Monday, August 16, 2010

Stolen Copper Salavge Market Booming in Economic Downturn

From the West Virginia Gazette comes this story. But truly, this story could have been written from almost any jurisdiction with rural highways in the US.

"For several years, Southern West Virginia has suffered an upsurge of metal-stealing. Thieves strip utility poles, power stations, vacant mines, shutdown plants, etc. -- mostly to get valuable copper to resell to scrap dealers."

"Trying to steal power lines can be deadly. Just this year, four West Virginians have been electrocuted during alleged thefts. The robberies sometimes knock out electrical or telephone service for neighborhoods."

"Even the 400-pound Fernbank School bell was stolen from a South Hills memorial and broken up for scrap."

"Frontier Communications, which purchased Verizon's telephone network, says the Mountain State has a horrible rate of copper wire theft. Nowhere else "even comes close to what is happening in West Virginia," security chief Lynne Monaco said."

This seems like a simple problem to resolve -- yet it remains a problem. There is no market if there is no buyer. Greater control of buyer market access could control this problem; remove cash from transactions, and require an electronic trail for starters.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

46 US States in Budget Deficits; forbodes more headwind to economic recovery

Recession Continues to Batter State Budgets; State Responses Could Slow Recovery

By Elizabeth McNichol, Phil Oliffand Nicholas Johnson

The worst recession since the 1930s has caused the steepest decline in state tax receipts on record. As a result, even after making very deep spending cuts over the last two years, states continue to face large budget gaps. At least 46 states struggled to close shortfalls when adopting budgets for the current fiscal year (FY 2011, which began July 1 in most states). These came on top of the large shortfalls that 48 states faced in fiscal years 2009 and 2010. States will continue to struggle to find the revenue needed to support critical public services for a number of years, threatening hundreds of thousands of jobs. States face:

  • Budget problems in 2011. Fiscal year 2011 gaps — addressed with spending cuts and revenue increases by most states — totaled $121 billion, or 19 percent of budgets in 46 states.[1] This total is likely to grow over the course of the fiscal year, which started July 1 in most states. It may well exceed $140 billion and would be higher still without federal assistance. The fact that the gaps have been filled and budgets are balanced does not end the story. Families hit hard by the recession will experience the loss of vital services throughout the year, and the negative impact on the economy will continue.
  • Uncertainty for the future. States’ fiscal problems will continue in the current fiscal year and likely beyond. Already 39 states have projected gaps that total $102 billion for the following year (fiscal year 2012). Once all states have prepared estimates these are likely to grow to some $120 billion.
  • The effects of gaps in 2010 budgets. These new shortfalls are in addition to the gaps states closed in their fiscal year 2010 budgets. Counting both initial and mid-year shortfalls, 48 states addressed such shortfalls in their budgets for fiscal year 2010, totaling $192 billion or 29 percent of state budgets — the largest gaps on record.
  • Declining federal assistance. Federal aid to states provided in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has lessened state cuts in services and tax increases. But the aid is now mostly gone; only about $40 billion remains to help with 2011 fiscal problems. The federal government could avert deep additional budget cuts that would further harm the economy by extending assistance over the period during which state fiscal distress is expected to continue rather than cutting it off before states have recovered.
  • Combined gaps of $260 billion for 2011 and 2012. These numbers suggest that states are dealing with total budget shortfalls of some $260 billion for 2011 and 2012. When all is said and done, states will have closed shortfalls of more than $500 billion since the start of the recession.