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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

The Will Of The People On Guns Is Thwarted By MN GOP

Category: Guns
Posted: 04/23/18 14:01

by Dave Mindeman

The Star Tribune poll looked into the issue of gun laws and came up with two opposing ideas....

1) Regulations will be a tough sell. "Legislators and lobbyists said neither those nor other gun control laws are likely to progress this year in St. Paul, with Republican legislative leaders showing no willingness to take them up."

Notice it is Republican legislative leaders that are the obstacle.

Secondly, is the opposite view.

2) Overwhelming public support. "Asked whether criminal background checks should be mandatory on all gun sales -- current state law has exceptions for private sales and at gun shows -- a full 90 percent of poll respondents said yes, with only 8 percent opposed. And 86 percent said it should be mandatory to report stolen or lost guns to police."

Anything that has that kind of overwhelming support should be a safe political stance, shouldn't it? But Republicans at the Capitol do not fear the public, they fear the NRA Gun lobby.

There is an obvious flaw in the system when this is the case. The people are the ones to be represented. They are the ones who determine electoral fates. Yet, somehow, Republicans have minimized public support and have found ways to ignore gun safety voices.

The numbers are overwhelming:

56% support stricter gun laws - 31% oppose.

59% oppose arming teachers - 35% support.

63% support raising the legal purchase age to 21 - 27% oppose.

59% support a ban on military-styled rifles with detachable magazines while 31% oppose the ban.

90% support mandatory criminal background check on all gun sales, including those sold privately and at gun shows - 8% oppose.

54% believe we would be less safe if more people carried guns - 36% believe we would be safer.

45% say Congress is not going far enough on gun laws - 23% say too far.

Republicans are not reflecting the will of the public - they are obstructing that will. That would suggest that we need a change in this Minnesota legislature. First the House in 2018 - then the Senate in 2020.

It is that simple. The will of the people needs to make itself heard.

And that must be at the ballot box.
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Earth Day Thoughts On Polymet And Oil Transport

Category: Environment
Posted: 04/22/18 13:19

by Dave Mindeman

It's Earth Day and a good time to talk about Minnesota's environmental concerns.

Number one on that list is Polymet Mining. The controversy in the 8th district centers around the Polymet proposal to open up a copper/nickel sulfide mine. This is a highly risky venture because the waste products are hazardous to the environment. The Boundary Waters will be at risk.

Granted, this will create a few jobs - I believe the number is around 300. But can we balance that with any risk analysis that is in play here? I'm not sure we can.

A big concern is Polymet's plan for storing waste...

A hulking, man-made earthen dike that will stretch for miles and reach 252 feet high when finished, the dam will hold back millions of gallons of water mixed in a slurry with finely ground rock left over after crushing and processing -- after the copper, nickel and other valuable metals are extracted.

A breach of this dam (not an impossible thought) would be catastrophic. There have been two such breaches at similar type mines...

Disastrous tailings basin dam failures happened in 2014, at the Mount Polley copper/gold mine in British Columbia, flooding downstream lakes with mine waste; and in 2015 at an iron ore mine in Brazil, killing 19 people and destroying downstream villages.

Of course, Polymet says that "cannot" happen here, but what else are they going to say? This kind of breach would destroy land surrounding that area - trying to reclaim it would be difficult and very, very costly.

To me, this seems to be too great a risk for the benefit. There are other places to mine and there are other jobs to be had....especially in renewable energy.

One mistake or breach will have far reaching effects.

My second environmental concern is oil pipelines. But here, I may have a different take. Pipelines have their concerns but the transport of oil is not something we are going to stop anytime soon. Not unless renewable energy is produced at a much faster pace.

And since oil will be transported regardless, if pipelines are blocked, then it will be transported by rail cars. To me, this is far more concerning. Pipelines will have ruptures and cause environmental havoc to be sure, but rail cars can explode and since they go through populated areas, they will cause casualties and deaths.

Now I do not fault people who protest pipelines. In fact, I still support their cause. The scrutiny of pipeline building and its safety needs to be vetted thoroughly. But if we must still transport the oil, I would rather use pipelines that can be routed through sparsely populated areas than using rail transportation.

The overall solution, once again, is a reduction in our dependence on fossil fuels. This needs to be accelerated and maybe someday, pipelines and oil itself will be a thing of the past.

Let's focus on that for Earth Day and redouble our efforts.
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Erik Paulsen Congratulates You On Your 401K - But Hold On...

Category: Economy
Posted: 04/20/18 16:32

by Dave Mindeman

A tweet from Erik Paulsen:


Have a 401(k)? #TaxReform is working for you. Learn how stock buybacks are good news for the more than 50% of American households that own stock:

Then he linked this site: Buybacks are Great for Working Americans

The reasoning....

Workers benefit when stock values rise. Stock buybacks increase the value of retirement accounts and personal equity holdings. If investors continue holding stock instead of selling it back to the company in a buyback, its value will increase because there are fewer shares in circulation. Higher stock values increase the funds in retirement accounts, boosting workers' retirement income.

Another line of reasoning is that stocks permeate retirement plans.

"First, investing isn't just for the wealthy. Over half of American households own stock, either directly or indirectly. In fact, worker retirement accounts (company pension plans, 401(k)s, IRAs, etc.) hold 37 percent of all U.S. corporate stock."

OK - that may be true, but does it really benefit the American worker and middle class that much?

Color me skeptical. Even though 37% sits in retirement accounts that still leaves the overwhelming majority sitting in hedge funds, corporate buybacks, and wealthy individual players.

With a 401(K), you can have some limited control over what happens to the stock but most of it is in mutual funds, which means some Wall Streeter is managing your money. And they are not going to have the same profit incentive to make that money work as they would for a wealthy client who expects big returns. More often than not, your money manager will use a safe slow growth mutual fund with limited risk and unable to take advantage of market swings. Which is good safe management, but not something that will benefit greatly in the current environment.

So let's talk about those buy backs. Why do corporations buy their own stock back. Well, it turns out (surprise), it is mostly for selfish reasons.

1. Dividends. For a company dividends are a means of giving stock value but it is also a "cost of equity" - meaning they want to give dividends as a reward for shareholders, but if they have fewer shares to pay dividends on, they can keep the excess money.

2. Preserving the Dividend. When a company has to cut back on its dividend, the share price will usually take a big hit. If the company buys back its shares in lieu of a potential dividend reduction later, the share price can be maintained with that reduced "cost of equity". The shares bought back can then be reissued later with the potential for making a profit.

3. Undervalued Stock. Companies will buy back shares at times they think their stock price is not reflecting its worth. Share buybacks can often be reissued at a higher price when the stock comes closer to its value. The company gains the profit.

4. Earning Per Share. Buying back stock makes the stock more attractive because fewer shares in the marketplace automatically increases the earnings per share value. Profits can be the same but when extrapolated over fewer shares, the EPS looks great to investors. Also, by buying back shares, it can also be viewed by the market that management has enough confidence in the company to reinvest in itself.


So, as you look at those advantages, 401K's get a bit of a boost, but just like everything else involving this tax cut, the big money is made by the Wall Street players and their wealthy clients. Corporations aren't doing this for your benefit, they are doing it first and foremost for themselves.

When Erik Paulsen congratulates you on your 401K value, he is not telling you the whole story.

He never does.
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