Dave's Column

Dave's Woonsocket Call Blog for May 2, 2017


­­­­­­­­­Dave Richards for May 2nd…………




--I’ll start this week with a tip of the hat to Roger Laliberte.  This Thursday at the Twin River Event Center Roger will be among the radio greats to be inducted into the Rhode Island Radio Hall of Fame.  It’s about time Roger is recognized for his complete dedication to Francophiles and Francophones throughout the Blackstone Valley. 




  I met Roger Laliberte when I was a young man starting out in broadcasting.  We became good friends in short order.  And even though we no longer work together, I couldn’t be more delighted to see him honored in this way. 






  Toutes nos fe’licitations, Roger!






--We’ve all heard for years about treaties between governments.  Sometimes they are treaties ending the hostilities of war, sometimes pledging mutual defense of each other, and sometimes it’s a treaty outlining an agreement regarding trade.  In the 1990s, two treaties came into existence.  In Europe, the European Union (E.U.), and on this continent the North American Free Trade Agreement or (N.A.F.T.A). 




  Any agreement has an “upside” and a “downside”.  Those who push to establish them promote the advantages of the “upside” only.  This is natural.   After they are established, the disadvantages of the “downside”, often become apparent.  They say treaties are in this way not unlike a marriage.  And, indeed, the similarities of treaties to marriage are even more striking when you examine the case of Brexit.




  “Brexit” is the term used for the exit of Britain from the European Union, which they have elected to do.  The remaining 27 countries of the E.U. are describing it as a ‘divorce’ in their various native tongues.  The similarity goes even further.  The financial settlement they are demanding of Britain to allow her to leave is being called “alimony”.




  Naturally, it is in everyone else’s interest to make it difficult for a disenchanted member to simply leave the group.  In the case of Brexit, Britain has offered many of millions to the E.U..  When they finished laughing, the remaining E.U. members suggested a figure in the tens of billions of Euros would be more like it.  Now that’s what I call making it ‘difficult’!




  NAFTA is an agreement among and between the three countries on the North American Continent.  The United States, Mexico, and Canada have all agreed to remove tariffs, quotas, and other trade barriers between each other.  During negotiations, proponents said it would lead to trade and prosperity for all three and give them a more commanding standing in trade matters between their members and other non-NAFTA countries.  I remember at the time it was being debated there was much fear that failing to band together would put the countries on this continent at a distinct and dangerous disadvantage with the countries of the European Union. 




  When emotional arguments such as fear are used to make trade agreements look good, it is a clear sign that someone is getting desperate to pass it.  This is not the way to make mutually beneficial treaties.  Indeed, shortly after NAFTA was in full effect, many thousands of U.S. jobs were sent south of the border and the Mexican economy benefited greatly.  The U.S. economy improved slightly because after the initial investment the companies which sent their manufacturing operations to Mexico profited, again at the expense of U.S. workers.  Canada has seen insignificant benefit from the agreement.




  This past weekend, President Trump came right out and said he wanted the U.S. to leave NAFTA.  The president makes these kinds of statements, we have seen, with some regularity and also with apparent disregard for diplomatic protocols or for caring about what anyone else may think of it.  Since I was personally not a supporter of NAFTA when it started, you might expect me to be happy to hear the president talk this way, but you would be wrong.




  Yes, I’d love to see NAFTA not exist, but remember the costs being demanded of Britain in its exit from the E.U..  Is it possible leaving NAFTA could cost us more than leaving it is worth?  Canada probably wouldn’t care if the whole thing went away.  There were few tariffs between the U.S. and Canada before NAFTA.  Mexico and Canada were never big trade partners, either.  So there would likely not be much difference to the Canadians if they or we weren’t a part of NAFTA.  But Mexico would be another matter, and this is where I think our trouble would originate.




  Mexico benefited most from the NAFTA agreements.  Mexico would certainly be the one most hurt if the deal broke up.  Mexico, despite its present employment and relative prosperity has a huge problem with organized criminal gangs.  It wouldn’t take much imagination to expect that if the Mexican economy were severely damaged, the only ones to benefit will be the criminal gangs.  At the very least a poor economy would impair the ability of the Mexican government to fight organized crime.




  So NAFTA has one member who doesn’t care, one member who wants out, and one member who’ll be hurt.  Not a good position for any agreement to be in.




  Examining all these facts, plus the knowledge that a desperate Mexico could nationalize all those factories we built down there, and can drive the criminal gangs northward over the border into the United States if it wanted to, we are left with a distinct feeling of apprehension that the cost of the U.S. leaving NAFTA may be far higher than we wish to pay.  It leaves me clinging to the hope that our president will “go slow” in this direction.  Unfortunately for my hopes, “going slow” is not our new president’s long suit.  I do hope he learns, though.  Rather quickly.




--That’s what I think.  What do you think?  Comments to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or postal mail to Dave Richards, WOON Radio, 985 Park Avenue, Woonsocket, RI 02895-6332. 




Thanks for reading!








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April 25th


­­­­­­­­­Dave Richards for April 25th…………




--Over the years we’ve all heard politicians who have promised that when they are elected, they’ll run the government “like a business”.  These candidates gain a lot of favor from voters who find it easy to criticize the waste in government.  The real truth of the matter is that there is some waste in government and there is some waste in business as well.  I can tell you from my experience in management that the effort of eliminating all waste is in the same category as making gold out of lead.  It’s been tried forever, but it doesn’t work, and the wise manager tries not to eliminate it, but to embrace it and then manage the size of it. 




  The big difference is that while waste can be managed and cut from business with the requisite kicking and screaming from those affected, in a business situation you don’t have to listen to the complaints………..but in government you do!    




  So anyone who says they’re going to eliminate wasteful spending in government is either lying to you or fooling themselves.  It just can’t happen in government when you are elected by those affected.  This is not to say that we can’t try to be more thrifty with the people’s money, we can, and many in government try to be.  I applaud this, but it can go too far.  A case in point is the Rhode Island Public Transportation Authority, commonly known by its acronym, RIPTA.  The people at RIPTA have an impossible job.  Their goal is to provide transportation services for everybody and anybody who needs them to go anywhere at any time within our state.  But they cannot meet this goal without losing tons of money.  So they make compromises.  They lose less money, and they fall a bit short of their goal, trying to find some point of balance between the two unfortunate situations.




  It’s the same everywhere in this world, if there were good money to be made running public transportation, for-profit companies would be doing it. 




  In every locality there is this big long list of things which people need.  Some of these needs can be provided at a profit.  Some cannot.  Businesses take all the profitable things, leaving government to provide the services which are not profitable, but needed.  This is a fact of life, and if nobody ever told you this before, you missed an important lesson.




  But if you did miss that lesson, you are not alone.  It seems to me a significant number of Representatives and Senators in the Rhode Island General Assembly haven’t learned that lesson yet, either.  They keep squeezing RIPTA to operate with less losses, but then show up at the hearings telling them they must NOT eliminate routes which lose the most money.  Talk about a rock and a hard place!




  Some of the inefficiencies of a government agency or, in this case an Authority, are not of their making.  I was told confidentially by a RIPTA official some years ago that one of the criticisms leveled against them is that the big diesel-pusher busses we see so much are seldom full of passengers.  At RIPTA, they know this, they’re not dummies.  They’d love to use smaller busses when called for at a reduced operating cost, but the problem is that the drivers who drive the big busses need skills and certifications that a driver of a smaller bus wouldn’t need.  The less-qualified drivers of smaller busses would earn less, and that makes sense.  But then what do you do with the drivers who qualify for the higher wages of driving the big busses?  You can’t pay them less to drive a smaller bus, they have financial responsibilities based upon the higher wages.  You can’t just replace them and put them out of work either, because a labor union is involved, making any kind of changes problematic. 




  RIPTA continues to work on these problems.  They’ve had to raise rates recently.  I still think riding a RIPTA bus is a bargain overall, but I do admit they don’t go everywhere I need to go when I need to go there.  And if they do, they don’t come back on a schedule which fits my needs.  I understand why they cannot.  But the Fabulous Denise and I still use them whenever we can.




  As part of their heroic efforts to “shovel against the tide”, RIPTA is launching another survey to gather information from those who use their services and those who would like to.  The survey started yesterday and continues until Sunday May 21st and can be found online at www.ripta.com (click on “Survey”).  The information in this fifth annual survey is important to them, so important that everyone who goes online and tells them what they think will be entered into a drawing for prizes which include free bus passes. 




  I am a big supporter of public transportation.  I wish the financial realities of running public transportation were different.  But I am glad that our government supplies this vital service, even at a loss.  Sometimes it’s not ALL about the money, you know.




--That’s what I think.  What do you think?  Comments to: dave@onworldwide.com or postal mail to Dave Richards, WOON Radio, 985 Park Avenue, Woonsocket, RI 02895-6332. 




Thanks for reading!








April 12th


Dave Richards for April 12th…………

--Last week I wrote about restoring tax exempt status to the property of religious and non-profit organizations. I expected to hear from a number of people disagreeing with me but I didn’t hear from anyone at all. But I did hear something this past week which is somewhat on the same topic.

I heard that nearly half of the automobiles registered to Woonsocket residents are so old that the city gets little or no taxes from them. Well, I’m sure that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but as with all good exaggerations there is probably a bit of truth to it.

Thinking back in time I remember that the whole idea of taxing automobiles was to try to spread the tax burden out more fairly. People who rent apartments don’t directly pay property taxes on their homes, it was said, so let’s tax their cars. As with any idea, going back to the time of Solomon The Wise, in trying to make things fair, you end up making them more unfair. Now people who owned their own homes got taxed on their homes AND their cars. And considering renters, if you think for one minute that a large chunk of their ever-increasing rent payment isn’t going to pay the taxes on the building they live in, guess again. Nothing is as simple as it looks.

There was a time at the very beginning of this century when the state government tried to reverse that law and not tax cars. They came up with a plan to replace the money the municipal governments would lose and proposed to phase-in the plan over several years. But before it could be fully phased-in, THAT wonderful idea got side-tracked by the Great Recession about 8 years ago. And it has never gotten back on track since then.

Many people agree with me that laws should be updated as times change. They tried. They stopped trying. Now, they’re still taxing cars and, either due to the economy or to other factors, people are keeping their cars so long that the tax revenue is not meeting expectations. Come to think of it, MY car is 11 years old, and The Fabulous Denise’s buggy is a year older than mine. They are paid-off and are still running well, and I just don’t see the need to replace them right now. It’s not a “tax-dodge”. It’s reality. Cars are lasting longer and there’s no good reason to replace them so frequently. Expect changes to address this, my friends.

--I read a lot of history and even for me it is hard to imagine a Presidential Race could ever be more vicious and divisive than this one. Let’s see. There was one, back in 1780, when a candidate claimed in public that his opponent wasn’t a man, physically. A high insult, back in those times. That wouldn’t work in this campaign because one of the candidates really isn’t a man, physically. There was another pretty bad campaign in the early 1800s in which one of the candidates called the other’s wife a whore. Come to think of it, that’s already been done in this campaign. And we all know what happened when the Republican won the office in 1860, half the states seceded from the Union. Talk about divisive!

Yes, when it comes to the office of the President of the United States there’s a lot of “the bigger the prize, the dirtier the fight” going on. And nobody is yet running for the actual office itself, only to be the nominee of a major political party to then run for the office. I find myself going into overload if I pay attention to it for very long and I honestly try to ignore as much as I can and still stay reasonably informed. But it’s so pervasive that it forces itself upon us, regardless.

Take for example the other day when I was driving in my car outside the range of my favorite local radio station just scanning around the dial to see what was on and I stumbled upon what sounded like one of those nationally distributed talk shows. They were talking about the political races, as you may expect. And just as I tuned in one of the two announcers made the statement that the world has never seen a race like this one. I know on these kinds of shows people will say anything, just to get attention, but he got mine enough to listen for a few seconds more to see if he could back up his statement. Then he started talking about the civil disobedience of the 1960s and the protests of Dr. Martin Luther King and compared them to Trump supporters of today assaulting protesters and—here’s a quote now, “Trump supporters parking on grave stones.” ……. Huh? I re-ran the comment in my mind. He wasn’t laughing. He wasn’t joking. I’d never heard of such a thing. But then I asked myself, “Why is this statement ‘believable’ to me?” And shut I the radio off, congratulating myself that I don’t listen to that stuff regularly.

Later I heard that over 20,000 people in California and nationally have signed a petition demanding that Mr. Trump’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame be removed. Personally, I didn’t know he had one, but he does and he was awarded it by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce for his work in TV. Is there no limit to the way this man can divide people? It’s only April. And I can’t bear to look…………..

--That’s what I think. What do you think? Comments to: dave@onworldwide.com or postal mail to Dave Richards, WOON Radio, 985 Park Avenue, Woonsocket, RI 02895-6332.

Thanks for reading.