Taxing Drivers…Not Gasoline

Now here’s a new way to approach the funding of rebuilding our horribly corroding transportation infrastructure, tax the automobile driver, not the gasoline fuel used! The Chicago Tribune® ran an article this morning, Wednesday, June 29, 2016, which certainly focuses an ongoing economic issue facing the United States…its crumbling roadway infrastructure.

Executive Summary

  •  Charge fee for miles traveled
  • Mail out monthly invoices
  • Some people want mileage tax to be dependent upon pollution impact of vehicle being driven
  • State’s reliance on gas tax no longer a viable option
  • Federal gas tax has not been raised since 1993
  • Privacy issues raised by tracking automobiles in proposed manner
  • “gaming” the system will be an interesting challenge for cheaters
  • Why not use GPS technology?
  • Gee, how do we “divvy” up the tax revenue with interstate travel?
  • How much should the “per mile” charge be?

 

Here’s a link to the article: http://www.pressreader.com/usa/chicago-tribune/20160629/282067686244280

Here’s a nice website hosted by the ARTBA American Road and Transportation Builders Association:

http://www.artba.org/about/faq/

Their FAQ page answers a host of transportation-related questions from “who’s responsible for what” to “how are the tax revenues collected.

Here’s an article from the Huffington Post® that basically says highway tolls can get the job “done” as far as generating revenue to repair the roads: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/patrick-d-jones/highway-funding-made-simple_b_8900386.html

Lastly, here’s the website for the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/interstate/faq.cfm

A little history of the U.S. highway system:

The U.S. interstate highway system was created during the Eisenhower Administration. President Eisenhower wanted our National Defense to be strengthened by the ability of defensive equipment and troops to be able to move faster and more freely around the United States. Website: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/infrastructure/50interstate.cfm

Before the Interstate highway system the only “cross-country” highway in the U.S. was the “Lincoln Highway.” There is an official Lincoln Highway Association that tells the story of the highway and shows a map: https://www.lincolnhighwayassoc.org/

Here’s the official U.S. government website about the Lincoln Highway: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/infrastructure/lincoln.cfm

Another “fabled” highway is U.S. Route 66. It starts in downtown Chicago, Illinois, at Michigan Avenue and Jackson Blvd. and ends in Santa Monica, California. Here’s the website: http://www.historic66.com/

So here we are in the year 2016. More cars and trucks on American roads than ever before, and bigger and faster vehicles on the road than probably ever before.  Currently, a seeming “glut” of crude oil will make traveling by automobile very attractive to the consumer/traveler. As reflected in the history of U.S. highways above, technology and economics and defense have, in the past, played a part in the building of road infrastructure but what good is an infrastructure that is full of “pot holes,” crumbling bridges, unsafe overpasses, and outdated “financial funding” mechanisms which are intended to repair it????

One of my pet idioms is “you pay one way or you pay another.” So…how are we going to “pay” for new roads?

Author update July 3, 2016: Just read a news article “Women’s motorbike trek to mark sisters’ 1916 feat.” Here’s a website to commemorate the monumental feat. I can’t image two women crossing the U.S. on motorcycles in 1914, sistersmotorcycleride.com. They used the Lincoln Highway which I mentioned above in my blog. Women were spunky back then, but that’s the American spirit isn’t it!

 Drive

 

Looking ahead through a Rear-view Mirror

Rear_view_mirror_view_in_Mt._Rainier_National_Park,_driving_to_Longmire
courtesy of wikepedia media

Sometimes looking back helps us to look forward with a clearer vision. Fortune Magazine® just published their annual listing of the 500 highest revenue-producing public companies in the United States of America. Here’s their listing of the 10 highest revenue producing companies for the year 2016:

For the year 2016 Fortune 500’s top ranked companies are:

  1. Walmart $482,130 Retail
  2. Exxon Mobil $246,204 Oil
  3. Apple $233,715 Computers
  4. Berkshire Hathaway $210,821 Holding Company
  5. McKesson $181,241 Chemicals
  6. UnitedHealth Group $157,107 Healthcare
  7. CVS Health $153,290 Healthcare
  8. General Motors $152,356 Automobiles
  9. Ford Motor $149,558 Automobiles
  10. AT&T $146,801 Communications

http://fortune.com/fortune500/

The above 10 companies  consist of :

  • 2 automobile companies:   General Motors, Ford Motor
  • 2 healthcare companies: CVS Health, United Health Group
  • 1 oil company: Exxon Mobil
  • 1 retail company:  Wal-Mart
  • 1 computer company:  Apple
  • 1 chemical company:  McKesson
  • 1 communications company:  AT&T
  • 1 conglomerate “holding” company:  Berkshire Hathaway

In the year 1955, the top ranking Fortune 500 companies were:

  • 2 automobile manufacturers: General Motors, Chrysler
  • 3 oil companies:  Exxon, Mobil, Gulf Oil
  • 1 steel company:  U.S. Steel
  • 1 chemical company:  DuPont
  • 1 industrial manufacturer:  General Electric
  • 1 food processing conglomerate:  Esmark
  • 1 meat packing company:  Armour

Now, let’s gaze into the rear-view mirror and take a look at America’s manufacturing and industrial past.

This table includes the top ranking companies in the Fortune 500 for every decade from 1955 to 2016.  In the year 1955, there were automobile, oil, and food manufacturers on Fortune’s 10 highest ranking list. In the year 2016, oil companies are almost “non-existent” and healthcare has overtaken manufacturing industries, retail is “big” business, and a “holding” company, Berkshire Hathaway, makes the list.

1955 1965 1975 1985 1995 2005 2016
AIG [1] x
Altria x
Amoco x
Apple Computer x
Armour x
AT&T x x x
Berkshire Hathaway x
Chevron x x
Chrysler x
Chrysler x
Citigroup x
ConocoPhillips x
CVS Health x
DuPont x x
Esmark x
Exxon x x x x x x x
Ford Motor x x x x x x
General Electric x x x x x x
General Motors x x x x x x x
Gulf Oil x x x
IBM[2] x x x x x
ITT[3] x
McKesson x
Mobil [4] x x x x x
Sears[5] x
Texaco x x x
U.S. Steel x x
United Health Group x
Wal-Mart x x x
  1. [1] American International Group
  2. [2] International Business Machines
  3. [3] ITT Industries
  4. [4] ExxonMobil did not exist until a merger of the separate oil companies Exxon and Mobil until 1999 but the Fortune listings show the combined name for all the listings years that I’m using.
  5. [5] Sears, Roebuck & Company

 

I recently posted an article referencing industries that are “thriving” or “dying” in the U.S. Here’s the link: Signs of the Times #8: Thriving or Dying: Which type of industry do you work in?

The 1965 Fortune 500 illustrates “blue collar” America. The three automobile companies in the top l0, GM, Ford, and Chrysler, were at the “top of the heap,” the importing of VWs (Volkswagon) and Toyotas was just beginning to steal sales from them.

There were four oil companies. These were mostly blue collar jobs, high paying blue collar jobs. This was before the 1970’s price fixing and the 1970’s OPEC oil embargo and escalation of crude oil prices in the world market place.

General Electric was a manufacturing behemoth, it is now (in the years since the Great Recession of 2008) shedding its “financial” aura and returning to its manufacturing roots.

IBM (International Business Machines) was called “big blue”. There was a saying in the Corporate world, “you would never lose your job by purchasing Big Blue” (IBM equipment).

Enter: The Internet

The Internet really changed everything around the year 1993. I have chosen that year because that’s the year that the “graphical” Internet was “born.” The graphic browser Netscape was introduced to the “masses” and we have never looked back. I was fortunate to meet Mark Andresen here in Chicago at a presentation of Netscape to local educators, business people and computer aficionados. Netscape was developed at the University of Illinois.

Thousands of jobs today are a result of the Internet. Thousands of jobs historically performed in business settings by humans sitting in an office, are now “remotely” performed by humans or computers over the Internet. Outsourced or independent contractor-type jobs are now performed more and more over the Internet. As if the “Great Recession” did not screw up the world’s economies enough over the past 10 years or more, now, ironically, the British vote to exit the European Union will probably cause untold ripples throughout the world’s economies.

So, looking ahead using a rear view mirror, in particular I see many challenges for anyone looking for a job. Nimbleness does not even begin to describe what the U.S. worker must possess to find as well as retain a “good” job.

Here’s my “way-out” predictions of the top 10 companies in the Fortune 500’s listing 10 years from now:

  • FaceBook
  • Tesla
  • Apple
  • Amazon
  • GE
  • General Dynamics or Lockheed Martin or other defense manufacturer
  • Disney
  • PayPal
  • Senior housing
  • One or more water companies

 

What are your predictions for companies on the Fortune 500 top 10 listing? Your guesses are as good as mine!

 

Brexit for Breakfast on June 24, 2016

cracked-eggshell-patterned-european-british-fla-two-halves-one-flag-community-other-one-70137316
Photo courtesy of Dreamstime.com

There is now and will continue to be a “ton” of information and data about Great Britain’s vote to leave the European Union (EU) posted to the Internet. I thought that I would sort out “a bit” of the available information so we can see what just “happened” and “how” it affects the World’s economies.

What just happened?

Great Britain voted to leave the EU. Great Britain consists of England, Scotland, and Wales. Northern Ireland also fits into the picture; a good explanation of Great Britain vs. United Kingdom is given at this website: http://resources.woodlands-junior.kent.sch.uk/customs/questions/britain/britain.htm

The New York Times® has an excellent web page spelling out the ‘Brexit” situation:

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/world/europe/britain-european-union-brexit.html?_r=0

Why did it happen?

Many citizens of Great Britain were not happy with the “rules” that membership in the EU “forced” upon them. Citizens of Great Britain just did not want “another entity” telling them how to run their country.

The BBC (British Broadcasting Company) has a webpage regarding the ‘Brexit”: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-32810887

Here’s a short video explanation of reasons for the “Brexit” voting:

http://www.cnn.com/videos/world/2016/06/24/brexit-how-did-it-happen.cnn/video/playlists/intl-brexit/

How does the “Exit” actually happen and take place?

For the UK to leave the EU it has to invoke an agreement called Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

What is the European Union (EU)?

Here’s a nice explanation from the Telegraph®:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/20/what-is-the-eu-why-was-it-created-and-when-was-it-formed1/

How does the Brexit affect the U.S. economy?

CNN lists several of the repercussions to the U.S.:

http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/24/politics/brexit-what-this-means-us/index.html

Does the United States belong to the European Union?

No, it does not. But, the U.S. trades with members of the EU.

Should “I” care about the ‘Brexit” vote to leave the EU? Well, it will not affect my everyday life for now, the near future. The interesting thing about “events” like a ‘Brexit”, it takes a long time, sometimes a really long time for the consequences, repercussions, actions and reactions to take place, be enacted, responded to, etc. In past blog postings I have commented upon consequences and unintended consequences, here are a couple of examples:

Signs of the Times #6: Peripheral Stuff

Free trade agreements, cheap stuff, and American jobs

I guess the United States should think long and hard about our Presidential election coming up in November, 2016. It appears that the “Leave” vote surpassed the “Stay” vote by a VERY slim margin: a difference of one million votes or so. The “silent majority” in Great Britain stayed at home thinking that the MAJORITY was with them so why bother voting! We have such a contentious Presidential election looming before us, the “Brexit” voting outcome should be a canary in the mineshaft to us. We must look deep within ourselves spiritually, mentally, emotionally, financially, economically and vote for the person who will have OUR national interests and welfare at the center of his or her conscious.

As “they” say, “let the games begin.” The problem with “games” is that there has to be a “winner” and a “loser.”

Unstoppable

Water

river water
Photo courtesy of unsplash.com

Water (period). In one word so goes the world. Lack of it means famine and thirst. Flooding means destruction. Pollution means death. Clean means life. Plenty means “economy” and “lack of” means war (possibly).

I happen to live in the vicinity of Lake Michigan. We receive our drinking water from Lake Michigan. The whole issue of “economics” is nothing without water. Here’s an article from The Atlantic  which discusses access to the Great Lakes water supply. Not only are several states within the United States concerned with policing use of the Great Lakes but the issue crosses International borders and includes the country of Canada, and specifically two provinces, Ontario and Quebec.

To quote the article’s author, “Water has become the 21st-century equivalent of oil…” and this is serious stuff because the Great Lakes are the “largest source of surface fresh water in the world.” I never knew that until now. Exactly what does that mean? Here’s a Wikipedia® article which can be used as one reference to exploring that question: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Lakes

One fascinating fact from the Atlantic article is that  in the 1990s  an enterprising business man in Canada wanted to sell Great Lakes water to customers in Asia by shipping the water over there in tankers. Fortunately, that scheme never happened!

Maybe I should have entitled this blog article Ownership instead of Water.  After all, haven’t the Chinese recently “claimed” part of the South China Sea as their “property?”  Here’s an article about that conflict: http://www.cfr.org/global/global-conflict-tracker/p32137#!/conflict/territorial-disputes-in-the-south-china-sea

The New York Times ®  has written an article about the “reclaimed land” situation in the South China Sea:  http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/07/30/world/asia/what-china-has-been-building-in-the-south-china-sea.html?_r=1

Actually I can bring this whole “who owns the water” and “reclaiming land” situation down to a very local and perhaps a bit humorous period in Chicago’s history. You see, we had a gentleman called “Cap Streeter” claim an island right in the downtown area of Chicago back in 1886. Here’s a little history about it: http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/1208.html. “Cap” Streeter is not the country of China, and the South China Sea is not Lake Michigan but ironically the issues are the same: ownership (if appropriate), access, legality and perhaps even ethics.

Now, I’m not trying to “make light” about an extremely serious subject and natural resource, water, which we abuse daily through waste, pollution and bad water management. But, looking at the subject of economics in general, there is no economy without natural resources such as water is there?
—————————————–
Water
Plop

Four Tips From Seasoned Bloggers

Just found this advice. Since taking the Blogging Branding course, this is also great information.

The WordPress.com Blog

Some of the best blogging advice we hear is from you. On Discover, we publish interviews and profiles of bloggers around the world, who also impart their own tips on how they’ve gotten the most out of WordPress.com. If you’ve missed these interviews, not to worry — we’ve compiled some of the best bits of blogging wisdom here.

Join communities that sustain your interests.

When you start to click around, follow blogs, and fill your Reader with posts to read, you’ll discover that WordPress.com is full of many smaller communities. For example, some participate in black and white photo challenges led by blogger Cee, while others join our multimedia Discover Challenges, hosted every Tuesday.

discover challenges

Novelist Claire Fuller credits two communities on WordPress.com for supporting and influencing her: Friday Fictioneers, a group of bloggers that writes a weekly 100-word story inspired by a photograph (hosted on the blog of Rochelle Wisoff-Fields), and The Prime Writers, a…

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Sketch of U.S. Economy in 2016

Here’s a short summary of what the U.S. economy “looks like”.  This slideshow was created by Heather Long for CNN® Money.

CNN Money slideshow

Generating “numbers” can be a very tricky business. Generating “accurate” numbers is in the “eye of the beholder” when it comes to who did the generating and what existing or relevant data was accumulated to do the calculating of the “final” number(s).

In previous postings, I have “talked a little” about many of the “numbers” that Ms. Long highlights.

Following are the links to my postings with reference to Ms. Long’s slideshow.

Slide #1: Unemployment Rate

The formulas, algorithms, data used to calculate unemployment  are many, here’s a link to the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics web site.

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Slide #2:  Is the economy growing or contracting

The Beige Book

Beginning or End of Economic Cycle

Slide #3: Employment / Hiring rate / jobs creation

Minimum Wage

Slide #4: Is personal income increasing or decreasing

Inflation or Deflation?

Slide #5: Types of jobs available or being created

Jobs and jobs training

Changing of Jobs Environment

Search for Long-term Solutions

Slide #6: Gas prices

Producer Price Index

Slide #7: Debt to GDP ratio

Gross Domestic Product

U.S. Debt Limit

U.S. Debt vs. U.S. Deficit

Slide #8: Average price of U.S. home

Links to Real Estate Information

Slide #9: 30-year mortgage rate

How are Interest Rates Determined?

Slide #10:  Are American wages growing?

Talking about Minimum Wage

Joke

Ode to Newsprint

Ink on my finger tips
Paper in my hands
Words passing before my eyes
Stories playing with my mind

Something to hold
Something to buy
Something to wait for
Something for the dog to retrieve

Put the garbage in…
Or put in the recycle bin
Have delivered to your door
Have delivery stopped for vacation

Enjoy by the fireplace
Enjoy at the breakfast table
Share with the family
Share with a friend

Find a job
Find a “passing”
Find a laugh
Find a reason to cry

Discover a vacation idea
Discover an interesting sport
Discover a good recipe
Discover a new “side” of yourself

The Chicago Tribune in “newsprint” is fading. We still get it delivered. And, I mean paper thrown on the front lawn each morning. Thanks to the Internet and cell phones, virtual delivery is faster and perhaps more expedient. Virtual delivery won’t replace THE Chicago Trib. The Sunday Trib at one time probably weighted, sometimes, a couple of pounds! This was during the Christmas holiday season. It contained tons and tons of ads.  But we can’t blame it all on “the Net” or technology. As I’ve written before in other blogs, progress causes unintended consequence sometimes. Unfortunately, certain investors burdened Tribune Company® with a ton of debt and that has not worked out very well for the company, its stock, or its employees.

The Tribune Tower on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago is being re-purposed  into condos.  A question I have is, “Can a newspaper be re-purposed?” Guess it is in transition right now. First the type was digitized in the early 1970s; newspaper creation progressed from “hot” type to “cold” type. No longer was “copy” sent to a human typesetter, the reporter used a computer screen, typed in the story electronically, and although mechanical printing presses are used to produce the final product, newspaper publishing is changed. I’m not going to say “forever”, nothing is “forever.” Forever is a man-made concept.

What has prompted this diatribe?  OK, blame it on nostalgia. But even the name of the company is being changed! Actually The Tribune Company was split into two different companies, one containing all of the legacy newspaper holdings (like the Chicago Tribune® and the Los Angeles Times®), this company is now called Tribune Publishing Company® but is being renamed tronc®. Oh, and I did not forget to capitalize the “T”, the new name is written in all lower-case.

The legacy Tribune Company was founded in 1847, Eighteen Forty-seven. This is (was)  a Chicago-area based institution with a legendary past. I recently blogged about another Illinois company, Haeger Pottery,  which is going out of business, read about it here: Free trade agreements, cheap stuff and American jobs,  Haeger Pottery opened for  business in 1871.

Unlike Haeger Pottery, Tribune Publishing Company, or I guess I should say, tronc is still “around.” So I’ll watch for my morning paper, wrapped in a plastic bag so it doesn’t get wet from dew, rain or snow. I’ll read it at breakfast or as I’m cozied up on the couch. There’s no dog to retrieve it but sometimes another human will in my place.

I just can’t image reading The Trib in bed using a cell phone, iPad, or whatever. I just can’t…

Muse