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Conservative age-based funds in college savings plans serve up surprise losses

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

January 14, 2014

Eric Hutchinson has been saving for his daughter’s college education for a dozen years. But in April, the Tigard resident decided to take advantage of the Oregon College Savings Plan‘s tax break.

He put $5,000 in the plan’s Age-Band 16 portfolio for 16-year-olds, which will automatically adjust his investment into more conservative holdings as his daughter Noelle gets older.

So, he was a bit surprised when he looked at the account balance just after New Year’s and found it held $4,980. Hadn’t it gained anything from the year’s run-up in stocks?

Our Response & Your Comments

How could your lose money in a year when virtually every stock market index shot through the stratosphere?

It’s simple – Trust it to the government.

To be fair, government college savings programs lost money because they are understandably conservative and become more so as students approach college age, so they skew towards bonds.

But there are a few simple truths here.

First, when you trust your money to the government you lose control over it, so you can’t start out conservative in Jan. and in March say “Stocks are the place to be, so I’m switching to them.”

Second, government programs are top down, rigid, one-size-fits all programs. And if they don’t fit you, it’s just too darn bad. Think ObamaCare, Cover Oregon, etc.

The final lesson: Nobody watches your money like you watch your money. Carve this into your dining room table and never forget it. Especially when dealing with the government.


‘We look like fools:’ A history of Cover Oregon’s failure

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

By Dusty Lane, Staff Jan 10, 2014


KATU’s Investigators spent weeks digging through thousands of pages of audits conducted by Maximus, the company the state hired to provide quality-control assessments of the project beginning in its early days….

November 2011
…there are already red flags about the scope of the project – namely Oracle’s future support for the aging software the state has decided on…

June 2012
Maximus notes that staff members are quitting faster than they can be hired…

July 2012
The IT team has gone through multiple iterations of the software, and there are serious worries about security…

September 2012
…Maximus portrays a project that’s dangerously close to out of control…

November 2012
With less than a year to go until the deadline, the progress that’s been made is insignificant in comparison with what’s left to be done…

January 2013
Security issues are getting worse…

February 2013
Cover Oregon begins to change its message, suggesting the task was impossible to begin with…

MarchMay 2013
There’s been a misallocation of $16 million…

September 2013
With two weeks to go, (Cover Oregon head) Rocky King delivers a Power Point presentation that contains eight astounding words: “Bottom Line: We Are On Track to Launch.”

Our Response & Your Comments

Yes, we do look like fools. But we suggest a slight change of title to “All You Clowns Look Like Fools.” And liars. And finger pointers. And whiners. We could go on, but you get the point. And any of our readers who actually needed health insurance could add more colorful adjectives.

Cover Oregon has indelibly stamped itself as the prototypical government program: expensive, beaurocratic without anyone really being in charge, over budget, non functioning, and nobody’s to blame except the company (Oracle) that took advantage of the poor “public servants” who cooked the program up and then cocked it up beyond all recognition.

Maybe it’s appropriate that it’s Gov. “Hands off” Kitz’s signature program.

Remember that old bumper sticker – “If you think health care’s expensive now, just wait til it’s free”? Well, folks, you’re now seeing it in real life!


Next to Boeing’s wish list, Oregon’s Intel deal is a bargain

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

It may well be true, as some critics note, that Oregon didn’t get anything new last week for extending the 30-year “tax certainty” originally granted to Nike to Intel as well. Even Intel agreed that the $500 million in new investment in its Hillsboro location, and the 500 jobs attached, were on track to happen anyway…

… as Gov. John Kitzhaber told The Oregonian editorial board, it’s not costing Oregon anything, either. Oregon’s “single sales factor” tax formula, which taxes companies based only on their sales in Oregon rather than their worldwide receipts, has been law here since 1991…

Boeing, although it had received an $8.7 billion tax break pledge from the Washington state legislature to build the 777X airliner there, bridled at the local machinists’ union voting against reopening an eight-year contract in the middle of its term. So the airliner giant announced that it was opening the bidding to other states, and offered a list of incentives that might attract the megaproject to someplace such as Alabama or Missouri…

But the big-money-required auction Boeing has set out to conduct does reflect the style, not to say the desperation, of current state efforts to land a major job project. It’s a process of smokestack-chasing on steroids, and the stakes can rise to dizzying levels – in this case, 30,000-foot levels…

The Oregonian, December 13, 2014

Our Response & Your Comments

Lane Solutions neither endorses nor opposes tax breaks for corporations locating in Oregon. We just want to clarify the issue.

Luring companies to Oregon means buying them with a mixture of incentives – intangible and tangible. Intangibles include skilled workers and a good transportation system. Tangibles are usually tax relief.

The questions are the same as for a person buying a house: “Do I want it?” “What am I willing to give up for it? “What deal can I get before someone pays what the seller is asking?” “What if it’s not what I thought I was buying?”

Governments ask the same questions: “Is this a fit for Oregon?” “How much revenue can we concede and eventually recoup it via taxes?” “Does Alabama want it?” “What if we don’t get the promised jobs?” The last is crucial.


Liquor sales, liquor profits

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Privatization proposals raise questions

After voters in Washington state approved an initiative privatizing distilled liquor sales two years ago, it seemed inevitable that Oregonians would soon be presented with a similar proposal. Sure enough, this week the Oregon Grocery Association filed five liquor privatization initiatives, one of which is likely to appear on the ballot next year…

The grocery association’s interest is obvious: It wants a piece of the action. Currently, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission purchases and warehouses virtually all liquor sold in the state, which is then sold through state-chartered liquor stores. The initiatives filed this week would allow stores with more than 10,000 square feet of retail space to sell spirits…

State-chartered liquor stores tend to be small, independently owned businesses. The proposed initiatives would open the liquor market to such giants as Fred Meyer and Safeway, which are backing the proposals…

For consumers, privatization offers the potential advantage of lower prices…

Oregon’s current system has promoted the emergence of a low-volume craft distillery industry, which after privatization would depend on specialty retailers. Privatization would make it more convenient to buy a bottle of Jack Daniels bourbon, but finding a Rogue Valley pear liqueur might be a different story…

The Oregonian, December 18, 2013

Our Response & Your Comments

Lane Solutions neither supports nor opposes this potential ballot measure. But we do have questions which we we’re considering and suggest that you do as well.

  1. Should Oregon, or any state, be in the liquor business?
  2. Does Oregon, with its high liquor prices, have fewer problem drinkers than states which have lower liquor prices (e.g. California)?
  3. Is it the business of government to “protect(ing) small businesses at the expense of big ones?”
  4. Is it the business of government to protect boutique distillers such as Rogue Valley or should the market decide who survives and who doesn’t?
  5. How good is government at picking winners and losers?

We welcome your comments on this issue.


Golden Fleece Award – Issue 55

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


A Big Gulp – Of Your Tax Dollars

We present this week’s Golden Fleece Award to the Salem Oregon State Penitentiary.

Even though this program has been cancelled, they still receive the coveted Golden Fleece just for wasting the money.

Over a two year period the Penitentiary spent a whopping $775,000 on soft drinks for inmates!

We think that the guys who were nuts enough to take your money and pour it down felons’ gullets ought to be further awarded 2 years for stupid and about 50 more for not caring about the dollars they confiscated from you!


Golden Fleece Award – Issue 54

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Cover Oregon Scores Again

This week’s Golden Fleece goes to Cover Oregon, which blew your bucks while ignoring a cardinal rule of business: “Don’t advertise a product that’s not available – Nothing irritates a customer more.”

 But the Salem Wizards at Cover Oregon spent a hefty $3.2 Million of your hard earned money to create ads for their health insurance exchange – which isn’t available on the Internet.

Sure you can fill out a 19 page paper form that comes with 19 more pages of instructions – if you’re really desperate. But almost all Oregonians seeing the ads will go to the non-functioning website. Brilliant!

We don’t think these bumblers will be sipping champagne at the MENSA New Year’s Eve Bash.


Don’t let EUC lapse

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The need for federal unemployment benefits persists

What would the Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives do if they were forced to live on unemployment insurance and food stamps for six months? And how would they feel if their food stamp allotments were suddenly reduced and their unemployment checks cut off — three days after Christmas?…

The program, called Emergency Unemployment Compensation, was approved by Congress during the Great Recession to extend state-based unemployment insurance programs by using federal dollars to pay benefits to people looking for jobs. Congress has previously extended the program several times.

Unemployment in the United States was under 6 percent before the recession but the national average remains stuck above 7 percent — lower than the 10 percent peak in 2009 but still troublesome — and there are nearly three unemployed workers for every job opening. A report by the White House Council on Economic Advisers and the U.S. Labor Department, released Thursday, said extending the EUC one year would save 240,000 jobs nationwide, including 3,829 jobs in Oregon…

The Eugene Register Guard, December 9, 2014

Our Response & Leave Your Comments

The RG editors didn’t read or chose to ignore a simple economics lesson from an earlier issue of Lane Solutions.

So as much as we hate to repeat ourselves, we’ll count to ten and try again to communicate basic logic and common sense to them.

Here it is: politicians cannot remove money (“taxes”) from the private sector, take a bite out of it to run their beaurocracy, give what’s left to a group they want to vote for them and create more jobs than they first killed by over taxation and more money than they grabbed from the poor saps who worked for it.

If paying people not to work actually creates more jobs and economic growth why don’t we just pay everyone not to work?

And what do these geniuses think we’d do with the money if they didn’t grab it? Bury it? No – we’d invest it or spend it. In either case it would end up back in the economy in the form of economic growth and job creation.

Why don’t these “public servants” concentrate on something where they’re more likely to stumble on

success? Like an anti-gravity machine or a pill that converts water to gasoline.


Meet the New Tax Reform…Same as the Old Tax Reform

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber, fresh off his early October special legislative session “Grand Bargain” success, says he will now turn his attention to tax reform. He has plenty of company in Oregon’s recent history…

Ask the average Oregonian what “tax reform” means, and they are likely to say it means “more taxes.” And, so far they’d be correct.

Before Governor Kitzhaber has even hinted at specifics of his upcoming tax reform plan, several state legislators are fleshing out their own version of “more taxes” which includes a five percent sales tax coupled with property and income tax reductions. This time, they have in hand a Legislative Revenue Office analysis that says it will create 55,405 new jobs and raise $488 million a year in net tax revenue.

Steve Buckstein, Cascade Policy Review, December 9, 2009

“I’m stunned that we could not only produce more money for education, stabilize our tax code and produce more jobs for our economy,” said Hass, a Beaverton Democrat and a chief architect of the tax reform proposal.” – Mark Hass, Oregon Senator, District 14, quoted in The Oregonian.

Our Response & Leave Your Comments

We’re plenty stunned ourselves! It came as an utter shock to us that the wizards in Salem could remove $488 million from the private sector and it would result in 55,405 new jobs in the same sector you just took the money from.

We have a better idea – How about if 2,500 Lane Solutions readers each sent your humble but grasping editors $2,000? We could create 100 jobs paying “living wages” (whatever that means). But our generous 2,500 readers wouldn’t have the money to create jobs of any kind, would they?

It works exactly the same when the Salem geniuses take your money. The only difference is that we’d have to ask you for it. Government doesn’t. All they have to do is take it.


Golden Fleece Award – Issue 53

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


This week’s Golden Fleece Award, with holly and jingle bells (and maybe the south end of a north bound reindeer) goes to the Oregon Employment Dept. for blowing $6.9 million of your bucks on a software program that didn’t, doesn’t and never will work.

The new software was designed to track hundreds of thousands of unemployment insurance documents from one end of the OED to the other. Notice that we’re refraining from making any jokes about the “other” end of the OED.

Now these guardians of your tax dollars have to spend about another $7 million just to clean up the mess they created, including $340,000 just to get out of the outside contract they awarded in violation of Oregon contracting rules.

Gazing into her crystal ball, OED Director Lisa Nisenfeld wisely predicts, “This is going to be somewhat of a long road.” Really?

And did we mention this is just one of ten screwed up major OED projects that could cost more than $20 million of your bucks to fix?


How to Lose Your Job and Get Another One Fast

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Job shift follows complaints

 The financially strapped Eugene School District created a new administrative post this month that pays about $160,000 a year in salary and benefits and appointed to the job a high school principal who has recently been investigated by the district for unspecified job performance problems and criticized by parents for poor leadership, newly provided records show.

–       Josephine Woolington, The Eugene Register Guard, November 23, 2013

Lane Solutions Responds and Leave Your Comments…

According to the Register Guard, Churchill High principal Kim Finch was replaced after an investigation into her leadership. According to two parents she had created a “toxic atmosphere” and “fearful working environment” for Churchill staff.

Now – Don’t you wish you could create a “toxic atmosphere” and be rewarded with a job specially created for you at a cost of $160,000 paid for, of course, by your neighbors in Eugene? As they say – “Nice gig.”

But you and we know that it ain’t gonna happen. Because your company ain’t gonna pay for it out of their profits.

Some readers, however, will say “corporations do it, too.” Yes, in rare circumstances they do.

But here’s the difference, dear readers: Corporations pay for it themselves. They don’t go out in the community and confiscate random citizens’ hard earned dollars to cover their bad judgment. And if they’re public and do it too much, shareholders will holler. If they’re private they’re covering their screw-ups out of their own pockets. That may be dumb, but it’s their money to waste.

When it’s government creating jobs for people who failed in their last job, always remember – they’re doing it with money you worked for. And remember this the next time you can vote against those who did it.