Obama Administration Finds Its Record Growth

Just like jamming on the brakes is technically accelerating, the record negative numbers here technically represent growth:

The Obama administration expects a record budget deficit this year of more than $1.5 trillion, or 10.6 percent of GDP, according to projections the White House released in February. The U.S. deficit is a greater percentage of GDP than any other major industrialized nation except the U.K., where it is estimated to reach 11.4 percent, and Ireland, where it will be 12.2 percent, according to International Monetary Fund projections released in April.

We’re number -1!

(Link seen on Gateway Pundit.)

Book Report: Creative Tabletop Fountains by Marthe Le Van (2003)

Surely you have wondered if I’ve stopped reading books entirely. Well, not entirely, but for the last several weeks I’ve focused on watching some of the backlog of films I have lying around here. With every book fair and garage sale I visit, I seem to pick up a couple of videocassette at fifty cents per, so I’ve been building a bit of a video library. I’ve been working to clear that out, and none of the books I picked up after the A.A. fair twin pack have really caught on. Most of them are still sitting on the little table beside my reading station.

I still manage to flip through the occasional craft book, though. This particular book is another book of fountain designs (Tabletop Fountains is the other I’ve read recently).

Like the preceding, it features a lavish photograph of the fountain along with step-by-step instructions on that particular fountain. It’s best for looking at the pictures and seeing the materials, really, because the step-by-step instructions don’t offer a lot of useful illustrations and suffer from the usual lots-of-steps-with-one-number syndrome.

Still, a pretty book to look at. Someday, I shall make a fountain.

Books mentioned in this review:

Klavan on Gibson

Author Andrew Klavan has a thoughtful piece on Mel Gibson’s potty mouth that reflects on the nature of arts, artists, and wisdom. Also, he quotes Socrates.

Klavan does. Not Gibson. Although it’s interesting in imagining Gibson quoting Socrates: “You enclothe yourself like a perfumed porcine, and if you’re despoiled by a group of Sophists, your intellect will not have prevented such an ordeal.”

Lessons on City Government

An article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch proves a useful lesson in municipal civics. The article’s title: St. Louis drops fee for pools, rec centers.

Lede:

Kids can play in city pools and gyms for free again this summer, thanks to a last-minute shift of tax money set aside for crime prevention.

Lesson 1: All Taxes Are Slush Funds

Aldermen have been trying to spend the money — $1 million a year from the public safety sales tax proposition passed by city voters two years ago — but they haven’t been able to agree on how. In the meantime, the money has largely been siphoned off to backfill other programs.

Proposition S had passed with 55 percent of the vote in February 2008. The half-cent sales tax increase was projected to raise $18 million a year to hire more police officers and replenish police and firefighter retirement systems.

A total of $1 million annually was also promised to city aldermen, to be used on crime prevention projects.

The city’s voters passed a tax to hire policemen. The city no doubt pitched it that way. It did not pitch that the annual salary of 10 or more policemen would be given to the aldermen as slush. But that’s how it worked out, isn’t it? Plus, these targeted taxes are always put on the ballot for popular (at least, popular enough to pass–55% might not count as popular in your high school), and the remaining regular revenue goes to other projects, programs, and payouts that would not garner 51% of voter support. Targeted taxes allow the city “leaders” to avoid prioritizing programs and maybe even cutting some when they need funding elsewhere.

Lesson 2: The Government can do things less efficiently than the private sector.

Then this summer, aldermen learned that a new $10-per-month fee was keeping kids out of the city’s seven recreation centers. Nearly 900 residents signed up for summer programs in June last year, said Gary Bess, director of city Parks, Recreation and Forestry. This June, only 600 enrolled, a drop of about one-third.

So, Friday, the committee voted unanimously to send $500,000 from the crime prevention budget to the city’s rec centers, to offset the new fees for children 18 and under. Bess, the parks director, said it would probably be enough to end the discounted $5-per-month fee for seniors, too.

So the city is spending an additional $500,000 to drop the fees for students and seniors. This is in addition to the $2,000,000 annual budget for the PRF Recreations division ($2,099,046 to be exact).

You want swimming pools and rec centers? The YMCA is lousy with them.

For $907,000, you could buy 900 household memberships, which would allow two parents and all their dependents to go to any YMCA in the country. That’s a net increase in served users over the 900 individuals this article seems to talk about.

There are fewer YMCAs in the city limits, 6, than the number of 9 rec centers and the 2 park pools the solution would replace, but in the metropolitan area, the YMCA has a total of 18 branches and the membership cards are good at any Y in the country. These city folk could hop into the Pat Jones YMCA here in Springfield and pump iron right next to me, for crying out loud. Some straw critics and maybe even a few real ones would argue that city residents wouldn’t be able to go to their corner rec center or pool, but with only 9+2 in the city, for most residents, going to the pool or the rec center would be a destination where you pack up into the car or hit the bus for an outing anyway.

Lesson 3: They Haven’t Passed The Law of Diminishing Returns

Spending $500,000 to get 300 people to return to the pools and recreation centers is spending $1667 each out of that raw cash dip even before you factor in the loss of revenue from the 600 residents who were actually paying in.

Maybe this is a corollary of the first lesson, though: since it’s all slush and it all must be spent, why not spend it foolishly?

(Sources: St. Louis YMCA rates and benefits and branches, St. Louis Parks, Recreation and Forestry centers and pools, and City of St. Louis FY 2010 Annual Operating Plan.)

And those, my friends, are the lessons you can learn about how government should not operate from one single piece of “good news” in the newspaper.

I’d Want Proof

A child abductor who killed himself was apparently quite the one man crime wave:

Jeffrey “Smitty” Smith, 49, of Hawk Point, died of a single gunshot wound to the head. He was found outside his shop on July 3.

Residents of Hawk Point, in Lincoln County, had speculated for days about a link between the homicide and Paul Smith, who abducted 4-year-old Alisa Maier from her Louisiana, Mo., home earlier in the week. Paul Smith, who is not related to Jeffery, lived in a cabin in Hawk Point.

The Major Case Squad ended the speculation at a late afternoon press conference Friday, saying a search of Paul Smith’s home had uncovered a pistol and ammunition hidden in a black vinyl case under the porch. Ballistics tests showed the weapon was used to kill Jeffrey Smith, said Deputy Cmdr. Mark Schimweg of the Major Case Squad.

Detectives said the pistol used in the homicide was not the same one Paul Smith used to kill himself on Wednesday, after police confronted him about Alisa’s abduction. The caliber of the murder weapon was not released.

Lincoln County Prosecutor John Richards said the gun was stolen in a burglary in Pike County last month. He said his office has no information that would lead to charges against anyone else for the murder or the burglary.

Police believe Paul Smith, 38, may also have been responsible for dozens of burglaries in the Hawk Point and Bowling Green areas in recent weeks.

Maybe I read too many detective books, but I hope the cops have something more to go on than a gun found outside the man’s residence after he was already dead of a gunshot wound.

You know, I ought to get back to thinking I am going to write detective books. Because that would be a good way to dispose of a gun.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Can’t Spot The Difference. Can You?

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is wetting itself over another tax money sink, a trolley running through part of the Delmar loop:

Four decades after they died off like transportation dinosaurs, streetcars took a big step toward returning on Friday as details emerged of a plan for a trolley line from the Delmar Loop to Forest Park.

The $44 million St. Louis Loop Trolley Project, backed by $25 million in federal funding, will feature hybrid-electric trolleys running from the Loop to the Missouri History Museum.

Now I realize that the Loop is called the Loop because it used to be where the streetcars turned around, and I admit I haven’t been to the Loop in years (and the last time was for a job interview and not shopping or night life), but I do remember that Delmar was a two lane street with parking. I’m not entirely sure how they’re going to run a trolley right down the middle of it without…. oh, wait, they will kill the street parking. Which might kill some visits by people who drive cars to the Loop, i.e., people who have money to spend. Maybe the Loop will get a CID or a TDD to build a new parking garage.

However, in an effort to rah-rah trolleys, the St. Louis paper of declining revenue finds a thriving trolley system to trumpet:

When the call of the grape leads you to Missouri’s wine regions, having someone to drive for you is a vintage idea. The recent addition of a trolley service in Hermann makes this idea more convenient.

The Hermann Trolley Co. picks passengers up at the Amtrak station for the trains’ four daily stops and at all of the bed-and-breakfasts in the area. Then it makes stops at all of the area wineries. The company has two trolley cars running and plans to add a third by fall.

Can you, gentle reader, spot the difference between the two where the Post-Dispatch could not (or would not)?

One is a millions of dollars of tax money (and by tax money, I of course mean “money borrowed from the Chinese) boondoggle in the making that will ultimately be underutilized and require constant infusions of tax money (hey, you St. Louisians who loved the 2010 Metro Tax ballot issue: how eager are you for one in 2013, too? And 2015? And 2018?).

The other is a private enterprise targeted to a place where customers naturally would not want to drive (wineries).

Because small private enterprises thrive, the government should be able to do it bigger and better with more sunk costs and administrative waste.

Bonus kudos to the hard-hitting investigative reporters at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch who failed to uncover this important and relevant bit of information:

When is a bus a trolley?  When the Post-Dispatch is trying to convince you of how successful trolleys are.

The successful trolley in Hermann is not a trolley at all. It’s a bus.

(Cross-posted at 24th State.)

The Summer Concert Season Showing Signs of Strain

Not only is Lilith Fair canceling tour dates, but prices are greatly reduced at the Obama/Carnahan Show in Kansas City:

Obama is heading to MO and NV today to raise money for Sec/State Robin Carnahan (D), running for an open Senate seat, and Senate Maj. Leader Harry Reid.

But Carnahan’s campaign wasn’t able to completely sell out the Folly Theater, where Obama will appear for a grassroots event on Carnahan’s behalf, at the prices they wanted. Tickets once priced at $250 are now going for $99, while $35 tickets are half off.

Perhaps if they added another headliner to the event, like Sheryl Crow.

(Link seen on Hot Air.)

You Can Tell It By The Headline

Crowne Plaza wants to spruce up downtown garage

Because the word wants is in it instead of just the past tense Crowne Plaza spruces up downtown garage, you know Crowne Plaza wants something else.

STL 200 N. 4th LLC, the legal entity that owns the hotel, wants to establish a Transportation Development District to raise money for the garage project. The money would come from a 1-cent tax on retail sales on hotel property.

And you know who will get to vote on whether or not to spend tourists’ tax money on the Crowne Plaza? Why, the owners of the property in the district: The Crowne Plaza hotel, or the oddly named LLC that runs it.

So the hotel wants it, the hotel will get to vote on it, and the hotel will get it. In Missouri, private enterprises now have the right to levy and collect taxes.

Offering Fresh Perspective to “The Loo”

As a public service to those trendy kids, all 239 of them, in St. Louis who call the city “The Loo” (a British bit of slang for “the toilet”) and move to the city and its lofts to feel like they live in the Real City and who look down their retro-glasses adorned noses at people who don’t live life in the gritty Big City, particularly the people in the county who make up the bulk of the population in the St. Louis Metropolitan area, and who form coalitions and Web sites touting the development and resurgence of the city (a new crop of optimism every generation):

The city of Wichita, Kansas is larger than the city of St. Louis.

Carry on.

UPDATE:This just in: Evan has lost his job at the downtown coffeeshop that opened in a burst of fanfare two years ago but found that there aren’t actually customers downtown. Evan has moved back to Affton to live with his folks and look down at the other local yokels who could not make it in The Big City (even though he could not, either, and the city wasn’t that big). This brings the St. Louis Booster count to 238, which includes both actual city government employees who believe in the city line. Both are custodians at different facilities who grew up on the South Side.

The Plus Side of the 2011 Nonbudget

The Democrats in the House are not going to vote for and pass a budget for fiscal 2011:

Last night, as part of a procedural vote on the emergency war supplemental bill, House Democrats attached a document that “deemed as passed” a non-existent $1.12 trillion budget. The execution of the “deeming” document allows Democrats to start spending money for Fiscal Year 2011 without the pesky constraints of a budget.

On the plus side, if the Republicans take the gavel in 2011 and implement any sort of austerity programs, the Democrats absolutely cannot complain about the Republicans cutting the budget if there was no budget to cut.

Can Mr. Ratigan or Mr. Obama Have Alex?

Instapundit links to this bit about an MSNBC personality advocating the draft, again:

THEY TOLD ME IF I VOTED FOR JOHN MCCAIN, WE’D BE TALKING ABOUT RESTORING THE DRAFT. And they were right!

I’m reminded of this MoveOn ad denying John McCain’s use of Alex:

I wonder if MoveOn would be okay with Mr. Obama having Alex, but that’s idle speculation on my part. It’s two years later, after all. Even Alex’s mother might be looking to send her toddler in his terrible threes to military boarding preschool.

The left always wants to frighten young men and women with the fears of a draft, but I think this will lose efficacy as the draft recedes in living memory and the horrors of Vietnam fade.

A draft compelling young people to serve together would probably act against the left’s divide-and-rule strategy of segregating citizens into aggrieved interest groups. When all 25-year-olds have served in the military, they might have a better shared American experience and perspective. I don’t think that would serve the left very well at all.