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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Mailbag: "Bear Trader" Writes on Social Security: Do recipients have a "right"?

In our telephone conversation about the trading action of the SP500 you mentioned that the Federal Government didn't seem to be following my July 12th email. This is true.

In that email I intended to show that the Federal Government has plenty of money enough to pay the Social Security Pensions as they come due for many years. I think I showed that, barring conversion of Social Security Trust Fund Assets into Political Slush Fund Assets, that adequate funds exist to pay SS pensions until about 2035.

I did not say that SS Trust Fund Assets would be available to pay SS pensions. This is a political decision. The Federal Government has no liability for SS pension payments and can stop them at will. Technically it would require a change of law but executive order would work also. Section 1104 of the 1935 Act, entitled "RESERVATION OF POWER," specifically says that "The right to alter, amend, or repeal any provision of this Act is hereby reserved to the Congress."

Highly germaine is the Supreme Court case "Fleming vs. Nestor".

http://www.ssa.gov/history/nestor.html

From the site,

"The fact that workers contribute to the Social Security program's funding through a dedicated payroll tax establishes a unique connection between those tax payments and future benefits. More so than general federal income taxes can be said to establish "rights" to certain government services. This is often expressed in the idea that Social Security benefits are "an earned right." This is true enough in a moral and political sense. But like all federal entitlement programs, Congress can change the rules regarding eligibility--and it has done so many times over the years. The rules can be made more generous, or they can be made more restrictive. Benefits which are granted at one time can be withdrawn, as for example with student benefits, which were substantially scaled-back in the 1983 Amendments.

There has been a temptation throughout the program's history for some people to suppose that their FICA payroll taxes entitle them to a benefit in a legal, contractual sense. That is to say, if a person makes FICA contributions over a number of years, Congress cannot, according to this reasoning, change the rules in such a way that deprives a contributor of a promised future benefit................

In this 1960 Supreme Court decision Nestor's denial of benefits was upheld even though he had contributed to the program for 19 years and was already receiving benefits. Under a 1954 law, Social Security benefits were denied to persons deported for, among other things, having been a member of the Communist party. Accordingly, Mr. Nestor's benefits were terminated. He appealed the termination arguing, among other claims, that promised Social Security benefits were a contract and that Congress could not renege on that contract. In its ruling, the Court rejected this argument and established the principle that entitlement to Social Security benefits is not contractual right."

So, you see, there is no "right" to Social Security benefits whatsoever.

Good luck to us all.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Evansville Planning Commission Meets Monday, August 1, 2011

Click on the post for the full agenda.

Video: Thought for the Day: From Severius Snape

This is for all of you that might be watching the stock market today. Enjoy.

Audio: Union Plan: Citizens Speak on Cell Phone Tower

Audio: Town of Union Planning Commission: Thursday, July 28, 2011; Citizens Speak out on Cell Phone Tower and possible use of clauses in wind turbine ordinance for this application.


MP3 File

Audio: Union Plan: A1,A2,A3: Additional Structures: 7/28/2011

Audio: Town of Union: Plan Commssion: 7/28/2011: Full unedited discussion in public hearing of revision of ordinance regarding additional structures in A1,A2,A3.


MP3 File

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Should the downtown be repaved?

In all of the discussions of the downtown "revitalization" and the repaving with bricks, NEVER was it discussed the NOISE that these bricks cause from autos. It was suggested that it was the problem of maintenance that caused the pave over---but as a test for citizens, I suggest that you go downtown and sit in one of the wonderful green chairs and listen to the traffic.

Now imagine that you live in an upstairs apartment over one of the shops. Now imagine getting some sleep.

The viability of apartment rental downtown is important because a multiple of that income is how the properties are valued, and getting the proper increment is going to be difficult anyway, without the unforseen noise factor.

I suggest that the reason our historic forefathers paved the street, was that it was too noisy.

OpEd: Wisconsin touts independence---can last for 3 Months? WSJ

Click on the post for the article quoting the Governor's administrator stating the Wisconsin could withstand a cutoff of funds from the feds for three months---the headline suggests this would be adequate...however, the total federal involvement in health and welfare nationwide is huge, and if a default occured, which seems to be the aim of the tea party folks, there could be a big disruptions or even cancellation of the federal role in some of these programs----the article wrongly suggests Wisconsin is prepared for this.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Downtown Evansville Property for Sale---in TIF 5

Click on the post for the latest.

Audio: Audit Report: 2010 Evansville: Will TIF 5 face a BREACH and rely on personal guarantees?

Audio; Presentation of the 2010 Auditors Report for the City of Evansville. Discussion of TIF 5.


MP3 File

During the audit presentation, the auditor went over the status of the TIF districts and noted that while overall debt for GO was under the statutory limit, the TIF debt was relatively high for a city of our size, and she assumed that this would be reduced over time as the property in the TIF 5 for example appreciated over time.

Mason Braunschweig noted that one of the reasons for the personal guarantees for TIF 5 was that this appreication was not certain, and thus the investors had to personally sign a guarantee that the city would experience it. He mentioned that there is a possibility with the current economic environment that personal guarantees might be needed, although no breaches have occured so far.

Click on the MP3 to listen in.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Evansville Committee of the Whole Meets Monday, July 26, 2011 6:30PM

Click on the post for the latest. Be sure to bookmark the agenda blog for direct free access.

Nostalgia: Pres. Ronald Reagan Speaks on Debt Limit

Click on the post for some thoughts from Pres. Reagan.

Audio: Finance: Juergens speaks re: Eager Library

Audio: Evansville Finance Committee: Fred Juergens speaks regarding the financial situation of the Library, the need for budget support for operational expenses that are far beyond the scope of volunteer fundraising.


MP3 File

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Audio; City rules on Gifts and Donations Discussed

Audio; July 2011; If you give a gift of money or item, does that mean that the receiving agency can spend it?


MP3 File

Monday, July 18, 2011

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Friday, July 15, 2011

Minnesota Agreement combined School Tax Delay; Public Program Cuts

Click on the post for the details from the Daily Planet.

Brodhead Court Report: July 6, 2011

Click on the report for the report.

The Minnesota Role Model: How to End a Budget Crisis

Click on the post for the story from Minnesota.

The conclusion I reach is that only when Minnesota was faced with the prospect of going "dry" and nobody could buy beer, was there a sober awakening.

Thus, if nationally, we could suspend all liquor sales, it might also have some meritorious effect of putting some sober urgency in play.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Bear Trader Writes: Re: Threats to Social Security

Recent threats to cancel Social Security checks







The President recently said that Social Security checks "may have to be delayed" (for how long? Indefinitely?) unless the House passes the debt ceiling increase the President demands. This is untrue.

The following information comes from the Social Security website, from the Office of the Chief Actuary of the Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance, commonly known as Social Security.

http://www.ssa.gov/oact/tr/2011/lrIndex.html

This following detail comes from Table VI.F7. - Operations of the Combined OASI and DI Trust Funds, in Constant 2011 Dollars, Calendar Years 202111-86. (OASI means Old Age and Survivors Insurance and DI means Disability Insurance.)

http://www.ssa.gov/oact/tr/2011/lr6f7.html

Since 2011 is not actually over this data is a projection made late last year. The "intermediate" projection is the data I have used here. This is the "most likely" scenario. The below income is the sum of OASI and HI income.

Year is 2011.

"Income excluding interest" is $692,800,000,000. This is the revenue taken in by the Federal Government from Social Security taxes. By law this money is to be used only to fund Social Security.

"Interest Income" is $114,900,000,000. This is interest owed by the Federal Government to Social Security from Treasury Bonds owned by the Social Security trust fund. The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, Section Four, says that this interest must be paid in a timely fashion. This interest payment takes precedent over any other Federal Government spending (along with the interest due on all the rest of the Federal debt) whatsoever. The Federal Government must pay this interest if it means cancelling any other program to do so, from military to welfare, from firing all Federal employees to closing all the Cabinet organizations to selling off all Federal assets from buildings to lands, the National Parks, everything.

Total Income is $807,700,000,000, the sum of the two above.

Now we look at Social Security OASDI outgoing pension payments. From the Social Security website:

http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/FACTS/

The total pension payments for OASDI covered pensioners is $59,146,000,000 per month. For the twelve months of 2011 this is $709,752,000,000.

So. Social Security income this year is $807,700,000,000. Pension payments are $709,752,000,000. Paying the pensions this year will leave over $97,948,000,000 from this year's income alone without touching saved capital.

Unless the Federal Government is going to illegally steal money from Social Security assets there is plenty of money to pay all of the Social Security pensions this year. There won't be any shortage for some time, decades probably, according to the Social Security Chief Actuary. If the President steals from Social Security, oops, I mean "borrows from Social Security" he breaks the law. Social Security is being treated like a political slush fund.

We shall see if Chicago politics rules in this country. There is certain cause for impeachment if Social Security checks stop coming. The House would vote to impeach. Politicians would be so scared of the senior vote that even the Senate would convict the President and he would be out of office. These veiled gangsterish threats the President has made are nasty indeed.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Progressive Taxation is not a Radical Idea: OpEd

The notion of shared sacrifice. The notion that nations pay for their wars. The notion of progressive taxation..These concepts are not foreign. They are part of our American Tradition. Yet....

The Republicans appear to endorse a notion that the multi-millionaires and corporations need not pay their fair share of the tax burden because taxation is just for the "little people." The late Leona Hellmsley went to jail because of that concept....

If Social Security payments are not made on August 1st, it would be a good time for Seniors to finally get it...and initiate a General Strike on all business in the United States...after all, the wars were waged partly with money stolen from the Social Security Trust Fund.....is this theft by swindle? It surely seems like the time for Seniors to act...finally.

Paul Ryan: True Colors: TalkingPoints

Click on the post for the latest.

Austerity Comes to Italy: NYT

Click on the post for the latest.

Audio: Mike Mccabe: Wisconsin Democracy Campaign

Mike Mccabe: Wisconsin Democracy Campaign: Presentation at Wisconsin Progresssive Grassroots Festival: "Action to Restore Our Democracy" Saturday, February 19, 2011. Click on the MP3 link.


MP3 File

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Gridlock in Minnesota: Bars might have to close: StarTrib

Bars need issued permits to purchase booze, and if they expire shortly, they will have to close till the Minnesota shutdown is settled. Just think of Minnesota going dry. Will this be the catalyst that motivates a settlement?

Evansville Electric Rates to Rise:

At the recent finance committee meeting, administrator Dan Wietecha indicated during the discussion of the fund balance of the electric utility, that there will be a rate increase filing made late in 2011.

"Gap Year" becoming more popular: Pioneer Press

Click on the post for the latest.

Evansville Windmill Antiques to Close: Gazette

Click on the post for the latest.

Friday, July 08, 2011

How the Bubble distroyed the Middle Class: Yahoo: Finance

Click on the post for the latest.

Podcast version of Finance Meeting Works: 7/7/2011

Click on the post for the podcast audio from last nights meeting by title. Seems to work fine.

Minnesota Debt Downgraded: CNN

Click on the post for the latest.

Audio: 2011 Midyear Budget Amendments: Do Floor drains trump

Audio: Never underestimate the power of a suprise expenditure emergency like a floor drain....Administrator Dan Wietecha goes over the list of surprises.

Audio; City rules on Gifts and Donations Discussed

Audio; July 2011; If you give a gift of money or item, does that mean that the receiving agency can spend it?

Audio: Audit Report: 2010 Evansville

Audio; Presentation of the 2010 Auditors Report for the City of Evansville. Discussion of TIF 5.

Audio: Finance: Fred Juergens speaks re: Eager Library

Audio: Evansville Finance Committee: Fred Juergens speaks regarding the financial situation of the Library, the need for budget support for operational expenses that are far beyond the scope of volunteer fundraising.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Framework for a budget compromise in Minnesota Presented: StarTrib

Click on the post for the latest.

End of the Ethanol Tax Credit: StarTrib

Click on the post for the latest.

Mailbag: Friends of the Library: Fred Writes: Re; Finance Meeting Today: Thurs July 7, 2011.

The City Council's Finance & Labor Relations Committee is meeting tonight, Thursday July 7, at 6:30 PM. (This is not their usual meeting time.) Early in the agenda is "Citizen Appearances other than agenda items listed." Much later under new business is: "Discussion: 2012 budget". I think this is the first time in 2011 that next year's budget will be addressed.


I intend to be at the meeting to speak as a Friend in favor of increasing the EFPL budget for 2012, during Citizen Appearances. As you know, last fall the library had to raise private money to help meet its 2010 budget. It has had to cut hours of operation to stay within the 2011 budget as passed.


I urge you to attend this meeting if at all possible and add your comments to mine. For your information, attached are documents that were presented to Council last November as the Board of Trustees of EFPL requested an increase in funds for the 2011 budget. The request was voted down, and the Council President said something to the effect: "Why didn't we hear about these problems earlier in the year, before we began work on the 2011 budget?"


This year, we Friends must start early, keep the pressure on, and ensure that all the Council members know of the library's needs compared to how it has been funded in the past. The more that citizens make their voices heard at these committee meetings early in the budget process, the more likely it is that our requests for increased city support will be acknowledged, the reasons understood, and positive action taken by the City Council.

--
Fred Juergens, President
Friends of the Eager Free Public Library
608-882-2489

Background: Presentation by Fred Juergens to City Council 11/9/2010 at Budget Hearings

My name is Fred Juergens; I live at 401 Badger Drive in Evansville. Tonight I speak as President of the Friends of the Eager Free Public Library. The Friends organized about 15 years ago as a 501(c) (3) non-profit corporation.

Our purposes, according to our Constitution, are:
• to focus public attention on the Eager Free Public Library;
• to stimulate the use of the library's resources and services;
• to receive and encourage gifts and bequests to the library;
• to support & cooperate with the library in developing services & facilities for the community.

Accomplishing these purposes takes money. Currently we have about 180 dues-paying member-volunteers, more if you include all the family members. Much of the money we raise to accomplish our purposes comes from our annual Ice Cream Social and Auction, which kicks off the 4th of July celebration in Evansville. We also raise money through used book sales, dues, individual gifts & redemption of receipts from our Piggly Wiggly. This year we started to receive income from a small endowment invested with the Evansville Fund. Our net income that is available to provide support to EFPL, after fundraising and membership expenses are deducted, is about $4,500/year.

For years, we have used this income to support the Summer Reading Program for Evansville’s children, High School Study Nights, Family Game Nights, building gingerbread houses at Christmas time and other programs such as the recent renaissance music performance and the Hispanic Heritage Fest on the library lawn. Friends also provide the volunteers & funds to maintain the beautiful landscaping that greets library patrons each spring, summer and fall. We have bought “extra” equipment to enhance the library outreach programs; an example is the computer projector, which is used not just at the library, but also when library staff conducts programs at local nursing homes.

This year we paid for installation of a security system for the building and purchased a subscription to a computer-based language-learning program called “Mango!” Mango can be used from the home computer of any holder of an EFPL library card; you don’t have to come to the library to take advantage of this educational opportunity to learn any (or all!) of 24 different languages. All of the above fulfill our purposes as an organization.

In the past few years, however, the Friends have been asked to do more than what I consider our rightful mission. We have responded – because the need was obvious -- to requests that I think should be funded from the library’s revenue from annual city and county appropriations.

a. in 2008, we paid about $2200 to purchase additional shelving for the adult section of the library. This led to a more efficient use of the limited space on the building’s main floor.

b. in late 2009, we paid almost $1000 for books that had already been ordered, but for which there was no money, possibly due to an apparent accounting confusion. We also paid for refinishing the Main Street doors to the building; this is just normal periodic maintenance.

c. in 2010, we paid for the restoration of the original door to the library’s lower level from First Street. We paid to repair the metal hand railing on the library’s front steps. These repairs were needed for safety reasons, and we took the initiative to do them. We also paid to install lighting in the former coal-bin in the basement of the library, so that this space could be used for additional storage. Local contractors gave us a very good price, but our total out-of-pocket cost was still about $600. I think it’s fair to say that this work wouldn’t have been done this year, if we had not funded it. Deterioration would have advanced, and the future cost of repairs would likely rise significantly. Our inspection revealed more needed work on wooden trim on the old building, to maintain the integrity of this historic structure. We intend to finish these repairs next year, if we have the money.

The Friends spent money for these items because, though the need was clearly there, the library’s current budget didn’t stretch far enough. And we did them because we love the library and what it gives to Evansville and the surrounding community.

This October, we were approached to contribute to the “Buy a Book” fund the Library’s Board of Trustees had initiated. (You will hear more details from others about why this emergency appeal to the community was necessary.) The Friends responded as generously as we could. The Friends have contributed $3,000 to this fund: $1,500 outright, and another $1,500 in a challenge grant, which matched $1,500 from other donors. This has just about depleted our funds, though we’ve retained a little to fund programs until next year’s Ice Cream Social. We won’t be adding to our endowment this year, as previously anticipated.

But what about buying books for next year? The proposed 2011 library budget, no larger than 2010’s, (or 2009’s or 2008’s, by the way) won’t cover the expected costs. And the Friends cannot continue to provide the “extras” that enhance EFPL’s service to the community, if we’re asked again to spend our limited funds on the “basics”. Even if we do so, alone we can’t make up the entire projected deficit for next year. It is clear why the Trustees had to go public with fund-raising in the last month or so: the city has not funded the Library adequately for years. And yet the message from the City to the Library Director and Trustees was quite emphatic this year while drafting the coming 2011 budget: don’t even think about asking for more money.

The Friends of the Library, as tax-paying citizens of Evansville, are thinking about it. Because of our financial position and our mission to support the library, we’re thinking about it real hard. Our purpose is not to pay the library’s operating expenses. We helped to meet the emergency this year; we can’t do it next year. And we shouldn’t be expected to.

So, The Friends strongly urge the City Council to increase the library’s allocation significantly before final passage of the 2011 budget. We know money’s tight. NONETHELESS, it is obvious that the library needs additional funds to fulfill its responsibilities to the community. You and the County must provide the money to operate the library.

Background; Presentation of Eager Library to Evansville City 11/9/2010

Eager Free Public Library Board of Trustees’ Presentation to Evansville City Council – 11/9/2010

The Eager Free Public Library belongs to the Arrowhead Library System (ALS), comprising the seven public libraries serving Rock County – Janesville, Beloit, Clinton, Milton, Orfordville, Edgerton and Evansville (EFPL). Each year ALS issues a comprehensive report to its members, using data collected from each and showing comparisons among them.

The table below shows historical data, 2004 to 2010, from ALS annual reports and City of Evansville (City) budget data.

Year Municipal Budget
For EFPL Municipal Per/Capita Support EFPL/ALS Ratio
of Support
EFPL ALS Avg.
2004 $147K $33.41 $39.78 0.84
2005 $173K $37.14 $40.65 0.92
2006 $181K $36.87 $41.40 0.89
2007 $187K $38.15 $41.41 0.92
2008 $186K $37.88 $43.61 0.87
2009 $186K $37.61 $46.70 0.81
2010 $187K $37.?? Est ? ?
6 yr Avg $36.84 $42.26 0.87

The City’s budget for EFPL rose (though at a decreasing rate) for four years, but has been essentially flat since 2007. Also note that, because of Evansville’s population increase, its per/capita (p/c) support has been nearly flat since 2005. The average p/c support for all seven ALS libraries is also shown. It is clear that the City’s p/c support has been consistently lower than the other six libraries in the system. Since 2004, ALS libraries’ average p/c support has risen steadily, while EFPL’s peaked in 2007 and has declined since.

Rock County also appropriates money for EFPL, since we serve surrounding townships. About 33% of the EFPL’s circulation is to those townships. The County contribution depends on: a) the size of the City’s library appropriation and b) the percentage of EFPL circulation to patrons from other townships. The County’s appropriation is roughly 25% of the City’s. So, the bigger the City appropriation, the more Rock County kicks in. The converse is also true.

For 2009, the last year of ALS data, the City budgeted $37.61/person for EFPL; the ALS average was $46.70. The difference is $9.09. Evansville’s current population is about 5,000. If EFPL were funded by the City at the ALS average, its 2009 budget would have been about $45K higher -- $232K not $186K. We have a long way to go just to rise to average.

In 2007, ALS instituted a new system for sharing materials among its members. This “RockCat” system has greatly increased the sharing of resources and has benefited EFPL patrons greatly. However, with the benefits come additional responsibilities. Each library in ALS agrees to purchase new materials each year for its collection and to share them with other ALS libraries, in an amount determined by averaging the previous three years’ purchases. ALS recently informed EFPL that it was about $10K behind on its acquisitions responsibilities for 2010. (We also learned that we had been behind for 2009, though ALS is not expecting us to make that up.) As the direct result of too few of our own purchases, EFPL patrons have been borrowing many more books from other ALS libraries than EFPL has been loaning to them. We’re dead last in our loan-to-borrow ratio among the 7 libraries at 0.59. Beloit has an l/b ratio of 1.75 and Clinton’s is 1.42. EFPL just doesn’t own enough books, DVD’s, periodicals, etc. to meet our patrons’ needs.

The Board needed to remedy this quickly and started the Buy a Book campaign. We also reduced library hours until the end of 2010. These emergency efforts have been successful, thankfully, but we can’t raise operating money this way every year in the future. As we’ve learned in talking with potential donors, taxpayers expect the City of Evansville to support its library with public funds. Without increasing our 2011 budget, EFPL just can’t meet next year’s ALS obligations.

As noted above, if the City were funding EFPL at the ALS average, its annual City budget would now be some $45K larger than the current tentative figure. We know it is unrealistic to ask for all that money at once. But we do urge you to appropriate a significant fraction of that $45K now, before the budget is finalized. We estimate that we need a minimum of $10,000 more to scrape by on acquisitions alone in 2011. Given that other operating costs may continue to rise,
we respectfully request that the Council increase the EFPL budget by at least $13,000 for 2011.

We’ll continue to be frugal, of course, and we intend to finish 2011 under budget -- if this request is granted. Over the long haul, we expect to ask for further increases in coming years, to ensure the City supports EFPL at an adequate level to serve its patrons and the ALS system to which we belong.

St. Paul Says "NO" to Viking Stadium Tax: StarTribune

Click on the post for the latest.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Evansville Finance Committee Meets Thursday, 6:30PM

Click on the post for the full agenda.

Special Boxing Federation for Lawyers formed in Normal, Mn.: Tales from Normal, Mn: FICTION

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OpEd: What Would Hubert Humphrey Say?

Recently it was announced that Walter Mondale and ex-gov Arne Carlson from Minnesota would be forming a team to help advise Minnesota on how to proceed to bridge the differences in their budget.

I just had to imagine:...... what if we could invite the the ghost of Hubert Humphrey back to explain "progressive taxation" to our current politicians. It seems to be a foreign concept nowdays.

The current thinking in the heart of the midwest seems to be that of the late Leona Hemelsey----remember her? She felt that only the "little people" should pay taxes. Another way of saying that philosophy is that the poor should pay taxes and the rich have a right to get everything for free and that any participation in paying anything is "theft" of their god given property.

Imagine thus if Hubert Humphrey, hero of the DFL, Democratic Farmer Labor Party, held a conference at which he could explain to Bill Clinton what Progressive taxation is about. Humphrey also could explain why union protections for labor is important. Clinton spent his term destroying labor. Maybe Humphrey could also cover what Democracy means, and what he learned about supporting the Vietnam war and what that did for his presidential aspirations...maybe President Obama could listen to Hubert about that.....

We might have to inform Hubert Humphrey that most of what he championed has been forgotten, and that all that he is remembered for is the Hubert Humphrey football stadium, and that it is so noisy inside, most folks cannot wait till it is razed....I think he would be just a little disappointed in what has happened over the years.....