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Bob Meade - Drip, drip, drip

When did sovereignty become a bad thing? Or undesirable? Or not to be protected? Each of us is sovereign, and our nation and others are sovereign. Sovereign translates to "independent", which is essential to a free people. If our government decides to, essentially, let our national sovereignty lapse, can our individual sovereignty/freedom be far behind?
Who decided to ignore our established boundaries? Who decided not to enforce duly enacted laws? Who decided to start penalizing those who follow the rules and begin rewarding those who don't? Who decided it was okay to court those who violate our immigration rules? It seems like we can fill the page with those questions, but perhaps the most important one is, why have we, the people, allowed it to happen?
It seems like we, the people, are being led like sheep. Instead of following the Constitution, or duly enacted laws, or past precedents of the courts, we nod our heads in acceptance of some commentator's or some politician's feel good suggestions. Who needs a law when what we want to do feels like it's right? Is political correctness the answer to everything?
The essence of management is to prevent things from happening that you don't want to happen. Using our sovereignty example, are you willing to give up your sovereignty, your freedom? Do you think our nation should have open borders and allow any and all people to come in? If you do, should they receive all the benefits of native born citizens? If you answered no to any of those questions, you are thinking like a manager. Now the question becomes, how do you prevent those undesired things from happening?
And what of other things that you don't want to happen. For example, do you want the federal government to continue to assume the powers the Constitution left to the states? Do you believe the government has the right to absolve people, in advance, of their personal responsibility? Do you believe the executive branch has the authority to tell grocery stores they must label extensive dietary information on things like salads or other prepared foods? Even if the deli makes you a sandwich? Do you believe that without enacting a duly passed law, the government should have the ability to put a grocer in jail and/or impose a fine for failing to properly label that salad or sandwich? Do you believe it is not the duty of the government to dictate what food you can eat and drink, that such decisions are yours to make?
These things chip away at our freedoms. We become observers as our sovereignty, our independence gives way to federal dictates. We watch as the Constitution is ignored or bypassed. Our leaders substitute political correctness, feel good decisions, in place of the rigor required to affect change as put forth in the constitutional process. Ad hoc government! And we, the people, ignore the shredding of the documents that placed the power of government in we, the people.
We have not seen our liberties snatched from us in one giant grab. What we have seen, and are undergoing, is more akin to what has been called, Chinese water torture. That is when drops of water are continually dripped on a person's forehead, with the frequency of the drip being varied, sometimes slower, sometimes faster. Such is the case with our liberties, our freedoms, our sovereignty. A continuing drip that gradually takes away what for centuries has been determined to be our unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The government dictates what children must be fed in their school cafeterias. No matter that substantial amounts of that food is emptied into the trash because the students don't like it and refuse to eat it. And, the government has gone so far as to take away from students the lunches prepared for them by their mothers, because the government decided they didn't have the proper nutritional value. Even soda! The government (NYC Mayor Bloomberg) decided that merchants could not sell carbonated beverages that were more than 16 ounces. How far into our lives, our decisions, will we allow the government to tread?
And we have the government imposing its "humanism" into religious individuals and institutions, not by the passage of a Constitutional Amendment or a duly enacted law, but by allowing cabinet departments to write regulations that are a finger in the eye of the First Amendment. Instead of our unalienable rights being protected by the Bill of Rights, we see the government ignoring the Constitution and our individual sovereignty, and disrespecting the separation of powers and the rigors of the legislative process.
Stop the drip, drip, drip, before it's too late.
(Bob Meade is a resident of Laconia.)

Last Updated on Thursday, 21 February 2013 21:15

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Jim Hightower - Do more than the minimum on minimum wage

"In the wealthiest nation on earth," President Obama declared in his State of the Union speech, "no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty."
Right! Way to go! Not only does his call to raise America's minimum wage put some real pop in populism, but it could finally start putting some ethics back in our country's much-celebrated (but rarely honored) "work ethic." Kudos to Obama for putting good economics and good morals together — and for putting this long overdue increase on the front burner.
But then came the number: $9 an hour. Excuse me, Mr. President, but if you're going to bother making the fight, why start out with a number so low that many minimum-wage employees would still "have to live in poverty"?
About 60 percent of America's lowest-paid workers are women, including single moms struggling awfully hard to make ends meet. Yet, at your $9 an hour level, a single woman with two children, would, in fact, be paid a poverty wage. And, since you would slowly phase-in the increase, she wouldn't even be paid that until nearly two years from now.
Yes, nine bucks is a buck-seventy-five better than the current low wage of high misery, but it doesn't even elevate the buying power of our nation's wage floor back to where it was in 1968. Nor, by the way, does it match the $9.50-level you pledged to push in 2008 when you were running for president.
This is not merely about extending a badly needed helping hand to people struggling to work their way out of poverty, but it's also about enabling them to give a bottom-up jolt of new energy to our economy, which it desperately needs.
Ironically, while super-rich corporations are hoarding trillions of dollars in offshore accounts, refusing to invest in our nation, minimum-wage workers will invest every extra dollar they get in America — spending it right where they live on clothing, food, transportation, health care and other needs.
A 2011 Federal Reserve study found that a $1 hike in the minimum wage produces an additional $2,800 a year in spending by each of those households — so this is no time to shortchange these workers.
Yes, I know that congressional Republicans' idea of governing is, first, to snap a sharp "No," and only then ask what the proposal is. So, at the direction of corporate lobbyists, they were bleating a loud negative to any wage hike — and when Obama proposed $9, GOP House leader John Boehner jumped on it like a gator on a poodle.
Incredibly, he claimed that raising the wages of our country's most poorly paid workers would hurt — guess who? — America's most poorly paid workers! This disingenuous pitting of poor people against themselves is derived from a corporate manufactured political myth that hiking the minimum pay squeezes small-business owners to the breaking point, "forcing" them to fire employees or even go bankrupt. "When you raise the price of employment," Boehner grumped, "guess what happens: You get less of it."
Well, guess again, John. That "job killer" fable has been debunked again and again by real world experience. Over decades, the pay floor has constantly been elevated by Congress, states and cities, and the great preponderance of studies show that it causes little to zero negative impacts on job numbers, but very positive results for employee morale, productivity and turnover. It also tends to generate a nice income boost for — guess who — small businesses, as wage earners spend their increase in pay in the local economy.
Obviously, the major impact of the raise is to lift incomes of about 18 million hardworking people being paid at or near the minimum. This allows them to save enough to make a down payment on a used car or to enroll in a couple of community college classes. Plus, it gives at least a token nod to the essential need of bridging America's dangerously widening chasm of economic inequality.
The real shame in the Republican leader's attack is not its flagrant dishonesty, but the raw disdain that it flings at low-wage workers. The hidebound "no's" in our society — including Boehner, Mitt Romney, the Koch brothers and Wall Street billionaires — see working people in terms of their price tags, not in their value. This dehumanized contempt for the working class not only stains these corporate elitists, but it also holds back America's phenomenal economic potential — and this contempt of America's workaday majority is social dynamite.
While those power elites say "no," the American people overwhelmingly say "yes." A poll last June found that seven out of 10 of us — including a majority of Republican women (but not men) — favor raising the minimum wage above $10 an hour. So, Mr. President, this is not a time for meek proposals. Think big, and take it to the people.
(Jim Hightower has been called American's most popular populist. The radio commentator and former Texas Commissioner of Agriculture is author of seven books, including "There's Nothing In the Middle of Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos" and his new work, "Swim Against the Current: Even Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow".)

Last Updated on Thursday, 21 February 2013 21:12

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Pat Buchanan - Who killed the middle class?

"It is our generation's task, then, to reignite the true engine of America's economic growth — a rising, thriving middle class."
So said Barack Obama in his State of the Union.
And for one of his ideas to reignite that engine, Republicans applauded.
"And tonight, I am announcing that we will launch talks on a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union — because trade that is free and fair across the Atlantic supports millions of good-paying American jobs."
One wonders if any of those in the hall who rose robotically at the phrase "free and fair" were aware of the trade results just in from 2012. What were the 2012 figures for the European Union? U.S. exports to Europe fell, imports from Europe rose, and our trade deficit with the EU shot up 16 percent to $116 billion. We ran a trade deficit with Italy of $20 billion, with Ireland of $25 billion, with Germany of $60 billion. The Europeans are eating our lunch.
What about South Korea, the country with whom we signed a free-trade deal in 2012? U.S. exports to Korea fell last year, and due to a surge in imports our trade deficit in goods with South Korea soared 25 percent to $16.6 billion. Seoul's trade minister who cut that deal and cleaned our clock should get a medal and the kind of bonus Americans reserve for people like hedge fund managers and the folks who ran Fannie and Freddie.
And Japan? Last year, Nippon ran a $76 billion trade surplus with the United States, second largest of any country. But that is insufficient for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has bullied the Bank of Japan to drive down the yen 20 percent against the dollar in three months — to increase exports to America and cut imports. Look for the U.S. trade deficit with Tokyo to explode.
What about that NAFTA treaty the establishments of both parties heralded in the Clinton era? How has that worked out for Uncle Sam? Last year, the United States ran a trade deficit of $32 billion with Canada and twice that, $61 billion, with Mexico.
What was America's overall trade position in 2012? We ran a global trade deficit in goods of $736 billion. That is 5 percent of the U.S. economy. We are hemorrhaging jobs, factories, wealth.
In banking, consulting, lawyering — i.e., services — we had a nice surplus. That's what we Americans do now.
Since Bush 1, when some of us began to argue loudly that a mindless ideological pursuit of free trade would imperil America's industrial base, the total of U.S. trade deficits in goods with the world is approaching $10 trillion — 10 thousand billion dollars!
Might this humongous dumping of foreign goods into the U.S.A., killing our factories, and the liberation of our transnational elite to close plants, outsource production, and bring foreign-made goods back free of charge into the U.S. market, have had something to do with killing the middle class? The U.S. median income stopped growing in the mid-1970s, the same time we began to run 40 straight years of ever-expanding trade deficits.
And how are we doing with China?
Well, if one reads the weekend Wall Street Journal, Feb. 9-10, on page A3 in the lower left-hand corner is a box with a story headlined, "Trade Gap Shrinks 21 Percent as Oil Imports Decline." A positive headline, but about December only. In the 10th paragraph, however, was this tiny item: "Although the trade deficit with China narrowed 15.5 percent in December ... the year-long deficit grew to a record."
"Grew to a record"? What did that mean? Elsewhere, one learns that the U.S. trade deficit in goods with China was not only an all-time record, but the largest between any two nations in the history of the world — $315 billion. China now exports 6.3 times as much in manufactured goods to the United States, $417 billion's worth, as we export to China. Over two decades, Republicans in the lead, America granted Beijing most favored nation status, then permanent normal trade relations. Then we squired Beijing into the World Trade Organization.
And since the courtship began, the trade surpluses China has run with the United States have enriched, empowered and emboldened her so that, today, brimming with ethnonational arrogance, China has laid claim to all the islands in the South and East China seas and is telling the U.S. Navy to stay out of the Yellow Sea and Formosa Strait. And the free-trade fanatics responsible for building up this Asian colossus challenging us in the Pacific now tell us we must "pivot" — i.e., shift — our planes, ships and troops out of Europe and the Mideast to Asia and the Western Pacific to contain the mighty and mammoth power their stupidity created.
Every nation seems to understand what our baby boomers were never taught. A trade balance is a measure of national power that reliably identifies rising and falling nations.
(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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Froma Harrop — Amazon rules the sales tax avoidance jungle

SEATTLE — Lunch hour in the South Lake Union neighborhood. Workers walk dogs they can take to the office. Lines form in hip restaurants. Something big is going on here, but the only sure sign of a major employer is the many blue ID cards hanging out of jackets.
The corporate master here is Amazon, the world's largest online retailer. Amazon does not put its name on its collection of new buildings in these once-grungy environs, not even the trademark smile logo. The reason for this faux secrecy remains subject to speculation.
Anyhow, the king of cyberspace commerce chose a city tied to its identity as a liberal and quirky center of tech savvy. It revels in bistros serving locally grown arugula to young creatives eager to reunite with their corgis. But underneath these soft atmospherics stands a corporation in iron battle against paying state taxes and dismissive of hometown philanthropy, as described in a Seattle Times series, "Behind the Amazon.com Smile."
Something tells me that Amazon founder and corporate mastermind Jeff Bezos would not dislike that contrast. After all, the company's business model is based largely on taking the "local" out of shopping.
Amazon's aversion to paying taxes would play well in conservative America, except for this: The new "Red State model" is to rely less on state income taxes and more on sales taxes. A 1992 Supreme Court decision, written with mail-order merchants in mind, frees cyber-retailers from having to collect sales taxes in states where they do not have a physical presence.
So, with a few exceptions, Amazon does not burden out-of-state shoppers with sales taxes. This gives it a significant advantage over brick-and-mortar stores that must tack on such taxes. Amazon understandably likes it that way.
But this is a major-league problem in states dependent on sales taxes — especially as online shopping gains retail market share.
In Kansas, Louisiana and Nebraska, for example, Republican governors want to cut or banish their states' income taxes and replace the lost revenues with higher sales taxes.
On this matter, Amazon can play rough. South Carolina offered Amazon $33 million in free land, property-tax cuts and payroll-tax credits to build a warehouse there. It even exempted the company from Lexington County "blue laws," thus letting the warehouse stay open on Sunday mornings.
But Amazon wanted more. It wanted immunity from collecting the 6 percent sales tax on stuff bought by South Carolinians, something the state would be entitled to once Amazon had a warehouse there. The state legislature rejected that request, at which point Amazon stopped construction on the facility and threatened to abandon the project. The state then gave the company a five-year exemption on collecting sales taxes.
Amazon has gone so far as to give its employees color-coded maps, dividing the United States between green and red states. In this case, the red stands not for Republican, but states where the presence of Amazon workers might unleash a tax liability. The employees must seek special permission before venturing into the red areas.
King County is known for strong corporate philanthropy — led by Microsoft, Boeing and Nordstrom — but Amazon has been a relative no-show on contributions to Seattle-area causes. Amazon argues with some reason that it contributes valuable jobs. Yes, but so do the others.
The museums, the symphony and other civic amenities help make Seattle the cultural cauldron from which Amazon finds its cool people. Meanwhile, the laws protecting Amazon and other online retailers from having to collect sales taxes are helping bankrupt many other local governments.
Sure, Amazon is a great success story and has a right to think itself special. It just shouldn't be that special.
(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

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Roy Sanborn - Expect the unexpected

It seems like every day you hear about something unexpected happening. Like the unexpected rise in unemployment claims, or the unexpected drop in the nation's gross domestic product, or that the Pope unexpectedly is going to step down. Well, two out of three have pretty much become expected. But just to keep it rolling, unexpectedly there was only one waterfront home sold on Lake Winnipesaukee in January. I expect that kind of thing on Squam or Winnisquam (which also only had one sale,) but not on Winnipesaukee. This is not the way we should be starting off the New Year after finishing up 2012 with an unexpected 22 percent increase in waterfront sales over the prior year.
The only sale on Winnipesaukee in January was at 11 Craig Way in Tuftonboro near Melvin Village. This is kind of a neat property as it consists of a vintage 1935 main home and two cottages on a .41 acre lot with 95-feet of frontage, a beach, a 40-foot dock, and southwesterly sunset views. There wasn't a lot of info given on the MLS sheet but the pictures revealed that the charming main cottage has cathedral ceilings, a rustic knotty pine interior, a large brick fireplace, two first floor bedrooms plus two more in the loft, and a great deck. The two three bedroom cottages seemed to be a little more modern but also are very appealing... at least from the pictures. We'll get back to that in a moment. The listing agent noted that it was unknown if the cottages were year round or seasonal, but I would bet the lack of insulation and heating systems might limit the usage to the summer months. If you thought otherwise, you would be unexpectedly leaving for warmer places come November. This property was originally listed at $625,000 and was on the market for 215 days before finding a buyer at $535,000. The tax assessed value is listed at $761,800.
The only sale on Winnisquam was at 20 Winnicoash St. in Laconia. Look for a Winnebego in the yard. I don't really expect one to be there, but I liked the near-alliteration. This home is a turn of the century, three bedroom, two bath New Englander with 1,624-square-feet of living space. This charming older home has a newly remodeled kitchen, a formal dining room, hardwood floors, a new roof (so if it leaks, well that's unexpected,) a one car garage, and a nice lawn leading down to 78-feet of frontage with sunset views and a new dock. This home was on the market for 210 days starting at $525,000, then was reduced down to $449,000, and sold for an even $400,000. The tax assessment was shown as $487,400.
There were no sales on Squam Lake in January which was kind of expected given the few sales we see up there.
There are some other things in real estate that are definitely not unexpected anymore: (a) low ball offers, (b) low appraisals, (c) appraisals being rejected due to totally unexpected issues in underwriting, and (d) buyers being vaporized by unseen forces. These examples have all gone from the realm of unexpected to almost always expected.
But there are still some unexpected things going on. Buyers often find the unexpected when they go to look at property. Like finding a badger in the basement or a home that is much nicer on the inside than the outside (or vice versa.) Many times the pictures on the MLS don't reflect how really nice or how disappointing a property might be. Real estate agents have an amazing knack for making homes look really nice in pictures. Consequently, you should go see a property in person before you rule it out. And remember, never judge a book by its cover. For example, some buyers might have ruled out this home after they did a drive by. But a good REALTOR® would have encouraged them to go inside because he had seen it. See, you must always be prepared for the unexpected...
Please feel free to visit ww.lakesregionhome.com to learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market and comment on this article and others. Data was compiled as of 2/13/13 using the Northern New England Real Estate MLS System. Roy Sanborn is a REALTOR® at Roche Realty Group and can be reached at 603-677-8420

Last Updated on Friday, 15 February 2013 23:19

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