fascination for me was personal. Wade Rathke, the 61-year-old founder of ACORN, is exactly my age and vintage (he went to

Williams, I went to Amherst). He even looks like me. Moreover, he started the organization after going South to work in the Welfare Rights

Movement in 1970. I was working for Welfare Rights in Clark County, Alabama in 1970. (I remember noticing there were a lot of redheads in the

movement at the time.)

But that's where the similarity ends. I ended up feeling a little ambivalent about "The Movement" and came back and started a newspaper

career. Rathke says he liked community organizing so much he started his own group in Little Rock after Welfare Rights ran out of steam. He

built the organization into an incredible, multi-million-dollar octopus with tentacles almost everywhere. He finally had to resign when it

was discovered he covered up his brother's million-dollar embezzlement from the organization. The interview with Fox was the first he has

ever granted.

Welfare Rights at the time was a second generation of the Civil Rights Movement. I was in Mississippi in 1964 and that was the first

generation. We were in danger of our lives -- and of course three volunteers, Michael Schwerner, James Cheney and Andrew Goodman, were


It was also an effort of which any American should be proud. When we started about 1 percent of the African-American population was

registered to vote. Today Mississippi has the

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The Mind Boggles<2>

Added 2/12/2010

Has the Senate, or the Congressional Budget Office, spent a fraction of that in limning the outcome of a massive health-care overhaul? Nah,

they throw a few numbers together, extrapolate from a series of questionable premises, and plop a paper down with a figure that is treated as

gospel. Is anyone testing past CBO projections to assay the degree of precision they achieve? We do know that Medicare was never going to

cost more than 4 billion dollars a year. And yet we trust this system to dictate the prescription of all the drugs by all the doctors for all

the citizens… a system no company could rely on for a single medication.

Point three: it is utter madness to create open-ended commitments with no mechanism to impose restraint when it overreaches or simply grows

too big. It has been a favored feint of Obama and the Congressional Democrats to cite as an advantage for public health insurance the fact

that it does not "need" to show a profit. But the need to show a profit is what we count on to regulate the insurance companies. A profit is

a barometer of systemic efficiency. These public plans go hog-wild, and if we complain about the money being lost, we are answered by higher


Who are these people? What are they doing? Are they qualified to do it? Is anybody? How do they know the results they will bring? Can they

possibly know? What is their track record in previous undertakings? Is anyone keeping track? Are there consequences to them if they fail?

What guarantees do we have that if they mess up someone will clean up the mess? With questions like these, it is the height of

irresponsibility to trust the fate of a country to this apparatus.

The cherry-on-top came earlier this week when the insurance industry unveiled a report by Price Waterhouse predicting vastly higher insurance

costs if this bill is enacted. Within minutes members of Congress were deriding the bias and distortion of this finding. The irony here is

mind-boggling. The worst accountants in the world are heaping scorn on the best accountants in the world, telling them to mind their own

business. They should better stay with what they know, industries which make sense, plan carefully, deliver well, track results punctiliously

and discard what does not work.

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Republic of Ireland confirms EU financial rescue deal<3>

Added 27/11/2010

Could the Republic be forced to increase its low corporation tax rate in return for getting the bail-out?

Irish finance minister Brian Lenihan said that this would definitely not be one of the conditions of accessing bail-out funds.

According to reports, the French and German governments had been calling for this trade off.

They have complained that the Republic's 12.5% corporation tax - which is much lower than the European average - gives the country an unfair advantage when it comes to attracting overseas investment.

France and Germany argued that Dublin could be allowed to rely solely on a bail-out, and that it should also be forced to raise taxes - and specifically corporation tax - to boost its public finances.

When Greece received its EU-led bail-out in September, it had to accept strict guidelines on tax rises and other revenue boosting measures.

But the Irish government has always maintained its low corporation tax rate is "non-negotiable".

And reports suggested that several major US firms had warned the Republic that raising corporation tax would be "damaging" to its position as a base for foreign investors.

What are the potential impacts for the UK?

While the UK is not part of the eurozone, its taxpayers could end up footing some of the bill for the bail-out.

For example, the UK contributes 12% (more than 6bn euros) to the EFSM.

Also, if the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was asked to step in, the UK would fund 4.5% of any aid.

On the other side of the coin, tough times in the Irish Republic means less demand for UK goods and services.

This is potentially damaging given that the Republic is among the UK's largest trading partners.

According to UK government figures, trade with the country exceeds total UK trade with Brazil, Russia, India and China. And every man, woman and child in the Republic spends an average of 3,607 per year on British goods, it added.

This is why UK chancellor George Osborne said he was considering offering a direct loan to the Republic.

What is the Irish Republic doing to try to help its economy?

The country's government has tried to draw a clear line between problems with its banking system and problems with its deficit.

That is because it feels confident that the measures it has already taken - and more crucially those it is set to announce - will help put it public finances on a sounder economic footing.

Europe Minister Dick Roche told the BBC the country would have its budget deficit down to about 3% by 2014 (from the current 12%).

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