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Don Brunell

By Don C. Brunell

Steal $200,000 from a bank and you’ll go to prison.  Steal $200,000 from the taxpayers and you’ll probably get a slap on the wrist.

A Chicago man was sentenced to more than seven years in prison for stealing $250,000 from a bank. In San Diego, a burglar who stole nearly $250,000 worth of jewelry was sentenced to four years in prison.  

In Portland, a man who stole $221,000 from taxpayers got six months in jail. read more »

 

By Don C. Brunell

One of the problems with the minimum wage debate is the name itself.  If we want to ensure that we don’t hurt lower-income workers, we should consider total compensation, not just wages.

Case in point:  Bill H. earns $15 an hour as a parking lot attendant.  Lisa W. earns $12.25 an hour at a fast-food restaurant.  But Lisa’s employer provides merit raises, paid vacations, health insurance, management training, education scholarships, childcare assistance and a 401k retirement plan. read more »

 

During the Winter Olympics, viewers around the world marveled at the pristine snow-capped mountains surrounding Sochi, Russia’s Black Sea resort city.

One American camera crew even took a ride on the Siberian railroad filming the picturesque countryside. Too bad they didn’t go all the way to Norilsk, some 1,800 miles from Moscow in the middle of Siberia. read more »

 
Commentary

It is rare that someone with deep roots in Washington state has his obituary published in the New York Times, but when Joe Dear died, the newspaper ran an extensive story.

Dear, who was raised on the East Coast and migrated to Olympia to attend Evergreen State College, was the powerful chief investment officer at the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) in Sacramento until losing his battle with prostate cancer on Feb. 26. He was 62.

Joe Dear was an anomaly. In this age of partisan vitriol, where the motives of politicians and bureaucrats are routinely suspect, Dear acted with integrity and humility.

Perhaps best known for his work at CalPERS, most of us remember him for his days in our state. read more »

 
Commentary

It’s not often we get a chance to peer into the future to see the consequences of our actions. California has given us that opportunity.

Before the rains returned to California, the news was full of dramatic stories about the drought there. Mother Jones magazine warned, “California’s Drought Could Be the Worst in 500 Years.” Hopefully, in the coming weeks enough snow will accumulate in the state’s mountains to avert the water crisis.

President Obama flew to California and called for shared sacrifice. Despite his suggestion, the drought is not as much linked to global warming as the water shortages are to water policy. In fact, as the New York Times noted, “…the most recent computer projections suggest that as the world warms, California should get wetter, not drier, in the winter…” read more »

 
Commentary

The news these days is filled with stories about Big Bertha, the stalled Seattle waterfront drilling machine, and the cracks in the pontoons of the new SR 520 floating bridge across Lake Washington. You might wonder if Washington’s Department of Transportation (WashDOT) is doing anything right.

They are.

For example, the replacement of the collapsed I-5 bridge across the Skagit River between Mount Vernon and Burlington is an example of how WashDOT engineers and private contractors can move quickly to design and complete a major transportation project with minimal traffic disruption.

Here’s what happened. read more »

 
Commentary

Where there is life, there is risk. That’s not some insightful quotation, it’s just a fact. We’re exposed to risk from the moment we get up in the morning — slip and fall, dog bite, traffic accident, lightning strike. We can manage risk, we can minimize risk, but we cannot eliminate it.

That fact used to be accepted as common sense, but in today’s society, people have come to believe that any degree of risk is unacceptable. In fact, trial lawyers have won lawsuits, not because their clients were injured, but because they feared they might be.

Why does this matter to you? When government tries to ensure a virtually risk-free environment, it imposes regulations that are needlessly punitive and costly. We pay those costs through higher prices and lost jobs. read more »

 
Commentary

The Seattle Times headline said it all: “Obama running out of reasons to reject Keystone XL.”

For five years, the Keystone XL pipeline has been mired in studies, red tape and delay. Now, the State Department has released its final report, concluding that the pipeline would have little or no environmental impact.

The State Department has jurisdiction because the pipeline would cross the U.S. border, carrying 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day from Western Canada to Nebraska, where it would connect with an existing pipeline to refineries in Texas. The report concluded that, with or without the pipeline, Canada will continue to develop and market its tar sands oil.

The non-significance finding removed the president’s last excuse for not making a decision. read more »

 
Commentary

With the ongoing debate about income inequality and increasing the minimum wage, it’s important to revisit the basics. In order to demand a wage increase, you must first have a job. In order to have a job, someone must create that job. In order to create that job, someone must start a business.

But now, when our economy desperately needs more — and better — jobs, a major study shows that starting a business in the U.S. is more difficult than ever.

The study by the World Bank and the International Finance Corp. ranked 189 nations on how easy it is to start a new business. They considered the number of procedures required, the time necessary to complete the paperwork and the expense involved.

The U.S. ranked 20th, down from 11th last year. Our showing was well behind countries such as Rwanda, Belarus and Azerbaijan. The good news? We narrowly beat out Uzbekistan. read more »

 
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