Monday, November 14, 2005

November 14, 2005 Excessive Profits

Consider This for November 14, 2005—Excessive Profits

Last week the United States Senate held hearings on the excessive profits made by the oil companies in the last quarter. While we were all paying over $3.00 a gallon for gasoline, the oil companies had the best profits ever recorded. The Senate is trying to make sense of all this.

The oil companies claim that their profit is only seven cents on the dollar. Seven percent profit on their investment. Sounds reasonable.

My question is, Does it look reasonable when the dial on the gas pump starts to register close to $100 for a tank of gas for my wife’s van?

Last Tuesday I bought regular unleaded at the Loaf and Jug in Golden for $2.25 a gallon. Driving into Frisco an hour later, the signs at the gas stations announced that their price was $2.75 a gallon. Looks like about a 25 percent a gallon difference between Golden and Frisco.

A tad more than seven cents on a dollar, and that is just the price differential between stations. It was not the actual profit in the gallon of gas that we all buy.

Sounds like excessive profits to me. Maybe not to the head of the oil company who was testifying before the Senate, but it does to the consumer at the pump.

So where is the disconnect? Why can’t you and I get a straight answer to the obvious question?

As I have mentioned before, for some of us it is merely a matter of shifting our resources, and life goes on albeit more expensively.

For others it is not quite so simple. People who are making minimum wage or on a fixed income do not have the luxury of merely doing some cost shifting. It might be a matter of buying groceries or gas.

I hear the same tale of woe all the time about the cost of prescription drugs.

I take a daily dose of Lipitor to control my cholesterol level. Under my former health benefit plan I was paying about $30 a month, about $1 a pill. Recently I bought my refill, and it came to over $100 a month or $3.33 a pill. That is a 300 percent increase in the cost of my drugs.

Did my salary increase by 300 percent? Hardly. In fact, my salary keeps going down. Each time I get a better job I lose income. Something about being an elected official and getting involved in serving the public. It does not pay well.

I do not feel as though I have a choice. I have to buy my medicine, and I have to buy gasoline. Both regardless of the cost of each.

And I am not making minimum wage.

I often think about the snowplow operator in Ignacio who is on the same state medical plan and pays as much or even more for gasoline. It is likely that he or she also has young children. That can be a major drain on your income. Just what in the world does he or she do when the cost of gasoline and the cost of medicine exceed the amount available to pay for such things?

My heart goes out to everyone in that situation, and as a public servant I think we should be able to do something about these problems.

It seems as though the rich just keep getting richer and the poor just keep getting poorer.

I have mentioned before how my father raised our family on less than $60 a month back in Iowa in the 1940s and 1950s. I won’t bore you with how little everything cost in those days, but I will assure you that buying a tank of gas for our car back then at 15 cents a gallon was as great a burden.

The minimum wage then was $1.25 an hour. I remember it specifically because that is what I was paid to do my jobs in my community at the time. Before taxes that was $50 a week. Not much less than my father was making.

Today I think the minimum wage is around $5.35 an hour. That is $214 a week before taxes. I think that is about four times what I was making 50 years ago. If gas had kept pace, it would be about 60 cents a gallon. Does not equate, does it?

I am sure that the executives from the oil companies will take all that into consideration the next time they decide to declare their profits. I am sure that their newfound wealth will be found on the dinner table of everyone making minimum wage

Monday, November 7, 2005

November 7, 2005 Summit Votes

Consider This for November 7, 2005--Summit County Votes

I moved to the mountains in April 1974, over 31 years ago. I have never regretted my decision (except during those long, snowy days in March), and every day I am more and more proud of my friends and neighbors.

Summit County came through big time last Tuesday by approving Referenda C and D as well as local Referendum 1-A. We have continued our majority support of state government and child care/education.

In 1992, Summit County was one of the counties that voted against TABOR in the first place. We voted then to support our elected officials and the continued approval of how the state was going. Unfortunately, the majority of the rest of the state did not agree.

Summit County has always marched to a different drummer.

There were three precincts last week that voted against funding for early childhood education. That is their prerogative, and it is interesting that most of the opponents live in the same neighborhoods in the county. Something about "birds of a feather"?

I get calls from those folks on a regular basis. They complain regularly about the liberal county government, the liberal state government, and how we are all going to hell in a handbasket. I wonder sometimes if they stay in bed each morning long enough to figure out what part of government they are angry about that day. After they get up they need to figure out which government agency or elected official to call to complain.

That is their right, and it is my job to listen to them and try to help them with their issues. I accept that responsibility willingly, but I wish that some people would check their facts first.

Colorado is one of the most progressive states in the union. Colorado has one of the lowest tax rates per capita in the nation. Colorado has one of the lowest education scores in the nation. We may think that we are doing great, but we can always be better.

I read recently that there are approximately 1.2 million registered Republicans in Colorado. There are around 900,000 registered Independents. There are around 800,000 registered Democrats.

Based on voter turnout there are five counties in Colorado that normally vote Democrat in state elections: Boulder, Denver, Summit, Pitkin, and San Miguel.

Denver and San Miguel were the two counties voting on whether to legalize marijuana last week. The measure won in Denver and lost in Telluride.

We decided to do early childhood education rather than legalize pot. I think that is a better choice. I have thought that it would be good to legalize marijuana and then tax the hell out of it and use the tax revenues to pay for education and health care.

I have also thought that we should do away with the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Border Patrol and use the savings to pay for education and health care.

They are totally ineffective now, and anyone who wants to come into the country can anytime they want.

Two weeks ago I was in New York visiting family, and my son-in-law joked about having swum to Canada. Spending time on that beach and then swimming back to the United States. He was not stopped or questioned. In fact, he did not even see any police or Border Patrol.

Of course, on the Mexican border he would probably have been shot or arrested immediately.

I digress.

One group we sometimes forget about is also against big government and taxes. The Libertarians. They shudder when I mention that the characterization “Liberal” came from the Libertarian movement. I can hear them poising their pens now. Libertarians do not like laws. Libertarians do not like government. Libertarians do not like taxes. And … I can almost agree with them. I sometimes question some laws, some things government does, and some taxes we pay, but I consider all of them the price we pay for freedom, like it or not.

I have several Libertarian friends, and they do not hesitate to call me to ask for a government service. They drive their cars on government roads and send their kids to government schools then go home and complain about government.

There is no pleasing some people.

Seriously, I thank God every day that we live in a diverse community with an open and free dialogue about issues.

Thank you, Summit County, for making this place even better after the last election