Article

AIG SHAREHOLDERS VOTE TODAY: SHOULD THEY SUE TAXPAYERS FOR SAVING THEM COMPANY? FILE IT UNDER “C” FOR “CHUTZPAH” … plus … LEE NEGOTIATIONS ON PUBLIC EMPLOYEE HEALTH CARE DEMONSTRATES HOW MARY JANE AND JOE KAPANSKI GET SCREWED or ‘ONE CONSOLATI TOO MANY’

By DAN VALENTI

PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEDNESDAY, JAN. 9, 2013) — You’ve heard the one about the kid who killed his parents and then appealed to the court for leniency because he’s now an orphan. It has long been used as a standard definition of chutzpah. Here’s one that equals the actions of the orphan.

You might remember AIG. You should. Uncle Sam took $182 billion of your money, with a “B”, to rescue it from its own greed five years ago during the economic collapse. Many debated the wisdom of the bail out, including THE PLANET. We have long advocated for the full-term economic consequences of debt to be felt on all levels — personal, local, state, federal, public, and private sectors — as the only corrective action that can ultimately save a free-market economy. That’s a separate debate.

The fact is, my money and yours saved AIG’s hide. Well, with its new life, the company has a board meeting today. Before the shareholders will be a proposal to sue the government over the very bailout that saved the company. 

Chutzpah. Nerve. Balls.

This is odd in the extreme. Didn’t AIG just launch a national ad campaign last week with the tagline, “Thank You, America”? The two-week ad campaign was designed to “reintroduce itself after its role in sparking the Great Recession,” writes MediaPost, a PR and advertising trade journal. Some thanks. In the midst of this campaign, stockholders will vote on suing the taxpaying suckers who made its survival possible.

MediaPost writes:

with its advertising, AIG is seeking to brand itself as responsible with upright citizens who make good on promises…

There are home page takeovers on sites like Yahoo, a YouTube “roadblock” and print ads in some of the company’s largest newspapers. It’s also not skimping on TV, with spots set for the NFL playoffs and Golden Globes, along with the premier college football bowl games, “60 Minutes” and leading morning shows.

The company says it’s working to help those suffering after the devastating tornado in Joplin, Mo., and recent Superstorm Sandy in the Northeast. Plus, it notes it’s the lead insurer for the new World Trade Center in Manhattan.

Employees [in the commercials] hammer home that AIG has repaid taxpayers every cent it received and even made them $22 billion richer.

“We made a commitment to repay and we did — and gave America a profit,” one of them says. “Pretty proud of that.”

The ad campaign marks AIG’s repaying of its debt. Good. Great. The government even made a few bucks in the process, such is the ungodly nature of the AIG cash machine. For all this fairy dust goodness, to even propose suing the government is ridiculous.

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POLITICIANS, PUBLIC EMPLOYEE UNIONS ARE A TOXIC BLEND FOR TAXPAYERS

One of the most toxic relationships in public life is the one between public employee unions and elected politicians. Poor Pittsfield taxpayers have been bearing the brunt of this toxicity for nigh a generation now.  Recent case in point: The new contract signed by the city with the United Educators of Pittsfield, which adds a pay hike of 16% over three years to an already inflated compensation package.

This toxic relationship has left the city with an unfunded liability in obligation to pensioners of about $400 million. Politicians may assure us all they want that this debt is being managed, but they know the truth: They merely keep putting off the date the bill is due.

On a smaller scale, we can see that crummy relationship at play in the town of Lee, which is in the middle of negotiations on a new health care plan for town workers.

Talks in Nowheresville

The talks have gotten nowhere, and the Lee Board of Selectmen has what it thinks is a motivator: A threat to move its workers to a Group Insurance Commission (GIC) health care plan. This move shows you the extent to which Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski have been screwed when it comes to providing benefits to public employees on their (the Kapanskis’) dime. The move to the GIC or a similar cost-saving plan should have been agreed to by all parties as a wise, fair, and even-handed move. Instead, this sane policy is dangled by the Selectmen as a threat and seen by the union as strong-arming.

That’s how distorted such negotiations have become. It points out the major flaw in allowing collective bargaining rights to public employees. Public workers will use their collectivity to scare weak-kneed politicians into prohibitively expensive agreements that taxpayers will have to sustain. Moderate and “prudent” policy (to use a word coined by Dan Bianchi), when it comes along, is seen by the two sides as a “threat” or “punishment.” In such an atmosphere, The Little Guy hasn’t a chance.

The city or town has the right to switch health insurance plans if such a move produces savings of 5% or more for taxpayers. In Lee, the move should be a no-brainer for both parties in the negotiations rather than being used as a bargaining chip to accept a less-favorable (for taxpayers) plan. If collective bargaining cannot reach an agreement within 30 days, a city or town can impose GIC insurance unilaterally.

Through the System, Lightly

The imposition, though, then has to go to a panel. Members of the three-person panel include a representative of the union, a rep from the city or town (supposedly standing in for taxpayers), and a third person agreed to by both parties by a member of neither. The panel examines the plan and its decision is binding on both parties.

Local labor leaders leaders have long spoken out against the GIC, so you know it has to be taxpayer-friendly. That is confirmed when you hear the cluckings of a scared politician who might be put into a position of (ulp!) moving to the GIC option. Lee Town Administrator Bob Nason, who finds himself in that ticklish position, said, “There are many of us who think that the GIC-like plan goes too far …”

Stop right there. In this portion of his remarks, Nason tries to send a secret message to the union. He’s speaking in tongues, and it can roughly be translated as, “This is a good plan for taxpayers, but I understand you don’t want us to back it.”

Nason goes on that the board “needed to signal that we were serious about containing our health insurance.”

To which THE PLANET says bullspit! Nason, if you and the board were serious, you would go to the GIC plan immediately, since it’s obvious the union is going to whine whine whine, and a lousy vintage at that.

On cue, Ginger Armstrong, president of the Lee Education Association (“It’s For The Children!”), piped in that a GIC plan would impose undue “hardships for all town employees.” What she means is, “The GIC plan would actually benefit taxpayers, and that might cost me votes with the union.”

Ginger, who may have been on the island too long with Gilligan, the ProfessorMary Ann, and the rest of the crew, signals through this statement that the GIC is the only way to go for the town of Lee … if, that is, the bedraggled taxpayers are to have a whiff of a chance.

Already sacred of the political repercussions, selectman Dave “Profiles in Courage” Consolati “If we vote for this GIC thing in the end, I don’t think I can support it.”

And that is the signal for all the voters in the town of Lee to boot Consolati out of office, should he decide to reup. “We don’t think we can support you,” is what they will say. It also raises a question about a century old in Lee: How many Consolatis does it take to meddle too much in the public’s business.

Consolati” = Italian in derivation, v., to use one’s unearned popularity as a mean of swaying public business in one’s own personal favor.

Only by increasing voter turnout can The Little Guy hope to put an end of the nonsense. It’s coming. It has to come. Voters in every city and town in the Berkshires must realize what’s being done to them. They must shake off their lethargy, climb out of their apathy, and begin to reclaim the Government That They Own.

They are the Owners. Unless they realize that, and fast, it won’t be but a few more years until the house of cards that is profligate government comes crashing down. When that happens, THE PLANET will be off in the Cook Islands, in Paradise, toasting the folly.

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“STAND STILL, AND I WILL READ TO THEE / A LECTURE, LOVE, IN LOVE’S PHILOSOPHY.” — JOHN DONNE, “A LECTURE UPON THE SHADOW.”

“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”

LOVE TO ALL.

 

45 Responses to “AIG SHAREHOLDERS VOTE TODAY: SHOULD THEY SUE TAXPAYERS FOR SAVING THEM COMPANY? FILE IT UNDER “C” FOR “CHUTZPAH” … plus … LEE NEGOTIATIONS ON PUBLIC EMPLOYEE HEALTH CARE DEMONSTRATES HOW MARY JANE AND JOE KAPANSKI GET SCREWED or ‘ONE CONSOLATI TOO MANY’”

  1. chuck garivaltis
    January 9, 2013 at 8:26 am #

    What in the world is the wailing all about? It was the easiest 200 bucks I ever made. It was a no brainer to take Alabama and give Notre Dame 10 points.This was a contest between a minor league pro football team (Ala.) against a group of college kids (ND) . Piece of cake.
    Announcer Brent Musburger tried to liven up the sleeper contest by remarks about the beauty of the girlfriend of the Alabama QB. In my opinion, all he succeeded in doing was to show his eye for beauty is as bad as his knowledge of football. The real beauty was the QB’s mother who attended the game with the so called beauty with the chisled face with too much makeup.

    • danvalenti
      January 9, 2013 at 11:24 am #

      I thought ND would at least give them a game, but ‘Bama has that ‘Big Boy’ offense. Nick Saban is a great coach.

      • chuck garivaltis
        January 9, 2013 at 2:37 pm #

        Dan

        No argument here. Nick Saban is a great coach. He proves it every year. But I don’t think he is the greatest ever Alabama coach. I’d vote for Bear Bryant. Here’s why: The Bear’s greatness was during the Alabama mentality of Governor George Wallace and his bellowing of Ala. Now and Forever. During those years Hershall Walker stayed in Georgia and Bo Jackson went to Auburn. These were times of major recruiting handicaps for Alabama but Bryant still won. What do you think, Dan

        • danvalenti
          January 9, 2013 at 3:09 pm #

          CHUCK
          It’s hard to top The Bear. Of course, it’s also hard to compare coaches from that era to today’s era. It’s like wondering if Joe McCarthy or John McGraw (or even a Dick Williams) would fare well today, in this era of pampering players and cry babies. Each guy was a good one for his respective era. At least in football, coaches more-or-less still rule. Baseball, forget it. The inmates run that asylum. That’s another reason, now that I think about it, that I enjoy football and hockey more than MLB or the NBA. Greatest coach, any sport, any time? Here’s my short list: Lombardi, Auerbach, Belichick. Yes, I would include Bill Belichick for the Patriots’ unprecedented, sustained success over a decade in a league engineered for parity, for all teams finishing at 8-8.

          • chuck garivaltis
            January 9, 2013 at 4:59 pm #

            Dan

            Agree with you.Those are great names. Creative, innovators, motivators. They are winners. Belichick belongs in this group because of his brilliance in recongnizing talent and trading for it.As you say, this is a league engineered for parity and Belichick has beaten the odds by being at or near the top for 8 or 9 years, I think.

          • danvalenti
            January 9, 2013 at 7:37 pm #

            CHUCK
            I would also add Paul Brown to that list.

  2. FPR
    January 9, 2013 at 8:49 am #

    Hey Dan,

    Yes, isn’t mind boggling that AIG would sue the government and try to get more of our money? Beyond belief.

    Fact is the bailouts were a huge mistake. If a company fails, its should go bankrupt. Too big to fail is hogwash. With that mentality, the taxpayers are too little to save.

    The “economic crash” of 2008 is not over, not by a long shot. Its just postponed by kicking the can down the road. Take a look at the National Debt and also consider how much spending is not charged to the national debt. When you look at the derivatives market alone, the amount of money involved becomes incomprehensible.

    Printing your way out of recession/depression is quite simply one of thee stupidest methods one can think of. It simply will not work.

    Take a look at this new idiotic idea. Mint a trillion dollar platinum coin? RU kidding me? If they can mint trillion dollar coins and borrow against it as real money then why does anyone have to pay taxes? Totally ridiculous. The powers that be think the people are so stupid that they would actually think the money is backed by platinum?

    The collapse of the United States Dollar is a mathematical certainty. Maybe its a good thing everything is trading sideways and they keep kicking the can down the road, maybe not. The truth is, the real collapse is coming and it won’t be pretty when it does.

    • danvalenti
      January 9, 2013 at 11:25 am #

      I agree with the prediction on the US dollar. Make way for the remnimbi.

    • bobbyd
      January 9, 2013 at 2:51 pm #

      I’m watching two things: (1) where/how Donald Trump stores his wealth, and (2) long-term U.S. bond rates. As far as I know, Donald Trump still stores his wealth in dollars and the U.S. is still able to borrow at low long-term rates indicating their is still trust. I have a feeling, though, that once that trust starts to slip, it’s going to slip fast.

      If the dollar tanks, traditional commodity money (like gold and silver) wont be far behind. The most valuable commodities will be lead and seeds. :/

      • Scott
        January 10, 2013 at 5:33 am #

        That is the truth! Stock up on plenty and remember water is very important to. I know where there’s lots of natural springs.

    • chuck garivaltis
      January 9, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

      Hi FPR

      Enjoyed your piece. What caught my interest was your comment on the powers that be will think people are stupid if people believe money can be backed by a platinum coin. It does not take a platinum coin for our elected officials to think the voting public lacks cranium matter.They already know how gullible the voters are.We voted for the people who got us in this mess and appear to be incapable of getting us out of it. Worse yet we reelect them to their office though polls show we find them incompetent and seldom get out of their assumed position.Why do we keep reelecting these troglodytes?Well, we got off the gold standard and at the Bretton Woods Agreement Act signed shortly after World War II we ruled the international economic field and could print – and print- and still print – and let’s not forget borrow – as much money as it took to build up a war decimated world and to be sure reelection was the important thing to worry about right up to the present day.Now here’s the problem from Bretton Woods to now – we’re not the only game in town and we have a tenacious and dangerous rival who holds much of out debt. That’s China, of course. One of evwery six people in the world is Chinese and within 5 years, you will see Chinese made cars going around Park Square.

      • FPR
        January 10, 2013 at 5:01 am #

        Thanks Chuck. Isn’t it interesting that they chose Platinum for this hair brained scheme when the US Constitution states clearly that the money shall be coined in Gold and Silver.

        The United States notes (not Federal Reserve notes) that were issued years ago were backed by gold and silver. You used to be able to take a silver certificate dollar into a bank and they would give you a silver dollar for it. Not the case with Federal Reserve notes. These are backed by nothing at all. (except debt/you labor).

        It would make some sense if these platinum coins they are discussing had a trillion dollars worth of platinum in them. That is not the case however. They want to take a one ounce platinum planchet and mint “one trillion dollars” on it.

        How ridiculously idiotic is that?

        I guess no more idiotic than the money we use now is.

  3. Bull Durham
    January 9, 2013 at 10:03 am #

    My favorite part of this whole AIG thing is one of their execs quoted in NY Magazine as saying he was disgusted that the government never said, “Thank you” for AIG repaying its obligation. While AIG now seems to be somehow ‘thanking’ US for bailing them out through their expensive ad campaign, I don’t ever seem to recall them apologizing for helping to cause the worst financial calamity since the Great Depression. And frankly, when I paid off my car, my bank didn’t send me a cake and card to thank me. They sent me the title. When AIG paid its debt, it was given the right to run its own company again and that should have been enough. Their options during the collapse were: declare bankruptcy and fold or accept a bailout and survive. No other suitors were looking to save them. And now they might sue us for doing it. No good deed goes unpunished.

  4. danvalenti
    January 9, 2013 at 11:25 am #

    Let it fail. That’s the best option, long term, for the U.S. economy, beginning with the city of Pittsfield.

  5. AMBROSE
    January 9, 2013 at 11:37 am #

    Pittsfield’s teachers salary and benefits are in line with all the other communities in Berkshire County. No more and probably less in many of the towns.

    • danvalenti
      January 9, 2013 at 1:13 pm #

      These are 2011 figures, avj. salary, teachers:
      Clarksburg $52,340
      Florida $37,580
      Lee 56,898
      North Adams 66,657
      Pittsfield 58,114 (up from $46,113 in 2005, a 26% pay raise in six years).
      As you can see, AMBROSE and everyone else, Pittsfield is higher than most and lower than some. For the total compensation package, add a factor of .275. So Pittsfield’s average teacher salary is $74,298.75

      • bobbyd
        January 9, 2013 at 3:06 pm #

        Wow! You are the KING of the half story! What exactly does it take to keep you honest? :)

        There are 22 districts in the Berkshire+ DSAC. In 2011, the average teacher salary in the region was $62,272, the lowest being Florida at $37580, the highest being Richmond at $88,340. Of the 22 districts, at $58,114, Pittsfield’s average teacher salary ranked 15th.

        Trust me, I’m not complaining. I’m very happy with what I am paid. If not, I would have gone elsewhere a long time ago. But jeez, Dan, you could at least try to be honest. Especially when the numbers are so easy for anyone to check.

        • danvalenti
          January 9, 2013 at 3:15 pm #

          BOBBY
          We were honest. Every figure we mentioned was accurate. You also have to add in total compensation, which is the added cost of benefits. Pittsfield’s overly generous benefits package brings the average salary to $86,200 (the base salary from 2011, the benefits +factor, and the three-year pay raise the teachers just shook down from taxpayers in Pittsfield). We’ll have that tomorrow. “Hail to the King! Love live the King!” Steady lies this head that wears the crown, baby!

          • bobbyd
            January 9, 2013 at 3:59 pm #

            I understand that I was only including only cash salary. I am not privy to the benefits packages offered by other school districts, and I can only honestly report the data I have. If you can provide the data about total compensation for the other 21 school districts, I would be happy to look at it.

            However, I am most concerned that, while the facts you gave about salary are true, they do not represent the whole truth. You have a nasty habit of doing that. You go on to infer that the average total compensation package for Pittsfield teachers is out of the ordinary based only on conjecture.

            I share your opinion that Pittsfield has been very generous with its teachers. As I sad previously, I am quite satisfied with my salary. But when you play so loosely with facts, Dan, I begin to wonder what your motive is.

          • danvalenti
            January 9, 2013 at 7:38 pm #

            BOBBY
            Thank you for your input. My motive is simple: Truth telling on behalf of the downtrodden.

          • bobbyd
            January 9, 2013 at 8:36 pm #

            The downtrodden especially need and deserve the whole truth.

            You neither do yourself nor the rest of us any favors by presenting a half-truth as if it were a truth-and-a-half.

        • Scott
          January 10, 2013 at 5:31 am #

          That’s good pay considering most people who work full time (full time being all year round.) make only a fraction of that.

          • Ole Jack
            January 10, 2013 at 7:12 am #

            @Scott,

            So put down the paintbrush, get at least 4 years college, 2-3 years grad school, and another year in a teacher’s Ed program, submit yourself to a background check, pass the teacher’s exam, survive your practice semester and then your first 3 years of probationary teaching (when you can be fired for any reason, without due process), and jump aboard the gravy train!!!
            Then you can enjoy your summers “off,” but don’t forget to attend required professional development opportunities and other meetings and workshops, take courses, keep abreast of the latest educational research, stay current in your specialty, and plan units for the upcoming year.
            Good Luck!!!

          • Quo Vadis
            January 10, 2013 at 7:29 am #

            Ole Jack enough already with the woe is me. I can name dozens of jobs with stringent requirements. You got it right when you mentioned “the gravy train.”

      • Kevin
        January 9, 2013 at 3:13 pm #

        Dan many unions fail to see that healthcare benefits costs are and should be considered part of a union members base pay, 20 years ago when I joined my union healthcare costs to my employer were nil, now it’s a major cost to my employer and because I work in the public sector we/unions began to view Healthcare benefits as an entitlement not as a cost/increasing burden to my employer or the taxpayer. I have had no raise since 2008, which I view as far, it sucks but it is far. As far as teachers salaries and other municipal employees continuing to grow exponentially……Unsustainable!

        • Kevin
          January 9, 2013 at 3:14 pm #

          Fair….

      • ambrose
        January 9, 2013 at 5:50 pm #

        BS- why aren’t you throwing in Central Berkskshire and Monument and Everett. You’re after Pittsfield, despite the fact that you have many “close friends”who are members of UEP. Please, give us a break and be honest. Florida has 9 grades and 120 students. 13 kids per class, plus title 1 and special ed. Clarksburg, 180 kids, 10 teachers plus support staff. Compare that with Conte Community School. You won’t go there to visit becaquse you might find that you don’t have all the answers.

        • danvalenti
          January 9, 2013 at 7:36 pm #

          AMBROSE
          I have all the questions and only some of the answers. The truth can be found inside the inconvenient questions.

          • AMBROSE
            January 10, 2013 at 7:35 am #

            yet you speak of the benefits that pittsfield teachers get like they are the only teachers in the state getting them

  6. egremontyankee
    January 9, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

    400 billion or million?

    • danvalenti
      January 9, 2013 at 3:10 pm #

      Million. Thanks for the catch.

  7. dusty
    January 9, 2013 at 3:52 pm #

    The Berkshire Eagle had three stories on a missing local parrot. They even took the time to get a picture of the bird and print it after it was found.

    Makes me wonder who decides which stories to chase down and which ones to ignore. If it was not so sad it would be funny. Well, it is funny anyway.

    • Gene
      January 9, 2013 at 3:54 pm #

      The BBs Parrot stories were and are a joke. Fitting for a complete joke of a “newspaper.” @Kevin I admire you honesty. I thank you and give you credit.

  8. ShirleyKnutz
    January 9, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

    Is Mr. Buffet one of the largest shareholders of AIG? If so. I wonder how he voted.

  9. ShirleyKnutz
    January 9, 2013 at 5:48 pm #

    I think the figures for Public Employees should be put into hourly wages and then compared to the rest of the community in which they live. I feel that would be the only true way to see who is “getting the shaft!”

    • Scott
      January 10, 2013 at 5:28 am #

      A guy from the fire department who comments on here said he only makes $16 an hour as a veteran firemen but I found that hard to believe so I pacified him by saying I’d totally take a job in public service because it too has it’s perks as my self employment does. Even though the truth is I like the freedom that my private business affords me.

  10. ShirleyKnutz
    January 9, 2013 at 5:52 pm #

    How come this is not posting? Did the Teachers’ finally hack into your system? {I think the figures for Public Employees should be put into hourly wages and then compared to the rest of the community in which they live. I feel that would be the only true way to see who is “getting the shaft!”}

  11. Scott
    January 10, 2013 at 5:24 am #

    The banks we bailed out that were labeled “to big to fail” and bloated gov’t employee salaries are exactly what’s wrong with America. My accountant told me yesterday that Obama tried give out raises in gov’t but was stopped by congress. Tax breaks for small business sounds good to the untrained ear but when you see their definition of “middle class” and “small business” it’s interpreted a whole lot differently than real small business would think. Coca Cola is small business to these people. The facts of the matter is is that a small majority of people control the wealth and the power and they want to keep it that way. The sad part is what really drives our economy is war. It’s been that way for a long time and will continue until we change our motives and the direction that humanity as a whole is headed. No one will get it until it’s too late and people are starving and dying in the streets. That’s why you see huge amounts of people dependent on gov’t equipped with phones and housing riding the gravy train. Part of me thinks these people wouldn’t mind living in institutional “work camps” and food rations. Give me liberty or give me death!

  12. Ole Jack
    January 10, 2013 at 8:08 am #

    @”Where are you going”(Quo Vadis)

    I’m not a teacher, so it’s not “woe is me.” Just tired of people complaining about teachers. It used to be fashionable to complain about firefighters before 9-11; that wasn’t right, either. Don’t you realize the powers that be likes when the working class fight amongst themselves? It distracts people from the real injustices we’re subject to.
    ALL working people should have decent pay and benefits. They should demand that their own lot be improved, instead of maligning people who have fought for and aquired them.

    • danvalenti
      January 10, 2013 at 11:47 am #

      JACK
      Good reply. Well expressed.

    • Scott
      January 10, 2013 at 1:06 pm #

      No one is disputing that people don’t deserve fair compensation Jack and I’m already afforded nice luxuries in my business I don’t need to go back to school and become a teacher plus I’d most likely make a crumby one anyways. The point is you don’t get a raise when you under perform. For instance the slower I slop on paint the less money I make. It would be nice to say well this took me longer and I did a poor job but will you give me more money? That’s the issue. It’s bloated gov’t that is the problem not the teachers as individuals a large percentage are excellent at what they do.

  13. joetaxpayer
    January 10, 2013 at 9:33 am #

    Speaking of fire station’s, why do we still have 5.Population and tax base are both shrinking. We might have to close a couple to pay for the teachers raises.

    • danvalenti
      January 10, 2013 at 11:47 am #

      JOE
      You are asking one (just one) of The Questions That Cannot Under Any Circumstances Be Asked regarding management and government in the city of Pittsfield.

  14. joetaxpayer
    January 10, 2013 at 1:06 pm #

    Sorry, I know that is one of the 3 rails of politics. Don’t mess with Firemen Police or the Schools.

    • taxmano
      January 11, 2013 at 7:16 am #

      @joetaxpayer,
      No, because then you’d complain about the lack of safety, crime, and poor quality of education.