Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Coleman vs. Franken

The State of Minnesota has a long history of clean elections and high voter turnout so this year's US Senate race between Norm Coleman and Al Franken is a black eye for the North Star State.

The problem is that lawyers - not voters - will determine the final winner of this senate seat. However, "solutions" for improving the process have been advocated such as "Instant Runoff Voting" (IRV) where voters would note their first and second choices on a ballot so that these results would be allocated accordingly thus avoiding an actual run off election. Minnesota needs to amend its voting law to mirror that of the State of Georgia which had a run off election following the November 4th election.

I would hope that either Coleman or Franken would concede the race via a press conference where they would call for this type of election reform.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Unemployment Forecasts for 2009

Today's local newspapers in Minnesota reported the following unemployment forecasts for 2009:

Upper Peninsula of Michigan -- 11.4%
Minnesota -- 7%
Wisconsin - 5.6%
Montana - 4.3%
North Dakota - 4.1%
South Dakota - 3.4%

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis

The 11.4% rate in the UP of Michigan doesn't surprise me for two reasons: 1.) Michigan's state government has taxed and regulated the state economy into a near-depression, and 2.) There is just not much "employment infrastructure" in the UP to start with especially when tourism spending is probably down due to the poor national economy.

But coming in at second place is my beloved Land of 10,000 Taxes - Minnesota at 7%. I really hope I am wrong but I fear our 2009 legislature will propose yet again the nation's highest personal income tax rate to "create jobs in Minnesota.........."

Instead of looking to St. Paul for answers Minnesotans should look west to our neighbor - South Dakota - who is at 3.4% unemployment which in economic terms is considered "full employment" since you always have some shifting in the labor market.

Perhaps one key difference between Minnesota and South Dakota is the fact that South Dakota has ZERO personal income tax which helps keep entrepreneurs in the start creating more jobs.

If there are other factors that readers want to note for me to study please let me know. We have tried the "tax and create jobs" model for too many years in Minnesota so let's use 2009 to implement the "South Dakota Model" by phasing out our personal income taxes.

Todd (please see my other commentaries at -- www.regularfolksunited.com )

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

German culture

Finally after numerous years of living in the Twin Cities of Minnesota I visited the German American Institute in St. Paul today.

My intent was simply to tour the building but when I walked in I was asked "are you here for the German language lunch?" so I was encouraged to stay. Hey $8.00 for German food and story telling is a good bargain so as the descendant of cheap German farmers I jumped at this opportunity.

The guests at my table spent the lunch talking about the former (thank God - along with Reagan, Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II!) Soviet Union and East Germany. Is there anything better than laughing at the KGB and the Stasi :-) I spent most of my time talking with two elderly ladies who were retired German teachers. The one lady had obtained her US citizenship in 1949 after having fled East Germany via a job with the US Army at the time.

My lunch mates and I shared not only an appreciation for German culture today but our shared love and appreciation for the freedoms we have in the USA. Freedoms worth protecting for our children.

Study history not social studies,


PS -- see my other writing at: www.regularfolksunited.com

Monday, December 01, 2008

Billions of Barrels of Oil

There is nothing like the long Thanksgiving Day weekend which allows us to relax with some light reading (when we aren't watching football games of course) such as this item I noticed in the November 29/30 Wall Street Journal:

"Proved Reserves, 2007, Top 10 Countries in Billions of Barrels"

Here is their top 10 list --

Saudi Arabia - 262.3
Canada - 179.2
Iran - 136.3
Iraq - 115
Kuwait - 101.5
United Arab Emirates - 97.8
Venezuela - 80
Russia - 60
Libya - 41.5
Nigeria - 36.2

Now this list can be viewed several ways. My purist free trade friends would say, "big deal where our oil comes from, we send them money and they send us oil, it works for everyone..........." However, I would note a few concerns with this list including the following countries where: we are involved in a war, there are local acts of terrorism against the oil industry, or we have very strained diplomatic relations with these nations -- Iran, Iraq, Venezuela, Russia, and Nigeria. This represents 5 of the top 10 owners of the world's oil reserves on this list. Libya might even have to be considered for this list given its past acts of terrorism but in today's new world Libya has renewed diplomatic relations with the Western nations but limited proved reserves.

While never a supporter of invading Iraq I did see the benefit of defending Kuwait from Saddam Hussein's invasion in 1990/1991 given the true threat he posed to the free flow of oil. Had Hussein fully integrated Kuwait as a province of Iraq the combined nation would have been second only to Saudi Arabia in oil reserves.

But why should we have expected Hussein would have stopped at Kuwait? Why not invade the United Arab Emirates at some point and then his old enemy - Iran - which would have made the "Iraqi Empire" the world's largest owner of oil reserves. At that point he could have invaded Saudi Arabia for a clean run of the table!!

Fortunately the USA-Canada border is the "world's longest friendly border" so a steady supply of oil seems assured but such a reliance on imported oil should force our nation to explore other options.

To see more of my writing please visit this macro-blog: www.regularfolksunited.com