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Froma Harrop - High taxes, lots of regulation & doing fine

"The not so Golden State" is how a recent issue of The Economist magazine tags California's business climate. It's the latest in a trove of conservative literature trying to dance around the fact that high-tax, highly regulated, bureaucratic states can be economic powerhouses. The writers deal with the "problem" by burying reality under a pile of "buts" and "howevers."

In recent years, California has indeed suffered from gridlocked government, punishing pension obligations and debt — plus the housing meltdown. It's been addressing these challenges. And though one cannot vouch for the wisdom of every regulation, the state's environmental ethic is a big reason smart people put up with the warts.

But only Silicon Valley is doing well, The Economist says. Manufacturing stinks. "IPhones are 'designed by Apple in California,'" the article notes, "but made in Shenzhen."

Apple nonetheless employs 16,000 Californians in and around Cupertino and plans to expand that number to 24,000. The Apple workers reportedly earn an average of $125,000. There must be something going for Apple in California.

There's this fantasy that if our environmental regulations just went lax, America would have some renaissance in factory employment. Thing is, manufacturing output in this country has actually tripled in the last 60 years, Bloomberg Businessweek reports.

U.S. factories are simply being run with fewer, well-trained people operating computers. The low-skilled, low-wage, labor-intensive factory jobs are not coming back, and why should we want them?

The Economist seems vexed that Gov. Jerry Brown would sign a bill raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour in 2016 — as though Wendy's could sell burgers in Bakersfield from a store in Nevada. By the way, in 1968, the national minimum wage was $10.77 in today's dollars.

Only Silicon Valley?! Check out The Wall Street Journal's new "Billion-Dollar Startup Club." These are companies valued at $1 billion or more by venture capital firms.

Of the 37 billion-dollar startups, 26 are based in the U.S. — 22 of them in California. Of the four U.S. startups not located in California, three are in New York City — not exactly your low-tax haven and, at the moment, freezing cold. The other one is in Jacksonville, Fla.
Those who strike it rich will do tax planning, and that may include buying homes in low-tax places. But the big tech innovators are still building their companies where their brainiacs want to be. Kings of the creative class demand the stimulation found in great urban neighborhoods. And they want a nice countryside to hike in.

Two years ago, The Wall Street Journal published an emotional essay titled "California Declares War on Suburbia." The writer was especially upset that the Association of Bay Area Governments had proposed limiting new housing beyond the San Francisco and San Jose "urban fringe" to 3 percent of the total. Most new building would be multifamily homes.

Boy, do they hate San Francisco. But the strict building rules have kept San Francisco — and its environs — a beautiful place. That's why tech people working in surrounding areas insist on making their nests in San Francisco when they could live cheaper, bigger and closer to work.

Universities are another magnet and incubator for new companies. They tend to spawn the liberal, active-government cultures in which innovation thrives. There's some irony that the premier tech center of Texas is progressive Austin, thanks in great part to the University of Texas, a creature of state government.

To the states with good education, an open-minded community and an attractive environment go the tech spoils. Taxation does matter, and there's such a thing as dumb regulations. But for the knowledge economy, that's not everything or even, it seems, the big thing. California shows how.

(A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)

Last Updated on Monday, 27 January 2014 09:47

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Pat Buchanan - What did our wars win?

"He ended one war and kept us out of any other," is the tribute paid President Eisenhower.

Ike ended the Korean conflict in 1953, refused to intervene to save the French at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, and, rather than back the British-French-Israeli invasion, ordered them all out of Egypt in 1956.

Ending America longest wars may prove to be Barack Obama's legacy.

For, while ending wars without victory may not garner from the historians' the accolade of "great" or "near great," it is sometimes the duty of a president who has inherited a war the nation no longer wishes to fight. That was Nixon's fate, as well as Ike's, and Obama's.

And as we look back at our interventions in the 21st century, where are the gains of all our fighting, bleeding and dying? We know the costs — 8,000 dead, 40,000 wounded, $2 trillion in wealth sunk. But where are the benefits?

After Moammar Gadhafi fell in Libya, the mercenaries he had hired returned to Mali. The French had to intervene. In Benghazi, the city we started the war to save, a U.S. ambassador and three Americans would be murdered by terrorists.

Libya today appears to be breaking apart.

While Gadhafi was dreadful, what threat was he to us, especially after he had surrendered his weapons of mass destruction?

In Egypt, we helped overthrow President Hosni Mubarak and hailed the election of the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammad Morsi. A year later, we green-lighted Morsi's overthrow by Mubarak's army. Terrorism has returned to Egypt, the Sinai is now a no man's land, and almost all Egypt hates us now.

The Shia regime we brought to power in Iraq has so repressed the Sunnis that Anbar province is now hosting al-Qaida. Fallujah and Ramadi have fallen. President Nuri al-Maliki is asking for U.S. weapons to retrieve Anbar and for U.S. personnel to train his soldiers.

Unlike the bad, old Iraq, the new Iraq tilts to Tehran.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign a status of forces agreement giving our troops legal protections if they remain. This could cause a complete U.S. pullout in 2014, leading to the return of the Taliban we drove out in 2001.

Sunday saw terrorism in the heart of Kabul, with a restaurant favored by foreign officials targeted by a car bomb, followed by a machine-gunning of dining patrons in which 21 were killed.

Americans have fought bravely there for a dozen years. But how has our nation building in the Hindu Kush benefited the good old USA?
Pakistan, with nuclear weapons, has become a haven of the Taliban, perhaps the most dangerous country on earth. Anti-American elements in the Khyber region have, because of our drone attacks, been blocking a U.S. troop exodus to the sea.

How enduring is what we accomplished in Afghanistan? Last summer, Obama, goaded by democracy crusaders and the War Party, was about to launch strikes on Syria when America arose as one to call a halt.

We did not attack Syria. Had we, we would have struck a blow for an insurgency dominated by the al-Nusra Front and Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The ISIS goal? Detach Anbar from Iraq and unite it with jihadist-occupied sectors of Syria in a new caliphate. Can we not see that Bashar Assad's worst enemies are ours as well?

Syria's civil war, which has cost 100,000 dead, with millions uprooted and a million in exile, has spilled over into Lebanon, where Hezbollah backs Assad and the Sunnis back the rebels. The neoconservatives say much of this might have been averted, had we left a stronger contingent of U.S. troops in Iraq and supported the Syrian uprising before the jihadists took control. They were for attacking Assad last summer, are for more severe sanctions on Iran now, and are for war if Iran does not give up all enrichment of uranium. But the neocons have broken their pick with the people. For they have been wrong about just about everything.

They were wrong about Saddam's WMD and a "cakewalk" war.

They were wrong about how welcome we would be in Iraq and how Baghdad would become a flourishing democracy and model for the Mideast.

They did not see the Sunni-Shia war our intervention would ignite.

They were wrong about how our interests would be served in attacking Libya.

They did not see the disaster that would unfold in Pakistan.

While we did not follow their advice and attack Syria, how have we suffered from having taken a pass on Syria's civil-sectarian war?

From Libya to Lebanon, Syria to Yemen, Iraq to Afghanistan, the Maghreb and Middle East are aflame. What have we lost by getting out of the wars Obama found us in? How would we benefit from parachuting back into the middle of the fire?

Which raises a related question: Was Obama wrong in extricating us from the wars into which George W. Bush plunged his country?

How will history answer that one?

(Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan has been a senior advisor to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000. He won the New Hampshire Republican Primary in 1996.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Sanborn – Lakes Region 2013 residential sales report

We finished off 2013 with 72 residential homes sold in December in the Lakes Region communities listed in this report. The average sales price came in at $236,484 and the median price point stood at $177,500. Last December we only had 57 sales albeit at a higher average sales price of $315, 391 and a median of $200,000.

For the year, there were 1,041 residential home transactions in these same communities at an average sales price of $300,392 and a median price point of $192,000. That is a 14 percent increase in total sales over 2012! And, 2012 had a 19 percent increase in total sales over 2011. So volume-wise, we are definitely headed in the right direction. The average sales price in 2013 came in at $300,392 which was just a tad lower than the $302,188 posted for 2012. You do know what a "tad" is, right? The median sales price has bounced around from $182,000 to $192,000 for the past five years.

A breakdown by individual towns has Alton with 110 transactions at an $346,734 average sales price, Barnstead with 95 sales at $145,793, Belmont with 102 at $150,243, Center Harbor with 23 at $510,715, Gilford with 140 at $347,782, Gilmanton with 52 at $193,208, Laconia with 188 at $213,729, Meredith with 107 at $430,845, Moultonborough with 132 at $521,134, New Hampton with 30 at $214,523, Sanbornton with $261,678, and Tilton with 23 sales at an average of $139,003. So Laconia wins for the award for the most sales but if you are going for the big bucks Moultonborough is the place to be! The overall average sales price in 2013 of $300,392 is 24.6 percent off the peak price year of 2007 when the average sales price came in at $398,717.

So what price ranges are selling? Well, there's no surprise that over 50 percent of the homes sold in 2013 were under the $200,000 mark...52.7 percent to be exact. That's down just a smidgen from 2012's 55 percent. For those of you that don't know, a "smidgen" is a precise real estate technical term meaning a small amount. Only 15.3 percent of the homes sold were under that magical $100,000 mark. Mid-range homes from $200,000 to $299,999 made up 22 percent of the sales while those homes priced from $300,000 to $399,999 made up only 8.3 percent of the sales. Homes over the $400k mark represented 17 percent of the total number of sales.

As with most things, less expensive homes sold quicker. Homes under $100,000 sold at an average of 106 days on the market, those between $100,000 and $199,999 averaged 119 days, $200,000 to $299,999 averaged 160 days, $300,000 to $399,999 averaged 172 days, and over $400,000 meant you were looking at an average of 163 days to find a buyer. The number of days on market listed, however, does not include any previous times the home was listed with another agency. The actual average days on market is higher just as things always appear a tad larger in your side view mirror.

The total dollar volume for 2013 came in at $312.7 million which was up a skosh from $276.3 in 2012. A "skosh" is another little used, but precise, technical term meaning a tad more than a smidgen. Anyway, to put this into perspective, the 548 sales under $200,000 represented about $68.7 million in sales or 22 percent of the dollar volume. But, the 177 sales over the $400,000 mark represented a whopping $158.9 million in sales or 51 percent of the dollar volume. This kind of demonstrates the definite positive impact that the high end, second home, and waterfront home sales have on our real estate market.

So what does this all mean? I think it is pretty basic. If the total number of sales continues to rise and deplete the inventory levels, eventually prices will begin to rise. And, of course, we need to have a stronger economy to get the mid-priced home market moving. We will continue to rely on the high end home sales to retirees and second home purchasers to bolster our market. Finally, I do know that if you could drop the price of your home a smidgen to get below that $300,000 mark and move it just a skosh over the line into Moultonborough to take advantage of their low tax rate, you will undoubtedly sell it a tad quicker. But, that's just plain real estate talk.
Please feel free to visit www.lakesregionhome.com for year end charts and graphs. Data was compiled using the Northern New England Real Estate MLS System as of 1/15/14. Roy Sanborn is a realtor at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-455-0335 .

Last Updated on Friday, 24 January 2014 10:17

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Froma Harrop - Marriage matters, in France & in Texas

There is a difference between being married and not being married. That difference has come into sharp focus in the romantic life of French President Francois Hollande, a sort of Socialist Sun King around whom women revolve. All of his female companions are reputedly strong, but none seems strong enough to tell him to scram.

Instead, they suffer and complain and jockey for the orbit closest to the star. You see, he won't marry any of them. That included Segolene Royal, the ex-live-in who bore his four children. Royal reportedly asked him to (I quote Beyonce) "put a ring on it." (Royal was not without status, having herself run for president of France.)

Marriage confers certain rights. In "The Wolf of Wall Street," Leonardo DiCaprio's character shows that for jerks with power and money, big-busted blondes may come and go. The only one who can yell at him is the one he married.

Hollande left Royal for Valerie Trierweiler, a journalist. As Royal predicted, "He who has betrayed will betray."

Hollande is now keeping Trierweiler off balance. Though she's been given the palace office and staff of a first lady, Hollande won't confirm that she is first lady.

Now he's been found sneaking off on a motor scooter to visit an actress. Would that make Trierweiler first mistress or second? A distraught Trierweiler checked herself in to a hospital.

The French are famously lax about their leaders' extramarital affairs. Disorder is something else, and Hollande's messy personal life makes them very unhappy.

Recall the funeral of the former President Francois Mitterrand. His wife and their children were there — but also his longtime mistress and their daughter. Neither woman was flustered. Madame Mitterrand had official status of wife. And the mistress, though obviously occupying a different place, was treated with deference. Point is, they all knew what ballpark they were playing in.
One last thought. The members of Hollande's harem chose to sign up for membership. Any one of them could have found a far more dignified relationship elsewhere, in or outside of marriage.

When children are involved, the stability provided by marriage is even more important. For so many poor and working-class mothers, doing it all without a reliable partner has made for a harrowing and impoverished existence.

Consider the interesting case of Wendy Davis, Democratic candidate for governor of Texas. Davis offers an inspirational life story: A single mother living in a trailer ends up with a Harvard law degree and successful career. I like Davis very much, and I like her story, but a few facts were apparently "blurred," as reported in The Dallas Morning News.

Davis was married when she had her children. After separating from her first husband, she did move in to a trailer with her child, though only for a few months. She did work two jobs. But she eventually married a lawyer, who paid for her last two years at Texas Christian University. He cared for the two children (they had one together) in Texas while she attended Harvard Law School, which he also paid for.

The message here is that a down-on-her-luck single mother with grit can work her way up. But it's so much easier if she's had one or more husbands on the way to help.

My feminist credentials are pretty sterling. No woman has to get married, and those who do should lead full lives.

The problem comes when women who want the security of marriage stay with — or have the children of — men who won't commit in that way. For a lot of women, marriage still matters. They should just admit it.

(A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

Hits: 416

Bob Meade - Governmental bullying

As youngsters, we are often taught not to discus politics or religion in social circles. Normally that advice would have merit. In today's environment however, those topics have become intertwined and have sparked some very heated debate concerning the new health care law and its impact on our freedom of religion. That debate is literally on center stage right now.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

Those are the words of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The amendment was initially conceived and a draft written by Thomas Jefferson. That was followed by various inputs from the founders and the final version was passed in the House and the Senate in 1789. It was ratified by the States in 1791. This most important section of the Bill of Rights has served this country well for over 222 years. However, it is now under siege.

A few years ago, in a letter to the editor, a writer stated that he believed the First Amendment needed to be revised, that it didn't reflect today's United States. He took particular issue with the reference to freedom of speech; claiming it was outdated and he didn't much care for the regular folks having their viewpoints printed in the newspaper. As you know, the range of viewpoints expressed by the public represent the good, the bad, and the ugly . . . without that range of opinion, it wouldn't be "free speech".

Today, as this is being written, Associate Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor granted the Denver based, Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged, its request for an emergency stay of that part of The Affordable Care Act (ACA) dealing with the abortion/contraception issue. The Sisters appeal had been denied earlier in the day by a Federal District Court. The stay by Justice Sotomayor gives the federal government a week to respond, but a decision may not come from the court until the middle of the year.

What is so troubling about this particular issue is that it seems that the ACA clearly violates the wording, spirit, and intent of the First Amendment, as it pertains to religious freedom. The fact that the government has tried to circumvent that amendment by dictating to insurance companies that they provide the abortion coverage "for free" is an insult not only to the amendment, but to common sense. Does anyone think that the government can or should dictate to a company what it must give away "for free"? Obviously, if the insurance companies involved complied with the government dictate, they would simply pass along those costs by charging the policy holders a higher premium. Further, if the government can dictate one thing that must given away "for free", does that then set a precedent, giving the government license to dictate any number of other things that businesses must give away for free? How about a new Cadillac? Or a waterfront home?

What is equally troubling is that, in this case, lower courts had ruled against the sisters' petition. However, in another ruling on the free contraception issue that was brought by the Archdiocese of Washington, the three-judge panel ruled two to one in favor of the archdiocese. Judge David S. Tatel, the dissenting vote in that case said, "Because I believe that appellants are unlikely to prevail on their claim that the challenged provision imposes a 'substantial burden' under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, I would deny their application for an injunction pending appeal,". What is so disturbing about the position taken by Judge Tatel, and a number of other judges, is their apparent disregard for the First, and arguably the most important, Amendment to the Constitution. One would think that the clause, "or prohibiting the free exercise thereof", is clear enough to be understood by an elementary school student, let alone a person learned in the law. And, importantly, why should a church have to prove a "substantial burden" when some government act flies in the face of its religious tenets? The dictate to provide contraception and abortion services, "free" or otherwise, is a denial of long held religious beliefs and religious freedom.

And, as this is being written, it is not known if Justice Sotomayor's stay will be made permanent or if the lower court's ruling denying the sisters' plea will take effect. We can pray that "justice" will prevail. Should the sisters be denied their petition, future historians may point to that denial as the ruling that led to the ultimate dissolution of the Bill of Rights and the freedoms associated with it.

People of faith are being bullied by those who believe that political correctness and its companion, humanism, should be what guides our country and its people. Neither of those is a substitute for Religious beliefs. As mentioned up front, religion and politics should not be discussed in social circles . . . they're bound to get some people upset.

(Bob Meade is a Laconia resident.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

Hits: 322

 
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