April 2010 Archives

April 5, 2010

California’s Exports moving up

Could exports lead California out of the recession?  There is at least a glimmer of hope in a an analysis of federal trade data by the University of California Center Sacramento.  According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, The $10.3 billion in goods shipped abroad in January represented a 18.5% increase over the $8.7 billion recorded during the same month last year. The products shipped by land, sea and air included high-end, top-value items such as civilian aircraft engines and parts. They also included low-value bulk, such as scrap metal and paper that will become the raw materials for new goods manufactured in Asia.  “We are now just getting back to the level of exporting we were at in early 2007, before the global financial and economic crisis sent international trade spiraling down,” said Jock O’Connell, the UC center’s international trade and economics advisor. 

Filed under California Economy by

April 7, 2010

Will the Chinese again build our railroads?

That is the gist of an article in today’s New York Times – that nearly 150 years after American railroad companies imported thousands of Chinese laborers to build rail lines across the West, China may once again to play a role in American rail construction. This time, however, they will have a much different role: supplying the technology and engineers to build high-speed rail lines.

The Chinese government has signed cooperation agreements with the state of California and General Electric to help build such lines. The agreements, both of which are preliminary, show China’s desire to become a big exporter and licenser of bullet trains traveling 350 kilometers, or about 215 miles, an hour, an environmentally friendly technology in which China has raced past the United States in the past few years.

“We are the most advanced in many fields, and we are willing to share with the United States,” said Zheng Jian, the chief planner and director of high-speed rail at the Chinese Railroad Ministry.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California has closely followed progress in the discussions and hopes to return to China this year for talks with rail ministry officials, said David Crane, the governor’s special adviser for jobs and economic growth and a board member for the California High Speed Rail Authority. China is offering not just to build a railroad in California but to help finance its construction, and Chinese officials have already been shuttling from Beijing to Sacramento to make presentations, Mr. Crane said by telephone.

China is not the only country interested in selling high-speed rail equipment to the United States. Japan, Germany, South Korea, Spain, France and Italy have also approached the state of California.

The state’s high-speed rail authority has made no decisions on whose technology to choose. But Mr. Crane said that there were no apparent weaknesses in the Chinese offer and that Mr. Schwarzenegger particularly wanted to visit China this year for high-speed rail discussions.

Filed under China, Transportation by

California Chamber of Commerce funding Republican Attack Ads

The California Chamber of Commerce is apparently continuing its transition from a business association to a political lobbying organization for the Republican party. They are now funding vicious televised attack ads against Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown, implying that he is somehow responsible now that “California’s lost one million jobs” and the fact that “we’re 200 billion dollars in debt”

The Chamber broke a tradition of non-partisanship dating back more than 100 years when it endorsed Schwarzenegger in the 2003 recall election. For this, they were rewarded handsomely by the Schwarzenegger administration and were given unprecedented access and influence over our State government, to the detriment of almost everyone else – especially small business. The “job killer” label they put on any legislation they didn’t like, for example, for many years virtually guaranteed a Schwarzenegger veto.

According to several news reports, complaints have now been filed with the California Fair Political Practices Commission that say the Chamber didn’t even fund this ad through its own political action committee- since that would have been subject to disclosure regulations, and instead paid for it through their membership dues, to the tune of more than one million dollars! They also noted that Republican candidate Meg Whitman’s campaign manager, former Gov. Pete Wilson, is on the chamber’s board.

The man responsible for turning the California Chamber of Commerce into this overtly partisan political organization is apparently their President and CEO: Allan Zaremberg, He was the Master of Ceremonies at the Republican Primary Gubernatorial Debate in Orange County last month, touting his take on “the importance of a business-friendly governor to California”.

He is also the head of the “California State Protocol Foundation” – a shadowy “non profit organization” has paid for millions of dollars’ worth of Schwarzenegger’s overseas travel and other bills racked up by his office, including the use of private jets. This group claims these payments allow the Governor to meet with foreign dignitaries, “thereby supporting business opportunities between California and their countries” but what they have really done is turn what should have been public interest trade missions into luxury junkets with blatant cronyism. More than anything, this organization has corrupted and perverted California’s international trade and economic development programs, and it is almost unbelievable that they have gotten away with it.

The ad now being run by the California Chamber is stunning in its dishonesty. For example, they attack Brown for having been against Proposition 13, the property tax initiative, not mentioning that they were also opposed to it at the time. The theme of the ad is “enough is enough” and that may very well be the way many in California feel about the California Chamber of Commerce.

Let’s hope the next Governor- who ever he or she is, from whatever party, will stop this bullying and political manipulation by the California Chamber of Commerce. The rest of us – especially small business, deserve a seat at the table on California business issues for a change. It seems to me that members of the California Chamber of Commerce should not only resign from this organization, they should also demand a full refund of their membership fees for as many years as they have been members. Regardless of their political party, I’m sure they didn’t sign on for this garbage.

Filed under Business Associations, California Politics, Opinion by

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