A place for me to save a few thoughts

Author Archives

Former Executive VP WordPerfect Corporation. Father of 6, grandfather of 16. Mostly retired, but still thinking.

Enlist the Market, but Only When Desperate

This is a new entry I posed on another of my blogs. I hope you like it. Pete

In the August 19, 2016 issue of The Wall Street Journal, Brian Deese, a senior advisor to President Obama, and Jeff Zients, the director of the White House’s National Economic Council, suggest that “this is the moment to accelerate efforts to understand, measure and standardize disclosure of climate risk and put that understanding to use.” The title of their essay is “Enlist the Market in the Climate-Change Fight.”

While I take issue with pretty much everything written in their article, I really take issue with the title. I’m not sure if it was written by the authors or an editor at WSJ, but either way the catchy title could not have been written by a conservative.

Imagine for a moment we are talking about a government-run basketball team. We would have players with names like Crony, Diversity, Graft, Stupidity, Paid-but-Not-Showing-Up, and Too-Busy-to-Practice. The coach would have a name like Regulator. The players would always play at a slow, comfortable pace, and their coach would shout things like, “don’t offend anyone,” “don’t forget to rest,” and “be careful not to break a sweat.” If and when this team fell behind in the game, the players and their coach wouldn’t worry too much. Their contracts and pensions are guaranteed, and they can still have a wild party and congratulate themselves after a loss.

But if they were to become really desperate and if they really felt like they needed to win, the coach could send in the seldom-used player called The Market. Trying as hard as he or she could, and heaving around shackles and burdens required by the Regulator to make things fair for all the other players, the government team would, of course, lose.

Why would the team lose? That should be obvious. The Market is to blame. With just a few more rules and higher paychecks for the pampered players Crony and Graft, the horrible loss would have been turned into a win. Even after a season with 82 losses and 0 wins, the answer for next season would be less of the Market and more of the Crony.

If you believe one more regulation will make the market fair for all, you are NOT a conservative.

I Thought UTOPIA was bad, but I was wrong.

I was just reading the latest newsletter from the Utah Taxpayers Association. I thought UTOPIA was bad. Now I’m sure it’s horrible.

I was under the impression that Orem City’s UTOPIA debt was $50 million, which is more than $50 per person. The newsletter points out the debt is $77 million, or closer to $800 for every woman, man and child in the city.

I also assumed that this debt would be paid off with the mandatory fees of $20 per household and $40 per business (adjusted for inflation). Not true. According to the June 2014 Utah Taxpayer Association newsletter, these fees would only go to pay for the costs going forward. Only if there is a substantial upsell in premium services would there be a chance that money would be available to pay off the existing debt.

It’s hard to believe anyone could continue to support something so poorly planned and mismanaged.

A Public-Private Partnership in Orem

A utopia is a community or society with near perfect qualities. In Utah, UTOPIA, which stands for Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency, is a clearly imperfect Internet connection agency. The original idea was for UTOPIA to run fiber to every home and business and then let Internet providers compete for customers attached to the fiber. The cities which partnered with UTOPIA would put up the money and then make the money back through fees from the Internet providers.

In my city of Orem, Utah, we went $50 million in debt (that’s more than $500 for every man, woman, and child in the city) to build the fiber network. Unfortunately for us, the money is spent and the fiber reaches only one-third of the residents. The fees from those lucky enough to use the Internet service are not enough to cover the interest on the debt and continue the build out. We are in a very fine mess, a deep, deep debt hole.

You might think the city is ready to give up and get out of the Internet business, but, no. The city is proposing a Public-Private Partnership. Our city government would partner with a private company to provide every residence and every business a fiber-based 3 Mbps Internet connection. 3 Mbps is a rather slow connection, a DSL-like speed. Faster speeds would be available for an additional charge.

What is the catch? How will we finish the build out? Our city government will force every residence owner to pay $18-20 dollars per month (adjusted annually for inflation) for up to 30 years. Businesses will also pay $36-40 per month (adjusted for inflation) for up to 30 years. Even if someone doesn’t want the service, and even if someone never uses the service, he or she will still be obligated to pay the monthly fee for up to 30 years. It’s not like electricity or gas, where you can stop paying and lose the service. It’s like the water, sewer, and garbage services you must pay every month your house is occupied.

Utah is one of the most conservative states. Orem is probably one of the most conservative cities in Utah. I have to wonder how our city government could have decided to get into the Internet networking business. As much as we all like to think we believe in a government with limits, we still manage to venture into areas better served by private, competing companies. We manage to prove over and over again that governments do not run businesses well.

The Deseret News Drives Me Crazy

The Deseret News drives me crazy. I live in Utah, I’m LDS, and I lean to the right politically. You would expect the Utah based, LDS-owned newspaper to be a perfect match for me, but it’s not. Most mornings when reading the paper, I feel like the news has been edited through the strangest, left-leaning, out-of-focus lens. It is maddening.

In today’s May 9, 2014 paper, a front page headline reads, “Immigration: U.S. warns schools against bias.” In this article, the Obama administration, which is definitely not the same as the U.S., is reminding schools they must accept immigrants without asking for documents or for information about their citizenship status. The headline should read, “Obama Administration Reinforces Bias Against Non-Immigrants.”

On page A3 the headline reads, “S.L ranked high for upward mobility—but is that still true?” Even though the research was released less than a year ago, the paper and The Atlantic are asking if the research conclusions are true. Cited as problems are Salt Lake City’s low per-student funding for schools, the income gap between the richest and the poorest, the struggles of the Millennials, and the volatile housing market. I would suggest Utah’s per-student funding hasn’t changed much in the last year, and that the other three problems are getting worse because governments are interfering more and more in our so called free market system. It seems as if the newspaper is advocating for more government spending and more government interference. The headline should have read, “Big government advocates don’t like recent study.”

I could go on and on about today’s edition, but I’ll mention just one more story. On A15, which is part of the Editorial section, Mary Barker, a SLC political science teacher, tells us a parable about Adam and Ben to honor those who tried to raise the minimum wage last week. In her story Adam and Ben work in the same coal mine. By the end of the story, Ben’s grandson ends up being the lazy, rich, absentee owner of the mine with no regard for anyone but himself. Adam’s hard-working grandson ends up out of work, poor, and powerless against Ben’s spoiled, powerful grandson. She explains that the abuse of power is responsible for our low minimum wage, excess CEO pay, and income inequality. I have no idea why this way far-left political commentary is in my newspaper.

I’ll say it again.  The Deseret News drives me crazy.

Grandkids 2014

Here’s the latest picture of all our grandkids.  You can tell some of them weren’t happy about posing for a picture.

IMG 0441