Thursday, August 29, 2013

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

Once again, our nation lurches toward another debt crisis. The United States will hit its debt limit by mid-October unless Congress agrees to raise the debt ceiling. If the U.S. reaches the debt ceiling, which is currently $16.7 trillion, there is no more borrowing authority. The implications of that are sizable. The federal government could only fund operations from cash that it has on hand on any particular day, meaning that many bills would go unpaid. That would have a draconian impact on some families, as they rely heavily on government assistance to get by, whether from Social Security payments, food stamps, welfare, or other programs. To keep those programs running, there would be an immediate and drastic cut to all the programs. Additionally, the U.S. would be unable to pay the interest due on its massive debt and the principal that will come due at various maturities. As you can imagine, the disruption domestically and with those countries and institutions that buy our debt will be extremely painful if we cannot pay our bills. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has said there is "no negotiation" on raising the debt limit- it has to be done and the Administration is not budging off that position.  Perhaps if those in Washington took the opposite approach- there is no negotiation about our country living within its means and not spending wildly- we would not have to confront this dilemma. Alas, that discipline is sorely lacking in Washington, and the result will be even more spending and more debt. And you and I will pay dearly for that.

I am really getting into swing dancing. Not on purpose. Seems like some parts of my body have become prone to swinging.

Want a job that pays well? In this economy, it is difficult to find one, and this has forced many people to take minimum wage jobs. There is nothing wrong with that; along with providing entry into the work force, these jobs sometimes serve as a bridge between better paying jobs for some people. But here is a perversity of our modern welfare nation, and it should infuriate those of us that work and see our taxes go up dramatically, and that perversity is that in 35 states, welfare benefits pay more than a minimum wage job. In 13 states, welfare benefits pay more than $15 per hour, more than double the minimum wage. This information is from a new study by the Cato Institute. Michael Tanner, Senior Policy Analyst and co-author of the study said, "One of the single best ways to climb out of poverty is to take a job, but as long as welfare benefits provide a better standard of living than an entry level job, recipients will continue to choose it over work." No joke. Paying more NOT to work disincentivizes working, especially in light of higher taxes and the cost of Obamacare. Washington currently funds 126 separate programs to support unemployment benefits and support to low income workers, on top of additional welfare programs operated by state and local governments. Hawaii has the most generous benefits according to the Cato Institute, at $29.13 per hour or an annual pre-tax income of $60,590. Friends, this ludicrous situation will not change until both Congress and state governments begin to reward work and not idleness. Unfortunately, government at all levels hasn't figured out that people respond to economic incentives, and if government makes it more economically favorable to not work, then most people will respond to that incentive. All the while, you and I will pay for this screwed up system and struggle to get by financially.

I'm not letting getting older get me down. It's too hard to get back up.

Economic decisions made by governing bodies are often viewed from a static perspective. By that, Washington may say that "if we raise taxes, the government will collect more revenue." Of course, in the real world, that is not often the case, as we see people respond to changing economic conditions, laws, or regulations. As mentioned above, we have made it more economically rewarding in this country not to work than to be gainfully employed. Until that dynamic is reversed, our country will continue to struggle to get back to full employment. These trends, positive or negative, often compound and have multiple effects as well. And one of the most troubling tends is that the stagnating, and in reality- shrinking, workforce is supporting more people that are receiving social security and other benefits than at any time in the history of these programs. Here are the troubling numbers: in 1970, there were 2.56 workers for every recipient of Social Security according to data from the St. Louis Federal Reserve. That trend held steady for 30 years, as there were 2.49 workers per recipient in 2000. From 1980 to 2000, there 9.9 million new beneficiaries added while the economy roughly 30 million new jobs. As the demographics of the aging Boomer population have accelerated more people toward retirement age, 10 million new beneficiaries were added from 2000 to 2010, but the U.S. economy had a net LOSS of jobs over the same period. Currently, there are 2 workers for every Social Security recipient, and that number is expected to fall in the near future.  It's obvious the program is in trouble, but we as a nation are accelerating and deepening the problem by making it more profitable not to work than to work. This means that those of us that are working full time are facing a greater tax burden to sustain the status quo in the myriad of government programs. Washington has to develop-quickly- a mindset of being frugal. Fail to do that, and the financial train wreck is going to be awful.

My memory is not as sharp as it used to be. Also, my memory is not as sharp as it used to be.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Friday, August 23, 2013

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

If you want to get a feel for where our nation is financially, consider these terrifying but useful data points compiled by Michael Snyder:

  • Since President Obama assumed office, 7 out of every 8 jobs that have been created in our economy are part time jobs.
  • An amazing 53% of all American workers now make less than $30,000 per year.
  • In 2008, the average duration of unemployment was 19.8 weeks. Today, it is 36.6 weeks.
  • In the first term of President Obama, the number of Americans that were not in the labor force but of working age soared by an astounding 8,332,200 people, more than any 4 year period in the history of our country.
  • Median household income has fallen 4 consecutive years, over $4,000 during that time. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the middle class is taking home a smaller share of the total income in this country than it has ever recorded before.
  • The U.S. poverty rate is now 16.1% of the population, which is higher than when the War on Poverty began in 1965.
  • In President Obama's first term, more than 11,000 people PER DAY were added to the roll of those receiving food stamps.
  • Electricity bills have risen faster than the rate of inflation for 5 years in a row.
  • Health insurance costs have risen by 29% since Obama became President. This will get even worse under Obamacare.
There is a litany of more negative statistics and facts about our economy that I could present. The point is not to bash President Obama- although he and Democrats in Washington are responsible for a lot of this mess. The point is to call our attention to the necessity of having Washington focus on what is important: removing barriers to growth in our economy so that people can once again get full time jobs that will allow them to support their family; and to get Washington to stop spending and wasting our money. These horrid facts should serve as a clarion call to all of to hold our elected officials accountable and to force them to rein in spending and to stop passing burdensome laws. As these facts demonstrate, we cannot continue down this fiscal path.

You never really learn to swear until you start driving.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates and tracks the nation's unemployment rate, and this agency is the source of the unemployment numbers that we hear every month. What you may not know is that the Gallup polling organization, a private firm, also tracks the unemployment rate. Historically, the calculations by the BLS and Gallup have tracked each other very closely, and while not exactly matching, the difference has been statistically insignificant. Until now. BLS reported a 7.4% unemployment rate for the end of July, which cheered the markets and led to a strong belief that the Federal Reserve would slow down their printing of money in September. Gallup, on the other hand, showed a jump to 7.8% for the end of July; not enough of an anomaly over which to get worried. However, on a rolling 30 average, Gallup shows the unemployment rate moving from 7.7% on July 21 to 8.9% on August 21. This is troubling but should be expected as more companies shrink their work force to get under the employee limits mandated by Obamacare. If this is a one off and their numbers return to normal, there will be a sigh of relief. I do not believe it to be a one off, though, and instead think it reflects the realities of our economy and the onerous regulatory system under which companies are operating today. Watch this trend closely, and especially pay attention to the Gallup numbers. They could be the canary in the coal mine.

I am thinking about opening a self service minor surgery clinic. I have the perfect name- "Suture Self".

Regular readers know that I often exhort each of us to get involved with what is going on in Washington and let our elected officials know that we as voters are holding them accountable. Well... our elected officials in Washington don't like being held accountable, and will go to great lengths to prevent citizens from seeing what is being deliberated as far as laws and regulations that have a direct and dramatic impact on all of us. Don't believe me? Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D Montana) is beginning to gather ideas and proposals to simplify the tax code. Sounds good so far. Certainly sounds like something that we would like to be involved with and give input. Good luck with that. According to the Congressional Register, the Senate Finance Committee is putting all recommendation and proposals under a 50 YEAR TOP SECRET CLASSIFICATION! Access outside of the committee is restricted to just 10 staffers. Think about that- the deliberation by our elected representatives on tax reform proposals that will financially affect you and I are TOP SECRET. If you ever want an example of what has gone awry in Washington, look no further. Our elected leaders, that are giving themselves access to our wallets, cannot even conduct a debate about tax code reform in public. This should make you angry and motivate you to get involved. Washington has to change.

Some things are better left unsaid. My problem is I can't determine which things.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Bridgestone Arena Gets An Impressive Facelift

The opening of the Music City Center, Nashville's new and gargantuan convention center, has changed many aspects of downtown Nashville. Notably, the MCC along with new hotels, restaurants, and other development has opened the area known as SoBro to a tremendous increase in foot traffic from visitors and residents. The area south of Broadway has now become a new destination for those coming to downtown.

This means that the Bridgestone Arena must change as well.

The south entrance to the Arena was functional and efficient but certainly unspectacular. That entrance was not inviting, designed as it was to get people in and out of the building but nothing else.

That is changing.


I had an opportunity to tour the improvements that are made in and to the outside of the Arena with Chris Parker, Executive Vice President of the Predators, and I came away impressed with the extent of the changes.

The south entrance will be expanded. The facades immediately to the left and right of the doors will be removed and the entrance expanded to handle more foot traffic. Fans that have used the south entrance will notice that the glass overhang over the doors has already been taken down.

The removal of the roof or overhang is complete, and work is being done to make the entrance more pedestrian friendly.

Looking east, the walls that were originally there have been removed and the design calls for a plaza to be developed around the south entrance. High definition LED signage will be attached to the side of the Arena. The signs will be 7 feet tall and 15 feet long and will wrap around the building on the south and east side of the building at the corner of 5th Ave. and Demonbruen.

Looking out at the MCC from the doors of the south entrance of the Arena, one can see the work on the new plaza. Once completed, the Plaza will have steps leading up to a main landing before entering the doors to the south entrance. This will allow a raised platform for outdoor events such as news conferences or performances, for example.

These two areas will undergo dramatic changes. In the top picture, this part of the Arena closest to the street will be developed into a brew pub/restaurant that will have a street entrance as well as an entrance from the inside of the Arena. This will allow the restaurant to be open even if the Arena is not, and the plans are to get a restaurant operator that will have the facility open at all times, even if the Arena is not in use.

The area closest to the doors is slated to be developed as a retail facility. Both the restaurant/brew house and the retail facility can operate in conjunction with each other or independently. At this time, a tenant for each of the facilities has not been named. The plan is to have tables on the plaza area for patrons that want to dine or have a drink before or after a game and to be used when the Arena is closed. The overall re-design is making this area outside the Arena more pedestrian friendly and welcoming to visitors that may be attending events at the MCC or staying in one of the hotels that is being built nearby.

Part of the re-design of the South entrance has been to take out the old box office area, which is empty space that you can see. Some of this space will be utilized for the expansion of the doors and part will be used for the planned retail space.

This is a view from the concourse of the Delta Dental Kids Zone. The Kids Zone will be relocated to another part of the concourse, and this will become an entrance to the retail space and restaurant.

The walls on the main concourse by section 111 and 112 are being re-worked to accommodate the retail space. The first aid station on the main concourse that was at 111 is being moved down by the rear elevator lobby on the main level.

Those that used the South entrance may remember that there was glass above the doors that went to the ceiling. As you can see, this area has been walled in and new signage will be placed above the doors.

You are looking at what will be the door to the new pro shop that will open to 5th Ave. The main pro shop will be relocated and will double in size from 2,000 square feet to 4,000 square feet of display space and 2,000 square feet of storage. This view is from the entrance to the pro shop from the concourse. Fans in the Arena will have access from the main level by the front elevator lobby. Relocating the pro shop will provide a street entrance off 5th Ave., meaning that the pro shop can stay open even if the Arena is closed for the set up of a concert. The pro shop will have a  portion of the street wall removed and glass for merchandise display.

Although a bit dark, you can see the space that the pro shop will occupy. The expanded space will make for better merchandise display and a wider selection of items for Predators fans.

Also, the marquee and sign on the main plaza at 5th and Broadway will be replaced. The new sign will be a high definition LED sign.

The changes in the Arena are progressing at a rapid pace, but will not be totally complete when the season begins. The South entrance redesign and construction will be ready for the start of the season, while the pro shop construction and relocation will occur closer to the first of the year.

These changes will make the south entrance more fan friendly and are much needed improvements. More importantly, they make the Bridgestone Arena an integral part of the vibrant and growing SoBro area.

Friday, August 16, 2013

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

Recently, fast food workers around the country walked off the job to protest for higher wages. Their demand is to be paid $15 per hour, more than double the minimum wage of $7.25. Many (most) people that work for minimum wage cannot support a household, and the populist notion is that we should raise the minimum wage to allow those people working in those jobs to earn enough to support a family. Now, there are a lot of issues with raising the minimum wage to $15, and both sides of the issue have valid points about why or why not raise the minimum. I want to call your attention to just one part of this issue, the cost of hiring an unskilled worker under our current system of government regulation and taxes. Say the owner of a fast food restaurant decides to pay his staff a minimum wage of $15 per hour, about $30,000 per year on a full time basis. That business owner must also pay half of his employee's payroll tax, federal and state unemployment insurance, workers compensation insurance, and the health insurance (or the employer penalty) under Obamacare beginning in 2015. All of a sudden, that $15 per hour employee now costs the business between $19 and $25 per hour depending on how the company handles the Obamacare mandate. So for every $15 per hour worker that is hired, the business owner faces government mandated costs that range from 40-50% of their compensation. Think this is a bad deal for employers? And do you think that this is one of the main reasons that our economy is creating mostly part time jobs and not well paying full time ones? Until we create a better financial environment for employers, especially small businesses, to hire new employees, the economy will still limp along and not create quality full time jobs. And doubling the minimum wage will only make that worse.

I heard that women find "six packs" sexy. Well, I have been drinking a bunch of them, but it's not working.

Although numerous lies have been exposed about global warming, there is still a persistent push by those on the left to implement changes that will supposedly slow this mythical event. Data that has been significantly altered, outright lies, and scant evidence that anthropomorphic causes are responsible for what appear to be normal cycles in the heating and cooling of the planet have not stopped those on the left from attempting to implement draconian and costly changes that will affect our economy and our individual lifestyle. Now, rather than wait for Congress to perform their deliberative function, the Obama Administration and new EPA chief Gina McCarthy have said they will bypass the legislative branch and unilaterally implement a Climate Action Plan. This action is sure to raise our energy costs at a time when the economy is struggling and the real wages of the American worker are falling. Built on false assumptions and doctored data, this amounts to nothing more than an economic power grab by this administration on behalf of radical environmentalists. Pay attention to what this administration is attempting to foist onto the American public, because this is coming out of your wallet.

I think it's bad luck to be superstitious.

President Obama has proposed that the federal government pay for high speed internet connections for all public schools in America. While that may be necessary to expedite getting these connections in place, President Obama has been unwilling to ask Congress for the funds to do this. So how will we pay for this? The President has asked the FCC to tack a fee onto each cell phone users bill, going around Congress and unilaterally implementing a fee (tax). Forget the merits of the program (which I believe are worthwhile). The principal here is the ability of the government to add fees or taxes without any input from those who are paying them. If the FCC approves the rate hike, it will begin to show up on your bill, forcing you to pay it without any recourse. Seems to me this line of thinking by elected officials and bureaucrats in Washington is extremely dangerous. You and I are viewed as an unlimited bank account in which they can draw out funds to use for their purposes and pet projects. Until this attitude changes- until WE force the change- Washington will look at us as a source of funding and will have little to no input in the process. And just like the EPA implementing costly climate change regulations without proper deliberation, this is becoming a disturbingly frequent trend.

Just remember, there is no "me" in, wait...yes there is.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Predators New Ticket Policy Rewards Local Fans

The Nashville Predators announced a new ticket policy that at first blush looks designed to keep the fans of some of their rivals, specifically the Chicago Blackhawks out of the Bridgestone Arena. And while that may be an effect of the new policy, it is not the primary goal.

According to Chris Parker, Executive Vice President and Chief Sales Officer of the Predators, the policy is designed to reflect a maturing Nashville market that is seeing more demand for tickets, especially for rivalry games, and to give Predator fans the first shot at buying individual game tickets for those games.

According to Parker, individual game tickets will for sale for the upcoming season beginning September 7th. However, those individual tickets will be available at the box office at Bridgestone Arena only. The idea is to give local fans the opportunity to purchase tickets before they are placed on-line and available to out of market fans.  Individual game tickets will be available on-line approximately one week later.

Now, Predator fans know that we have had a great rivalry with the Blackhawks. With the Hawks enjoying their Stanley Cup success, their fans have traveled in droves to other arenas to cheer on their team. Nashville is a sweet destination for those fans in the Windy City because of the ease of travel (Southwest has numerous flights between the two cities), the attraction of Nashville as a city, and especially the ability of Hawks fans to jump on-line and scarf up tickets at very reasonable prices.

It's obvious that the first part of the policy- tickets available at the local box office- is designed to give the purchase priority to local fans.  The second part of the new policy is designed to make it more expensive for the visiting Blackhawk fans to see a game in Nashville.

For out of market (read: Chicago) fans that want to buy a ticket to see the Hawks play in Nashville, they will be required to purchase a second, full price ticket to another Predators game (non-Chicago).

Will this keep Chicago fans from flocking to Nashville to see the Hawks? While it may stop a few of their fans, I suspect they will still travel here to see their team play.

And they will pay a higher price (the second full price game ticket) to do so.

Frankly, I am not surprised that the Predators have gone to an incremental pricing option for this game, and I would expect to perhaps see other rivalry games, say with Dallas, get incrementally priced in the future.

Most professional and college teams have gone to incremental pricing for rivalry games or games that are a popular draw, say when a notable team makes a rare appearance. As the hockey market in Nashville has matured and as rivalries have deepened, the Predators now find themselves in a position to begin this pricing model.

The two takeaways from this are: it creates a better pricing environment for local fans; and it makes the fans of a visiting big time rival pay more to see them in our place.

The ability of the local fans to purchase tickets before anyone else, especially to popular games like those with Chicago, is smart business. Having more of our fans in the barn in these rivalry games helps the team, but it also is a clear signal to the fans that the team acknowledges and appreciates their support by giving them the first opportunity to buy the best seats first at face value.

And frankly, visiting rivals need to contribute more financially than just the face value of their ticket. Oh, I know they pay sales taxes, hotel/motel taxes, and spend a lot of money in Nashville when they come to visit, but the Predators themselves need a direct payment from those fans, and the purchase of that second ticket does just that.

So Chicago fans, we still expect to see you here in Nashville.

Just open your wallet and spend a bit more money when you come.

Here are the important dates for Predator fans:

8/16          Tickets for pre-season games go on sale

8/26          Individual game tickets go on sale for season ticket holders

9/7            Individual game tickets available to the general public (box office only)

9/14          Individual game tickets available on-line

Sunday, August 11, 2013

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

Presented without comment for your consideration:

The U.S. Post Office has to come up with $5.6 billion to pay for its share of health and retirement benefits for its employees. According to Post Office officials, they will be unable to make this payment. The Post Office also defaulted on an $11.1 billion payment for 2011/12.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Highway and Surface Transportation Trust Fund, into which our gasoline taxes flow, is spending well more than it takes in in tax revenue and will have insufficient resources to meet its obligations. In fact, the Trust Fund has been broke since 2008. It avoided a default on its obligations by a transfer authorized by Congress from the General Fund to the tune of $51 billion. The situation will get critical again within the next 14 months.

The Social Security Disability Trust Fund is running out of money quickly, and considering there are now over 11 million people receiving Disability Income payments, this is huge. In October 2014, if nothing is done, those receiving DI will face an automatic 25% cut. So far, Congress has not addressed this problem.

The Federal Budget is due October 1. Most likely, there will be a continuing resolution passed by Congress to keep the government running. If so, this will be the 5th year that Congress and the White House have failed to pass a budget.

The debt ceiling will be reached in mid October. Expect nothing to be done and the debt ceiling to be extended.

Entitlement programs continue to spend significantly more than they take in. Congress has not shown a willingness to address meaningful reform. Every month that goes by without constructive measures to effectively make these programs self sustaining means that the solution will be even more painful.

Doctors say there are now 7 million people overweight, but that is just a round number.

A new study by University of California-San Diego economics professor James Hamilton finds that our country has $70 trillion in off balance sheet liabilities. That amount is nearly 6 times the on balance sheet deficit of $16.74 trillion. Where does that amount come from? According to Hamilton, it comes from mortgage guarantees, other loan guarantees, and future obligations under Medicare and Social Security. And that number may be optimistic. According to Boston University economics professor Laurence Kotlikoff, who served on president Ronald Reagan's Council of Economic Advisors, the off balance sheet number is actually closer to $211 trillion. Kotlikoff factors in the total expected payments under our existing entitlement programs as well as defense spending and promises to pay for other programs to arrive at his number. Either way, the numbers are staggering and represent an economic predicament that is going to be extremely difficult to resolve.

I have a friend that is a fisherman who cannot fish because he suffered an injury. He pulled a mussel.

Immigration reform continues to be debated in Washington, and it remains to be seen what final version may emerge from the bowels of our legislature. But here is something to keep in mind. Homeland Security reports that their department has lost track of more than 1 million immigrants that they know entered the country but cannot prove they have left the country. Washington does track who has entered the country, and in 1996, a law was passed that established an entry/exit tracking system. 17 years later, the system is not in place- at least an effective operating system- and those immigrants are now "lost'. The original law established that biometric identifiers such as fingerprints were to be used to track those coming and going through our borders. for some reason we still cannot get this system in place and working. Effective immigration reform and systems that work in keeping track of those immigrants inside our border is essential to our national security and economic well being. And Washington is failing to provide those effective systems.

My first job was at an origami plant, but it folded.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Friday, August 2, 2013

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

To lower the unemployment rate, the United States needs to create approximately 185,000 new jobs per month. The July employment report was released this morning and it showed that our net new job creation for the previous month was 163,000 jobs, and nominal unemployment continues to hover at 7.4% (real unemployment, the Bureau of Labor Statistics U-6 measure, remains over 14%). So far, in 2013, the U.S. economy has created 953,000 jobs through the end of July, a monthly average of 136,143. Here is the interesting aspect of that total jobs number: 77%, or 731,000 of these new jobs are part-time. This does not bode well for a long term economic recovery led by companies hiring full time workers and providing competitive salaries and benefits. The quality of jobs being created in 2013 is lower, i.e., more entry level and temp positions. Another aspect of this dismal picture that cannot be ignored is that many companies are moving some of their work force to "part time" status to avoid paying benefits or having to cover them under the provisions of Obamacare. Regardless of the motivations of employers, the fact remains that part time jobs provide no benefits and pay less. Until this troubling trend is reversed in the type of jobs our economy is creating, our country will continue to struggle to lower the unemployment rate and get the economy moving forward.

A friend of mine was on vacation out west when he ran into a bear with his car. Witnesses said it was a grizzly accident.

Speaking of Obamacare... If you do not have "affordable" employer sponsored insurance and your household income is between $31,800 and $94,200 for a family of four, then you qualify for an insurance subsidy to purchase coverage on an exchange under Obamacare. And when you apply for that subsidy, you have to declare your income on your application form. And we all know that  the Gestapo IRS has enforcement powers for the provisions of Obamacare. But guess what? The IRS will not be verifying the stated income level on the applications. You can immediately see how this would make the subsidy provision of the socialized healthcare program rife for fraud. Say you have a family of four and their household income is $90,000. Under the program, this family would be eligible for an insurance subsidy of $2,997. But say that family puts down their income as $35,000. Then their subsidy from the taxpayers (read: you and me) is $10,175. Think this will not be exploited? Especially since the IRS is not going to verify income levels. Oh yeah... in my hypothetical example, even if that family is caught, due to the wording of this section of Obamacare, their maximum penalty is only $2,500. Friends, all any honest person can say about this healthcare debacle is that it was a blatant power grab by the federal government that has been ill conceived and will be riddled with fraud.

When I was in college, I thought I wanted to sell computers, but I lost my drive.

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia issued a dire warning to his countrymen and fellow oil producers in the mid-East on Wednesday. He said that Saudi Arabia is under "threat". From a foreign invader? Marauding pestilence? No, but instead from the U.S. and oil and natural gas discoveries inside of our own borders. The Prince wrote to the Saudi Oil Minister and warned that the demand for oil from OPEC, of which Saudi Arabia is the largest producer, is in serious decline and that his country must diversify their economy. More than 90% of all of Saudi Arabia's revenues come from oil sales. Why is he so worried? According to the latest World Energy Outlook report prepared by the International Energy Authority, the United States is predicted to pass Saudi Arabia as the largest oil producing nation in the world, eventually becoming a net exporter by 2030. How has this amazing event transpired? The innovation of new extraction technologies- in particular, fracking- have unlocked major finds of oil and clean burning natural gas inside our borders. The Bakkan Shale in North Dakota alone is projected to provide enough recoverable oil to meet U.S. needs for the next 200 years. And there are other larger finds that have been made in this country. Additionally, there has been an amazing amount of natural gas that has been discovered, and it is becoming so plentiful that many large trucking companies and corporate owned fleets are converting their semi trucks to run on natural gas. Wal-Mart is just the latest to announce they were doing this. Now environmentalists will continue to have their knickers in a knot about fracking, but the reality is that this technology has opened the door to energy independence for our country. And that is a game changer, both economically and politically.

When people with big egos fight, it is an I for an I.

And that, my friends, is my view.