The Editorial leftist Folio Weekly Was Too Afraid to Publish

Corporate Welfare Queens Bankroll Opposition to Amendment 4
The opposition to Amendment 4 is using taxpayer money to try and stop you from having a voice in the future of where you live, work and play: our neighborhoods and towns. They are trying to silence your voice about the future of Florida’s growth and development. Home builders and their vassals are principally responsible for bankrolling millions of dollars in opposition to Amendment 4. The only argument they have is fear because no one (not even the home builders) has the political courage to defend the morally corrupt and intellectually bankrupt growth management process in the State of Florida over the last 30+ years. And the home builders are trying to scare you using your own money.

Do you want to talk about the audacity of audacity? Let’s follow the money.
At the beginning of this year, the Democratic Congress passed and President Obama signed into law an extension of unemployment benefits compensation. So far, so good: right? But the special interests in Washington DC successfully lobbied to insert something more into the bill: a tax loophole for the home building industry. The national home builders were able to claim losses over the last 2 years against federal taxes on their corporate profits during the previous 5 years. Basically, this means the federal government is using deficit spending (by borrowing mainly from China, Japan and the United Kingdom) to refund corporate taxes on national home builders’ profits during the boom years to compensate for their losses during the Great Recession. Of course, it will be left to this generation and future generations of unborn Americans to pay this debt.

Let’s be clear. This is a “backdoor” government bailout: nothing more, nothing less.
But wait, there’s more. After receiving their bailout, the national home builders report the tax refund as profit to Wall Street, thereby maintaining the value of their shares. Most home builder shares lost more than 80% of their value during the financial crisis, broadly dropping from $35-45 a share to around $10 or less a share. Even with this backdoor government bailout, home builder share prices had only remained stable more or less near their historic lows. So, not only is the federal government propping up the obsolete business models of the home building industry that planted the seeds of this Great Recession in the first place (especially in Florida, California and Nevada) and not only is it also the means to artificially inflate home builder share value on stock market to create another “bubble” but it isn’t even working all that well. To any common sense American, this is a waste of money on an almost unimaginable scale.

Oh, and the unemployed? At the same time the home builders are receiving billions of dollars in backdoor government bailouts, the federal government taxes as income the unemployment compensation payments for the unemployed. This is the anti-Robin Hood economics of the perverse. Steal from the future earnings of the poor to bailout the rich today. It is a house of cards waiting to fall all over again. And, once again, it will be left to the taxpayers to cover the bills.

In the early 90s, Welfare Reform was a major legislative achievement of President Clinton and Newt Gingrich’s Republican Congress. It rolled back one of the worst abuses of Johnson’s Great Society programs by getting people off the welfare rolls and back into the workplace. At its core was the idea there is dignity in being able to work and stand on your own without government assistance. Now, we have the new phenomenon of the Corporate Welfare Queens. The banks, auto industry and, now, the home builders are just some who have been caught red-handed sucking at the teat of the federal government. How are these Corporate Welfare Queens any different from the welfare queens President Reagan used to describe as both an abuser and victim of the system? Well, for one thing, we are talking about corporations that are too stubborn, too beholden to their quarterly profit reports to Wall Street, who possess obsolete business models they are too cowardly or dense to change in order to address the new economic realities. They would rather stick their fingers in their ears and hum really loud (and insert their heads with the fingers plugging their ears into the sand, for good measure) rather than adapt their business models and methods. Corporations like this should be allowed to perish in a capitalist society. The innovators will survive and thrive. The dinosaurs will finally become extinct, as they should. Instead, the federal government is using corporate welfare to pervert the marketplace and these obsolete industries are as happy as pigs at the trough. Today, what we clearly need is Corporate Welfare Reform.

So what does this have to do with Amendment 4? The home building industry has bankrolled 40% of the funds raised to oppose Amendment 4. The rest of the funds raised to oppose Amendment 4 largely come from businesses/organizations providing support services – and receiving income – from the home builders. Amendment 4 is a ballot initiative designed to give voters a say on major changes to their community’s future land use map; specifically, how our neighborhoods and towns in Florida will grow in the future. They want to deny you a voice in your future.

Many voters are old enough to remember the Watergate adage, “follow the money.” If you do, it’s easy to see they are using your money to tell you to shut up. But this is our Florida. They may have more money (even if a part of it was stolen from you) but there are more of us. Nothing can stop the power of The People when they decide to act (see the Revolutionary War against King George and the British Empire for a relevant example). Let your voices be heard loud and clear this November 2nd. Vote YES on Amendment 4.

Tea, anyone?

Mark David Major, AICP is a certified planner of the American Institute of Certified Planners, a former planner for a national home builder and former Chair of the First Coast Section, Florida Chapter of the American Planning Association from 2005-2008.

This editorial was originally written October 26, 2010 and submitted to Folio Weekly for their back page editorial. It was never published and Amendment 4 was defeated by 67% of the vote in the November 2010 election. The scare tactics employed by the home builders, government officials, and real estate and planning professionals to defeat Amendment 4 was instrumental in driving up vote turnout and electing the current unpopular Republican Governor of Florida, Rick Scott. Today, the Florida real estate market remains vastly overbuilt with inventory on life-support. You reap what you sow. Don’t believe the bizarre rants and maniacal claims of real estate agents about a “hot” real estate market. They are lying to you.

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20 Theses for Political Reformation

WHO BROKE THE COUNTRY?
by Dr. Mark David Major, AICP, CNU-A

“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” – Thomas Jefferson

1.         The Left and the Right Define the Box Within We Are Trapped!
We must break out of the tyranny defined by the ideologies of left and right in our country to chart a new course for our People, communities and country for the next 250 years. We must do this whilst recognizing our leadership role in the world and reinvigorating the Jeffersonian ideals on which our country was founded.

“Experience hath (shown), that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.” – Thomas Jefferson

“Americans are so enamored of equality that they would rather be equal in slavery than unequal in freedom.” – Alexis de Tocqueville

2.         Constitutional reform now!
Convene a constitutional convention: we must dare to re-imagine the republican foundations of our Federal and State governments and the relationship between the national and local interests of the People whilst always protecting the Bill of Rights (including the 2nd Amendment). States should follow the lead of the Federal government in re-imagining our governments from top-to-bottom.

3.         Cherish the statesman. Forsake the political animal!
Two (2) representatives from each state/commonwealth in the union shall comprise the constitutional convention membership. Governors should appoint the ‘best and the brightest’ using their conscience, not their interest. Party affiliation is irrelevant. Ideology is irrelevant. Race, sex and creed are irrelevant.

“The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.” – Alexis de Tocqueville

4.         A Republic, not a Democracy!
Halve the size of our political leadership in Federal and State government: one (1) senator from each state means fifty (50) senators; one (1) representative per 150,000 People means two hundred seventeen (217) congressional representatives. Representation in State governments should be similarly downsized, where appropriate.

5.         End 365/24/7 Political Campaigns!
Extend the terms of elected representatives: four (4) year terms for representatives (four term limits); eight (8) year term for senators (two term limits); and, six (6) year term for the president/governors (two term limits). This will alleviate the need for constant campaigning/fundraising and allow our representatives to lead rather than follow.

6.         End Gerrymandering
Representative districts should be convex in shape, defined by clear geographical and physical boundaries (natural and man-made) rather than gerrymandered to incorporate specific demographic populations to give advantage to one party over another at election time. There is nothing wrong with a diverse electorate and our leaders will be better for representing multiple points of view.

 7.         Referendum Prohibition
Establish an explicit constitutional prohibition against political referendum at the Federal and State level. Popular vote referendums lead to governmental anarchy and paralysis. California has been destroyed by the democracy of referendums, and Florida and other states are foolishly following close behind on this well-traveled path to destruction.

“Democracy leads to anarchy, which is mob rule.” – Plato

“A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the People may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.” – Thomas Jefferson

8.         Prune the Overgrown Branches of Federalism!
Eliminate and/or consolidate the expansion of Executive Power. This means de-evolving ‘health and human’ services closer to the People served at the State level (education, housing, health) and the Federal government focusing on its core responsibilities to the People: war and peace, law and order, national defense and international commerce and relations.

“I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the People under the pretense of taking care of them.” – Thomas Jefferson

9.         Half the Size of the Federal Government!
Eliminate and/or consolidate more than 1,000 Federal agencies, many of them obsolete or redundant. Merge agencies with overlapping missions, de-evolve others to the State level, and eradicate those that are obsolete or irrelevant.

“My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.” – Thomas Jefferson

10.       Not Isolationism but Consolidate-ism!
Consolidate our forward assets/presence abroad by realigning to a core mission serving our strategic interests rather than the expansive application of military and economic power in all geographical spheres of the world. Reduce our military footprint in Europe (defend yourselves!). The Monroe Doctrine should take precedent: protecting and strengthening our sphere of influence and partnerships in the Americas.

11.       Rationalize the Disposition of Our Military
Re-deploy our military bases (at home and aboard) to better serve our strategic interests rather than to serve the political and economy interests of a specific community or politicians.

12.       Expand National Service
Require a minimum three (3) year period of service for all citizens between the ages of 18-21 in the US military, or alternatively in the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps. No exceptions.

13.       Trust Bust “Too Big to Fail” Corporations
Corporations that are “too big to fail” are 21st century representations of anti-trust monopolies. These corporations should be regulated and, where necessary, broken apart in order to facilitate market competition. No private business should be eligible for a government protection ever. Innovate and compete or perish! Government protection perverts market dynamics.

14.       Reform the Market
Ban quarterly reporting of return on profits, institute annual reporting within the context of 5-10 year business plan models. Short-term, tunnel vision obsession with profit (otherwise known as greed) perverts our markets. Regulate predatory lending and usury exploitation of consumers by banks. Further reform of bankruptcy laws to protect consumers (see #16 below regarding expanding credit).

15.       State-by-State Universal Health Care
Establish a single payer, public health insurance program in each state (or regional plans amalgamating states for less populous regions of the union) and allow for cross-border competition of these public insurance plans. Adopt tort-reform to limit awards for malpractice lawsuits. Allow public-private partnerships (“pubvates”) between states and private insurance companies to meet the need for health care insurance.

16.       Reform Social Security
Instigate social security reform to allow: 1) investment by Social Security Trust in low-interest yielding government bonds to facilitate expanded investment in our infrastructure; and, 2) private accounts (maximum: 50% of personal contributions) for citizens to invest in market at their own discretion (within certain limits to avoid excessive risk-taking). Allow personal contributions above minimums prescribed by law. Increased availability of monies in the market will provide a safety net for credit markets without perverting market dynamics. Increase the retirement age to more accurate reflect average lifespans in today’s world.

17.       Decriminalize Human Vice
Constitutionally decriminalize, regulate and tax human vices such as gambling, narcotics and prostitution. Instead of spending billions of dollars to fight human nature in mock ‘wars’, allow individual choice on vice and generate billions to regulate and monitor such vices. Reserve the power to regulate, monitor and collect taxes for the states (a Federal top-off of the tax rate should be allowed). Lower the minimum drinking age to 18 years old (if you can vote, you can drink).

18.       Cherish Innocent Life!
Adopt constitutional ban on abortion except for cases of protecting the life of the mother. Instigate adoption reform so it takes a maximum of twelve (12) month to adopt a child in this country. Allow single parent and homosexual partners to adopt abandoned children. Adopt more stringent guidelines for the application of the death penalty. The death penalty should be reserved for the “monsters of our nightmares”.

“Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.” – Alexis de Tocqueville

19.       Constitutional Reserve of Powers
Further clarify the application of Federal power between the three co-equal branches of governments: legislative branch legislates; executive branch implements; and, judicial interprets. Limit some expansions of executive power (presidential decrees), limit legislative usurping of executive powers, and retard legislative branch forfeiting of power to the judicial branch.

20.       Reform Libel Laws
Freedom of speech must be maintained but injured parties must have recourse to seek relief from the legal system for perversion of the truth, especially by those in the media. Freedom of speech is irrelevant when the truth has been destroyed.

“Educate and inform the whole mass of the People… They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.” – Thomas Jefferson

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This article was originally posted on the Metro Jacksonville online magazine discussion forum on January 20, 2010. It generated 0 comments, arguments, or discussion. I can only assume it was because either: 1) it was thought to be basic common sense; 2) so radical as to not warrant additional comment; or, 3) everyone just wants to argue and no one is really interested in solutions. I’m not sure. You decide. Mark David Major

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Violators Will Be Executed

The entry warning sign at Queen’s Harbor in Jacksonville, Florida reads, “No walking, bikes or motorcycles.”

NOTE: Unfortunately, the original photograph appears to have gone missing.

So let me get this straight. I paid in excess of seven figures for my McMansion in the gated community of Queen’s Harbor – located in Jacksonville, Florida off Atlantic Boulevard and the Intracoastal Waterway – and I’m not even allowed to walk or ride my hog to the house, much less have a barbecue on football Saturday (only joking about the last part but make sure the gates don’t hit your SUV’s ass on the way into your suburban prison). How exactly do they enforce these rules? Certainly, the labyrinthine layout and lack of sidewalks deters anyone from ever walking in this suburban nightmare. But what would they actually do if anyone dared to break the social taboo (and HOA docs) and violate these rules? Ostracization? Excommunication? Banishment? Or would the punishment be more severe; like being forced to mow everyone’s over-sized lawns for a month?

From Number Six

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The American Pyramids

Driving down I-95 along the Atlantic Coast to CNU 20 in West Palm Beach last month, there was nothing so jarring as coming upon these landfill mountains in the flat Floridian landscape. It’s one thing to come across these artificial hills of filth in the river bluffs along the Mississippi River or other Midwestern rivers, where the hilly topography affords some aesthetic opportunity for these behemoths to blend into the natural landscape (putting aside the issues of any potential environmental impact arising from a mountain of buried garbage). It’s another thing to find them in a landscape no more than a few feet above sea level. These are the American Pyramids, a testament to our culture of mass consumption. The Egyptians built their pyramids as tombs for the pharaohs and monuments to the gods. In America, we build our pyramids as tombs for our refuse; monuments to what we consume and mostly defecate.

Photographs by Mark David Major.

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Waiting for Gravity to Pile On

If ever there was an appropriate metaphor for today’s American society, then this is it. Instead of taking action to cut down the perilously hanging tree limb in this grocery store parking lot, someone thought a more effective measure would be to place shopping carts in a circle around the probable landing zone with cautionary tape wrapped about the carts and wait for gravity to do all the work. This is how we solve problems in today’s America. We wait for gravity to pile on instead of taking action to solve the problem. It’s an insane world!

From Concrete Blonde

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Blogging about architecture, urbanism, and culture…

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