Tackling Florida’s Fiscal Storm: Save Our Homes is still broken

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Did you miss Florida’s Fiscal Storm? Find a video online at Florida TaxWatch

“It’s bad for new home construction, it’s bad for first time home buyers, it’s bad for seniors if they want to step down into a retirement home. It’s bad, it’s grossly unfair, it’s un-American and we must fix it. I know there are many schools of thought. I happen to feel that we’re not a high tax state. Our country, from the time of the Boston Tea Party, has been founded on fairness in our tax system. And we’ve gotten away from that.” –State Senator Thad Altman (R- Melbourne)

“You’ve got to get people back into government. TaxWatch points out that one thing Save Our Homes has done is take people out of local government so they don’t care. If people don’t care about what they’re spending through their elected officials, is it the job of 160 legislators, all but two of which don’t come from that community.” –State Senator Dan Gelber (D- Miami Beach)



When America is in trouble, you invest in it

On the reopening of trading on Wall Street after 9/11:

“They lifted the New York Stock Exchange covered with ash-the monitors on the floor literally thick with ash, the trading floor badly damaged-and one week later, seven days, they were lined up ready to roar and ringing the bell. That day, for the first and only time in my life, I bought a stock-five thousand dollars worth, of J&J-and as I bought it on the Internet, I called my son over to watch me hit “Enter” so he would understand for the rest of his life that when America is in trouble you invest in it, you put what you’ve got right there.”

–Peggy Noonan in Patriotic Grace: What It Is and Why We Need It Now



Tackling Florida’s Fiscal Storm: Take a second look at the Superhomestead Amendment

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“The superhomestead was a good fix – it was structural, it was sound, but we didn’t go that easy route.” –Dominic Calabro, President and CEO FloridaTaxWatch

“There were some efforts 2 years ago in session is to try to address [the property tax problem]. And one way we tried to skin that cat – and I think it was a valid one – is what we called the super homestead exemption where we would give a much larger exemption to homeowners on a percentage basis, but we would have to go to a constitutional amendment to make that happen. The trade off was we would have to give up Save Our Homes. [The Superhomestead amendment] was thrown off of the ballot on a technicality, we could have fixed the technicality, but many thought it would fail because of the polling. I think that what we need to do is we need to do the right thing, we need have the best possible fix to our property tax problem and then go to the people, and not have the polls decide what direction we’re going to go. I think that was a big mistake. I have a lot of trust in the wisdom of the Florida voter. I think if we come up with a good plan and get the word out .” –State Senator Thad Altman (R- Melbourne)



Tackling Florida’s Fiscal Storm: The problem we have is big

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What we’re facing here is running the ship of state through rough waters of a seismic economic and fiscal storm. It’s not just a cyclical thing… [it] isn’t merely just a matter of do we have enough revenue, are we spending too much or too little? Those are the superficial challenges we’re facing. We’re facing tectonic challenges in our plates, the undergirding of the basic fabric of our economy and some would say our political system. So we’re kind of guiding this in a far different set of circumstances, many of which are far beyond our control. –Dominic Calabro, President and CEO FloridaTaxWatch



Tackling Florida’s Fiscal Storm: Don’t use the stimulus as a Band-Aid

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“The bottom line is that Florida has to take this time to make comprehensive changes, not Band-Aids and not the federal stimulus, which is going… to have a lot of strings. It’s not going to be free money from heaven.” –Dr. Carol Weissert, Director FSU’s LeRoy Collins Institute

“I think it’s critical that we don’t allow the stimulus package to become a means of avoiding the problem that we have in this state… We need to address our revenue problems and if we do that we can make that stimulus package more beneficial and actually make it a true stimulus package, and not one that’s going to serve as a Band-Aid to fix our revenue shortfalls. The money is necessary, but I’m not going to let that get my eye off the ball in fixing our revenue problems.” –State Senator Thad Altman (R- Melbourne)

“You have to be very careful not to use economic stimulus money to balance the budget as it’s not going to be there in a couple years. It’s good for an emergency, but you have to be very careful that you don’t add back things you’ve cut or start new programs you can’t sustain in the future.” — Kurt Wenner, Florida TaxWatch

“I’m concerned that we may be overstating what we’ll get. There are a lot of matching [funds], hold harmless, and some states aren’t going to use some of the money because they’re afraid they’ll have something they will need to keep funding. I study federalism, and giving money to the states without strings is very rare. My guess is we’ll get some of that but we’re going to see a lot of strings.” –Dr. Carol Weissert, Director FSU’s LeRoy Collins Institute



Tackling “Florida’s Fiscal Storm”: Think long term

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Over the next few days, we’ll be pulling some themes out of last night’s excellent discussion “Florida’s Fiscal Storm” for those of you who couldn’t make it. A first point of agreement across the aisle is that we need to resist the temptation to pick a quick fix…

“While I think we have to worry about tomorrow, I think literally the legislature is worried about Wednesday. And there is more to tomorrow than just Wednesday. There is a lot more that we need to be thinking about. One gripe with the Florida legislature and with policy in Florida is that nobody has really taken the long view of Florida and of where our state is.” –State Senator Dan Gelber (D- Miami Beach)

“Legislators by nature don’t think long-term. They’re looking at the next election. Term-limited legislatures particularly have trouble looking long-term. Long-term issues have to be looked at by us. That is you.” –Dr. Carol Weissert, Director FSU’s LeRoy Collins Institute

“I hope that the revenue shortfalls that we’re facing right now can be a catalyst to have Florida not only take a look at our tax problems but also to take action to fix them permanently.” –State Senator Thad Altman (R- Melbourne)

“A crisis is a terrible thing to waste…it’s a great opportunity to realign and bring some common sense to how we spend money.” –Dominic Calabro, President and CEO FloridaTaxWatch



Obama to Republican Governors: “We want to figure out what works.”

I offer you the hand of friendship, the same commitment to partnership as I do my Democratic colleagues,” Obama said during his opening remarks during the National Governors’ Association meeting in Philadelphia at Independence Hall, a location known for bipartisan American efforts. “There is a time for campaigning, and there is a time for governing. And one of the messages that Joe and I want to continually send is that we are not going to be hampered by ideology in trying to get this country back on track.”

Obama continued, “We want to figure out what works. That doesn’t mean that we’re not going to have some disagreements. But what it does mean is that if you can show me something you are doing that’s working or if you tell me that this program or this regulation is hampering us from doing smart things that will advance the interests of our state, then you’re going to have a ready ear.”



Vroom. The Sequel.

Good news today.

Apparently the CEOs of GM and Ford must have been reading this blog and listening to our advice.

The bosses of America’s two biggest car companies are promising to work for just one dollar a year, if the US Congress gives them access to a $25-billion loan.

That’s a start on The Village Square plan toward fiscal solvency for Detroit. Next, the CEO of the third biggest car company, Chrysler needs to go all in for the $1 annual salary. After that, it’s the employees’ (and union’s) turn to ante up on what they’ll do to ensure that American continues to manufacture marketable cars. After all that, we’ll talk dollars from taxpayers.

We’re waiting…



Nothing more than was asked of our parents

BILL MOYERS: We were abroad these past two weeks trying to cleanse our journalistic pipes, so to speak. We thought we could put American politics out of sight and out of mind for a spell. We were wrong.

Everywhere we went people wanted to talk about America. The Greeks, Sicilians, Sardinians, Tunisians, Algerians, and Spaniards we met, were euphoric – cab drivers, guides, waiters, hotel clerks, bank tellers. They expect miracles from America. Their own economies are imploding: layoffs, budget shortfalls, failing banks, fear spreading among the populace. They want to believe that somehow the long arm of America will pull them back. I tried but I didn’t have the heart to tell them just how much trouble their rich Uncle Sam is in.

Maybe I was wrong not to dispel their illusions about America; after all, they live on top of the ruins of long-gone empires, whose rise and fall is a far more familiar and consistent theme of history than democracy’s success. I did my best, to say that America is trying very hard right now to put our own house in order.

That self-correcting faculty, even in the darkest hours, is the best thing we have going for us. That and the knowledge that nothing we face in the months ahead is more than was asked of our parents and grand parents in war and depression.

This giant of a country is bleeding badly from savage self inflicted wounds, but what happens next is still our story to write. We can be thankful for that.



Shame. On. Us.

A Black Friday tragedy that should have each and every one of us thinking really hard about ourselves.

The throng of Wal-Mart shoppers had been building all night, filling sidewalks and stretching across a vast parking lot…

Suddenly, witnesses and the police said, the doors shattered, and the shrieking mob surged through in a blind rush for holiday bargains. One worker, Jdimytai Damour, 34, was thrown back onto the black linoleum tiles and trampled in the stampede that streamed over and around him… Emergency workers tried to revive Mr. Damour, a temporary worker hired for the holiday season, at the scene, but he was pronounced dead an hour later…

“When they were saying they had to leave, that an employee got killed, people were yelling, ‘I’ve been on line since yesterday morning,’ ” Ms. Cribbs told The Associated Press. “They kept shopping.”



Wisdom is not the monopoly of any one party

“It’s important as I said on election night that we enter into the new administration with a sense of humility and a recognition wisdom is not the monopoly of any one party. In order for us to be effective given the scope and the scale of the challenges that we face, Republicans and Democrats are going to have to work together. I think what the American people want more than anything is just common sense smart government. They don’t want ideology, they don’t want bickering, they don’t want sniping. They want action and they want effectiveness.”

— President-elect Barack Obama in a news conference this week on the economy



The “Power of &” goes economic

Are you like me and horribly confused by just how we got to this economic precipice? Have you noticed two distinctly different versions of the story from each political campaign? Well, as usual, the operating principle – when seeking truth – is to find the AND rather than the EITHER/OR. Thanks to Fact Check.org and Time Magazine for this exercise in AND.

So, who’s responsible, using the “Power of &”?

The Federal Reserve, which slashed interest rates after the dot-com bubble burst, making credit cheap.

Home buyers, who took advantage of easy credit to bid up the prices of homes excessively.

Congress, which continues to support a mortgage tax deduction that gives consumers a tax incentive to buy more expensive houses.

Real estate agents, most of whom work for the sellers rather than the buyers and who earned higher commissions from selling more expensive homes.

The Clinton administration, which pushed for less stringent credit and downpayment requirements for working- and middle-class families.

Mortgage brokers, who offered less-credit-worthy home buyers subprime, adjustable rate loans with low initial payments, but exploding interest rates.

Former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, who in 2004, near the peak of the housing bubble, encouraged Americans to take out adjustable rate mortgages.

Wall Street firms, who paid too little attention to the quality of the risky loans that they bundled into Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS), and issued bonds using those securities as collateral.

The Bush administration, which failed to provide needed government oversight of the increasingly dicey mortgage-backed securities market.

An obscure accounting rule called mark-to-market, which can have the paradoxical result of making assets be worth less on paper than they are in reality during times of panic.

Collective delusion, or a belief on the part of all parties that home prices would keep rising forever, no matter how high or how fast they had already gone up.