Friday, July 25, 2008

The Fight To Save English

From the 28 July 2008 Greater Niagara Newspapers

By Bob Confer

My company sells its products all over the world. The literature that goes with the goods sent overseas or to Canada are in multiple languages as they should be. But, we’ve made it a point that all items sold in the United States have their manuals and fliers printed in only one language: English. We do so out of respect for our national identity and our unique American culture. English has always been America’s presumptive official language and it always should be if not designated as such legally.

Other companies don’t take such a hard stand. Instead, they lick their chops over the revenue stream that comes with a very sizable population of individuals who don’t know and might never know English. There are nearly 20 million illegal aliens in the United States who, along with their many children born on American soil, chose to speak and read Spanish only. To reap rewards from such a consumer base, one which is almost 7% of the US population (and growing), businesses alter their marketing and packaging to include, and often times emphasize, the Spanish language.

Those companies – large corporations and small businesses alike – and the equally-guilty federal government are contributing to the decay of our national identity and are only adding to our illegal immigration nightmare. Our people have made it easy for the aliens to assimilate into our population, but not into our traditional society. After all, why would they want to, why would they have to, when their society is being spoonfed to them? By offering anything and everything in Spanish – consumer goods, private sector services, and public services – the United States has quickly become an extension of the aliens’ original home and not truly a new home. This continued invasion cannot be tempered when the invaders are being welcomed with open arms and their lives made quite comfortable. Basically, bilingual marketing and government offerings have aided Mexico’s northward expansion.

Nothing good can come from this. The indifference to English creates chaos in the ways that even the most basic of things are done and, ultimately and ironically, some of the people who will suffer the most are the invaders and their families. By choosing to speak only Spanish, they excuse themselves from ever moving up from the lowest of the low wages. They left Mexico to find a better quality of life, they got, but it is and will continue to be the lowest quality of life in America. They can go only so far when lacking the ability to appropriately communicate. With them stuck in such a rut, businesses will continue to supply them with sub-standard careers and earnings, taking advantage of this labor pool. This growing lower class will then stifle the upper-lower and middle class families who are real, legal and honest Americans. By cheapening the American standard of living they will steal jobs from our citizens, decrease wages across multiple industries, and the government will require that we provide for their ill-begotten entitlements and services.

In an attempt to weaken this cultural and economic collapse, many state governments have taken a stand and chosen to do business in manner that I have, pushing English when the federal government and businesses won’t. So far, 30 states in the Union have legally designated English as their official language, making it the only language of government. Many of those rulings were instituted a few decades ago, but eight were passed in the past 10 years, a time when promoting the English language has been looked at as politically-incorrect, if not racist, by some of the softest of our society. So, despite the inescapable ramblings of the vocal few, it has been shown that as a general rule our citizens want to maintain a sense of dignity and national pride and recognize the importance of English. As a matter of fact, this patriotic movement has not lost any steam: 10 states introduced pro-English bills in this year’s legislative sessions and in two of them (Ohio and Oklahoma) it passed one of the houses.

The fight to save English can’t end there. It needs to be ongoing. There are 20 states in which we need to affect change and recognize the sanctity of American traditions. The federal government will probably never proceed in such a manner, even though legislation has made it to the Congress floor in the past, but with a Republic such as ours, the onus is truly and legally on the States to keep our nation strong. 20 more of them to go and we can ensure some semblance of reason – if even just a little bit - in this seemingly-endless invasion.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Saluting a Chinese flag

From the 21 July 2008 Greater Niagara Newspapers

By Bob Confer

For about a half year following the acts of terrorism perpetrated on September 11, 2001, Americans were a patriotic lot. As the nation and its people healed themselves, Americanism became the “in” thing to do. People bled red, white, and blue and adorned their homes and offices with American flags. Those feelings have long since waned with most American having returned to their old ways, showing their colors only when the occasion demands it, such as on the Fourth of July.

Even though the emotional impact of Americana has gone, the economic impact of this part-time patriotism remains. Due to the incredible spike in demand for American flags that occurred in late-2001 the flag industry found itself unable to keep up. This opened the door for offshore manufacturers and the marketplace was flooded with American flags that were far from being American. They were – and are – like most things seem to be nowadays: cheap imports. In the six months following the attacks tens of millions of dollars worth of foreign-made flags were shipped to the US. In the years since, over $5 million of Asian-manufactured Old Glories have entered our ports each and every year. They are sold throughout the States, chipping away at the market shares once completely dominated by domestic manufacturers.

This is disconcerting. Of all things, one would hope that our flag was American-made. It is the symbol of everything that our country is, representing all of the wonderful gifts that America has given its citizens (and those of other nations) over the past 232 years. When you properly pledge allegiance to this banner you know that the USA is the greatest society that Man has ever known. It’s only fitting that our flags should be made by American hands on American soil and not tainted by “Made in China” labels.

That said, foreign flags are a slap in the face to all past and present servicemen. Millions of men have fought for, and even died, for what our flag stands for. Understanding the sanctity of Stars and Stripes as well as the immeasurable importance of our soldiers and their quest to save Everything America, the US Department of Veterans Affairs uses only American-made flags for burials.

Using that as practice as his guiding light, Bob Filner, Chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, was hoping to bring that same attention to domestic detail to the government at large. The Congressman from California introduced a bill back in May that would have required that all flags purchased and flown by the federal government be made in America.

Filner’s well-intentioned bill was shot down last week. It couldn’t get anywhere because of China.

Due to the pervasiveness of supposed free-and-fair trade deals, the federal government cannot dictate where certain products are made or put caps and restrictions on those imports. Flags fall under this category. So, rather than upset the apple cart Congress instead passed something called a “sense of Congress”, which is a meaningless resolution, nothing more and nothing less. It is not a law, but rather a statement. Our government could only go as far to suggest that all government-used flags be American-made. It can enforce nothing in its ranks.

Their lack of backbone is extremely unfortunate. Congress has sold us out and has shown that truthful patriotism is, to it, something not worthy of acting upon in meaningful manner. Pessimistically, maybe it really is fitting that most of our flags do say “Made In China”. With leaders like ours, there’s a good chance that someday everything in the United States – maybe even our own Congress – will have 100% foreign content.

So, it’s up to us to succeed where they fail. If you are one of the few remaining Americans who’s patriotic all the time and not only when it’s what all the popular people are doing, buy American with your next flag. It will be a symbolic act but one quite welcomed by our nation’s symbol and everyone who has fought for it. We need to be saluting American flags and not those manufactured by a nation that one day hopes to take our spot as the most powerful in the world. We don’t want to be saluting their flags then and we don’t need to be doing it now.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

America's rail crisis

From the 14 July 2008 Greater Niagara Newspapers

By Bob Confer

The Golden Spike is one of the most iconic items in American history. When this spike was driven into the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869 it marked the union of the West Coast and East Coast, fulfilling our young nation’s Manifest Destiny. The spike proved to be just as golden in a figurative sense as it was in a literal sense as the rail’s ability to move freight and people across the continent in days and not months instantly brought on a Golden Age of economic growth.

The rail system is just as important now as it was back then. Many people may perceive it to be an archaic form of transportation, but it is key to our past, present, and future. There are 140,000 miles of track in the US, over which 2 billion tons of freight are moved annually. This accounts for approximately 15% of all freight tonnage transported across the States and its contribution been growing at a 5% annual rate. This tame growth in rail freight is expected to explode in the next few years as high gasoline prices remain the norm, stifling development in truck transportation. Because of that $4 gas as well as roadway congestion brought on by our rapidly-growing population (there will be a third more Americans by 2040) and the shortage of truck drivers, too, the expectations for rail freight are expected to double by 2030.

Unfortunately, as good as that may sound for the rail companies, it’s nearly impossible. The rails are already congested as it is. Due to outdated single track systems in heavy trade corridors and severely-undersized hubs in major metro areas, goods often times can’t move at rates that logistics managers would hope. Case in point, Chicago handles over 70,000 trains per year which is over a third of US train traffic. Because of limitations in the antiquated 150-year old hub it is not uncommon for trains to be stranded in the Windy City for two or three days at a time because of gridlock.

This boom in train traffic, at once welcoming and frustrating, was facilitated by the Staggers Act of 1980. After some very dark days in the 1970’s when the rails suffered greatly because of the accumulation of decades of burdensome government regulation, the act cut off the government’s invisible hand, deregulating the market and allowing private investment to take hold. Capitalists were able to streamline services and markedly improve the efficiency, profitability, and affordability of rail freight. In 2006, these same investors pumped in an astounding $8 billion in infrastructure improvements, double what they did five years earlier. But, that’s not enough and the government may have to get involved again for the benefit of the common good.

It is estimated that upgrading the network will cost $195 billion to achieve what is required is capacity by 2030. All things being equal, the private sector will be able to support 75% of that need. That leaves nearly $50 billion that needs to be addressed somehow, maybe by the public sector. This can be accomplished in one of two ways, direct investment or incentives.

Being that the rails benefit all by moving goods to and fro and driving our consumer economy, a case could be made for public funds. $50 billion over 10 years is chump change by federal standards, considering that the federal budget for 2009 is pegged at $3.1 trillion. But, these are public funds nonetheless and should not be used to provide life support to a private enterprise. Yes, the consumers will benefit from the expenditure but more so than they will the owners of the rail lines. The point of the Staggers Act was to eliminate such bonding.

That’s why the only feasible option for improving our nation’s infrastructure is tax incentives that will induce the firms to further their expenditures. Analysts believe that a 25% tax credit for new rails will cause the railroad companies to increase their annual spending by 75% which should fully fund their needs. What the federal government forgoes in tax receipts it will more than make up for in the form of taxes from the economic development allowed to occur by the ability of the railroads to meet what is expected by our nation’s consumers. This tax credit is manifested in the Freight Rail Infrastructure Capacity Expansion Act of 2007, something that has been in Washington’s limbo since the Spring of 2007.

Hopefully the next Congress picks up this cause and can move the bill through the House and Senate. If they don’t, our economy (once it gets back on track) could be limited in how far it goes by how far our products and resources cannot go.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Hillary Clinton used New Yorkers

From the 07 July 2008 Greater Niagara Newspapers

By Bob Confer

If you watched any of the Tim Russert tributes of the past few weeks, no doubt you saw a montage of his back-and-forths with politicians regarding his favorite question: “will you run for president?” One of these classic moments involved Hillary Clinton back in 2002. When asked that question she became incredibly uncomfortable, even while knowing it would be asked. Her mannerisms and body language told us an answer that was quite different from her repeated “no.”

Despite her statements to the contrary, both before and after that interview, people of any political mettle knew better. When Hillary Clinton first ran for the US Senate in the 2000 election it was obvious to them that she was using New York State for her own political and personal gain, not as an outlet for public service that one would hope from a Senator. She was a carpetbagger extraordinaire having never lived in New York, and knowing absolutely nothing of its economy, its history, and, most importantly, its people. Her only attachment to the Empire State was a Chappaqua home that she and Bill purchased in 1999 to make a claim for residency. Unfortunately, for as many people who saw through her ruse, there were many more people who were sandbagged by the carpetbagger. She claimed a 55% victory in 2000 and won again in 2006 with over two-thirds of the votes.

That misplaced trust has come back to haunt all New Yorkers. This presidential election cycle has been longer than any other, beginning before January of 2007. Not 2008, but 2007. For the year and a half prior to her finally conceding to Barack Obama last month, Hillary Clinton had been a senator in name only, using the illustrious title only as a means to propel herself into the Oval Office. For the most part she has been absent from her senatorial duties.

To be fair, Senators John McCain and Barack Obama have been guilty of the same lack of active participation. But, neither of those men came to office with expectations of immediately acquiring the presidency. McCain has been toiling in Congress since 1983 and Obama was a virtual nobody up until his stirring speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2004.

Hillary came on to the scene in 2000 with the ultimate goal of winning the 2008 presidential election and that quest has dominated her attention. In just this year alone Clinton managed to take herself away from her tireless campaign of self-promotion to vote on only a scant 63 of the 162 items that came to the Senate floor. By choosing to do her job just 39% of the time she ignored the Farm Bill. She did not vote on the 2009 federal budget. She didn’t offer her opinion on improved educational assistance for our armed forces. She didn’t give her “yea” or “nay” to the Foreclosure Protection Act. She didn’t vote on extension of tax credits for renewable energy development. She never gave the time to recognize the men and women killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. And, she didn’t want to help define our strategy for battling al-Qaeda. Basically, by failing to act on these and other bills she let down her constituents.

Clinton’s part-time efforts come with full-time pay. She’ll earn the base $169,300 plus all the perks. In the real world she never would have earned that wage. As a matter of fact, she would have been fired for dereliction of duties. The office of US Senator comes with great expectations. It is supposed to be a means to make everyone’s lives better, not a means to make that Senator’s life better. Hillary doesn’t understand that. She let us down by abusing her power and she let herself down by never reaping the presidential rewards hoped by her selfish master plan.

What makes this so horrible is the simple fact that we have only two senators. With such power it’s vitally important that we get the most out of our “investment”. Because of her desire to achieve greatness on the backs of others while turning her back to them, Hillary Clinton has failed all New Yorkers, those who voted for her and those who did not. We deserve an apology….or someone who truly wants to be our senator.