Pam's Points: On the TVA sale idea, our wages and the Bergdahl frenzy

Pam's Points: On the TVA sale idea, our wages and the Bergdahl frenzy

June 6th, 2014 in Opinion Times

TVA sale suggestion did have merit

Most people in the Tennessee Valley knew, without spending $1 million for a study, that selling TVA to give the illusion of trimming the federal debt was a bad idea.

Still, there was value in the exercise of making the private Lazard Freres & Co. do an outside financial review for White House budget planners and the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. Now they can really see what a bad idea it was. Especially since TVA's ratepayers, not taxpayers, pay the $26.5 billion TVA debt that is carried on the federal debt in name only.

But the real value of the TVA sale suggestion has been the pressure it put on TVA's leaders and board. Since the idea was proposed in 2013, and even through a slowdown in power demand, TVA has tightened its belt, scrapped aging coal plants and suspended work on the Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant. The utility cut capital spending plans by $13 billion and annual operating costs by $500 million.

Now, TVA is expected to pay down its debt from a 2015 peak of $26.5 billion to only $20.8 billion by 2023.

But if it were to be sold, both ratepayers and taxpayers would lose. If TVA has to earn a profit, as a private utility does, our electricity rates would jump by 13 percent, the report says, and other entities - state or federal ones - would have to take over TVA's recreation, economic development and environmental programs. That would certainly cost taxpayers.

Don't let the scenery fool you

You have to love Chattanooga to stay here. It's about location, location, location - because it's sure not about the money.

The U.S. Department of Labor numbers prove it. Wages of workers here are about 14 percent less than in the rest of the country. And, yes, the cost of living is less here, too - but only 7 percent less. That means our wage-earners are consistently taking a beating.

But, boy oh boy, that river and those mountains sure are nice.

Bergdahl furor is sickening show

What a pathetic showing our Congress has made when it comes to their partisan bullying of the president.

Nowhere is this clearer than in the Bowe Bergdahl furor. We've come to expect congressional reversals on issues such as health care and foreign policy. Affordable health care was great when it was Romneycare, but an impeachable offense when it was Obamacare. And putting sanctions on Russia and throwing the country out of G-8 was a plan when it was proposed in early March by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz, but it was laughable and met with derision by McCain when Obama actually followed that advice.

Yet of all the things you'd think everyone would agree on, it would be rescuing our only remaining prisoner of war in Afghanistan - regardless of the circumstances of his capture which have been well publicized in the past two years in major publications like The New York Times and Rolling Stone.

In fact, the GOP was, even this year, all for saving Bergdahl - just as the president did it. On CNN on Feb. 18, McCain told Anderson Cooper that he had previously opposed the release of five hard-core Taliban prisoners as a confidence-building measure (to move negotiations forward), but, "Now this idea is for an exchange of prisoners for our American fighting man. I would be inclined to support such a thing, depending on a lot of the details."

Now he says it was a bad idea, and that he and Congress were not consulted (though he admits the earlier briefing).

Just last week Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., spoke on Memorial Day and urged Americans to keep Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl "in our thoughts and prayers." She said, "I renew my call on the Defense Department to redouble its efforts to find Sergeant Bergdahl and return him safely to his family."

Now she wants a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the prisoner swap.

It's not as though no one knew the circumstances. Here's an excerpt from a May 2012 New York Times story: "Last week his anguished family broke a yearlong silence and announced that their son had become the centerpiece in secret but stalled negotiations between the Obama administration and the Taliban over a proposed prisoner exchange. The deal, which would trade five Taliban prisoners held in Guantánamo Bay for Sergeant Bergdahl, is considered a crucial first step toward striking a broader political settlement with the Taliban to bring the decade-long war to an end."

Now GOP Congress members are tripping over themselves to delete Twitter and Facebook posts urging the president to gain the soldier's release.

Really, people. Do you think Americans can't see through you?