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The Keystone XL pipeline and other random ramblings on 2014

    It tickles me that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline is such a big issue. We here in Southwestern Illinois had a first-hand look at Keystone I, which was built by the same company and traverses Madison County.
Al Ortbals    While the proponents champion the 40,000 jobs it will create, I watched the first one go in the ground. If there were a dozen guys working on it, that was a lot. There were about 1,500 temporary jobs expanding the Phillips 66 plant to handle the Canadian tar sands oil. But, when the task was completed, there were only 35 permanent jobs at the plant as a result. That’s simply the way of modern manufacturing. It takes a fraction of the people it used to take to make anything these days. The people who are pushing Keystone aren’t doing it because it’s going to create jobs.
    Now that Bruce Rauner will be sworn in as Illinois’ 42nd governor on Jan. 15, I expect the East St. Louis Amtrak station idea will be dead. Word was that Quinn had promised the station to East St. Louis and St. Clair County politicians in an effort to drum up votes in the November election. It didn’t work as Quinn lost all but Cook County. The idea never did make any sense and I don’t think Rauner will waste his time with it.
    While Illinois’ condition didn’t get better under Quinn, at least he’s broken the string of Illinois governors who’ve graduated from the executive mansion to the Big House. I think there’s something to be said for progress, regardless how small.
    St. Louisans are in a tizzy over the possible (probable?) departure of Stan Kroenke and his football team to Los Angeles. Gov. Jay Nixon has appointed his A-team to try to keep them in St. Louis. I certainly hope they stay but I doubt that they will. Kroenke strikes me as a man who is laser-focused on one thing — making money. He’ll do whatever he can do that will maximize his profit. If that’s moving to L.A. — or London, for that matter — I have no doubt that he will.    
    That being said, I wouldn’t spend a dime of public money to keep them here. Football stadiums are desolate places 357 days out of the year. Surrounded by acres and acres of surface parking that is totally vacant except on game days, they are a blight on the landscape and I wouldn’t waste good real estate on them. Rams fans come from a rather small geography; bring their food and drink with them; party in the parking lot; go to the game; and go home. If Stan wants to spend his money on it, fine, but our tax dollars should be put to better use.
    I, for one, darned near leapt to my feet and gave Sen. Elizabeth Warren a standing ovation as she decried the influence of Citicorp over the federal government and the control it exerted over the $1.1 trillion federal spending bill that was passed last month. After the big banks crashed our economy and drove away in their Bentleys with their bulbous bonuses, it’s unbelievable that Congress would change the rules and let them start all over. I’m with Warren. Dodd-Frank needlessly beat up on the community banks and didn’t go far enough on the mega banks. They should have passed the new Glass-Steagall Act. But the fact that they let Citi lobbyists write their own law to the detriment of all of us is heinous in the extreme.
    Another odious part of the bill blew the lid off campaign contributions as if there wasn’t already enough money to putrefy the system. Maybe we should just hang a FOR SALE sign on the capitol dome and be done with it.
    Similarly, it appears Rex Sinquefeld is out to buy himself a government in Missouri (or Missourah — you pick), making massive investments in candidates for governor, lietenant governor and attorney general. He already has the speaker of the house. This all appears to be just fine with the Missouri Republican party. With huge majorities in both the House and Senate, they are doing absolutely nothing to try to curtail the sale of the government to the highest bidder.
    And finally, three cheers for Obama’s move to normalize relations with Cuba. The only reason this silly situation has been allowed to go on for more than half a century is because both sides were afraid that it would flip the Cuban exile vote to the other column and take the state of Florida and its 29 electoral votes with it. Obama’s the first president who’s had the guts to stand up and do what was right instead of what was politically profitable.
    Alan J. Ortbals is president and publisher of the Illinois Business Journal.

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