Mountain Views News     Logo: MVNews     Saturday, October 13, 2012

MVNews this week:  Page 18



 Mountain Views News Saturday, October 13, 2012 



HOWARD Hays As I See It

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to bring you an historic event. 
Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Vice President Richard M. Nixon 
of California will meet for the first ever live televised debate between presidential 
candidates. ‘The Spike Jones Show’ will return next week at its regular time.”

- CBS Television announcer, September 1960


 The above predates the subject of Rich Johnson’s column two weeks ago which 
was devoted to the fiftieth anniversary of 1962, but it got me thinking of the early 
‘60s and the role of television (three networks, educational TV and a couple local 

 Rich, though, failed to mention a seminal event of my childhood. For anyone growing up in 
Seattle, 1962 was the year of the Century 21 Exposition. Performers included Igor Stravinsky, Ella 
Fitzgerald, Benny Goodman, Van Cliburn, Nat King Cole – not to mention a science fiction panel 
featuring Ray Bradbury and Rod Serling, and a Western show with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. For 
me, the chief attraction was a ride to the top of the Space Needle.

 A disappointment was President Kennedy’s reneging on his commitment to make an appearance. 
Instead, he flipped a switch to turn on a signal or something. Much later, I learned he’d been 
predisposed - this was around the time Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko told the U.N. that a U.S. 
attack on Cuba would mean war with the Soviet Union.

 After reading Rich’s mention of Huckleberry Hound, I turned to Greg Welborn’s column to read, 
“smarter-than-the-average-bear”. (Did they get together on this beforehand?) I considered doing a 
column consisting entirely of early-TV references; so rather than critiquing Mitt Romney’s tax plan, 
I’d simply explain that, if enacted, Ralph Kramden would pay a higher effective tax rate than Thurston 
Howell III.

 The figures Rich provided of 1962 living expenses piqued my curiosity, so I did some comparisons. 
He mentioned national averages such as the $12,500 price of a house, $5,556 annual income and 
the $1,520 year’s tuition at Harvard. Comparable figures today would be $187,000 for the house, a 
$51,413 salary and $36,305 for a year at Harvard. In 1962, the cost of an average worker’s house might 
be equal to what he makes in two years and 3 months. Today, it costs what he’d make in three years 
and eight months; 63% longer today than in 1962 to earn the price of that average house.

 Fifty years ago, you could send your kid to Harvard for three months of your average salary. Today, 
it’s more than eight months of that salary. There was no tuition at the University of California, but in 
1962 fees were raised from $60 per semester to $75.

 In 1962, someone working minimum wage made a little less than half the nation’s average salary. 
Today, it’s less than a third.

 Rich also mentioned the 1962 prices of 4 cents for a stamp and 28 cents for a gallon of gas (regular, 
not the Ethyl). Say in 1962, you drive down to the post office to pick up a roll of 100 stamps and stop 
by the gas station to fill up your tank (15 gal.) on the way. On an average salary, you’d work some two-
and-a-half hours to earn what that trip cost. Today, you’d be working more than four hours to earn 
what you’d have paid for those things (and you wouldn’t have had your tires, oil and water checked 
and windshield cleaned – unless you did it yourself.)

 I grew up listening to grown-ups explain that while things were cheaper way-back-when, paychecks 
were smaller, too. True enough, but there are telling differences. Compared to how we were fifty 
years ago, it’s a lot harder for the average worker to buy the average house. College is increasingly 
unaffordable for all but the affluent, making it harder to fulfill the promise that, no matter what your 
station in life, your kids will be off to a better start than you had.

 If you’re making minimum wage, you’re making far below the minimum necessary to support 
yourself without government assistance, let alone anybody else. For necessities, whether it’s mailing a 
letter or putting gas in your tank, you’re going to be working longer and harder to get them.

 One thing that hasn’t changed is we’re still a consumer-driven economy, with currently some 70% 
of our economy reliant on a strong middle-class with money to buy things. Unfortunately, we don’t 
make things anymore as much as cater to those who make money off other people’s money; those who 
have their purchased lawmakers maintain a tax code that makes it profitable to develop an emerging 
consumer-class overseas and a pool of cheap labor here at home; the reverse of what it was in 1962.

 There are statistics Rich missed: Today, a little less than 12% of our total workforce is unionized; 
in 1962 it was nearly 23% - with 30% of non-agricultural workers. In 1962, the average CEO made 
24 times what the average salaried worker made; today, it’s 325 times as much. Today the highest 
marginal tax rate is 35%; in 1962 it was 91% - before the adherents of “trickle down” took over.

 In 1961, Ronald Reagan warned that should Medicare not be stopped, “you and I are going to spend 
our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it once was like in America, 
when men were free.” Today, Greg Welborn warns that the Affordable Care Act will “bankrupt the 
country” (as if having the least cost-effective healthcare system in the developed world isn’t doing 
that already).

 Fifty-two years ago, my dad sat in front of the TV watching the Kennedy-Nixon debate – and I 
remember being able to sit through only snatches at a time. Tuesday, I’ll be sitting rapt in front of the 
tube for the debate, and then catch the TV and internet coverage afterwards. Before long, though, I’ll 
probably be longing wistfully for “The Spike Jones Show”.

As entertaining as it might have been watching 
Joe Biden and Paul Ryan throw barbs at one 
another in the Vice Presidential debates, most 
of us in California will have to re-enter the real 
world once again as we fill up our gas tanks. The 
Veep and Congressman were certainly animated 
in their descriptions and remedies of national and 
international issues, but none of them seemed to 
offer any solutions for California’s self-inflicted 

The reality with which most of us here live is that 
gas prices in California have risen astronomically 
and run about 85 cents higher than in the rest of 
the nation. As the popular website, Gasbuddies.
com, makes vividly clear with its color-coded 
map, California has the highest prices in the 
nation. It’s at the point now where Senator Diane 
Feinstein promises to investigate, but if she does, 
she’ll find that the primary culprit is not some 
greedy oil company, but the liberal politicians in 

Granted that the tipping point was prompted by 
a power outage at the Exxon refinery in Torrance. 
As that refinery went off-line, we were still dealing 
with the problem created by a fire at a Richmond 
refinery which reduced its capacity. Together, 
they triggered a price hike. But triggers are rarely 
the primary cause of a problem. Interruptions 
such as a power outage or a fire usually create 
in “normal” markets only a temporary spike in 
prices. Such spikes in prices usually induce other 
suppliers elsewhere in the country to divert some 
of their product to the higher price market, thus 
helping to reduce the price hike as supply floods 
into the market. This is the beauty of the law 
of supply and demand. When left to function 
efficiently, supply and demand perfectly balances 
supplies and costs across the consuming public. 

Unfortunately, California’s Liberal-dominated 
legislature refuses to let the market balance 
prices and increase supply. Their rules force 
unnecessary shortages and extraordinarily high 
prices on to California motorists. They didn’t set 
out to do this (at least we don’t think so), but it is 
clearly one of those unintended consequences of 
excessive government regulation.

California’s fuel regulations are easily the most 
stringent in the U.S., meaning that the fuel 
formulations required by California’s regulations 
cannot be easily produced outside the state. Thus, 
when a California refinery goes down, there isn’t 
an easy alternative to replace the lost supply. Gas 
station owners can’t simply pick up the phone 
and order a tanker load from Arizona. There 
are few refineries in the world that can make the 
California mandated formulation. Almost all of 
them are located in California, and all of them 
usually run at capacity. 

But even this quantity of gas is being reduced. 
Over the last several years, several of the 
refineries have shut down operations in the state 
because they couldn’t afford to make the upgrades 
required by the new fuel regulations. As an 
example, the 2002 ban on the fuel additive MTBE 
alone increased gasoline costs by 15 cents per 
gallon. As regulations 
have increased the cost 
of producing California’s 
special blends, refineries 
have made reinvestment 
decisions by analyzing 
the relative costs and 
potential profits of 
producing and selling 
in each state. When 
making a choice between 
spending millions to upgrade a facility in 
California to produce gas which can only be sold 
in California vs. spending that money to produce 
gasoline elsewhere that can be sold in lots of 
states, it’s not surprising that the refineries have 
taken a pass on reinvesting in California.

It’s nothing personal; it’s just supply and demand. 
And it’s not a big bad corporate thing either. 
Each of us in our daily spheres make buy and sell 
decisions. If the price of one product is increased, 
we all look for a cheaper substitute. If the amount 
of money we can make in one job is lowered or 
restricted, we search for another job. We all seek 
the highest “profit” for our labor and the lowest 
costs for what we buy. It’s perfectly moral and 
eminently sensible.

Governor Jerry Brown promises some relief 
through his request that regulators allow 
refineries to produce the less stringent and lower 
cost “winter blend” gasoline early. This may 
help, but it will only offer a temporary relief. 
California’s Cap-and-Trade law is coming on 
line and will increase costs at the refinery level. 
This is on the heels of the state’s 50.5 cents per 
gallon gas tax, which is the second highest in 
the U.S. There is also a looming low-carbon fuel 
standard which takes affect in 2015. The level 
of government driven and mandated costs is 
truly astounding. The Boston Consulting Group 
estimated that when all the planned restrictions, 
formulations and taxes kick in, approximately 5 
to 7 more refineries will shut down in the state, 
and gasoline prices will increase by roughly an 
additional $2.70 per gallon.

The Golden State may be turning green, but it’s 
losing jobs, losing tax revenue and losing its most 
productive citizens in the process. The state is 
as close as you come to one-party rule (2 votes 
away from a veto-proof super majority) with 
misguided and ill-informed Liberals in control 
in the Governor’s mansion, the Assembly and the 
Senate. There is hardly a measure or yardstick 
that doesn’t have California near the bottom 
compared to the other 49 states. Gasoline 
shortages and prices are only the most visible of 
many, many problems which are self-inflicted.

About the author: Gregory J. Welborn is a 
freelance writer and has spoken to several civic 
and religious organizations on cultural and moral 
issues. He lives in the Pasadena area with his wife 
and 3 children and is active in the community. He 
can be reached at

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Suppose they gave an election and nobody prognosticated?

The current climate of political coverage reminds me of one reason 
I've been able to stay happily married for 21 years. Early on, my wife 
laid down the law that she didn't need the emotional rollercoaster 
brought on by my breathless daily reports of the ups and downs of 
the Dow Jones Average. We were in the 401(k) business for the long 
haul and the quarterly statements would be sufficient.

I wish I could so easily ignore 2012's surplus of journalists, analysts, 
pundits, bloggers and "talking heads" who populate the "24-hour-
what-passes-for-news" cycle. I appreciate hearing what the candidates 
say. I appreciate fact-checking. I appreciate a sincere enumeration 
of the reasons why Candidate A is the better choice for the 
nation. But I'm suffering burnout from all the minute-by-minute 
poll analysis, context, perspective, sage advice, insider scoops, "who's 
cashing $10,000 checks and who's collecting pop bottles THIS week," etc. 

Yes, it is eye-straining, mind-numbing, and gut-wrenching to endure a relentless onslaught of self-
important blather about evangelicals, blue collar, skewed surveys, bounces, the base, sticking a fork in 
it, swing states, game-changers, "his one hope" and the rest.

To hear the pundits, everything hinges on the Latino vote...everything hinges on the retiree vote...
everything hinges on likeability...everything hinges on the weather...This election has more hinges 
than ACE Hardware!

Yes, yes, I've already heard all about the importance of the Electoral College ad nauseum. I half expect 
that late on the evening of November 6, we'll hear the winner of the presidential race. Then a puff of 
white smoke will arise and we'll have the announcement of a new pope, the overturning of Einstein's 
General Theory of Relativity and the reinstatement of Pluto as a planet.

Members of the Fourth Estate seem to think it would be dereliction of their patriotic duty if they 
didn't share every single scrap of trivia and speculation. ("If we don't — King George III will return 
to power. And stuff.")

Coverage seems to be aimed at policy wonks and super PAC chairmen. There's no discernible practical 
application for John Q. Public, unless your pappy always told you, "Never change horses in 
midstream—unless you suddenly learn that the horse is also supported by a razor-thin majority of 
left-handed lapsed Catholics with more than two but fewer than five years of college."

I try taking it with a grain of salt when some smug know-it-all tells us what the incumbent MUST do 
or zeroes in on one candidate's FATAL MISSTEP. (Most likely, the fatal misstep will come when the 
candidate slips on a banana peel on the steps of his presidential library 20 years after completing his 
second term.)

I've always been a news junkie, but this sensory overload is messing with my blood pressure and my 
peace of mind. I can't handle the swings between elation and melancholy, overconfidence and despair. 
I'll find solace only if the animal rights activists start rescuing whatever small furry creatures the 
prophets are disemboweling for their divination.

Or...I will feel vindicated if just one news organization instructs its pollsters to ask the honest question: 
"If the election were held today...would you be surprised if TOMORROW we started two years 
of inane chatter about the 2014 midterm elections?" 

©2012 Danny Tyree. Danny welcomes reader e-mail responses at and visits to 
his Facebook fan page "Tyree's Tyrades".