We are on the verge of bringing a new president into office tomorrow. It will be an exciting day by any measure and once again we witness one of the great innovations our Founding Fathers gifted us with, the smooth transition of power in the Executive Branch of the Federal government. It’s easy to forget that in the greater world we live in that this is, sadly, still exceptional and only entrenched in a minority group of countries.
I decided to include the late President Reagan’s 1981 inaugural speech today for a couple of reasons. First as a reminder that Reagan is the oratorial template that all modern presidents, regardless of party affiliation, strive to equal. He was the master of public address and even today, almost 30 years later, the words are stirring.
Secondly, the speech that Obama will give tomorrow will in many ways mimic Reagan’s 1981 speech because the challenges we face are in many ways the same. Tomorrow we will begin an era of national renewal, just as we did in 1981.
This is certainly disappointing news. There is no better indicator of economic output to track than transportation numbers and what this indicates is that there is an overwhelming glut of capacity as a result of export output falling to unprecedented levels.
Freight rates for containers shipped from Asia to Europe have fallen to zero for the first time since records began, underscoring the dramatic collapse in trade since the world economy buckled in October.
I did my own investigative reporting on economic indicators over the weekend and what I uncovered was not encouraging.
At the local produce market where I regularly shop, I asked the manager what he was seeing. He told me that customer counts were constant but the average shopping basket had fallen by about 25%. Predictably, treats like candies and dried fruit (as well as Marianne’s Ice Cream… definitely worth trying btw) we suffering from the biggest declines, but organics were surprisingly holding their own with the help of price reductions to bring them more in line with non-organics.
Following the produce market I headed over to Hone Depot but not to talk with the store but rather the day laborers that regularly congregate in the parking lot. A few conversations later revealed that local contractor activity has fallen off precipitously, according to a few of the laborers I talked with as much as 80%. This could be a consequence of local contractors cutting costs and doing more of the work they would normally have hired a day laborer for on their own or it could be a function of the work simply not being there, it’s probably a little of both.
The voters of California have already voted representatives to the Assembly and Senate. If these elected officials are unwilling or incapable of doing their job and the voters will be required to vote on the actual budget measures through yet another costly special election, then it should be accompanied by another measure which would dissolve the state senate and require the Assembly to be convened on a part time basis. If we are going to shrink the size of the government in California, let’s start at the top and effectively fire 40 state senators and their extensive staffs.
I’ve never understood the merits of having a bicameral legislature at the state level and clearly in the case of California it is not working.