Friday, June 30, 2006

And now for something completely different

Recently, I've been following the progress of the Shepherd Ocean Fours rowing race. This is really a phenomenal race -- four teams of rowers (four men each) set out from New York on June 10th, bound for Falmouth, England. Twenty days into the race, three of the teams have covered over 1,000 miles. The fourth had a mechanical failure and is safely back in port.

The enormity of this task is really daunting -- take a look at this map to get a feel for what they've accomplished and what they have left to do (the rings are 500 nautical miles each!):

I've been following the American team, OAR Northwest, pretty closely through a friend at work. As of this morning, the Americans in the James Robert Hanssen have about a 30 nautical mile lead, and are making good use of the Atlantic Ocean currents to stay ahead. They're the green line on my chart.

They, like the two British teams (Team Hesco and Yorkshire Warrior), are rowing for charity as well as for the challenge. You can show your support for the team by making a donation, half of which will go to the American Lung Association of Washington to further asthma research and promote general lung health. Why that particular charity?

Team captain, Jordan Hanssen, watched his father collapse and die from an asthma attack when he was just three years old. He later developed, but fortunately outgrew, the disease. His life of athletics, both swimming and rowing, is both an act of defiance towards this affliction and a hope to spread knowledge of how it can be controlled. It is in honor of his father's memory that we have partnered with the American Lung Association of Washington and named our boat the

James Robert Hanssen

Individual donations are an integral part of the success of OAR Northwest. Your donations will help our team raise the significant anount of money we need to purchase and outfit the boat, and get it and ourselves to England and back!

You can also show your support by sending them a (free!) text message via, number 881641426086. The messages are limited to 160 characters, but the guys say they row faster with each one they receive.

Tags: Shepherd Ocean Fours, Rowing

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

State Employee Growth

Paul Nelson of NJ Fiscal Folly pointed out a great resource yesterday in NJ Government Employee Data. I spent a couple of hours last night going through the reports, and one thing I can tell you is that our structural problem in New Jersey has been brewing for an awfully long time.

New Jersey, like most other Northeastern states, has been growing at a decelerating rate through much of the 20th century. The linear growth trend suggests we may reach zero population growth in about sixteen years.
[editorial note: the vertical scale on the following chart should read "Growth Rate" rather than "Cumulative Growth"]

Even though the population growth is decelerating, the numbers add up significantly over a long period of time. I chose 1920 as a base year because it was the earliest readily accessible data point at the US Census website. From 1920 to 2005, New Jersey's population grew by 176%.

As noted by Enlighten-New Jersey, growth in state employment has, on average, been much higher than population growth, but with significantly more variability.

The only bright spot on this chart is the slight dip during the 80s (19%) and 90s (-5%), when state employee growth was held to more reasonable levels. Overall employment change for that period (13.3%) was actually less than population growth (14.2%). Governor McGreevey undid those gains and then some; by 2005 we had 26% more employees than in 1980, but only 18% more people in the state.

As Enlighten says, "government is becoming less productive and more costly with each passing year." How much more? Take a look at one final chart, showing the cumulative growth of the state's population versus the cumulative growth in state employees.

These numbers are truly staggering. The state employs nearly 1% of our population, and wants to add more. Governor Corzine's 2007 budget adds another 1,300 employees to the payroll. Contrast that with the US military. It had less than 0.5% of the population on active duty in 2005 (page 166), and will decrease by nearly 4% by 2007.

Tags: New Jersey, Taxes, Corzine, State Budget

Monday, June 19, 2006

Union - Management Relations

FAIRFIELD, CT -- The Industrial Division of the Communications Workers of America (IUE-CWA) held a rally this afternoon in front of General Electric headquarters in Fairfield, Connecticut. At issue: leaked internal management memos that indicate company plans to downsize the unionized workforce by 15%.
Union leaders are outraged. Union president Jim Clark, addressing the 6,000-strong crowd, demanded that GE Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt publicly denounce the memos and support full execution of the company's contract with the union.
To the surprise of everyone present, Immelt did just that. Appearing at the rally, he said he stood with the unions. "I'll stand with you. I'll fight with you,'' he said.

Real? No. Not in GE-land, where management caving in to union demands leads to an unsustainable business model. Just ask Delphi, whom the IUE sucked dry back in the day before CWA took them over.
... the forces that pushed Delphi into bankruptcy court have been building for years. As the auto industry has gone global, U.S. automakers — saddled with high-cost labor contracts negotiated in more prosperous times — now find themselves pitted against leaner overseas rivals.

In the real world, a board of directors faced with Immelt's fictional action would fire him so fast his head would spin. They have a fiduciary duty to their stockholders to keep the company as profitable as possible, and a rogue chief executive siding with the unions is not in the best interest of the owners of the company.
Here in New Jersey, however, we have failed to learn the lessons of history. Enlighten-New Jersey notes how Corzine Vows To "Fight For Public Employees."
Pubic workers enthusiastically support Corzine’s budget because it contains no layoffs or cuts to state worker salary increases and fringe benefits. With growing concerns over the disparity between public and private sector pay packages, some lawmakers have suggested Corzine take action this year to rein in the cost public employees.

Many New Jersey bloggers noted during the campaign that Jon Corzine was not fit to lead our state. He fails to represent the interests of the taxpayers who elected him, just as he did in the Senate for five years.
After only a few months in office, it should be abundantly clear to all that we cannot tolerate his incompetence. Our "board of directors," the Senate and Assembly, have a fiduciary duty to the taxpayers to ensure our state is operated efficiently. A chief of executive siding with the unions against the legislature does not serve that interest. Corzine must go.

Tags: New Jersey, Taxes, Corzine, State Budget

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


Well, this should be interesting. A friend invited me to sign up for Blogads, so I did. I've priced my advertising space ridiculously low, so if you want to get in on the ground floor, and cheap, click on the link in the sidebar RIGHT NOW.

Go on, CLICK IT!


Tags: Blogads

Monday, June 12, 2006

Taxing Us to Death, Revisited

Enlighten New Jersey notes today that New Jersey Democrats are Not Satisfied With $16,667 Per Person In Taxes.

Taxpayers want Trenton to cut state spending, not come up with new ways to extract money out of their wallets. Shifting taxes around and identifying new things to tax does not solve the problem.

The people of New Jersey already pay more than their fair of taxes, no matter what Governor Jon Corzine, Senator Bob Menendez and all the other state Democrats might have you believe. These numbers don’t lie. New Jersey’s per capita tax of $16,667 is the second highest in the nation. And that's before Corzine’s new hospital, sales and other proposed taxes.

The specific numbers to which Enlighten refers were provided by the Tax Foundation. In addition to the raw dollars, where New Jersey ranks second behind Connecticut, they also have a table showing the state, local, and federal tax burdens as a percentage of income, along with a projected "Tax Freedom Day" for each year starting in 1970. Back then, NJ's workers had "paid off" their taxes by April 18th; it now sits at May 6th. We rank 3rd in total tax burden across the country, and have only been out of the top five twice since 1982.

An interesting comparison from that table is the difference between New Jersey's state/local tax burden and the average across the country. Back in the days of Brendan Byrne and Tom Kean, New Jersey was consistently close to the national average, as shown in the graph below.

Over the long haul of the data available, New Jersey has on average been less than 1/10th of 1% higher than the national average; under Governor Florio, however, we were significantly more taxed than the rest of the country, to the tune of nearly 3/4%. The "Whitman tax cuts" our liberal friends like to rail about were really just a return to the mainstream of America from Florio's confiscatory scheme.

Governor Corzine, by proposing to increase our sales tax 16.7%, seeks to return to the Florio model of taxing us to death. The real solution is to cut total spending, not increase it by $2 billion and demand more tax money to cover a manufactured "deficit."

Tags: New Jersey, Taxes

Friday, June 09, 2006


Roberto at DynamoBuzz posts to let us know he's still alive, but busy.

Me too. I got snagged at work to help out on a project that was falling behind, so my overtime is up significantly over the past few weeks. Most of the summer is going to be like this, since we have a major proposal to write by September. Last time I worked on a big proposal, I averaged about 75 hours a week for the final month.

I'll still be lurking, but probably won't be posting too often between now and the heavy part of the campaign season.

Note: I had posted this using Firefox's "Blog This" extenstion, but somehow it was pointed at my template testing blog. I caught the error and moved this post three days later.

Tags: Stupid Blogger Tricks