Tuesday, July 05, 2011

FWPD - Were here to Serve and Protect?

It is amazing how some government agencies just seem to not think ahead, even when it is their responsibility to think ahead. The 4th of July is a time of celebration, but that does not mean Mother Nature or life itself comes to a standstill. Having lived here since 1963, I know how many people go to the fireworks. They used to be held at McMillen Park where I as many other scouts would sell hot dogs, drink, candy and other “fine” snacks. The next day the area was a mess and we would be there bright and early to begin picking up all the trash.

They are no longer held at McMillen Park, but at Johnny Appleseed Park. This area is probably better suited with far more parking, but less sitting area than McMillen Park. With more people comes a bit more planning that is necessary. With thousands of cars exiting and the new stop light on Coliseum due to the removal of the tunnel which allowed those turning left onto Coliseum, there is a basic 15 car limit that can turn on a single light change. The Fantastic Fort Wayne Police Department however makes this look like a cake walk when they begin to close down south bound lanes north of Coliseum.

Did anyone think about the location of either Parkview Hospital or the Veterans Hospital off both State and Lake Streets and how closing south bound traffic on St. Joe Road and Clinton might hamper those needing emergency care? After speaking with Marty Bender on the phone for a short period of time, I got the distinct impression from his response and words used “evacuation of the area” was their main concern. I interpreted this to mean the FWPD's main concern was the evacuation of the Coliseum Parking lot. What I do not understand is how limiting south bound traffic and routing them further east or further west, actually they did not reroute, they simply waved their lights to keep moving, keeping you from making a turn south, would actually cleared the coliseum parking lot any quicker, safer or efficiently.

For those unlucky enough to have a medical emergency, trying to get to either Parkview or the VA Hospitals was very difficult. Even when you waved to a FWPD officer, they simply could care less. They walked like it was out of their way to come close enough to hear your need. “We are here to serve and protect” takes on a whole new meaning in a situation like this. First the officer asked the others where the medic had gone. Getting no response from the other non caring FWPD officers, the officer made a call to dispatch or someone on the radio to find out if an EMS unit could be sent or where the medic was. A transport by TRAA can exceed $1,400. A minute had gone by and still the officer was trying to divert a driver carrying a person in need of medical attention further away from the hospital it self when there was not a single car traveling south on St. Joe Road. The officer said the driver should wait for an EMS. How would an EMS get through all this traffic they created? The hospital was less than five minutes south. Finally, the officer motioned another officer to move their car out of the way to allow the driver to make a right turn. The entire distance between Washington Center and State Street had not a single car going south, but the north bound lane was bumper to bumper both lanes. In addition Washington Center Road east was bumper to bumper because the street narrows to one lane at the next stop light. So instead of utilizing several south bound streets, FWPD diverted these drivers east and west to basically two lane roads with half the capacity and shorter traffic light intervals resulting in compounding the traffic problem.

You would think that this would be the end, but two more sets of “FWPD” police car road blocks were blocking the road. What is simply amazing is that the Crescent Street and St. Joe road intersection had no police there directing any traffic. So who made the big decision to block south bound traffic? Clearly any theoretical traffic traveling south on St. Joe Road was not going to create a problem simply because Traffic Lights were being used to control flow, not FWPD.

My question is simple; Do police officers know how to direct traffic of this magnitude and if so, where do they learn the basics? Maybe traffic engineers should be consulted on tasks of this size?

Friday, July 01, 2011

The Heratige Foundation

Over the past week, an individual contacted me about Social Security and what I thought of the Heritage Plan. The plan is 50 pages in length. After reading it I am very disappointed that those names on the plan, who endorse the plan did so.

The plan has no validity period. It does not use an independent model or provide any assumptions. It refers to CBO reports and from this speculate what changing table values by assuming different growths such as inflation, wage, GDP, productivity, etc will some how filter back into the original algorithum used to analyze a set of assumptions and create a new projection that is accurate. This is far from the truth. Projecting the cash flow of social security is a non linear process.

Population distribution or demographics are not linear. Each cohort has their own unique total numbers. A boom begets a boom and a bust begets a bust. As people turn 18, they generally begin to work and somewhere at age 65 they begin to retire or are retired. This is certainly not a linear progression, more like a big python eating a dog that can be seen from the outside as a lump moving down. Wages increase and then stagnate as you reach a particular age. The number of workers in each cohort for each year change slightly resulting in different non linear OASI revenues. Each working cohort will have their own replacement factor set when they turn age 60. This is used to determine that cohorts initial OASI benefit. Clearly this is non linear and assuming wage growth increases at a faster growth will increase revenues,but at the same time it increases the initial OASI benefit for each cohort at the same exact rate. By not using the same algorithum (assuming the CBO model is correct) there is considerable error.

The Heritage Foundation asserts that doing nothing to fix Social Security and Medicare will lead to economic collapse. They support this by stating that the trust fund for OASI will be exhausted in 2037 and there after will require more than $350 Billion of borrowing or funds from the general revenue fund. This is not true. Based on current legislation passed in 1984, neither social security or Medicare may borrow funds and general revenues may not be used to fund these programs. The simple fact of the legislation of 1984 clearly identifies that when a trust fund (either program) reaches 20% of any given years expenses, across the board takes place. Clearly there is no borrowing. The Heritage foundation cites a cut in OASI benefits of 22%, but fails to identify this as a benefit without COLA.

The Heritage Foundation then uses GDP as the benchmark for Social Security revenues and expenses. Table 6 in their plan clearly shows current benefits as a percent of GDP is far greater now than in the future. In fact the Heritage plan states they want a flat benefit for everyone, eliminating the link between wages and the initial OASI benefit. They state this benefit at $12,000 a year adjusted by wage growth. In addition their plan is to divert 6% of payroll taxes to a workers account such as an IRA. They make no changes to current or soon to be beneficiaries. but only to those in the future. Retirement age will be increased by a month every two years. This is about the rate of growth in life expectancy at age 67, but it far exceeds the actuarial basis of the cash flow. A person who delays retirement by one year, can be retired for 2.5 years more or it takes 2.5 years worth of additional benefits to recoup the delay in retirement and extra taxes paid.

However, the single largest sin I see in their report is the claim that they improve benefits. From table 6 they clearly show the benefit costs being reduced by 55%,far more than the 22% under current legislation. So is the Heritage Foundation attempting to con the American People with a plan to get something from nothing?

They say a flat tax of 18.5% of GDP will limit spending. The last time I checked, I do not pay income taxes, payroll taxes or excise taxes as a percent of GDP. I pay income and payroll taxes based on wages earned. GDP is nearly twice that of all income reported to the IRS for tax purposes. Clearly this would indicate that the true tax they wish to impose is 39%. They would eliminate the legislation of 1984 that separates the budgets and revenues for Social Security, Medicare and General budget. No longer would there be a mandated cap on Social Security or Medicare expenses. In fact much of the unfunded liability would be transferred to the General Budget that is already running $1.7 Trillion deficits and has a national debt of $14.3 Trillion.

The Heritage Foundation thinks they are saving or fixing Social Security and Medicare for future generations. Maybe they should ask these future generations if they want these programs. The Heritage Foundation proposes that $55,000 a year income for seniors is the point at which OASI Benefits would be taxed and when their non OASI income reaches $110,000 a year, their OASI benefits are 100% taxed away. This makes OASI a welfare program,clearly not want FDR envisioned.

The Heritage Foundation does not provide any information on how the transition between diverting 6% of payroll tax to individual accounts gets paid. A 21 year old today will work ~45 years before reaching retirement age. Clearly diverting and investing 6% will be more than enough to replace the OASI benefit, yet these workers may not save a dime in excess of the 6% and receive the equivalent $12,000 flat OASI benefit in the future. I see no basis on how this transition period is paid for over 45 years or how in 45 years the OASI benefit which higher than today's benefit can be paid.

As an engineer I have seen proposals that insinuate perpetual motion is viable, but in the end they have all failed. Social Security is no where near being viable. I have lost all respect now for the Heritage Foundation. I simply cannot trust what they present any longer. I suggest you ask them the hard questions as well.

My plan can be found at http://www.justsayno.50megs.com/ss.html

NBC-33 Debate poll results from 2002