Alabama’s Historic Economic Prize!

Along with this state’s recent headline grabbing immigration policies rearing its ugly head the most populous county in Alabama is destined for the record books as well, in a story of greed and corruption.

Jefferson County, Alabama has filed for Bankruptcy and if the case is allowed to go ahead it will be the Largest Municipal bankruptcy filing in United States History.

When combined the water and sewage rates in this county of 658,466 residents the rates for these must have services has increased 329% over the last 15 years.

As with most of the gut wrenching economic hardships of our recent recession the poor are the unwarranted recipients of most if not all of the consequences. They are now being forced to bathe in bottled water and use portable toilets as they have been cut-off from these basic necessities through no fault of their own.

While disturbing it’s not surprising that local government officials and Wall Street financiers have been implicated again in another case of financial wrongdoing.

All of this stems from the debt the county took on to finance a new sewer system for Jefferson County residents. Initially the cost was to be $300 million dollars however that initial projection soared to $3.1 Billion dollars and the county is drowning in debt.

JP Morgan Securities along with two of its prior directors have already been fined as they were accused of offering bribes to local politicians to guarantee they would win business financing the project. Six former members of Jefferson County’s commissioners have also been found guilty of corruption as well as fifteen other government officials for accepting bribes.

The new local county commission has seen no other alternative other than to file for chapter nine bankruptcy protections in November as the only way to try to bring the county out of this current financial hole.

However the banks and bondholders who stand to lose $4.5 million dollars per month in repayment charges are fighting the commission’s decision and a bankruptcy judge will give the last word on whether the Jefferson County commission can proceed.

The local residents have absorbed rate hikes of 8.2% a year to attempt to deal with repaying the escalating debt. According to John S. Young the court appointed receiver the rates are projected to be 10% per year up to a whopping 25% for the cash poor citizens of the county in the future.

Along with the prospect of bankruptcy filing for the sewage project the country is also projected to have an extra $40 million dollar budget shortfall.

As five hundred county workers were recently laid off and are living off of unemployment insurance the county’s ability to finance local services is further called into question as tax revenues will most certainly fall.

Tony Petelos the new county manager believes it will be years before the county might be able to turn the tide. He stated, “The public has lost confidence in Jefferson County over the last decade and a half, because of the mismanagement, because of the corruption. We have got to rebuild that confidence” and that there is, “light at the end of the tunnel”.

However in regards to any relief the citizens might realize in their water and sewer rates he was quoted as saying, “When you look at the amount of debt, and you  look at the revenue that is produced from the rate payers, there is no way it is going to come down,”.

Mr. Petelos who was the former mayor of Hoover city, Alabama recalls a Wall Street presentation about the same type of bonds that were used to finance the Jefferson County sewage project. After the presentation he recalls talking with his finance director in dismay and how they were both in agreement that they did not want to have anything to do with the type of financing that was presented.

One resident has found it is cheaper for him to pay a portable sanitation company $14 dollars a month to deal with his household sewage. His previous sewer and water bills sometimes reached $300 dollars per month this in a county whose citizens average income was $19,724 dollars per year according to the most recent census figures.

As most of the citizens of Jefferson County live off of meager Social Security income in this predominately poor community it is abundantly clear they cannot afford to pay these rate increases brought upon them by greed and corruption.

As the current Republican mindset in Washington is to gut most if not all of our governments regulation or oversight of the financial sector or corporations. This current situation in Alabama is the poster child for why we Do Need Regulation of banks and corporations that cannot be trusted to conduct themselves in a responsible honest fashion.

The meteoric rise of the debt from $300 million to $3.1 billion has been tied to construction issues and a series of bad bond and derivative deals that went sour during the 2008 financial debacle which has landed us in our current economic recession.

While for now as Jefferson county may be filing the largest Municipal bankruptcy in the history of our country. How many other cities and counties across the country are also reaching the breaking point remains to be seen.

Again Wall Street is being implicated in more financial crimes with few if any of the perpetrators being brought to justice. However as is usually the case the poorest citizens of the U.S. are being asked to suffer the brunt of the damage.

When will the poor citizens of the United States catch a break or at least be treated in a fair and equitable fashion and when if ever will the financial sector be held accountable?

NEW Stimulus Spending Is A Very Viable & Needed Program NOW!

While our do nothing House Republicans (John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan etc.) along with their like minded Senate counterparts are mired in trying to destroy the EPA, eliminating financial reform and redistributing more wealth to the top 1% as they also attempt to destroy the rights of the American worker this listing is some of their objectives. As to what are their goals for America in the end who knows or one can only guess, yet average Americans are no where on their radar. In the Senate Republican Senator Mitch Mcconnell is in lock-step with them, he will jump right on their obstructionist train to nowhere at any given moment in time. It’s as if they are on some type of crusade to set back the clock to before the Gilded Age. The hard fought battles for American workers along with our historical albeit mediocre attempts to control pollution of our water, air, land and sea and other environmental efforts are just more cannon fodder for them to try to tear down.

It’s as though they only have a few months of life left on this Earth. And during this time they want to accomplish as much death and destruction as possible by setting back Environmental and hard fought Labor rights and safety all for the sake of pandering to their dark overlords. Who of course will give freely to their re-election campaigns and donate to their pet projects in their respective districts.

As for debt take a look at this chart;

Gutting a women’s right to choose, eliminating health-care for low income families. Other than blocking any useful legislative options and basically doing nothing until after the elections the American public waits and suffers as brinkmanship is the order of the day for the republican party. It doesn’t have to be right for the American public only the Lobbyists, Banks/Investment houses and 99% of the top 1% that’s all the republicans care about $$$.

Stimulus/deficit spending would benefit this country enormously and numerous economists believe in this methodology. Which would benefit our present and future generations if properly directed. It could also be argued that it would be cheaper in the long run to address our transportation issues in today’s dollars versus kicking the can down the road (pun intended).

Our interstate highway system was begun in 1956 under Dwight Eisenhower who championed its construction. Now in 2011 with the U.S. population in the 300mil+ range little has been done in maintaining this invaluable resource.

All across the country bridges and highways are crumbling our electrical infrastructure is outdated and our plumbing, sewage and water pipes are bursting with regularity.

Emergency medical first responders in Ohio are told to stagger their vehicles when responding to accidents and fires. This is occurring here and across the country for fear that if the fire trucks were not appropriately staggered that their combined weight could quite possibly lead to a bridge collapse.

In major metropolitan areas a bicyclist can make better time as cars sit engines running as they slowly inch their way to work. Even in areas with mass transportation the sheer mass of the populace requiring transportation is reaching a breaking point.

Recently the American Society of Civil Engineers gave America’s drinking-water systems a grade of D-minus. Roughly 10 billion gallons of sewage seep into these crumbling pipes each year, think about that as you turn on the facet for a drink or fill the tub to bathe your child. Ancient sewage and water systems along with decrepit water treatment facilities to name a few place hundreds of millions of people at risk. The EPA places the cost of fixing our Civil War Era water system at $335 billion.

Our railway systems which move over 42% of U.S, freight annually from oranges to nuclear devices etc and this does not include passenger traffic, are left to their own devices. Businesses which must be connected to each other to facilitate the moving of goods for countrywide & then worldwide distribution to name a few of the reasons for properly maintaining this method of transportation, yet it is taking a backseat. With almost $37bil dollars in revenue (2002 data) not including the billions paid in taxes, wages along with the 175 thousand+ employees (2002 data). There is also the ever important Coal which is transported via rail as over half of the electricity for our country is created with coal.

The electrical grid with its attached power plants and electrical distribution centers which are our lifeline are facing daunting challenges with little inclination towards a proactive versus reactive mindset. This places the average American in a precarious situation let alone the risks for companies large and small. Allowing our electrical system to continue to degenerate places all of us at risk as some of our recent large electrical outages have shown.

Congested skies outdated aircraft, radar systems, airports and telecommunications used by our airport systems are all in desperate need of repair or replacement. Our aging fleet of aircraft and the disastrous consequences of not properly addressing just this issue. Deregulation which promised more competition and safer skies has of course been proven dreadfully wrong.

Cost cutting, less comprehensive maintenance, if and when performed and using outdated aircraft coupled with an ancient infrastructure to support it have all proved to be extremely dangerous for the public in the skies across our country and the world.

The World Economic Forum rated the USA at #1 during the 2005 period however as of 2011 we are now ranked at 15th. There are the economic impacts said to be $129bil per year, the American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that this adds $97bil a year to the cost of motor vehicle operational costs. Then there are the economic consequences of flight and travel delays which add another $32bil to the equation.

It is suspected that if issues with the U.S. infrastructure is not dealt with immediately the consequences and associated costs will rise exponentially. For example, “Within 10 years, U.S. businesses would pay an added $430 billion in transportation costs, household incomes would fall by more than $7,000, and U.S. exports will fall by $28 billion.” as expressed by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

A study by one group of over 80 experts affiliated with the Urban Land Institute that $262bil dollars a year must be spent on our ancient crumbling infrastructure. This as we lose more economic ground to Brazil, China and India who are apparently doing a much better job at addressing these and other issues.

The recent squabbling by our congressional leaders in just dealing with the FAA funding issue shows that they are incapable of addressing anything other than their own personal agendas, governance is just a fleeting moment not often seized upon by our current Do-Nothing congressional leaders.

In regards to the report by ASCE congressional Representative Nick J. Rahall II stated, “Today’s report provides the cold hard truth that America’s economic recovery and long-term competitiveness will suffer if we continue to under-invest in our future, Slashing investments by one-third, as Republicans have proposed to do, will make the economic impact on America’s middle class even worse than the grim predictions by the economists in this report”.

Furthermore included in the report by the American Society of Civil Engineers there are other significant issues for Americans at large. The report states that 870,000 jobs will be lost and an economic impact of $3.1 trillion by 2020. To reverse or eliminate these last figures will require an investment of $1.7 trillion by the year 2020, pretty simple math if you ask me. The investment required versus what is actually being spent today differs by $94 billion a year according to the estimates.

The president of ASCE Kathy J. Caldwell said, “The link between a nation’s infrastructure and its economic competitiveness has always been understood. But today, for the first time, we have data showing how much failing to invest in our surface transportation system can negatively impact job growth and family budgets.”

Even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce president Thomas J. Donohue said,

“Without more robust economic growth, the U.S. will not create the 20 million jobs needed in the next decade to replace those lost during the recession and to keep up with a growing workforce”. He also said the necessary spending was “not just transportation for transportation’s sake.”

Also the Economic Development Research Group spokesperson Steven Landau talked about the U.S. infrastructure dilemma. “Business will have to divert increasing portions of earned income to pay for transportation delays and vehicle repairs, draining money that would otherwise be invested in innovation and expansion”.

Yes we will be adding to the deficit however Revenue sources will offset some of these affects. Those with jobs have money, need newer cars, fuel to drive, new clothes to buy, groceries to feed their families and possibly a new house thanks to the salary of their new job. Economists speak of a lack of demand by our present economy by spending money on needed infrastructure projects part of that demand will be addressed.

Also multi-national corporations need reliable modes of transportation for their goods. Poor infrastructure leads to No capital improvements, corporations do not want to relocate to an area where reliable transportation of goods & services are questionable.

So instead of Gutting the EPA or trusting the Banks & Investment houses to act responsibly. Rather than giving tax cuts to large corporations & individuals and trying to Gut family planning clinics. As well as cutting whatever slim safety net we have in this country for the less fortunate the republicans in power are only interested in future elections and undermining the other guy, oh and screwing the less fortunate.

Rather than being obstructionist at every turn our congressional legislators could do something positive for this country. Rather then John Boehner backing the destruction of our educational system from kindergarten to college we could work to strengthen what we already have in this country. Rather then the calls to destroy our current education system and rebuild it with for profit collages possibly a more sane thought process can be found.

What we now need is more honest people like Warren Buffett and Russell Simmons even Bill Gates is open to Real Tax Reform. Not the ridiculous talk of John Boehner, Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan just to name a few of those more interested in following the money instead of serving the people of the United States of America.

If we can get some honest republican legislators who are interested in this country as a whole. And who treat this countries real problems instead of being in the back-pocket of cash-flush Lobbyists real change could actually occur.

President Barack Obama is trying everything he can to right the wrongs of previous administrations. President Obama is also trying to put America and the people who reside within it back to work.

Yet at every turn the Obstructionist House Republicans are there to screw up every positive opportunity to get this country back on the right track. Their Wealthy Overlords will not allow them to do the right thing they only want to make Millions More$$$, Screw everyone else in this country Only the Top 1% Matter.

Stand up America we need to fix this country and instead of electing bought and paid for politicians we need men & women of Honor & Integrity, not the politicians of today obviously, but a new breed of politicians that will do what is right for this country.

Barack Obama is a man of Honor & Integrity handed a broken country by George W. Bush. Trying to fix all the wrongs while being thwarted at every turn by legislators more interested in the next election cycle then doing what is right for the American public the President is fighting an uphill battle at every turn.

This while propaganda machines ostensibly acting as news organizations misrepresent, mis-quote, use spliced together video clips (it is of no consequence to them they are almost always taken out of context and misrepresent the truth) and attempt to indoctrinate ordinary U.S. citizens into talking parrots regurgitating republican talking points.

I voted for Barack Obama the last election and I will again without and regrets.

Our infrastructure is crumbling and needs to be rebuilt and maintained now, not next year or never if the fat-cat republicans have their way.

So stand up and be counted write, call, donate and do whatever you can this is our country all 100% of us not just the super wealthy 1%. If we don’t stand up now what world are we leaving for our children, Please do the right thing.

Let’s start fixing this country by putting the shovels and heavy equipment in the hands of the American workers who built this country and know what to do. Tell Congress were sick and tired of their Lies and Pandering, either put-up, shut-up or get out of town.

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