Everyone gather round…

More from the management.

The main focus of this blog is to cast a spotlight on government waste and insipid government spending. When I set this site up, I wanted a topic that would provide new and fresh material in perpetuity. Writing about government waste is like writing about the sunset; it happens every day.

*actual sunset photo taken by the author

In reality, this blog is about two basic thoughts…

1. An avenue for my frustration at the overbearing and insane beast that is government.  I get so frustrated seeing a $2,700 sign telling me that they are spending my money.

*sign

You see, if I don’t get this out of my system, then my wife has to listen to me complain. And I like my wife. I like her a lot more when she’s in a good mood.  She’s never in a good mood when I’m complaining about government waste. Ergo, I blog.

2. To educate myself for when people ask, “I don’t see government waste, what are you talking about?” I can regale them with Wiccan chapels at the Air Force Academy, teaching Thai prostitutes the dangers of alcohol consumption, and putting televisions in remote villages in Vietnam.

Now, I often get the complaint that sometimes that amount of money wasted is such a small drop in a big ocean that it won’t help any to cut out the stupid stuff discussed here at CentsToChanges.com. Agreed, $3.4 million to build a turtle tunnel isn’t the reason this country is so in debt.  But it is a symptom of a much greater disease.

*no caption required

During the Great Depression, a subtle change happened in Washington. A change in philosophy that has caused the greatest free nation in the history of civilization to be $15,000,000,000,000.00 in debt. That subtle change was simple: Government spending fixed problems.

Let me repeat that:

Government spending fixed problems.

Well, it didn’t.  Only made things worse. Before the Great Depression, people were largely self supportive.  Flocks of immigrants rushed to the land of opportunity. Think about this, if a family was willing to uproot from their homeland, travel to an unknown country, without money, assets, or knowing the language, there must have been a pretty compelling reason.  That reason was freedom.  Free to make their own lives.  Free to escape the oppressive yoke of a fixed and permanent social structure and caste.  Free to make a life their own.

Enter the Great Depression and the Alphabet Administration of FDR. Government solutions to everything. Government spending everywhere.  High taxation. Miserable lives.  Interesting fact:  By Spring of 1930, before the government ”fixes” were in place, unemployment was still below 10% and the stock market was back up to pre-crash levels. Enter the Imperial Government.  Unemployment went to 25%.  Sure we got some dams and roads, but the Depression lasted 10 years longer than it should thanks to IG intervention.

*IG solutions

Since then, IG spending is the solution to everything.  And this is apolitical.  Every party in power has done everything they can to spend more money. Thanks to LBJ and his War on Poverty, we have spent $15 trillion on anti-poverty with no measurable success. It has to stop sometime.

Private citizens can, and always, do better than the government. I am convinced that if private citizens had decided to build a turtle tunnel it would have cost a lot less than $3.4 million.  I also know that a group of concerned citizens could have easily raised the money through voluntary donations and done a better job than the IG.

Perfect example.  A bridge in Kauai to Polihale State Park had been closed due to severe flooding.  The IG estimated that the cost would be $4 million to repair.  In a rare instance of fiscal restraint, the IG dragged their heels and never got to fixing the bridge. The bridge is a lifeline to many of the local residents and businesses whose economy is based on tourism associated with the state park. So what did they do? They volunteered their time and resources and fixed the bridge in eight  (8) days for free.  That’s right, free.  Didn’t cost the IG one red cent. Yes, it cost in terms of labor and equipment expenses, but those expenses were freely donated by the local community.  It wasn’t $4 million stolen at the point of a gun through force.

I love this quote:

“We shouldn’t have to do this, but when it gets to a state level, it just gets so bureaucratic, something that took us eight days would have taken them years,” said Troy Martin of Martin Steel, who donated machinery and steel for the repairs. “So we got together — the community — and we got it done.” 

*yes, CentsToChange.com would have written about this bridge costing $4 million

Private citizens acting on their own freewill always do better than the IG.

So we, as a country, need to realize two things…

1. Government spending will not solve fiscal problems. The IG cannot spend their way out of debt.

2. Government spending results in bigger problems.

There is a demotivational from www.Despair.com that says it best:

*If you think the problems we create are bad,
just wait until you see our solutions.

Is it realistic to lobby for zero IG spending?  No.  Don’t be stupid.  The Constitution clearly allows the IG to spend money. What we can do, is be pessimistic about IG spending. By casting a spotlight on the stupidity, it slowly erodes the credibility of our elected officials. And hopefully more people will start to ask questions and not just take politicians at their word.

Yes, we need to take big chunks off our budget to make an appreciable dent in our debt.  We here at CentsToChange.com get that.  But….  When you have two parties that fight a position simply because the other guy that said it first, you have to find common ground. And there is plenty of common ground.  Like the nearly $1 million spent by the GSA on a conference in Vegas that awarded some tool for making a video mocking how little fiscal oversight they had. This is common ground. Once you have some agreement, any agreement, it makes moving forward a lot easier. The key to any negotiation is starting with something on which both sides agree.

We need to solve the problem of Social Security and other entitlement programs.  Yes we can eliminate $15 billion (initially) by canceling one aircraft carrier. We currently have 10 active aircraft carriers with two in construction. The rest of the world has 10 combined with two in retrofit and four in construction. While I am a huge believer in “peace through superior firepower” I think we are ok with carriers. I’d rather put that $15 billion back into the economy through tax cuts.

”If you want peace, prepare for war.”
— Latin proverb

We will never solve big issues without coming to agreement on small ones. Just like a family budget that is in the red, you pick the low-lying fruit first and eliminate stupid spending. Dropping Netflix only saves me $8 per month, but it is a start. Dropping cable saves me another $30 (I have the super cheap cable).  Getting rid of my expensive cell phone and going with a low-cost provider (I love MetroPCS) saves me more.  Before you know it, I’ve culled away several hundred dollars a month and I am that much closer to being in the black.

Here’s the secret.  Saving money is contagious. Just get it started.  Once you see there is hope of positive change, you are more emboldened to save more. You realize that you didn’t die and wither away when you cut cable TV; you still ate well despite cooking yourself and not ordering pizza four times a week. You sell your two cars that cost $400 per month in payments, and buy two older, less attractive, less comfortable cars in cash.

You realized that the things you counted on as necessary for existence were simply luxuries.

And while we are talking about cars, I know a thing or two in this area.  I had one car for almost 18 years.  Paid it off a year early. It didn’t even have power windows or a cup holder. Did I want a new car with fancy stuff? Sure. Did I get where I was going. Yep. How much money did I save over the long haul?  Well…  Considering $400 / month in payments for 14 years, that works out to $67,200.00 in savings. Because I took good care of my car, maintenance costs were really low.  repairs outside of normal, routine maintenance cost me less than $3000 over the life of the car.

So it is possible to live with less and still be happy. If your happiness is based on material things, then you will never be happy.  But that is for a different rant and a different time.

So, if we become educated and hold our elected officials accountable, then we can make real change. Then again, all I really care about is making my wife happy.

What comes before anything.  What have I always said is the most important thing?

Breakfast.

Family.

Oh, I thought you meant of things you eat.

Message from the management

Time for you to subscribe to CentsToChange!  It’s free.  And you will never miss a new post.  Ever.

Here’s what won’t happen…

1. Receive SPAM mail from me.

2. Sell your e-mail address.  Even for a microphone.

3. Politicians getting serious about the reduction of government spending.

4. Me going vegan.

5. You agreeing with everything the crack CentsToChange staff reporters write.

6. Rule 6

7. A CentsToChange sponsored trip to Disney

8. Boredom.

So go ahead and sign up.  I recommend you ask for immediate notification.  That way you only receive an e-mail when one of the many should-be Pulitizer Prize nominated reporters here in the CentsToChange newsroom in the bowels of the International Worldwide Headquarters (IWH) posts another brilliant missive.

Now for the threat…

If I don’t receive the minimum amount of subscriptions, I will post a photo of Nancy Pelosi in every post. I know this is in the 8th Amendment gray area, but so are a lot of things. Like the DMV, reality TV, WNBA, and anything relating to Justin Bieber.

*this is just for you Bieber-boy Daniel, and not the tall, bald Daniel

Unless of course it’s this: Epic Rap Battle of History

I think Beetohoven won.  Hands down.

So join CentsToChange.  It makes good sense….

 

Misfire….

 

Amendment II

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Thank you Founding Fathers.  It’s interesting how the right to bear arms is the second most important right in the eyes of the framers of the Constitution. Just to be clear, the right to bear arms is not so law abiding citizens can hunt, nor is it for personal protection.  The 2nd Amendment is part of the checks and balance system established by our Founding Fathers because, quite simply, an armed populous is difficult to dictate.

“But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

As a firm believer in the check and balance system, you’d think that government spending relating to our 2nd Amendment Right would be something that I favor.  And normally that would be the case.

But in this case, I have 15,680,000 reasons not to like this venture…..

*not the actual dirt pile referenced in this article.  Enlarged to show texture.

In 2010, the Clark County Shooting Range opened 25 miles north of Las Vegas, NV.  The initial construction cost $15.68 million.  That’s right.  Almost $16 million for dirt mounds for people to use as range backstops.

True, there are some structures.  Like pictured below:

and

and

and

You get the drift. Pretty heavy construction.  For the bulldozer guy.  Well maybe it was the cost of the land being near Las Vegas.  You tell me….

Can’t be the land…  No clue why it cost so much….  Regardless, it gets even worse.

Even when you factor out the cost to develop and construct, the shooting range expenses totaled $1.4 million per year and only takes in around $400,000 per year.  Simple math that even a Bulldawg can do leaves the taxpayers on the hook for a cool million per year to just to keep the doors open.

Let me be clear…  I like shooting ranges.  I like them a lot.  It’s a ton of fun to get out there and blow up some things.  I particularly like to go Office Space on malfunctioning office equipment.

I just don’t understand why the government feels responsible to engage in opening a shooting range.  That should be the responsibility of private citizens who recognize a need and pool resources to bring the business to market.  If the range is financially viable, then it can grow as revenue and patronage demands.

For those of you who have not been to an outdoor shooting range let me describe them to you.

Open field.

Dirt berm on one end. Maybe 20′ tall.

Tables at the other end on which to set your firearms.  Like this:

Someone to raise the “Range Hot” flag, declare when firing can commence, and when to cease firing. Of course anyone on the range can shout cease fire, but you still need a certified range officer.

And that’s it…. You don’t have to spend $15.68 million and $1.4 million per year to keep one open.

You see, here is the stark difference between government and private industry.  Government spends money as if it is an endless supply. Private industry spends money as it makes sense. If I owned that range, I would open up a few shooting areas since it’s dirt and tables.  As my business grew, I may open a small store with ammo and cold drinks (non-alcoholic) and snacks.  Then maybe a shotgun range.  But only as it made sense with the business.  The government on the other hand thinks of everything that they could possible spend money on, and buys two of everything.

The real world is not the Field of Dreams.  Just because it’s been built doesn’t mean people will come.  Ask the umpteen investors in Underground Atlanta.  I think it made a profit for a week, once 12 years ago.

In Other News of the Ironic, the Clark County Parks and Recreation Department had to close some swimming pools in densely populate areas due to budget shortfalls of roughly $1 million. Fortunately it doesn’t get that hot in Las Vegas during the summer.  Only 100-107 degrees. But it’s a dry heat.

What would you do with $15.68 million?

 

The Emperor’s new low-income housing

Florida and land deals go way back.  Historically, very few investments have been as solid as real estate in Florida.  Now, with the housing market crash that is not as much the case anymore, but there are still great and easy ways to make a ton of money in Florida.

Take Crest Capital, LLC for example. Located in the Tampa area, they offered to build low-income town houses on an 18 acre tract of land. Since the project was dubbed “low income” that means, of course, free government stuff….  So the partners at Crest Capital contacted Anthony Jones, the Director, Pinellas County Community Development Department. Mr. Jones thought this was a great idea and quickly gave Crest $3.4 million.

Speaking of huge tracts of land, I still am amazed that Walt Disney was able to make the land grab he did to build Disney World. That is one huge tract of land. 47 square miles….

monty_python_holy_grail_script_130_lancelot_father_herb

But I digress….

That was 2004 when Mr. Jones approved the $3.4 million. Now, I personally know how slow developers can be.  I know how long it takes for a construction project to to be completed.  Once you have a site, there are geological tests, environmental impact studies, land use permits, land disturbance permits, neighbor disturbance permits, disturbed neighbor permits, and the list goes on.

Random sidetrack.  How long would it take to construct the Pentagon today with all of the regulations and red-tape bureaucrats in the way?  The Pentagon is 6.5 million square feet.  Whereas the average home is 2,000. Funds were released August 14, 1941 and ground breaking was September 11, 1941. It was dedicated January 15, 1943.  Almost 16 months to the day…

Back to our story of how a caring and socially responsible development company, Crest Capital, is “doing the right thing” and building low-income housing for unfortunate Tampa area residents.

So here we are in 2012 and how does the project look? Let’s look at some recent photos….

And…

And…

Awesome.

Nothing.

Nada.

Zip.

In 2011 the Pinellas County’s Division of Inspector General investigated the deal and found that Anthony Jones chose Crest Capital who had “no assets and little to no experience in construction.”

Wow.

Nick Kotaiche of the former Crest Capital (After an exhaustive search I can’t find a website or other information on Crest at this time. And by “exhaustive search” I mean a half dozen Google searches while watching an Epic Rap Battle of History on the YouTubes in another browser window and drinking a cup of coffee) blames the failure on the bad economy.

But it was low income housing…..  There are plenty of government subsidies to pay the rent.  And there are plenty of low income people DUE to the bad economy.  Luckily Crest Capital was able to give Pinellas County and Anthony Jones their money back since the project went bust. Oh wait, they didn’t.  The money is gone.  Forever. Vanished. Never to be seen again.

The Pinellas County Commissioner Nancy Bostock stated that Anthony Jones didn’t properly do his due diligence.  Really?  Let’s role play this initial sales pitch…

Mr. Kotaiche: Anthony, I have a great idea for that 18 acres.  Build low-income housing.

Mr. Jones: Great idea! What do you need.

Mr. Kotaiche: How about $3.4 million to get started.

Mr. Jones: Sure, but I have to ask you a few questions.

Mr.Kotaiche: Shoot.

Mr. Jones: What assets do you have to back this project and how much construction experience does Crest Capital or yourself have?

Mr. Kotaiche: None and none.

Mr. Jones: No big deal.  You’re doing this for the right social reasons, which is the most important thing.  Who do I make the check out to?

And that’s how Crest Capital made $3.4 million in a terrible real estate market. I sure could think of a lot of things I could do with $3.4 million.

 

In the words of Mark Twain…

…”The reports of my demise are greatly exaggerated.”

Welcome to the new home for Cents To Change.  I finally registered a domain and set up a WordPress engine.  The consumed almost 20 minutes.  Since then I have been busy with travel and work including a three week business trip to Cordoba, Argentina.

I love Cordoba.

Unfortunately Argentina is just ahead of the good ole’ US of A in terms of socialism and government pandering.  The recent nationalization of YPF by stealing the company from Repsol.

In Other News of the Ironic, the nationalized copper mines in Chile are underperforming according to President Sebastián Piñera thus proving that only the government can take a thriving industry and turn it into a hapless, wayward, and highly inefficient business in short order.

But anyway….

One other example… Last Tuesday, May 1, is a world wide workers celebration.  Many different countries celebrate May Day in different ways.  Argentine President Christine Fernandez instructed the country to take Monday, April 30, off as well as a “Bridge Holiday.”  As she loves to pander to the populous, anytime a Holiday is on a Tuesday or Thursday, she also calls the corresponding Monday and Friday a Bridge Holiday to give everybody a long weekend.  Earlier this year, there was a holiday on Monday and Friday of the same week and she called for a Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday to be Bridge Holidays as well….  In 2012, Argentina has 18 national holidays where everything is shut down.  Completely…

So they celebrated “working” by taking the day off, and because they are so dedicated to “working” they took off another day so they could have a longer weekend.  That’s government for you.

Regardless, Argentina is a beautiful country full of wonderful people.  Aside from continuing to allow that idiot to be president, I don’t blame the people of Argentina.

While I am talking about the people in Cordoba, my favorite place is Tiendo Belgrano.  It’s located in Centro near the intersection of Graf. Manuel Belgrano and Achaval Rodriguiz. The food, drink, (you must have the Sangria with Malbec wine), atmosphere, and especially, the people…  Just perfect.

So the upshot is, I’m back.  Not that anyone cares, it’s just therapeutic for me to write my frustrations down here so I can stop bugging my wife with tales of insane government spending.

Redundant, I know…

Now onto the topic of my frustration and the government waste for the day.

GSA.

That was too easy.  More later….