Category Archives: Public Transportation

A More Perfect Union

Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina 2005: Situation...

Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina 2005: Situation in South Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana near Empire, Buras and Boothville, United States of America (2005-08-29, 7:10 EDT). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A few years ago hurricane Katrina left us wondering how such a tragedy could happen in America; not the winds, the rain, or the storm surge, not even the broken levees.  The failure and frustrations related to relief efforts are what prompted us to ask how such a thing could happen here.  This time it’s the fiasco in the wake of hurricane Sandy.  People are without power, water, shelter, and hope.  Despite the best efforts of many, and despite the generosity of millions, there is simply not enough being done fast enough to keep children warm and safe at night across New Jersey and New York.  New York!  Rudy Giuliani, America’s Mayor (so dubbed after 9/11), is blaming the federal government, FEMA, and by extension President Obama.  Others are pointing the finger at the state governments of New York and New Jersey, local governments included, for not having plans in place for such an event and for not having the resources required to respond effectively to such a disaster.

But, let us be fair.  People are standing on line across the Northeast waiting for gasoline.  Gasoline is a commodity that is privately produced and distributed by the private sector—the same oil companies that have been posting record profits throughout the nation’s greatest recession.  Government has virtually nothing to do with local gasoline supplies or pricing.  In the same light, non-governmental charitable organizations are providing what they can, but it’s obviously not enough.  Organizations like the Red Cross are responding admirably—as always.  There are web sites, hash tags, text messages and celebrity, all-star, concerts raising tens of millions of dollars for the relief effort.  But almost two weeks after the storm there are still families without generators or shelter.  Why are we not blaming Home Depot, Lowes, Walmart, Target, and every other retailer of basic goods for NOT rolling out the truck convoys with emergency supplies for storm victims?  Why are hotels and motels across the region refusing to accommodate storm victims unless they can pay up front (they are not willing to wait for FEMA reimbursement)?  Take notice people.

We live in a nation that depends on the combined capacity of government, the private sector, and non-governmental, not-for-profit, organizations to produce and allocate all of the things we need to live the lives we live.  We are just coming out of a long campaign year and we know who the President will be for the next four years.  We know which party will control the House of Representatives.  And we know we will be subjected to politics-as-usual—both sides arguing about the proper role and size of government.  My suggestion:  Force President Obama and Speaker of the House, John Boehner, to meet and talk about recovery in the wreckage of a family home somewhere in Staten Island, New York.  Surround them with families and small business owners that have been wiped out by the storm (have Mitt Romney sit there and listen just for good measure).  And, finally, don’t let them leave until they strike a deal that last longer than the photo-op.

We the People, of the United States of America, in order to
form a more perfect union . . .

–DENNIS FALCON

The Tool of Taxation

Old hammer during reconstruction of the buildi...

Old hammer during reconstruction of the building in Pleszew. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In graduate school a professor of mine often referred to the “toolbox of government.”  The characterization must have resonated with me because I still use it in my own classes almost fifteen years later.  Of course he was referring to the variety of actions that governments at all levels have at their disposal to implement and otherwise enforce public policy.  For our purposes we can narrow the contents of the “toolbox” down to the bare minimum:

  • The power of government to deprive a person of liberty (think incarceration and in the most extreme form, the death penalty)—the hammer.
  • The power of government to deprive a person of property (think real property and money)—the hammer.

Confused?  Don’t be.  Chief Justice John Marshall (1801-1835) is credited with expressing the position that the power to tax is the power to destroy.  In this regard the power to tax is the power to punish those who violate the law, ignore regulations, or otherwise challenge the general welfare—the hammer.  The power to tax citizens and residents, businesses, corporations, is generally available to most governments—from Congress to your local water district.  Check your text books, one of the first concurrent or shared powers listed is the power to tax.  Moreover, taxes are ubiquitous—fees: taxes; assessments: taxes; dues: taxes; levies: taxes; taxes: taxes.  The power to tax is the power of government to deprive.

In the months following the Supreme Court’s decision on the Affordable Care Act (Obama-care) , much will be made of the taxation aspect of the now upheld health care reform package—especially the individual mandate, which requires people capable of paying for health insurance to do so or risk a penalty (tax).  What do you think, is it the most intrusive tax ever devised by government (in this case by democrats)?  Is it a new tax?  Is it a tax increase (even though it only applies to people who don’t buy their own health insurance—and wouldn’t we otherwise call these people free-riders or equate them to people who don’t buy car insurance and drive up all of our rates)?  With all the hammers we get hit with every day, is this the one we’re really going to object to?  Ouch!  I know how to fix it; where’s my hammer?!

–DENNIS FALCON

(Video)Federal Debt Commission Proposes Gas Tax Hike

The President’s debt commission is proposing an additional tax that would raise the price another 15 cents. In this economy drivers are hurting, but as Bill Whitaker, so are the roads. Watch this video to learn about the choices facing Congress regarding the national debt. (12/2/10 CBSNewsOnline)

1. What according to the video is the transportation challenge facing the nation? What are the three choices available to deal with this challenge?

2.  What is the effect of driving less on transportation funding? Why the short fall in the gas tax revenue?

(Video)TSA Pat-Down: Security versus Privacy

A man who refused a body scan and pat-down search at a San Diego airport has become an Internet sensation in the debate weighing fliers’ security versus their privacy. Do travelers who refuse body scanners and pat-down search put the nation at risk of potential terrorist attack? Does the TSA go too far in its efforts to protect the nation against terrorism?  This video sheds light on the controversial screening method. (11/15/10 Associated Press)

1. The TSA has been conducting screening in the nation’s airports since 2002. What is the cause of the recent protest against airport screening?

2. A group opposed to the new method of screening has called for a mass opt-out of scanners the day before Thanksgiving? What is the potential impact of such event on the nation’s security?

(Video)Jet Blue Flight Attendant: Hero or Disgruntled?

Jet Blue flight attendant Steven Slater may be a hero to fans online but he may face jail time over his in-flight meltdown. Michelle Miller reports. (8/11/10 CBSNewsOnline)

1. According to the reporter, how has the “friendly skies” changed since 1995?

2. What are the charges against Steven Slater? And what is the possible punishment he might receive?

(Video)Tips For Saving On Spring Break

Many people will want to forget all the snow they got this winter by going away for Spring break. Kelli Grant, Senior Consumer Reporter for SmartMoney.com, offers some hot destinations with the best deals. (3/7/10 CBSNewsOnline)

1. Name the top 3 places recommended for cheap spring break vacationing.

2. What are the places recommended for the traditional spring break destination, the so called spring break hot spot?

Are You Ready to Be a Trucker?

Despite the weak economy and a national unemployment rate hovering just under 10 percent, trucking companies report a shortage of long-haul drivers — a problem federal labor officials and trucking officials say will grow worse over the next 10 years. (2/26/10 ABC News On Campus, Brandi Kruse) … Read Article

1. Don Walters and Laurie his wife are both cross-country truckers. Discuss the benefit that attracted them to the profession.

2. Discuss the consequence of the shortage of truck drivers for consumers.