Trickle Down Economics Got You Blue? Issue A Bond & Build A Dam
by Timothy Achan Gates, Correspondent
Sassafrass perform at Frackstock 2014 last Saturday at the Covington Trailhead while Ronald Reagan gives a coy salute in the background. Photo submitted by Reina Solano, owner of Shop Soul Boutique on Boston Street.
Despite the heat, Frackstock 2014 was a success, kicking off the Solstice with what should prove to be an intense summer. Other great performances included Jerry Hess, myself, Sonic Migration, Braintree, Chris Eschete and Christian Serpas. Looking at this picture and contemplating Covington’s giant statue of Reagan, I am reminded of his legacies that stood out the most to me as a child: Reaganomics (the Trickle Down Theory) and the Star Wars Defense System. As for the latter, it was just a cool idea. Video games were in, and so was Star Wars, and the proposal of a space-based laser that could fry an incoming nuke or hostile extraterrestrial starship was almost unfathomable coming from the federal government. There was also Reagan’s near-paranoid speech to a U.N. General Assembly about the possible threat from space that might unite all nations against a common enemy, but that doesn’t relate to this much.
With regard to the former, although associated with Reagan’s economic policies, the term is attributed to humorist Will Rogers: “The money was all appropriated for the top in the hopes it would trickle down to the needy.” This dates to the late 1920’s just before the impending Great Depression. The term was applied to Reagan by his critics, because his economic policies called for large tax cuts to the top earners, allowing them to earn more, thus spurring economic growth which would eventually have a positive effect on the lower classes as well. Ironically, while the term is rooted in satire and has never effectively “worked” in its nearly 100 years of existence, economically conservative minded folks toss it around as if it were a given. When this logic is applied to the heirarchy (to use their own terminology) that our Parish Government has created, or maybe more accurately, which has created our Parish Government, it is very clear that perpetuating a sharp division between the economic classes is essential to their definition of economic growth.
During my senior year at Covington High, I became friends with the son of a bar pilot. While visiting Pilot Town, my friend made the comment that these were the people that controlled the politicians. At the time, I still firmly believed in the political process, and scoffed. These days, I find the best indicator of what a politician will do, despite what he or she may say, is to examine the agenda of the lobbyists, in our case, the Chamber of Commerce, the Northshore Business Council, the Bureau of Governmental Research, GNO, Inc. and the Committee of 100, among many others on the local levels. When I discovered that the St. Tammany Parish Development District owned tugboats, I thought about that comment again.
I decided to call Representative Tim Burns to understand more about the boats, after calling the St. Tammany Parish EDF, the Parish Government and Florida Marine, with no response. Actually, I think I called Florida Marine before him, but Representative Burns was who responded; he is in a unique position to respond since he is also Vice President and General Counsel for Florida Marine Inc., the operators of the vessels owned by the Development District. Rep. Burns explained that the tugboats are owned by the STPDD by taxable revenue bonds issued to Florida Marine Transporters. This type of bond does not require voter approval, has less federal regulation, and may generally be issued for any purpose that promotes economic development. According to the website findthedata.org, the St. Tammany Parish Development District owns at least six tugboats: Louis Develle, John Grimsley #59, Dennis J. Pasentine, Rusty Zeller, Big D and Capt. W.D. Nunley. All vessels except for the Nunley are 522% larger than the average towing vessel at 133′ in length and nearly 12′ in depth.
Apparently, all expenses incurred by the vessels are covered by the bonds themselves, the operator receives certain tax exemptions, and there’s no need to be concerned about public money involved because the end result is job creation. Since Florida Marine is in the business of the transport of energy products, I asked Rep. Burns about any possible conflicts of interest, as per our previous reports, specifically regarding the controversy of hydraulic fracturing operations in our Parish. Representative Burns stated that although Florida Marine and Helis Oil do business with one another, it was achingly clear that “we don’t want fracking here. We’re a green community. This isn’t an industrial community.” Although these are strong and commendable statements, they are little consolation in a parish where the working class is taxed to submission and the wealthy are tax exempt. They have built a dam, and the trickle has almost completely stopped. — Email Timothy: email@example.com