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A few local signs that the economy is smokin’ hot

Me: “Hi. I would like to have Cleon make me log arch, one that I can hook to my ATV, that is stronger than the Chinese junk being sold everywhere, and that is less expensive than the crazy-priced LogRite arches.”

Lynette: “Josh, what is your time frame?”

Me: “Well, I can use it in a week, but two or three weeks is no problem.”

Lynette: “Here’s the thing about timing. Back in June, we were about to lay off one of the welders, but we put out bids on ten jobs, any one or two of which would have carried us through the year. And between last week and this Monday we heard back that we won every single one of them. So we will not only be retaining that junior welder, but we are now looking for about five more to help us meet our commitments. We might not be able to get to your log arch for a while, but one of the men will call you back later today.”

And then one of the men did call me back, with terms and a price that more or less said “If we are going to make this for you, then you are going to pay big for taking us away from our real work.”

Another sign that our local and regional economy is smokin’ hot: The log trucks, the pallet trucks, the lumber trucks on the roads EVERYWHERE and at all times of day.

Never before have I seen so much activity in just one business sector, as I am seeing now in the timber industry, except maybe in 2008 when the Marcellus Shale boom was indeed booming across Pennsylvania.

Log trucks are especially visible. How can you miss a log truck? It dwarfs every other vehicle around it, and looks incredibly incongruous. Log trucks have these huge wide open bays or bunks to hold the logs, and a boom arm with a claw for lifting up 6,000 to 10,000-pound logs. A log truck has about 5,000 board feet or more of medium to high grade logs of all types on it, heading from someone’s private forest to someone else’s mill. From there the logs will be carefully analyzed for grade, and either sold-on or sawn up on site. Hardwood lumber is used in flooring, cabinetry, and furniture, all of which when active indicate a strong consumer and home building economy. Even tulip poplar, once sold for pennies per board foot, is now used for couch frames and cabinetry frames.

At every timber job there are expensive machines at work, with drivers who earn enough money to support a family. And the loggers, guys born with a chainsaw in one hand and a rifle in the other, they cut down a dangerous tree every ten minutes, then lop it and move on to the next before choking up the logs and skidding them to a landing.

Then there is the landowner, who gets good money for something they did absolutely nothing to create.

The sawmills, whether small Amish mills or huge international mills selling hundreds of thousands of board feet per week, are beehives of activity. Every person working there is earning money, and spending money, and contributing toward the larger economic activity around them.

Say nothing of the new homes and kitchen cabinets being built, or of the beautiful hardwood flooring and furniture being made for those new homes. All from someone’s private forest.

The point is, these are just two small examples of how the economy is exploding, and how after many years of stagnation we finally get to do more than scratch out a living, but actually do well and pay for our kids’ questionable college “education,” buy new cars, take nice vacations, and set something aside for our later years, when we are no longer able to work so hard.

It really is a new day in America, and boy does it feel good. One gets the impression that this good feeling is widespread across America, with the sad exception of places in North Carolina and Florida, recently hit hard by hurricanes, and our hearts go out to the victims there. The one thing they can rest assured about is that the materials needed to rebuild their lives are on their way as I write these words, and they are America-made, and America-grown.

Why I am voting for Paul Mango for governor, and not for Scott Wagner

When I stood out for twelve hours in the freezing weather four years ago, handing out Scott Wagner for Senate brochures at a polling place in York County, I was helping Pennsylvania elect someone to state government who promised to remain independent of political party leaders and the insider dealings that are the despicable hallmark of Pennsylvania Republican party politics.

Within a few months of Wagner’s historic upset win over a creaky establishment, I began to regret his obvious character flaws. And then six months later I had the unfortunate experience of having Wagner lie through omission to my face.

“Yeah, I know John DiSanto,” said Wagner.

What Wagner did not say was that he was aggressively promoting DiSanto as a would-be candidate for state senate. Fast forward another six months, and DiSanto was on track to be the state senator for the 15th district. He has been a huge improvement over the former senator, Rob Teplitz, a political radical out of place here in this region who was also dedicated to his constituents.  I have no real hard feelings about DiSanto now bearing the burden of serving in state government, as it comes with big personal costs that I realize I would not want.

But I saw then that Scott Wagner was not the straight-up guy a lot of us believed he was when we worked hard to get him elected.

Wagner has this habit of ascribing to himself full responsibility for his material and political successes. As a capitalist I applaud anyone who can and does leave to their son or nephew a running business and millions of dollars. And I also applaud those people who are strong enough to take those inheritances and build on them, instead of squandering them, as so many Americans do.

But it upsets me to hear Wagner take credit for these things when he was simply the beneficiary of other people’s hard work.

No, Mr. Wagner, you did not win that special election in York County all by yourself.

Rather, we, the hard working campaign volunteers won it for you, by getting fired up people out to every polling place in the district and demonstrating to the voters that we, the people, wanted you to be elected. Voters saw our passion and responded by handing the GOPe a tough and well-deserved loss.

No, you did not create that trucking business as you constantly claim, you inherited a good portion of it.

Two days ago at a dog-and-pony show press event, Scott Wagner released a phony “internal” poll result saying that he already leads in this primary race by 50.2% to Paul Mango’s 20-something percent.

Flanking Wagner was the chairman and the vice-chair of the Pennsylvania Republican Party, the same GOPe that Wagner once opposed but which he has now shamelessly joined. Wagner’s willingness to trade his political independence for political gain with the same old political insiders is another indication that he is not a straight-up guy. Rather, Wagner is just another aggressive political opportunist willing to sell his grandma and his former supporters to get ahead.

The message of having the two GOP political bosses next to him at the event is simple: “Vote for our insider stooge here.”

But if Wagner is already so far ahead in the polls, then why does he need the personal presence of political bosses at his press event? The whole thing is phony – the supposed poll (two other recent polls show a statistical dead heat between Mango and Wagner, with also-ran Laura Ellsworth in the single digits), the fake political endorsement, his supposed political independence. One thing is for sure, Scott Wagner is now yet just another political insider, trying to use every object around him to gain power and prestige. Just like he used and then discarded us campaign volunteers to get into the state senate.

Wagner’s political views have spanned the full spectrum, from great to crazy left, like his transvestite bathroom bill sponsorship.

Will the real Scott Wagner please stand up? Without screaming at anyone, please.

Contrast this chaotic mess to his primary opponent Paul Mango.

Paul Mango is about as exciting as watching the grass grow.

He is soft-spoken, measured, very smart and articulate on policy, and to me, mostly boring. Though he has gotten better at public presentations as time has gone on.

Is Mango the fiery revolutionary that Scott Wagner was four years ago? Nope.

Neither is Scott Wagner.

Is Mango the political trench warfare conservative that Wagner used to be, and which many of us wish for more each day? Nope.

Neither is Scott Wagner.

Mango is a work horse, not a show horse.

Instead of having all of Wagner’s drama and duplicity, Mango is a simple guy with true blue collar working class roots, who put himself through West Point and became a real-deal warrior in the US Army 101st Rangers, and who went on to build a career for himself that put him at the financial top of American society. Not to mention his all-American family. He is a US Army veteran who served our nation, thank you very much.

Mango is the all-American rags-to-riches story every American politician wishes to be, and which Wagner has tried to falsely claim he is.

This is why I am voting for Paul Mango and not for Scott Wagner.

You make up your own mind on this race, and you should also know I made up my mind through direct experience with both candidates. Sometimes it isn’t just how great a candidate is, but also how awful the other guy is.

Mango is good enough, Wagner is awful.

Justice in Palestine, by way of Harrisburg, PA

Palestine may never have been a country in history, and there may never have been a “Palestinian people” before 1968, but by God, there are a lot of calls for Justice in Palestine, and this past week, we finally got a good dose of it.

Benjamin Blutstein was the kind of young guy who pushed just about every button I have.  He wore his hair long, he had huge discs pierced into his ear lobes, he may have had a nose stud or nose earring, he wore frayed hipster clothes that mocked everyone around him, and he was a little arrogant, like I had been (maybe still am a bit?) when I was 20.

While I had watched him grow up, I did not know Ben well.  But I know his parents well, Dr. Katherine Baker and Dr. Richard Blutstein, an interesting and intellectual couple here in Harrisburg.  Katherine and I share an interest in environmental health, and Richard is our family pediatrician.  Richard has come a long way on the gun control issue, and many other political issues, over the past few years, and I enjoy his company a lot, while Katherine and I typically quickly deviate from environmental issues into taste testing Scotches and fine bourbons with many a toast and Brogueish “To Your Health”s.

When our home became one with the Susquehanna River and flooded in September 2011, Katherine and Richard took in our family for over a week.

These are great people, and while Ben may have been typical for his age and education, he was unusual in that he was a committed religious person who was also skilled with ear-splitting music that won him a surprising amount of respect among his peers.

A month after I had been sitting and talking with Ben, he was dead, killed by a large steel bolt blasted from a pipe bomb and which tore a hole through his jugular vein and killed him (and many others in his presence) instantly.

He had been sitting in a college cafeteria in Israel, with other American students.

Ben was the victim of a Muslim Arab terrorist affiliated with the Palestinian Authority, a successfully corrupt and semi-official terrorist organization backed by the European Union, Quakers, liberal Jews, American idiots, and bigots everywhere.

This past week a jury rendered a verdict in the murder case Ben’s family and nine other victims’ families had brought against the PA: Guilty as sin, you murderous bastards.

The award? Six hundred million US dollars, which even by today’s devalued standard is still a lot of money.

While much legal wrangling remains, the fact is that the scumbag terrorists at the PA are on the hook for a lot of money, much of it likely to come from US  and European taxpayers, ironically, to cover the costs of its peaceful religion.

In a region where nearly every single Jew was subject to the usual Muslim Arab Apartheid and forcefully ejected, between the 1920s and the 1950s, from their farms, their homes, their lands and their businesses — all still today under a violent, illegal, and uncompensated Muslim Arab occupation*, and can we now please admit that the regional Christians are also undergoing the same systemic Muslim Arab Apartheid treatment, we finally have a shred of justice.

For once, I say Thank God for Justice in Palestine!

__________________________________________

*The irony of the one million Jewish refugees from Muslim and Arab countries is pretty rich, because as soon as they landed in Israel, much of it purchased by Jews and Christians, the same people who had just torched their homes and stolen everything they had actually accused them of being guilty of the crime of occupation and, now rounded up into the Middle East’s only ghetto, named Israel, the Jews once again became a scapegoat and the sadist’s favorite target, an unjust political farce continuing to this very moment.

A Severance Tax, now?

Talk about an addiction to spending other people’s money.

Yesterday in southeast PA, far away from the communities where this issue is most important and the citizens might not be so welcoming, Governor Tom Wolf staked out his position on creating a new 5% “severance tax” on natural gas from the Marcellus shale feature.

Right now, natural gas is selling at historic low prices, especially here in Pennsylvania.  The financial incentive to drill more or spend more money to get more gas is very low, and drill rigs have been disappearing from across the region for a year.

The Saudis began dumping oil months ago, in an effort to punish competing oil producers Iran and Russia, with the secondary effect of dropping gasoline prices so low that the natural gas industry got hit from that side, too.

So now is not only a bad time for the gas industry, it is also a time of greatly diminished returns on investment and on royalties received.  Scalping 5% off the top of that is punishing to everyone, including gas consumers, who will see their rates increase proportionally.

Here’s the biggest problem with a severance tax: Pennsylvania already has a 3% impact fee on Marcellus gas, and a Corporate Net Income Tax of 9.99% (let’s call it ten percent, OK?).  Most of the other gas and oil producing states have no such additional taxes; their severance taxes are the one and only tax their oil and gas producers pay, not the multiple high taxes and fees drillers in PA pay.

Pennsylvania government is therefore already reaping much higher revenue from the gas industry than other gas producing states.  That means that the companies doing business here are already burdened much more than elsewhere.

So adding a severance tax now, at this economically bad time, without commensurately lowering other taxes, or the existing Impact Fee, makes no sense.  Unless the people promoting this have an infantile view of how America and business work.

And that right there is the problem.  Way too many advocates for tax-and-spend policies like an additional severance tax have a Marxist view of business; essentially, to them, business exists to pour money into liberal schemes.

And speaking of spending, who believes that spending more and more and more taxpayer dollars on public schools, public teachers unions, and public teachers’ pensions, actually equates with better education?

So many studies disprove that (see the Mercatus Center), but it is a liberal mantra that taxpayers must spend ever more of their money to support public unions that support political liberals.  And both parents of students and taxpayers alike now correctly see that system for what it is – simple, legalized political graft to fund one political party.

Public schools are mostly a disaster, yet teacher’s unions and their political buddies continue to pound on the table for more and more money.  Homeowners are essentially now renting their houses from the teacher’s unions, and proposed laws like Act 76 seek to fix that unfair situation by removing the vampire fangs from homeowners and letting the larger society pay for its expenditure.

Going door-to-door for political races year after year, property tax has been the number one issue I have encountered among elderly homeowners.  So many of them can no longer afford to pay the taxes on their houses, that they must sell them and move, despite a lifetime of investing in them.  This is patently un-American and unfair.

So Tom Wolf is moving in exactly the opposite direction we need on this subject, and instead of trying to fix the tax situation, he seeks to make it worse.  To be fair, Wolf campaigned on raising taxes.  He just needs to remember that he did not get elected by voters who want higher taxes, they wanted to fire former governor Tom Corbett.

 

People ask me why

For some people, politics and political activism are their bread and butter.  Politics pays their bills.  With the right clients, they can make millions of dollars out of politics as a business model.

For me, politics is about personal liberty, freedom, opportunity and many other inspiring principles behind the founding of America.  It is also about the little freedoms we have that emanate from the bigger ideas:  The freedom to drive or walk somewhere without having to prove that you belong there, the freedom to choose where to live, the ability to select from a wide assembly of fresh food, to name a few popular ones.

Call it an innate sense of justice and right and wrong, which family and friends have said I’ve had since I was a little kid, or call it a lack of patience, an inability to watch, participate in, listen to, or tolerate BS/fluff/empty slogans/lies/self-interest, whatever it is that motivates me, I am passionate about good government.

Good government has been a passion of mine since I was a teenager, when I first got involved in political campaigns.  Back then, I was horrified at the way abortion-on-demand was changing our culture, I was against gun control, and nuclear missiles scared me.  Later on, watching police beat non-violent pro-democracy marchers in South Africa motivated me to put my voice behind change there (note that now the monumentally corrupt and un-just African National Congress government there is hardly better than the overtly racist apartheid government it replaced).  Age, paying taxes, and work experience have a way of shaping political views for normal people, and I was no exception.

So here I am, living a life that has meaning for me, trying to shape Pennsylvania and American politics in ways I believe are healthy, necessary, and just.  The citizens and taxpayers who are supposed to be served well by their government (of the people, by the people, for the people) are not being well served today.  This is why I am involved in politics.  That is why I will not go away, at least not until things are fixed to my satisfaction.

Out of all proportion

If there is one core element to the “new thinking” taking America down, it is victimology.

You know, the idea that everyone is a victim, and some people are special victims and some are especially victimized.

For someone to be a victim, there must be a perpetrator, and political correctness has created all sorts of creative solutions to real and perceived wounds which perpetrators can, or must!, endlessly do to atone.  America has been afflicted with this, to the absurd point where illegal aliens crossing our borders in search of better work are “victims” and deserve our taxpayer money and the right to vote themselves a lot more of it.

It is a fair idea that people should be treated fairly.  No arguing with that.  But what happens when whatever apology, compensation, or other action worth remedying the problem has been completed, and the victim identity remains?  This phenomenon is nowhere more clearly evident than in the Middle East, or technically the Near East, where “Palestinian” Arabs have wallowed in artificial and purposefully perpetuated victim status for five decades.

Even their refugee status is inherited, contrary to every other refugee situation around the world.  The UN helps maintain this arrangement.

Although there were nearly twice as many refugee Jews ejected from Arab and Muslim nations at the same time, no one talks about them.  Islamic imperialism and Arab colonialism are responsible for one of the largest and longest-standing occupations ever on planet Earth, where the farms, homes, and businesses that once belonged to Jews are now the property of supposedly well-intentioned Muslim Arabs.  Billions of dollars worth of property and banks were stolen overnight, from one group of people and given to another group that had no claim on it other than they held the knife and gun, and the victim did not.

If someone were looking for victims to feel bad for, the Jews have had that victim experience in spades, not to mention the Armenians (Christians who suffered a none-too-gentle genocide and land-theft at the hands of the Muslim Turks from 1910-1915), Kurds, Tibetans, and, well, never mind that the iconic and fiercely warlike Oglala Sioux ejected the Mandan, Cheyenne, and Pawnee from millions of acres of their historic Happy Hunting Grounds and militarily occupied them for hundreds of years…after all, the American Indians who massacred, tortured, and occupied one another are considered to have engaged in acceptable behavior.  Anyhow, I digress…..

The Jews now find themselves fighting for their lives with their backs to the wall, yet once again against Islamic supremacists, Islamic imperialists, and Arab colonists; and those same Jews are now presented with yet another double-standard: Proportionality.

This is the idea that, if someone hits you in the face with the intention of killing you, but fails to do so that first time and is winding up to hit you again and harder this next time, why, you are only supposed to hit them back once and only just as hard as you were first hit.  You are not allowed to land a knockout punch, despite having survived an attempted knockout punch.

The EU demands that endless Arab rockets from Gaza onto indigenous Jews, living an unbroken 3,000-year presence in their homeland, be met with…thousands of random rockets from Israel?  My God no! Unacceptable!

Obviously, the idea of proportionality is alien to every people that has fought a war, especially a defensive war.  War is fought to be won, and dumbing-down and reducing the effectiveness of your response is a foolish and possibly suicidal thing to do.

But Europe and America cater first and foremost to artificial victims, and no matter what, those victims are due every gift, every extra opportunity, every kind gesture in the face of bloody hands, truckloads of taxpayer money despite tremendous waste by the recipients, and so on and so forth.  Although this behavior seems suicidal, suicide seems to be the new definition of democracy, in the interest of appeasing the ‘victims’ among us, out of all proportion to whatever happened in the first place.

But to give the supposed victims their due, proportionality must be maintained, and in the Middle East today, Western civilization is expected to fight Islamic aggression, theft, murder, and occupation with both hands tied behind its back.  It is apparently the new thing to do.

Tom Wolf, you confuse me

Tom Wolf is a candidate for Pennsylvania governor.

He appears to be the front-runner in his party’s primary race.  For a number of reasons, he has the greatest amount of voter name recognition and support.

Why candidate Katie McGinty is not taking off, I don’t know.  Katie is charismatic, maintains a million-dollar smile, and knows how to effectively communicate with people.  She is both infuriatingly liberal and also, in my direct experience, surprisingly capable of being pragmatic and non-ideological.  McGinty’s A-rating from the anti-freedom group CeaseFirePA hurts her; Wolf got a C from them, which helps in freedom-friendly Pennsylvania. Why he didn’t get a D, and then really strut his individual liberty credentials, is confusing.

Wolf lacks charisma, but seems to make up for it with his honest-to-goodness aw-shucks folksy way.

Here’s what really confuses me about Wolf: He is a business man who advocates for policies that are bad for business, like an additional tax on over-taxed natural gas.

Tom Wolf, you will probably challenge Tom Corbett for governor.  I am a small business owner and I want to see more from you that is business friendly.  Otherwise, I remain confused by you.

OK, belay that last “let it snow”

Like you and most everyone I know around Pennsylvania, I feel done with the snow. Yes, did I say “let it snow” a bunch yesterday?  Well, that was then and this is now.  Now, we are expecting another eight to twelve inches of snow in the next day.  On top of the six to eight inches of hardened crust, ice, and snow already on the ground, another foot is going to keep spring from arriving for a long time.

This much snow puts a stranglehold on our business operations.  Shuts down machinery.  Trucks cannot pick up, guys cannot cut, or even drive their trucks, let alone get their machines moving.

What really is telling about this cold is that at home, we have burned a solid three-plus cords of seasoned oak firewood.  We may be closing in on four burned to date.  We have enough to take us into the end of the longest cold winter, but that just means more work felling, cutting, hauling, splitting, and stacking. You know the old saw — “Firewood warms ya twice.”  You work hard making it, and then it warms you as a fire.  Indeed.

Hold on there, fellow Pennsylvanians.  Spring must be just around the corner.  Just a few weeks from now, the air should be in the mid-forties, smelling slightly earthy and damp, and a robin here and there will join the cardinal in the back yard.  Then you know relief is upon us.  Hold on.  You are in good company.

Increasing Smart Growth opportunities in Harrisburg, but for crazy high school taxes…

Harrisburg City is broke, but it presents many opportunities for in-fill development, where existing infrastructure is already long-since paid for. The challenge to attracting development is getting past the regressive school tax, which is based on property ownership. The more property you own, the higher the school taxes you pay. Harrisburg spends somewhere around $18,000 per student to get a sub-par education.
Setting aside the broken educational program here, more than anything an end to property taxes is needed. Once that punitive tax ends, then investors are enticed to take advantage of even weak markets, and make investments, taking risks and sacrifices.
Investment brings jobs, creates economic and financial “churn,” and is how America runs.
Right now, the churn in Harrisburg is below incrementally slow. It is almost nil, with a few exceptions led by brave pioneers committed to the city’s success.

“Risk” and “Sacrifice” – two words alien to Obama

By Josh First
July 16, 2012
Nothing on this planet defines a person more than when they take risks and make sacrifices to try and achieve some greater goal.

Both are at the core of American opportunities, of America’s promise. Both are at the core of making people great, of defining and forging great character. And Obama just demonstrated that he doesn’t understand them.

Lack of understanding of what it means to take risks and make sacrifices isn’t limited to Obama, however. Plenty of Republicans have impressed me with their ignorance of what it takes to get ahead. For better or worse, I have spent many years close to the Republican “establishment,” and seeing the weak sycophants who populate that nether world is pretty damning. Watching people benefit from the Party machinery, people who have never taken a risk or made a sacrifice in their lives, but who get ahead nonetheless because they are loyal robots and fulfill some functionary position, it is tough to take. One example is a guy named “Jerry,” an older man who has harangued me during my two roles as political candidate. This is a guy who has performed functionary duties throughout life, but he hasn’t stuck his neck out there. But neither I nor many other candidates are “Republican” enough for him. Another person occupies a public role in the Corbett administration. His claim to fame is that he hid behind mama’s apron (a state senator) for his entire career; but he has never been tested. He is not a worthy or meritorius person, and his character is dark, weak, angry, vicious. But he’s a ‘rock star’ to insiders who value complacency. The list goes on.

But the difference is that none of these Republican Party hacks are president of the country, and Obama is that person, at least until next January, and so the heavy burden of proof of worthiness falls onto his rather thin shoulders.

Obama has recently stated that business is doing just fine, and that small business owners are not responsible for what they have earned. Rather, argues Obama, many other people are responsible for the success of the few. And thus, he argues, so many more people are deserving of the fruits of their labor.

These statements are proof that Barack Hussein Obama is a socialist at best, and more likely that he is a communist in principle. Having never taken risks or made sacrifices himself, and having never started, run, or worked for a business, Obama doesn’t have the background to comment on the state of America’s economy, nor on what it takes to be a successful business person here.

But his Inner Marxist sees government and “the collective” as the sources of all good, and therefore, as the sources of businesses’ success. Business is not doing well right now, but Obama sees fruits dangling for the taking and redistribution. Individual success is a problem for Obama, not something to celebrate.

I am a small business owner, happily, and I will probably be one for the rest of my productive life. Countless nights I have woken up at three in the morning, with my mind racing way out ahead of my consciousness, anxiety pouring through my veins as the reality of a given challenge once driven into the recesses of my brain now claws its way out and forces me to confront it. On those nights, I draw great comfort knowing that many other business owners are out there, sweating away over the details, just like me. Misery does love company.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Obama wants everyone to go to sleep and have sweet dreams, at my expense.

I cannot wait to cast my vote against this incompetent fool.