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Pat Buchanan - Look at reality of 'free' trade

The GOP swept to victory in November by declaring that this imperial presidency must be brought to heel, and President Obama's illicit seizures of Congressional power must end.

That was then. Now is now.

This week, Congress takes up legislation to cede His Majesty full authority to negotiate the largest trade deal in history, the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership, and to surrender Congress' right to amend any TPP that Obama might bring home.

Why the capitulation? Why would Republicans line up to kiss the royal ring? Is Middle America clamoring for "fast track"? Are blue-collar workers marching in the streets to have Congress grant "Trade Promotion Authority Now!" to Barack Obama?

No. Pressure for fast track is coming from two sources. First, the editorial pages of papers like The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post that truckle to the transnational corporations that provide the advertising revenue stream keeping them alive. Second, Obama is relying on Congressional Republicans who, for all their bravado about defying his usurpations, know on which side their bread is buttered. It's the Wall Street-K Street side.

Fast track is the GOP payoff to its bundlers and big donors. And so, we must hear again all the tired talking points about free trade, soaring exports, jobs created, etc.

But what is reality of the last quarter century of "free trade"? The economic independence that enabled us to stay out of two world wars — until we chose to go in and help win them swiftly — is history. We are a dependent nation now. We rely on imports for the necessities of our national life and the vital components of our weapons systems. Hamilton must be turning over in his grave.

Where once wages rose inexorably in America and the middle class seemed ever to expand, we read today about income inequality, the growing gap between rich and poor, and wage stagnation. Did $11 trillion in trade deficits since Bush I have anything to do with this? Or do we think that the 55,000 factories and 5-6 million manufacturing jobs that went missing in the first decade of this new century had no connection to those huge trade deficits?

Is there a link perhaps between all those factories closing in the USA and all those factories opening in China, or between a U.S. average annual growth rate of 1.8 percent since the turn of the century, and a Chinese average annual growth rate of around 10 percent?

We read of China's hoard of $4 trillion in cash reserves, of Beijing creating a replica of the World Bank, of European and Asian nations rushing to sign up to get a piece of the action in building China's new "Silk Road" to Europe.

Monday's New York Times tells of Premier Xi Jinping coming to Islamabad bearing gifts. Pakistani officials say Xi will be signing agreements for $46 billion for the construction of railroads, highways and power plants over the next 15 years.
Where did Xi get all that money to displace America in Asia?

Last week came news that Japan has narrowly passed China as a holder of U.S. federal debt. Between them, they hold $2.5 trillion. Did the tidal wave of imports from Japan and China, and the historic trade deficits we have run with both nations for decades, have anything to do with our Athens-like indebtedness to our Asian creditors?

When we look back to NAFTA, GATT, the WTO, MFN and PNTR for China, the Korean-U.S. free trade deal, CAFTA with Central America — almost all have led to soaring trade deficits and jobs lost to the nations with whom we signed the agreements.

As for the bureaucrats and politicians who promised us big new markets for exports, rising trade surpluses, better jobs — were they simply ignorant, or were they knowingly lying to us? No one can be that wrong for that long. The law of averages is against it.

Writing yesterday, Peter Morici, chief economist in the early Clinton years at the U.S. International Trade Commission, says the Korean deal alone, and the import surge that followed, cost America 100,000 jobs. "Asian nations target specific industries — such as autos and information technology — and compel U.S. firms to establish factories and research facilities in their economies," as China, Germany and Japan manipulate their currencies to keep exports to us high and imports from us low. Morici estimates that our annual $500 billion trade deficit costs America 4-million jobs and is a contributing cause of the fall of U.S. family income by $4,600 since 2000.

Unless changes are made in TPP, he writes, "Congress should deny President Obama authority to negotiate yet another jobs killing trade pact in the Pacific."

What the nation needs is not only a rejection of fast track, but also a trade policy that puts country before corporate profit, workers before Wall Street, and America first.

Such a policy once made the Republican Party America's Party.

(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 Tuesday, 21 April 2015 10:19

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Bob Meade - What are you willing to pay?

The profit motive is what incentivizes businesses. In order to survive, a business must provide goods or services the market wants, producing and delivering those goods or services at a cost to the business that's lower than the price the customer is willing to pay. That difference between cost and price is the profit. Without a profit, the business goes out of business.

A federal bureaucracy does not have a profit motive. It normally gets established to achieve an objective, not a profit. Without a profit motive, we have seen our federal bureaucracies grow, at substantial costs to the taxpayers, without achieving the objectives for which they were started.

The Heritage foundation did a study comparing pay in the federal government and in the private sector. The study showed that the federal government paid employees basic wages that are 57 percent higher than wages paid in the private sector for the same types of functions. Even more outrageous is the fact that when the costs of the benefit packages are included, Federal workers receive wages and benefits that are 85 percent higher than comparable job skills in the private sector. Private sector wages and benefits amount to $60,078 while federal employee wages and benefits total $111,015. Staggering! Is it any wonder that federal workers are eight times less likely to quit their jobs than are private sector workers?

The Heritage report estimates that the federal government would save $47 billion annually if federal wages were reduced to private sector rates. However, that savings does not include the savings from increases in productivity and the reduction in staff that would ensue if the bureaucratic functions were privatized.

Over the last few years, we have also witnessed the spending excesses of the various federal agencies, and have read of federal employees who spend six or seven hours a day on their computers looking at pornographic web sites. In a normal business environment, the employer would not put day to day work on hold to take employees to a five star hotel to learn "line dancing" or to sip champagne in a hot tub with other workers. The cost to do so would directly affect the cost of the goods or services being marketed, and diminish or eliminate any profits. Nor would the employer tolerate the employee spending the better part of a work day looking at pornographic materials . . . once discovered, the employee would be fired on the spot. However, the boss in the federal bureaucracy cannot fire the employee as it isn't permitted under the contract the government has with the union. The "worst" that can happen is that the offending federal worker can be suspended for a few weeks or months, and be given full wages and benefits during that time. In other words, the worse the employee is, the more likely he or she is to be given an extended paid vacation, at your expense. Does Lois Lerner ring a bell?

We now spend $77 billion a year for our Federal Department of Education, which was started in 1977. Even though our per pupil cost is the highest in the world, our results, in comparison to other countries, continue to drop and our national high school graduation rates hover at around 70 percent, and in the 50 percent range in many urban areas. How much of that $77 billion would be saved if the objectives of this department were specified and set out for bid in the private sector, with a time line for achieving a successful completion? Where the company contracted to achieve results would either achieve those results or lose their contract?

The Department of Energy was also started in 1977, with the objective being to bring this country to energy independence. While countries like France receive about 75 percent of their electricity through nuclear energy, in this country we only receive 17 percent . . . and, we have basically blocked any new nuclear plants from being built in the last 30 years. We have the largest "clean coal" supply in the world. President Clinton unilaterally turned that reserve into a "National Monument" which forever prohibits that coal from being mined. Indonesia, which has the next largest clean coal reserve, became the beneficiary of that decision.

President Obama put a target on the back of the coal industry, killing many coal mining jobs, driving workers into poverty and companies out of business. He has also stifled oil exploration on federal lands. Private enterprise developed "fracking" technologies and oil exploration using that technology has been done on privately owned lands. That private sector success has been largely responsible for bringing us to near energy independence, as it has been estimated that we now have the largest oil reserves in the world. Fracking has also resulted in the oil producing nations dramatically dropping their per barrel price of oil . . . as they try to destroy our fracking industries by pricing their oil below what it currently costs to produce oil through fracking.

We need to transition from bloated, costly, unregulated, unaccountable, and never ending bureaucracies at the Federal level, by contracting necessary functions/objectives to the private sector. A huge improvement in achieving results in a timely manner while dramatically lowering costs to the taxpayers awaits.

(Bob Meade is a Laconia resident.)

Last Updated on Monday, 20 April 2015 09:34

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Congressman Frank Guinta - The war on manufacturing jobs, middle-class families & energy costs

Our state enjoys a rich environmental heritage with the tourism industry serving as a cornerstone of our economy — contributing $318 million in federal, state and local revenue while supporting over 24,385 seasonal and full-time jobs. From our state's pristine ski resorts to White Mountain National Forest to our beautiful coastline, we are known for our natural beauty and the industries which support and strengthen it.

Like you, I understand the importance of preserving our lands and water resources to provide our state with a steady source of good-paying jobs and local revenue. In fact, last month I joined my House colleagues in sending a bipartisan letter to the Appropriations Committee urging them to secure funding for the Land Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The LWCF supports public land conservation and ensures access to outdoor recreation opportunities for Granite Staters and tourists.

Similarly, I signed onto a letter urging the Appropriations Committee to invest directly in the New England region's coastal communities by supporting funding for the National Estuary Program, which is instrumental in protecting our coastal environments, sustaining coastal economics and jobs.

Unfortunately, our state is experiencing manufacturing job losses and skyrocketing energy costs due to the heavy hand of government intervention. A safe environment and a healthy economy are not mutually exclusive ends; however, increasing and ever-changing government regulations lead to the suffocation of our manufacturing sector and heavy financial burdens on the middle-class and energy producing plants.

As regulations increase, the cost of doing business also increases. In an effort to remain or become profitable, manufactures have a choice of passing this cost along to its consumers, increasing energy rates, firing workers to reduce payroll costs or shutting down their plans entirely.

All four situations occurred in New Hampshire.

Just this past year, Granite State businesses and families experienced sky-rocketing energy costs which resulted in a loss of business and jobs growth. For example, last November, Liberty Utilities doubled its rates from 7.7 cents per kilowatt hour to 15.4 cents resulting in a monthly average increase from $110 to $162 for the average household's monthly energy bill.

Who can afford this 47 percent cost increase?

Likewise, approximately 500,000 Granite State homes and businesses experienced a 6 percent rate increase for Public Service of New Hampshire in the beginning of January due to a ruling by the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission.

And, just last year, five power plants announced their anticipated closures in the coming years resulting in the loss of more than 3,000 megawatts of energy. These closures come at a heavy price. Not only do we lose a massive amount of energy; but, we also lose the hundreds of jobs that come with it.

These dramatic increases hurts those living on fixed incomes the most, as they are ill equipped to deal with fluctuating prices. With a population that is older than the national average, and with many living paycheck to paycheck — or reliant on Social Security alone — this is deeply troubling to New Hampshire.

In addition to affecting our state's existing businesses, the shock rate associated with increasing electricity rates also deters out-of-state companies from relocating to New Hampshire. This results in missed opportunities for thousands of new jobs, increased competition; and, therefore, reduced energy costs.

Our state needs real results, and we need them now.

New Hampshire is estimated to lose 3,452 manufacturing jobs by 2023. That means almost 3,500 Granite State individuals will be without a stable paycheck to support themselves and their families. We simply cannot afford to continue down this path. You and your family deserve better.
You deserve an all-of-the-above energy approach that responsibly explores and utilizes our own natural resources and supports renewable energy sources. You deserve a more robust infrastructure to strengthen and support new energy projects and jobs. And, you deserve a market free from cap-and-trade policies which picks winners and losers, decreases market competition and therefore, gouges energy costs for Granite State households.
Higher costs for consumers, fewer manufacturing jobs, and more regulations are a death knell for an economy like ours accustomed to leading the New England region out of recessions.

Until we are able to find the happy medium between our regulatory environment and our ability to attract businesses and individuals, we will continue to experience a sluggish economy with less take home pay and little hope for economic expansion.

(Manchester Republican Frank Guinta represents New Hampshire's First Congressional District in Washington, D.C.)

Last Updated on Friday, 17 April 2015 09:51

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Sanborn — Real estate is local

There were 56 residential home sales in March in the twelve communities covered by this market report. The average sales price came in at $284,323 and the median price point was $202,500. Last March there were 62 transactions at an average sales price of $271,231. For the first quarter of the year there were 146 sales at an average of $284,766 with a median price point of an even $200,000. For the first quarter of 2014 there were 171 sales at an average of $316,900 with a median price of $204,910. So that's a 15 percent drop in the total number of sales so far this year and a 10 percent drop in the average sales price. There were also 171 sales in the first quarter of 2013 but the average price was much lower at $224,659.

So what gives? If you read the article in last Sunday's Union Leader it said things are heating up in the Southern N.H. real estate market. The key word there is "southern." There seems to be a line just around Concord where the market changes from hot to maybe lukewarm at best. Homes are selling quickly and with multiple offers in the Manchester and Seacoast areas and their inventory level is down considerably. The article states that REALTOR.com rated the Nashua-Manchester Market as the 11th hottest in the country. I suspect there was no mention of the Weirs-Lakeport market anywhere. Real estate is very local, so what you read about in one area does not necessarily apply in another.

Even at the local level, there are always communities and neighborhoods that are more desirable and where homes will sell quicker. Take Long Bay and South Down in Laconia, for example. Property always sells there and the listings generally bring more than assessed values which bucks the trend lately in many towns. Real estate truly is all about location, location, location.

As far as the condo market goes, there were 29 sales our communities in both the first quarter of this year as well as last. The average sales price for the first quarter this year was $201,507 and last year it was $149,615. Last year 8 of the 29 sales were over $200,000 and this year 11 were over the $200,000 mark thereby bumping the average sales price up a bit.

But there is some good news for this area as well. Interest rates are still very low. Freddie Mac stated that the rates across the nation on a 30 year fixed loan average 3.66 percent versus 4.34 percent 12 months ago. That helps give first time buyers that little bit extra purchasing power they may need to get into a home.
The other good news is that spring is really, truly, finally here. You can't help think that the horrible winter we have had has contributed somewhat to the lack luster sales so far this year. And, it truly feels like the number of showings and properties going pending have picked up over the past several weeks. A check on the properties that are currently under contract reveals that there are over 175 properties for a total of $62 million in the pipeline. That will help as we go into our busy season.

But the really great news is that the Lakes Region of N.H. will always be an extremely desirable place to live. Our lakes and mountains provide recreational experiences and a relaxed lifestyle that is unmatched anywhere else in the Northeast. That's why so many people choose to buy a vacation home or retire here. So while our real estate market is not as hot as some areas, we've got a lot going for us and I fully expect that we'll have a great summer sales season.

P​ease feel free to visit www.lakesregionhome.com to learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market and comment on this article and others.
​Data compiled using the NNEREN MLS system as of 4/16/15. ​Roy Sanborn is a sales associate at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-677-7012​.​

Last Updated on Friday, 17 April 2015 06:25

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Bob Meade - Take your pick: do you want the issue or the solution? (FOR USE TUESDAY, APRIL 14)

Politics, as we observe that process today, seems to have little to do with "conducting the people's business". It has more to do with dividing the populace into voting blocs, pitting one against the other. Solutions to problems aren't sought; they're manipulated into a continuum of festering sores. Those sores always intended to be "the other guy's fault". Personal accountability? Fuggedaboudit!

Politicians "milk" serious issues for their own benefit. All too often, there is no desire to find an amicable solution to a problem simply because keeping an issue festering is used to achieve some political gain. One such issue that keeps getting its fires stoked is that of police departments being targeted as "racists". No matter what the job, there will always be some people who perform admirably while some of their co-workers are marginal at best. Life is a series of "bell curves" where no matter what the job, the top 10 percent or 20 percentwill perform over and above expectations. In the center of that bell, will be 60 percent to 80 percent of the workers who perform normally and meet basic job expectations. At the bottom of the bell curve, that other 10 percent to 20 percent, are those who fail to meet the basic, acceptable standards.

It doesn't matter if you are measuring police, automobile mechanics, sales people, managers, teachers or students, engineers or computer geeks, or any other number of jobs . . . within that job classification's pool of workers, there will be a natural bell curve.

In what is now commonly referred to as the Ferguson case, and in spite of the findings in the long awaited Justice Department report which absolved Officer Wilson of any wrong-doing, politicians have done little to honestly and accurately identify the race relations problem, and its causes, and to take constructive action within the community to develop worthwhile solutions . . . the issue is being kept alive and it is festering.

If we don't honestly address the root cause of problems in our communities, how can we expect to fix them? For example, the FBI has determined that the 10 most dangerous cities in America are: Camden, NJ, Flint, MI, Detroit, MI, Oakland, CA, St. Louis, MO, Cleveland, OH, Gary, IN, Newark, NJ, Bridgeport, CT, and Birmingham, AL. These 10 cities share many of the same characteristics. First, their high school dropout rates are terrible. The worst is St. Louis where only 45.9 percent of those who enter the ninth grade ultimately graduate; well below their Missouri State average of 85 percent. Other cities aren't much better with a number of them graduating between 48 percent to 58 percent of their students, with their state's overall graduation rates being from 23 percent to 35 percent higher.

In each of these cities, the white population is in the minority. The lowest percentage is in Detroit, where only 7.8 percent of the population is white. Gary is next at 10.7 percent, followed by Camden at 17.6 percent. On the high end, 43.5 percent of the St. Louis population is white, followed by Flint at 35.7 percent and Cleveland at 33.4 percent.

Median household and poverty levels follow the same patterns. Oakland has the highest median income at $52,583, followed by Bridgeport at $41,050. Both of these cities are in the middle of fairly affluent surroundings. However, at the other end of the spectrum we find that Camden's median income is only $25,791, followed by Cleveland at $26,217, Detroit at $26,325, and Gary at $26,885.

If we truly want to fix the racial problems that exist in our country today, we have to be willing to honestly identify those problems in order to develop the appropriate solutions to them. Having a third of a city's population living in poverty is unacceptable. Spending the money to educate our young people and wind up having half of them not even get a basic high school diploma, is unacceptable. Building ghettos of sameness that lack hope for something better, is unacceptable.

There is no easy answer, but using police as a scapegoat does nothing to overcome the fundamental problems that must be corrected. The Urban Institute (http://www.urban.org/publications/306620.html) has identified these four items as the "current indictment" against the welfare system, and wants to see them addressed openly and honestly:

— It does not provide sufficient state flexibility.

— It does not encourage work.

— It is responsible for the breakdown of the family, especially for a rising tide of out-of-wedlock births.

— It has done little to reduce poverty, especially among children.

These items, and the issue of obtaining a basic education and becoming personally responsible, must be addressed in the communities in which the problems exist. Scapegoating only gives license to grow the problems even larger.

It is time to stop pitting one group against the other for political gains.

(Bob Meade is a Laconia resident.)

Last Updated on Monday, 13 April 2015 08:33

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