Sunday, October 2, 2011

Bits and pieces….the weekend version

Sand gets in your eyes

As long as we’re in the frame of mind to discuss things getting in your eyes and obscuring your vision, we might as well dip into the rich mine of Ostrich imagery.

That moniker, as you well know, derives from the view that our ‘award winning’ local print media outlet frequently sticks its editorial head in the sand.  Consequently, they often end up with sand in their eyes, which makes it ever so difficult for them to see clearly.  Especially if they make things worse by rubbing their eyes.

We hope this explains a clearly misguided ‘view’ in their pages in recent weeks, because if it doesn’t, things are much worse on Industry Road than we thought.

Just about a month ago, they editorialized on safety in the vicinity of the new Harriet Beecher Stowe School.

“The beautiful new building represents a sound investment in this community’s future and an integral component of state, regional and local Brunswick Naval Air Station closure comeback strategies.”

We won’t touch upon the ‘comeback strategies’ concept now; that in itself is worthy of full staff attention beyond what we can offer at the moment.  Instead, since we drive by said school on a nearly daily basis, we fixated on the ‘beautiful new building’ phraseology.

We ask you: do you know anybody who has driven by the new school, and told you how “beautiful” it is? If you do, you have what we politely call an ‘unusual’ circle of acquaintances. or friends, if that be the case.

In case you do, The Ostrich would love to get their names and addresses, because they seem like perfect candidates to sign up for a prepaid subscription.

You might even negotiate a finder’s fee.  Which you could use to buy eyewash for your friends.

All politics is local, and so are double standards

Years ago, and we don’t remember where, we came across a commentary about congressional corruption.  It included a passage that read something to the effect that “all politicians are crooked sons-a-bitches, but Congressman Porkbelly is OUR son-of-a-bitch.”

It made the point quite clearly that most people think the problem is with everyone else’s congress-critters, while our very own such critter is different, because he/she focuses their corruption on our local best interests.

This is the very essence of pork-barrel politics, and is, if you think about it, the heart of the money-driven, special interest, big-government corruption and pandering that is about to bring the American experiment to an ignominious down-fall.

Here at Side, we have always been naive enough to believe we elect US Senators and Representatives to represent us in matters of national interest, such as defense, protection of our inalienable rights, and preservation of our Constitutionally based principles, especially the notion of limited government.  As opposed to doing their best to raid the local treasury to serve local interests, thereby ensuring that they maintain their protected status as OUR sons-a-bitches.

This places us squarely in a very small and dying minority.  Our membership there is clearly demonstrated by the news and dynamics associated with redevelopment of the Brunswick Naval Air Station.

How often have you read about the evils of ‘tax loopholes,’ ‘subsidies,’ and ‘corporate welfare’ in the pages of The Ostrich and other more prominent news outlets, or heard about them from pundits on the broader national stage?  Here in Brunswick, we’re blessed with more than our fair share of folks convinced that profit based enterprises in the private sector, particularly heartless corporations, are the very soul of inhumanity and social injustice. 

Even if millions and millions have built retirement nest-eggs by sharing in their success.  Including, we are sure, a goodly percentage of those whose wagon-wheels are the squeakiest.

Which makes recent reports all the more revealing of local duplicity.  Such duplicity, we would think, renders the oft-professed sanctimony null and void, unless you have a taste for hypocrisy in its most artful and local forms.

A bit of independent study will quickly reveal there are all sorts of tax incentives (‘loopholes’), subsidies (‘investments’), and grants (‘corporate welfare’) associated with base redevelopment.  These are ‘targeted’ towards those who shop around for the best deal they can get from taxpayers.  While Oxford Aviation seems to have faded from the local radar screen, they were the poster child for such shopping, including the use of F. Lee Bailey and John Richardson as sales agents for their efforts.

We refer here to recent reports of $1.7 million in federal funds approved to support redevelopment activity at what is now known as Brunswick Landing, but will always be the former base to us.  That sum includes $700,000 to directly benefit Kestrel Aircraft.

Even better, this ‘investment’ will ‘leverage’ equal funding from Maine taxpayers borrowed via bond issues.

But it’s ok, because all the sons-a-bitches associated with this economic ‘stimulus’ are OUR sons-a-bitches.  It’s those bastards in all the other states that are causing our problems.

We just can’t understand why the uninformed dolts in those other states don’t wake up and do something about it, so the rest of us don’t have to bear the burden of their irresponsible and self-centered local agendas.

In the midst of the “Great Recession,” local non-profit has a good year

You know what a ‘non-profit’ is, right?  We’re loaded with them here in Maine.  They qualify for special status that makes them exempt from just about every form of taxation that afflicts for-profit enterprises and the rest of us who pay the freight charges.

They include everything from hospitals to public advocacy groups to charities to Churches to government enterprises.  There’s even special non-taxable status that applies to the redevelopment of the former Naval Air Station.  The details are complicated, but suffice it to say whatever success is achieved there will do virtually nothing to mitigate local and state tax burdens.

‘Non-profit’ status also applies to educational institutions like Bowdoin College.  Words have meanings, the old saying goes, but that notion is a bit hard to swallow in light of recent reports.

We read in the local media that “Bowdoin College’s endowment is larger than ever before: just over $900 million.”

Turns out the endowment grew by more than 22% in the recent fiscal year.  Not bad; how did you do in your IRA’s and 401k’s?  We suspect Bowdoin has the inside advice of some real financial movers and shakers, given the successful hedge fund managers and other elites amongst its alumni base.  Still, these numbers are stunning.

The fund made $164 million on its investments during this period.  While the same article reports that Bowdoin’s investments had a losing year in the recent past, we recall not long ago reading that their endowment was less than $500 million.  So by any measure, they have done well. 

Very well, thank you, including growth attributable to new contributions.  On the flip side, of course, are debits caused by dipping into the fund to finance operations and other vital expenditures, like replacing one ice arena with another ice arena.  And embellishing their art museum with a $25 million renovation, which clearly improves the quality of instruction they provide to their art-deprived student body.

Either way, whether through the generosity of their donors, or their own investment strategy, Bowdoin has achieved results well beyond that of America’s best-known profiteering corporations.  We’re confident that gains made by Bowdoin avoided the taint of free-market participation; that would be so totally counter to the global justice and socially responsible principles they espouse.

It’s fun to give some scale to these numbers.  Bowdoin has about 1700 students as far as we know.  So their endowment fund has a value of about $530,000 per student.  Not bad; if they earned only 5% a year on these funds, well below their historic average, it would amount to roughly $27,000 per student.

We’re delighted that Bowdoin has been able to do so well in their investments, even though we’ve had starkly different results on our own.  Petty jealousy is undignified, so we won’t belabor that point.

And we know well that questioning or challenging the college’s role as local taxpayer is heresy of the worst sort.  Their moral superiority, as expressed in numerous ‘study concentrations’ of cultural enlightenment, more than compensates for any lack of financial load sharing with the local beneficiaries of their presence.

So what we are about to say should be considered off the record; the views of an inconsiderate, uninformed, and insensitive local gadfly.  With such a freeing confession, here we go.

  • Any enterprise that makes 22% plus on its investment assets in a single year should be ashamed to claim ‘non-profit’ status, if not prohibited from doing so.  Especially when those assets are in the range of several times their annual operating expenses.
  • Any such enterprise whose fair market appraised value would likely increase the total valuation of their home-town by 50% or more is not living up to their tacit obligation to share in the costs of the services from which they benefit.
  • Any such enterprise that is prone to poor-mouth its ability to participate financially in specific economic activities with their home town discredits and undermines their self-professed ‘responsible citizen’ status.

“Fair Share” anyone?  We can’t help but wonder what the aggregate income and net worth of all living Bowdoin alumni who meet the current administration’s guidelines for ‘wealthy’ would be.  And what their ‘fair share’ tax burden would amout to.  Has anyone heard George Mitchell step before a microphone and ask to be taxed more lately?

Charities and Churches are one thing.  Elite colleges awash in wealthy alumni, stunningly valuable real-estate and facilities, and huge stores of rapidly growing financial assets disgrace the very concept of non-profit status.

And even more, dishonor it.  And those that do are sons-a-bitches, and we shouldn’t put up with it. 

Lucky for us, Bowdoin College is OUR son of a bitch. So we shouldn’t really get our tassels in a knot.


Geez, I’m one long-winded SOB.  But at least I realize it.  When I started this post, I had intended it to be short and sweet, but it seems I’m incapable of such brevity.  The more I write, the more thoughts emerge, so the more I write, and well, you get the drift.

No wonder town councilors cringe when I show up at a meeting, and have a group case of the vapors if I approach the public podium with papers in hand.

Oh well; somebody’s got to hold the local blowhard extraordinaire office.  That is what they called me, wasn’t it?

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Welcome back, Pemster! Back with a vengeance! All good stuff here! Can't wait to see what's next. Any guesses as to what the TIF deal with George Schott will look like?