MADOFF

Will someone please put this creep in jail? He’s violated bail, which should now be set at $50 billion.

THE $300 BILLION TAX CUT

Apparently, this had to be done to get likely Senate approval. But as noted last week, consumers will most likely use their $500 and $1,000 cuts to pay down debt or build up savings – as they should. And if they do use it to buy another imported flat screen TV or take a vacation, what would they or we really have to show for it in 10 years?

No, the resources we throw at our problems should go mainly to putting people to work doing things that need doing, like retro-greening our residential and commercial building stock; digitizing our medical records; modernizing our schools; rebuilding our roads and bridges; deploying windmills; constructing a modern electric grid; dredging our waterways.

Not to say the President-elect should go back on his tax-cut pledge – or that it can be this easy and neat. Not every laid-off store clerk and starving real estate agent can be effectively or swiftly employed building windmills. But this is the overall theme.

Tax cuts are not a good answer because in our current circumstances they are not really tax cuts at all, they are tax shifts – onto our future selves and our children.

MUD

So how many infrastructure billions will go to dredging, if any? I have no clue. But a fellow GLDD shareholder makes this case:

Hopefully, a meaningful allocation of these funds will go to projects focused on our waterways. Despite the fact that ports, harbors and inland waterways are very much the backbone of our economy – almost all our imports and exports move by ship – our ports are woefully outdated. In fact, forgetting new projects, The Army Corps of Engineers has a backlog of $35 billion in maintenance projects.

Many of the projects in The Corps’ backlog are ‘shovel-ready.’ And because The Jones Act mandates that any work such as dredging, shoreline reclamation, and port construction that is done on a US harbor or inland waterway must be done using vessels that were built in the US, are sailed and operated by US citizens, and owned by US companies, funding for ports and waterways should have broad political support since virtually 100% of any amounts spent would benefit US citizens. The Corps estimates that spending as little as $5 billion of the stimulus package on these programs would create approximately 139,000 jobs and boost US economic prosperity both in the short-term and long-term.

SILT

And speaking of dredging, did you know that – per the February 1863 issue of Harper’s (I’m a little behind), the Mississippi basin ‘is the second great valley of the world, being exceeded only by that of the Amazon’ and that – per Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi, whence that Harper’s reference comes – ‘the river annually empties four hundred and six million tons of mud into the Gulf of Mexico.’

I could tell you lots more about the Mississippi, at least as Twain knew it 130 years ago, but I am steaming toward a different point.

I have been reading Life on the Mississippi – aloud, to Charles – having already finished Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. And it is that latter tale of Mississippi raft riding that I commend to you to read, perhaps aloud to a friend, between now and January 20.

It’s a wonderful book by any measure; but reading this 1884 portrait of mid-1830’s America, now, as we are about to Inaugurate Barack Obama President of the United States of America . . . well, it’s just hard not to nod one’s head up and down imperceptibly and say . . . wow.

 

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