Category: Your Voice Written by Jesse Jackson
Last Updated on Thursday, 01 November 2012 10:56
Category: Your Voice Written by Rep. Fred Durhal
Recently, Gov. Snyder has been pushing the proposed New International Trade Crossing (NITC) between Detroit and Windsor as a big win for Michigan. According to NITC proponents, the state will get a free bridge, financed entirely by the Canadian government, that will spur trade and economic growth and enhance Michigan’s standing as an international transportation and logistics hub.
However, the old adage, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t true,” couldn’t be more applicable. As a member of the Michigan House Appropriations Committee, my job is to ensure the state spends its money wisely. As such, I have considered all sides of this issue in-depth and determined that the NITC project is profoundly problematic, with the potential to be financially disastrous for Michigan.
Embarking on a multibillion-dollar infrastructure project without a true sense of whether demand actually exists to support it is foolhardy. But, to date, there has been no comprehensive, investment-grade study that demonstrates that traffic levels on the NITC will be enough to pay back Michigan’s $550 million loan from Canada. Remember, traffic levels between Detroit and Windsor have dropped consistently through the last decade, and the state will be dependent on toll revenue from that traffic to repay the principal of the loan, plus interest that begins to compound from day one.
In addition, a new analysis demonstrates that between cost overruns that are very common for this type of project and traffic shortfalls, Canada’s unreturned investment on the NITC could balloon to more than $8 billion.
It’s important to understand that the Crossing Agreement isn’t “ironclad,” as the governor claims. In actuality, it can be amended or terminated at any time — see pages 36 and 40. If Canada gets cold feet about pouring massive sums into the bridge without recouping its investment, the bill will fall to someone, and it could very well be Michigan taxpayers.
With so much on the line, it is reckless to merely cross our fingers and blindly hope traffic will be adequate to make the bridge pay for itself.
The agreement is also troubling in that a Canadian-controlled Crossing Authority will oversee the financing and operation of the bridge, with the freedom to set toll levels and make unilateral determinations on what entities would get construction contracts — likely those from Canada, rather than the U.S.
And despite the governor’s assurances that the bridge will be “free,” the Michigan Department of Transportation has already spent more than $40 million simply studying the bridge project, while a new customs plaza would cost federal taxpayers (including Michiganders) $263 million. In addition, the NITC would draw traffic from existing publicly owned crossings in the Detroit region, including the Blue Water Bridge and the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, costing the state millions, if not billions, in lost tax and toll revenue.
It is precisely these concerns that led the State Legislature to pass four bills expressly prohibiting the Strategic Fund or Michigan Department of Transportation from entering into any agreement to build the NITC without the Legislature’s approval. Astoundingly, the governor signed the Crossing Agreement with both entities appearing as parties, a flagrant violation of the law.
By skirting the State Legislature, the governor disenfranchised the elected representatives of the people of Michigan, and in effect, the people themselves. But taxpayers have an opportunity to reclaim their rights by voting YES on Proposal 6. Amending the constitution to ensure a statewide vote before the construction of any new international bridges or tunnels ensures the people have a say in how their tax dollars are put to use. And make no mistake, they have already been put to use on the NITC project.
On Nov. 6, I urge you to vote YES on Proposal 6 for a choice on the bridge.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 October 2012 13:12
Category: Your Voice Written by Michigan Chronicle
The U.S. Small Business Administration designated October as Women's Small Business Month to recognize the contributions of women to small business in our economy.
Women-owned businesses are one of the fastest growing segments of the small business community. In fact, the number of small businesses owned by women is growing 50 percent faster than the total number of small businesses. And the numbers don't seem to be slowing down anytime soon.
Based on projections by The Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute, women-owned companies will produce one-third of new U.S. jobs by 2018, compared with 16 percent now. And of the 9.72 million new small business jobs expected to be created by the same year, women are projected to contribute over half.
When it comes to women-owned businesses, Detroit is a leader with 49.7% women-owned businesses according to the SBA. This compares to 25% nationally. And in Michigan, women-owned businesses contribute approximately $30 billion in revenue.
Even more powerful is over a ten-year period, from 1997 to 2007, women-owned businesses grew twice as fast as men-owned businesses. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, 500k jobs were generated nationally.
Why such a success rate with women-owned businesses?
While any entrepreneurs have certainly built their foundation in the corporate world, Aubrey W. Lee, Jr. first vice president, Merrill Lynch, says, "Many women are dissatisfied with corporate jobs and are turning to entrepreneurship as an alternative route to a successful career. Women business owners tend to seek out new ways to stand out from the competition and utilize networking more than male business owners."
He notes several factors which contribute to their overall success including community support, increased networking, minority programs and business development training. Additionally, women tend to be more customer-focused, community-minded and more likely to create opportunities for others and help others, including their employees, to succeed.
Many women feel like they've hit the ceiling in corporate and as Lee says, "By starting their own business, the glass ceiling is removed and women become free of office politics."
Despite phenomenal growth, critical challenges remain.
Finances: Having a strong understanding of the financial aspect of business is crucial and can often make or break a business' success
Multitaskers: Women are more likely than men to be primary care givers for aging loved ones while trying to start or maintain a business-so, how does one balance personal versus professional needs?
Retirement: The August 2012 Merrill Lynch Affluent Insights Survey (MLAIS) found that 66 percent of affluent women are concerned about their retirement assets lasting throughout their lifetime, compared with only 54 percent of men.
With these challenges, what do you do?
Lee states, "Working with a trusted financial advisor on different options that are available can help ease this confusion. It is also important to discuss goals related to personal finances and business finances, and determine how you will meet those goals."
In doing so, Lee offers the following advice:
• When starting or working to revitalize a business, it's important to speak with key professionals and gather as much knowledge as possible.
• Get credit reports in check so any errors are removed before you need to provide to it to lenders.
• Discuss which benefit plans are applicable to you and your situation so you are prepared to bring on employees when the time comes, and
• Businesses whose growth has stalled should consult the appropriate professionals.
In a nutshell, small business owners should have a plan and strategies for meeting their day-to-day expenses and focused on long-term growth.
This is where a financial advisor can help.
Lee says a financial advisor can help with developing a plan, particularly in the areas of establishing lines of credit, acquiring commercial real estate financing, obtaining appropriate insurance for your business and assisting in setting up suitable tax professionals and mentor you to make the financial decisions necessary to help you grow your business and succeed.
Most entrepreneurs are risk adverse and cash flow is a concern.
Lee says, "A financial advisor can suggest low-risk investment options that will not deplete your savings if any unfortunate circumstances should occur. Small businesses may be more reluctant to tie up money in investments.
However, this does not mean they should not consider investing. A financial advisor can help small business owners with these conflicting issues."
Have you thought about how to grow your business and do you have a plan? If not, consider reaching out to professionals, such as a financial advisor who can help.
Last Updated on Thursday, 25 October 2012 13:20
Category: Your Voice Written by Rev Charles E. Williams II
After Hurricane Katrina, Christian fundamentalists like Pat Robertson claimed that God was trying to send a message to the country through the devastation of the storm as reported by the Time Magazine.
"On The 700 Club in 2005, Robertson blamed Hurricane Katrina on the issue of abortion in John Roberts' Supreme Court nomination.
When the earthquake happened in Haiti, the same grumbling from Robertson convicted Haiti for a pact with the devil as reported by CNN.
"The Haitians "were under the heel of the French. You know, Napoleon III and whatever," Robertson said on his broadcast Wednesday. "And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, 'We will serve you if you will get us free from the French.' True story. And so, the devil said, 'OK, it's a deal.' "
This time I'm going to jump ahead of the likes of Pat Robertson's doom and gloom prophecies and give this Natural Disaster Hurricane Sandy a brighter outlook.
In this country, the best of itself typically shines through the nastiness of disaster. How respectful for both campaigns to suspend while citizens' lives are at stake. We are sure to see Romney and Ryan passing sandbags instead of passing campaign literature and President Obama spending much time in the situation room instead of in southern Florida. Some say there is a blessing in every curse and the blessing in this trauma is that instead of watching Governor Chris Christie trading barbs with democratic surrogates questioning the patriotism of the President and Tea party folks on Fox News talking about shrinking government and getting rid of FEMA, we see Christie in a news interview and in an official Twitter message appearing thankful for the President's leadership and a unified message from democratic and republican politicians urging evacuation and safety.
So what is God trying to show us? Maybe he's ceasing the foolishness, name calling, lying and the flat out disrespectful nature of the sensationalism of the political dialogue in this country. Maybe, God is showing us that the President in place is the man for the job. Just maybe God is forcing us to work together, play nice, and be true to the request we make at baseball games and political events "God Bless America."
I'm a Christian minister, and for many it may be hard to swallow that I believe that God has anything to do with the weather. Maybe you believe he doesn't. However, what I do believe undoubtedly is that the spirit of man to care for man is Godly, and if this storm re-invigorates that spirit then thank God and may God continue to bless America. My prayers go out for storm victims and their loss of materials and loved ones.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 October 2012 11:34
Category: Your Voice Written by Jesse Jackson
"Corporations are people, my friends,” said Mitt Romney. And in Citizens United, the conservative justices of the Supreme Court agreed, ruling that corporations, like individuals, are free to spend unlimited sums in so-called “independent expenditures” for candidates.
The result — as TV viewers in contested presidential states, or in states with contested Senate or key House seats can attest — is an unprecedented flood of money into political ads. Much of it from independent front groups that are spending ever-greater sums of money from anonymous donors largely on attack ads.
What is going on? Clearly, the super rich, the big banks, the corporations are looking to buy these elections. Mitt Romney, the candidate from Bain and the world of what Republican Gov. Rick Perry called “vulture capitalism,” is a major beneficiary. But candidates in both parties work to raise this money, compromising their own ability to stand up for working people.
Consider Romney’s agenda. He’s for tax cuts for the rich, for ending the estate tax that applies to multimillion-dollar fortunes, for sustaining the “carried interest deduction” that allows private-equity millionaires like himself to pay lower tax rates than the police who patrol their streets. It goes on. He’s for a “territorial corporate tax system” that would exempt corporations for any profits earned or reported abroad. This essentially turns the world into a potential tax haven, encouraging companies to move jobs or report profits overseas. No one has been more creative at that than Romney’s own company, Bain Capital, which is notorious for opening shell companies everywhere from the Cayman Islands to Luxembourg.
So naturally, Wall Street bankers, the private-equity billionaires, the multinational companies are lining up for Romney, and flooding pro-Romney groups with money.
With inequality reaching Gilded Age levels, the super-rich are once more looking to buy protection. They are also looking to eliminate any competition.
In California, for example, conservative Republicans have cooked up Proposition 32.
It parades as campaign-finance reform that would eliminate the use of payroll deductions for raising money for political activity by either corporations or unions.
Sounds equitable, right? Except corporate executives don’t use payroll deductions to raise political money, only unions do. CEOs can take the money directly from the corporate till if they choose (without a vote by stockholders). Or, more often, the CEO hosts a fund-raiser or two. Company executives are invited; they are “encouraged” to donate. Records are kept.
So, as the Los Angeles Times editorialized, “Those who have seen its list of backers will not be surprised to learn that it would have a devastating effect on labor unions’ political fund-raising efforts and only a trivial impact on corporate spending. Voters should reject it.”
Big money is free to speak, the conservatives on the Supreme Court have ruled. Now conservatives and corporations are pushing to limit the rights of unions to organize, to bargain collectively and to engage in political activity. They are pushing an unprecedented effort to limit access to voting.
We’ve never witnessed this level of big money in our politics. We’ve not seen this systematic effort to make voting more difficult since the days of the segregated South.
We’ve not seen this effort to suppress union participation since the Gilded Age.
This is no accident. The richest 1 percent is capturing more of the nation’s income and wealth than any time since the 1920s. And they pay the lowest tax rates since that time.
They are mobilizing to protect their privilege. The only question is whether they will get away with it.
Keep up with Rev. Jackson and the work of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition at www.rainbowpush.org.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 October 2012 11:56
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