I stand to address the Commission today as a frustrated and tired taxpayer of this County. As you all know, I have been down at these meetings off and on since 2015. For a significant period of time, I was here every single week.

Today I stand before you to ask you to finally listen to the people of Clay County. I implore you to vote no on this excessive spending spree that, let’s face the truth, just Commissioners Ridgeway and Owen are proposing.

Commissioner Nolte has made it abundantly clear that he wants no part in this proposal, but as is usual with you two, instead of building consensus, you are just going to roll over him as if he doesn’t exist and he doesn’t represent the entire voice of the democratic body of this county.

One of my favorite thinkers is an investment analyst by the name of John Mauldin. Mauldin’s greatest strength is he’s capable of taking complex economic and investing ideas and boiling them down to simple things. One of my favorite sayings of his is the following:

Debt is either consumption denied or consumption brought forward

Admittedly, not all debt is bad. Sometimes it’s perfectly acceptable to bring consumption forward when it’s done responsibly and with a productive purpose.

You are proposing nearly $50 million dollars in principal payments and millions more in additional interest to be paid back for the next 20 years. You’re effectively bringing forward the future spending or denying the future spending of this County in the name of a bunch of projects that you’ve allowed no public discussion on, you’ve made no public appeal for, and you’ve made no compelling case that we even need.

Of all the projects on the list, the one I find most outrageous, and the one I’m going to take a minute to comment on is the new Annex. I would go as far to grant you the point that the existing Annex is a building that is past it’s time. It’s even arguable that we should do something about it. The problem I have is there has been no public discussion of what the actual needs are for this building.

You’re asking for $20 million for that one building!

How did you get to this figure?

Did you throw a dart at a dart board?

If you got to it with professional assistance, I want to know who the architect was and what piece of ground that you specifically have in mind. And then I want to know how come you think this is acceptable to do all this behind the back of the public?

The Annex is nothing more than a government building that serves a function. We don’t need a Taj Mahal to County government, after all we have enough of those things around this county in the form of overbuilt public high schools. At the end of the day, you could convert an old retail place to do everything that’s needed in that Annex and save current and future taxpayer’s a ton of money.

Now, I’m no expert, but I consume a significant amount of market and economic analysis on a weekly basis. The current recovery we’re inside of is the third longest in American history. There is more debt in the entire system than anytime in human history. Economic “experts” often disagree wildly, but It’s worth pointing out that the majority of reputable economists agree the Great Recession of 2008 was caused by too much debt.

You would be foolish to sit there and tell me that this economic cycle won’t end at some point. And when it does end and the tide goes out, we’re going to see who has been swimming without their bathing suits on. I’d venture to say the way things have been run the last 6 years around here, I bet we’ll want to cover our eyes just a little bit.

It’s irrelevant that we can meet the payment on these certificates of participation now. It’s responsible and prudent to be worried about the rainy day that will eventually come. Heck, your own ordinance even says it’s something to be mindful of. Just flip to page 12, the section titled “Changes in Economic, Demographic, and Market Conditions.” The payment on these certificates will have to be made. In an economic downturn, real property values will correct, and when they do, that means assessments will fall. It is not an unreasonable thing to worry about our taxes going up in the future because of your actions.  

Since the early 2000s, we have seen the County budget more than double. Assuming the rate of inflation since then and little changes we shouldn’t see the operational budget over $75 million. Somehow that budget is now over $100 million dollars, and I saw Commissioner Ridgeway on a TV news report this last week pointing out holes in ceilings in this very building.

If you can’t make basic building repairs on a $100 million dollar budget, you’re doing something really wrong.

So it begs the question, where the heck is all this money going? You stated on that same news report that “It’s time to do some major surgery.”

You know, I remember the last election, and I don’t remember either of you two saying anything about this desperate situation. If we’re having major surgery, you’d think someone would have wanted to inform the patient before we rehired the doctors. And let’s not ignore the fact that this isn’t all cracks in ceilings being addressed here, there’s a whole lot of new on this proposed project list.

You’ve done absolutely nothing to inform the people of any of these needs, so if you seem surprised that people are a little angry with you about this situation you’re completely to blame. A simple Internet search reveals that neither one of you even have active websites. Your Facebook pages have barely any information on them, and you don’t even have email newsletters. I can tell you from direct experience, it’s not that hard!

Commissioner Owen, I’m not making this up, I took a screenshot of it this weekend, your page on the County website literally says (to be finalized). You’ve been in office for almost two terms now. Apparently you both think it’s 1982, and the only way people get information is a newspaper.

If you think communication is too difficult to figure out, there’s a significant amount of people in this world that could help you figure it out. It’s really not that hard. I self-taught myself everything I’ve ever done online. Believe it or not there are a lot of books on using digital tools for communication. Since we pay you a salary, one that you felt justified in raising yourselves, you’re effectively an employee. Part of your job as that employee is to communicate to me, your constituent. I get a say-so in rehiring one of you every two years. Frankly, you’re terrible at your job.

To be honest, I fear it’s far worse than incompetence. Based upon your past actions, I suspect you have contempt for the people and don’t even feel you owe it to them to communicate.

Commissioners Ridgeway and Owen, I’ve been involved in politics in this county for almost 10 years now. Clay County has become known across the state for our dysfunction. I continually think to myself, it can’t get worse. Then you two make another decision.

If you genuinely think some of this stuff needs done, start figuring out a way to communicate the evidence for each and everyone of these items to us. Create a plan that Commissioner Nolte can get behind. Build support with the public. If you can’t do those basic things, things that show you respect the people and the hard earned money we are forced to give up to this county, then table this ordinance right now!

For the next two years, just set up there and do absolutely nothing more than the minimum. Collect your ridiculous salary and do us taxpayers all a favor, ride off into the sunset on your pension in two years.

Industry will decentralize. There is no city that would be rebuilt as it is were it destroyed, which fact is in itself a confession of our real estimate of our cities. The city had a place to fill, a work to do. Doubtless the country places would not have approximated their livableness had it not been for the cities. By crowding together, men have learned some secrets. They would never have learned them alone in the country. Sanitation, lighting, social organization, all these are products of men’s experience in the city. But also every social ailment from which we today suffer originated and centers in the big cities. You will find the smaller communities living along in unison with the season, having neither extreme poverty nor wealth–none of the violent plagues of upheave and unrest which afflict our great populations. There is something about a city of a million people which is untamed and threatening. Thirty miles away, happy and contented villages read of the ravings of the city! A great city is really a helpless mass. Everything it uses is carried to it. Stop transport and the city stops. It lives off the shelves of stores. The shelves produce nothing. The city cannot feed, clothe, warm, or house itself. City conditions of work and living are so artificial that instincts sometimes rebel against their unnaturalness.

And finally, the overhead expense of living or doing business in the great cities is becoming so large as to be unbearable. It places so great a tax upon life that there is no surplus over to live on. The politicians have found it easy to borrow money and they have borrowed to the limit. Within the last decade the expense of running every city in the country has tremendously increased. A good part of that expense is for interest upon money borrowed; the money has gone either into non-productive brick, stone, and mortar, or into necessities of life, such as water supplies and sewage systems at far above a reasonable cost. The cost of maintaining these works, the cost of keeping in order great masses of people and traffic is greater than the advantages derived from community life. The modern city has been prodigal, it is to-day bankrupt, and tomorrow it will cease to be.

-Henry Ford, Why be Poor? 1922

I found this quote in a book several years ago, and it’s always stuck with me. It’s as true today as it was true in 1922.

We are living in fascinating times and what started in Minneapolis this week has been incredible to see unfold.

They’re burning a US city to the ground and economic gravity still hasn’t set in from the last couple of months.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, where you live matters.

For years we’ve been lectured on the sophistication of big cities. As if stacking what is a highly evolved animal in small boxes called condos and apartments would beget some grand awareness of the world. It’s unnatural.

Guess what cities aren’t burning themselves to the ground right now? Guess what cities didn’t lock their citizens up in their homes like they were a bunch of serfs?

Sorry, most inner cities, especially those in blue states, are highly charged powder kegs waiting to go off. And this week we saw a terrible cop in Minneapolis strike the match there.

I wonder over the coming months and years if you may begin to see a rebirth of less densely populated America. I struggle to see how any sane person who wants to raise a child would stay in a Hell hole like Minneapolis.

The technologies exist to see a resurgence of the exurbs as viable alternatives. Manufacturing technology exists to see micro factories spring up all over the nation. The cost of living is far more economical. It’s time to separate ourselves from big city America.

One of the things about the current crisis that is so fascinating is that a significant portion of mainstream America seems to think everything is going to be okay with regards to the economy.

Some act like the economy is just a light switch, and if we all just huddle up in our houses everything will be fine. We’ll just flip the switch back on in a year or two when we come out to play with one another again.

I’ve always enjoyed reminding people of uncomfortable truths, so this one is for the shutter-downers who thought we could just turn the light switch off on the economy.

Mortgage delinquencies in April shot up to 1.6 million delinquencies. This is the largest one month jump in history. That’s a long time. Total mortgage delinquencies are now 6.5% of all residential mortgages. Add to that 8.8% of mortgages that are in forbearance.

Want some historical perspective?

The April increase is 3x larger than any one month increase during the Great Financial Crisis (2008). It took 18 months to get to 1.6 million delinquencies during the GFC.

I repeat, we did that in one month…

One month!

If you add the forbearance number to the delinquency number you get 15.3% of all mortgages are not being paid. The peak of the GFC saw that number at 11.5%.

The current unemployment rate is 20.6% (9.7% in Missouri). If you look at the chart of the last five weeks you’ll see that we’re probably not done adding new unemployment numbers. It’s going to get worse.

The thing about the forbearance programs one should keep in mind is that they usually last 6 months. Survey after survey has shown somewhere around 50% of the US population doesn’t have enough savings for anywhere between 1-3 months.

So in 6 months a good portion of these people who didn’t save any money to begin with and might have lost a job are suddenly going to have to start making their mortgage payments again. I bet the economy just rips in October!

Wait, it gets worse…

Much of the data on small businesses has shown that around 50% of small businesses don’t have 2 months cash reserves. While many of you were flattening the curve, you also were flattening the savings of small business owners.

And worse…

The unemployment insurance that Congress passed in the CARES Act ends in July.

Here’s the most important thing you can understand about employment: You don’t have jobs if you don’t have cash flow. You don’t have cash flow if you keep Americans locked up in their homes or terrified to leave them.

No jobs, no savings, and no income means a whole bunch of people can’t pay for much of anything.

Economic gravity still exists, people that can’t make payments won’t. And if you think all the stimulus checks and unemployment is working right now, then ask yourself why do we still have 15% of mortgages not being paid with all that stimulus?

Good luck with your light switch, I’d tell you to call an electrician to fix it, but he or she probably lost their job while you were flattening the curve.

I grew up thinking the GOP had principles. The decay began in the 2000s. The 2010s saw those principles go to die.

I’ve been encouraged to see Rep. Justin Amash decide to leave the GOP and join the Libertarian Party. He’s not a hard core Libertarian by no means, but he’s Liberty oriented, and he has principles. He also recently declared his intent to run for President as a Libertarian.

Amash recently appeared on The Fifth Column podcast to explain his case for the spoiler.  If you’re one of the few Republicans left in this country with principles, listen to this discussion.

The GOP has rotted out and there’s not much left of it that’s worth even wasting your energy to defend.

Yeah, I know, most Democrats are totalitarian nightmares, but some things just need to be burned to the ground.

In 2020, if you’re facing an option like Rep. Sam Graves or Donald Trump, vote to primary, vote 3rd party, or just write in a name, but quit giving sanction to these people that don’t have any principles.