OPB and OPM …

OPB was the brand name of a popular cigarette a number of years ago. OPB stood for Other People’s Butts. OPBs were smoked by those who wouldn’t spend their own money for a smoke, but were addicted to the weed and were not at all embarrassed to chisel a smoke from someone else. The name on the pack was meaningless. It was an OPB. It was their favorite brand and that’s all that mattered.

OPM, a contemporary acronym, stands for Other People’s Money. OPMs are expended by those in various levels of government who wouldn’t spend their own money, but are addicted to spending money just as long as the money belonged to someone else. Fiscal responsibility means nothing to this type. Borrow the money. Spend it. Paying the bill will be the obligation of a future generation.

The hot topic at the moment is the $ 222 billion public works program introduced last week at the California governor’s state of the State address. He said that California’s infrastructure is at the breaking point and he vowed to improve it along with the region’s deteriorating air quality. He agreed with the Southern California Leadership Council that the state is stuck between a rock and a hard place. The Council’s “Green Freight Initiative” acknowledged that container ports help drive the state’s economic growth particularly at a time of booming world trade, but the study also pointed to the fact that increased port traffic brings more traffic problems and diminishes air quality.

“Our ports are jammed to capacity,” the governor said. “The cargo ships are lined up — waiting. Ports in Washington, Oregon, Texas and Mexico are vying for a chance to take business away from us. California is already on the leading edge of global economy and it’s changing in leaps and bounds. And yet we will let this advantage slip from our fingers if we don’t make the long term investment in our ports, our roads, our schools, our information systems and the other entire infrastructure required to compete in a world that thrives on innovation.”

He almost came up with the right answer. The ports are jammed … he got that right. The other ports are hoping to take business away … he got that right, too. The global economy is moving like gangbusters … he’s aware of that alright. But the part about, “if we don’t make the long-term investment” … where do you get the “we” stuff, governor? The way a $ 222 billion bond issue works is that future generations of California’s children will be making that “investment”.

Think about this though. If the ports are already jammed and other West Coast ports are “vying for a chance to take business away from us”, why not kill several birds with one stone?
1. Use OPM, by selling stock to outsiders rather than creating bond obligations for the kids.
2. Invest in the development of other California ports.
3. It will require less money, and the “business taken away” will still remain in California.
4. A reprieve in Southern California will allow efforts taken to relieve congestion and improve air quality to bear fruit.

That’s how to “compete in a world that thrives on innovation”.