published Friday, May 24th, 2013

Here's an idea for you: Sell Congress, not TVA

Instead of privatizing TVA, perhaps we should look at privatizing Congress.

In today's clamor for smaller government, shouted by politicians who seem increasingly owned by PAC money and corporate campaign donations, comes a call from the Obama Administration to look at the feasibility of selling the Tennessee Valley Authority.

That's the same TVA that was established by Congress in 1933 to make electricity from the Tennessee River while also addressing flooding, economic and navigation issues in the 80,000-square-mile Tennessee River basin that covers portions of seven Southeastern states.

Thursday, one of Tennessee's U.S. senators, traditionally a defender of TVA's public ownership, said TVA might be better off severed from Uncle Sam. That senator was Republican Bob Corker, who prides himself as a money man.

Maybe Corker is just floating this bad idea for positioning, because while TVA could use some improving, it remains one of the region's -- and public's -- best assets.

Selling TVA is an uniformed idea, and both Corker and Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander and other Southern delegation politicians have said so. Or at least they did initially.

The original sale specter was tucked in the president's nearly 230-page 2014 budget.

"Given TVA's debt constraints and the impact to the federal deficit of its increasing capital expenditures, the administration intends to undertake a strategic review of options for addressing TVA's financial situation, including the possible divestiture of TVA, in part or as a whole," the document states.

But TVA is not funded by the federal government, and has not been in decades. What's more, the $25 billion in TVA debt that is merely carried on the books of the federal deficit isn't really taxpayer debt, and it is paid down regularly by the TVA using ratepayer money -- not taxpayer dollars.

But there is a benefit to both taxpayers and ratepayers by that debt being carried on the federal books: When TVA needs capital money to get loans, lenders view the agency as being backed by the federal government, so the lending interest rate is lower -- or at least it was until the new budget document went public.

Alexander said TVA bonds lost about $500 million in value after the announcement last month, largely because of uncertainty over whether the utility would be sold.

Now Corker's defection can't be seen as anything but more damaging. In fact, he would seem to be adding to the devaluation.

"While unfortunate but true, TVA as a going concern today is probably worth less than its debt, and its rates have become increasingly less competitive. So if the goal is deficit reduction, I doubt this idea gains much traction," Corker said earlier this month.

What everyone seems to be forgetting is that TVA, with its $11 billion ratepayer-funded operating budget, is much more than just an electricity provider -- which, again for emphasis, ratepayers, not taxpayers, bankroll.

TVA is a far better river and flood manager of the 652-mile Tennessee River and its tributaries than the U.S. Corps of Engineers -- the fallback federal agency that taxpayers would have to pay should TVA be sold. If you question that, just ask the folks in Nashville who were flooded by the Corps-managed Cumberland River in 2010.

And in February, after the Tennessee Valley had a soaking that put the region at twice the normal early year rainfall, TVA's flood control efforts averted $800 million in flood damage. At the same time the utility logged an all-time record for hydropower production.

But let's talk TVA taxpayer cost: The utility's first government appropriation in 1933 was $50 million -- million with an "m." That amount was also its last government appropriation for water quality and recreation needs in 1999: $50 million with an "m." TVA's government power appropriations ended four decades before that, in 1959.

Yet still, yearly, TVA spends on average $100 million for environmental and stewardship programs, as well as making about $550 million in-lieu-of-taxes payments to county and municipal governments for the 11,000 miles of shoreline and 293,000 acres of property and 200 miles of trails and 80 recreational facilities that it owns and manages.

Who will be taking on those costs? States? Counties?

Sure, TVA has warts. But does selling it make sense? No.

Selling Congress might, though.

Naah. Using Corker's initial logic, we couldn't get as much for Congress as we have invested in it.

The truth is, with any and every johnny-come-lately social welfare group declaring itself a 501(c)(4), and with many corporations making unlimited and undisclosed but perfectly legal corporate campaign donations, we mere voters and taxpayers have already been supplanted as owners of Congress. That body already is privatized in all but name.

21
Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
hambone said...

The most dilapidated facility that TVA has is worth far more than the entire Congress!

May 24, 2013 at 1:55 a.m.
mountainlaurel said...

TFP commentary says: "Sell Congress, not TVA"

Yes, what’s occurring is unsettling and a blatant conflict of interest. Great commentary, TFP.

Needless to say, the politicians who are out there screaming foul about the IRS doing their job and investigating these questionable 501 (c) 4 “social welfare” applications are the same people directly benefitting from the billions and billions of dollars these corporate donors are funneling into these phony 501(c) 4 political campaign accounts.

Clearly, the foxes are guarding their lucrative henhouses at our expense.

May 24, 2013 at 8:34 a.m.
conservative said...

"Instead of privatizing TVA, perhaps we should look at privatizing Congress"

Now that idea is a far as the east is from the west in the mind of Demoncrats/Liberals/Socialists and anathema as well.

There is no way these special interest groups would ever favor or allow private enterprise running Congress for private enterprise would not funnel money to these same special interest groups and thus this country would not be in debt trillions of dollars.

Who does this writer think he/she is fooling?

May 24, 2013 at 1:04 p.m.
jesse said...

The congress is already bought and paid for!

May 24, 2013 at 4:07 p.m.
mountainlaurel said...

Conservative says: “Private enterprise would not funnel money to these same special interest groups and thus this country would not be in debt trillions of dollars. Who does this writer think he/she is fooling?”

And who do you think you’re fooling, Conservative? The recent financial crisis has taught the whole world the kind of crisis that occurs when private enterprise is given too much power and is trusted with other people’s money – with you being the exception, of course.

May 24, 2013 at 7:39 p.m.
conservative said...

OK mountainlaurel, here is your chance to shine.

Please explain how your comment has anything to do with my comment.

Are you saying that private enterprise would give you a bigger check and that you would not want that bigger check or any check or program at all?

I defy you to state that you would like to privatize Congress.

May 24, 2013 at 8:01 p.m.
mountainlaurel said...

Conservative asks: "Please explain how your comment has anything to do with my comment."

You appeared to be suggesting that private enterprise offers something it doesn’t. I simply provided you with a recent reminder to illustrate that it doesn’t. Clearly, greed is an inherent problem within private enterprise and there is lots of evidence that demonstrates power only compounds this. In other words, your theory that the country would not be in debt if private enterprise had been running the show so to speak is simply wishful thinking on your part.

May 25, 2013 at 8:44 a.m.
conservative said...

mountainlaurel,

I have noticed here and in past conversations with you that you often use variations of the words "seem" and "appear" when disagreeing with me. Why?

I always try to be direct and plain in what I believe and am not bashful about it.

You have yet to state that you would like or prefer that free enterprise run Congress. You would not. There is not a chance you would go along with free enterprise running Congress for the reasons I previously mentioned. Was that to vague or ambiguous for you?

Once again I defy you to state that you would like private enterprise to run Congress.

May 25, 2013 at 1:44 p.m.
mountainlaurel said...

Conservative notes: “I have noticed . . . that you often use variations of the words "seem" and "appear" when disagreeing with me. Why? I always try to be direct and plain in what I believe and am not bashful about it.”

Yes, but your posts are not always direct. . . And since you’ve brought the subject up, I’ll take this opportunity to add a few other things that I’ve noted about your posts. . . Sometimes you speak out of both sides of your mouth. . . Other times, you say things that aren’t factual. . . But most of the time, I think you just say a lot of silly stuff to argue for the sake of arguing.

Conservative says: “You have yet to state that you would like or prefer that free enterprise run Congress. . . I defy you to state that you would like private enterprise to run Congress.”

You poor guy. (Sigh) . . . You can’t be serious? . . . Are you serious, Conservative?

Like most Americans, I simply want and expect the U.S. Congress to do its job and conduct itself in an ethical and responsible manner, which it hasn’t been doing for sometime now.

Hate speech, government shutdowns, debt defaults, fiscal cliffs, endless filibusters and divisive attempts to disenfranchise voters are all destructive acts that undermine our democratic way of governing. Indeed, who needs foreign terrorists to destroy this nation when you have a large group of Republican obstructionists taking up space in the U.S. Congress?

May 26, 2013 at 8:37 a.m.
conservative said...

mountainlaurel,

"Yes, but your posts are not always direct."

What does that mean? Surely I have been direct with you, why no examples? Why can't you be "direct?"

"Sometimes you speak out of both sides of your mouth. . ."

Really? Why no examples? It is easy to make charges, it is also easy to substantiate charges if they are true, why can't you and why can't you be direct?

"Other times, you say things that aren’t factual."

Really? Why no examples? I try to be factual and I believe what I write is factual. Surely I have made mistakes but you have not pointed any out. Maybe your charge is merely your opinion and not a fact. Why can't you be direct?

"But most of the time, I think you just say a lot of silly stuff to argue for the sake of arguing"

Then why do you seek to argue with me? You seek to argue with me for you always address me first. Why don't you just ignore me if that is what you really believe? Again, why no examples?

May 26, 2013 at 2 p.m.
conservative said...

mountainlaurel,

Now, to my first comment where I disagreed with and did not believe the writer.

The writer stated:

"Instead of privatizing TVA, perhaps we should look at privatizing Congress"

The writer implied that Congress should be privatized. Of course the writer was not being honest and I plainly and directly stated that the writer and later yourself would NEVER be for privatizing Congress.

So, was the writer sincere and truly wishes that Congress should be privatized or do you agree with me that she would never agree to such as well as yourself?

May 26, 2013 at 2:25 p.m.
mountainlaurel said...

Conservative says: “Surely I have been direct with you, why no examples?” AND Conservative says: “The writer implied that Congress should be privatized. Of course the writer was not being honest and I plainly and directly stated that the writer and later yourself would NEVER be for privatizing Congress.”

I note once again you’re being less than honest here, Conservative. (Sigh)

For example, while it’s true the author of the above commentary made a statement about privatizing Congress in the beginning of the commentary, she had clearly dismissed the idea by the end of the commentary. Indeed, by the end of the commentary she had concluded something quite different. She says:

"Sure, TVA has warts. But does selling it make sense? No.

“Selling Congress might, though.

Naah. Using Corker's initial logic, we couldn't get as much for Congress as we have invested in it."

The truth is, with any and every johnny-come-lately social welfare group declaring itself a 501(c)(4), and with many corporations making unlimited and undisclosed but perfectly legal corporate campaign donations, we mere voters and taxpayers have already been supplanted as owners of Congress. That body already is privatized in all but name.”

May 26, 2013 at 6:02 p.m.
conservative said...

I note once again you’re being less than honest here, mountainlaurel (Sigh)

You still have not admitted that you would never favor privatizing Congress as I have now stated for the fouth time. Also, you have accused me of talking out of both sides of my mouth and not being factual without giving any evidence of either.

The writer takes both positions. Would that be an example of talking out of both sides of your mouth as you charged me with yet have not given any evidence of?

The writer said: ....."with many corporations making unlimited and undisclosed but perfectly legal corporate campaign donations, we mere voters and taxpayers have already been supplanted as owners of Congress. That body already is privatized in all but name.”

Baloney! Baloney! Baloney!

It is the "mere voters and taxpayers" who own Congress not corporations. The "mere voters and taxpayers" are the reason we are trillions in debt and only getting worse. The "mere voters and taxpayers" demand more and more from Congress in the form of checks and programs in exchange for their votes to keep them in office so that their representative will continue to funnel more money and programs to these same "mere voters and taxpayers."

IF you truly believe that corporations own Congress then you have been bamboozled.

Congress spends ALL the money. Congress borrows ALL the money.

May 26, 2013 at 8:34 p.m.
chet123 said...

MAKE IT A TWO FOR THE PRICE OF ONE....PUT THE SUPREME COURT(WHO HAVE NERVE TO RULE AGAINST PROSTITUTION THEY ARE THE BIGGEST WHORE IN AMERICA)) ON THE MARKET FOR SELLING OUT THE COUNTRY BY ALLOWING THE RICH AND GREEDY TO BUY POLITICIANS WHO DONT REPRESENT THE MIDDLE-CLASS AND WORKING CLASS...BUT ONLY THE RICH AND GREEDY

May 27, 2013 at 9:19 a.m.
chet123 said...

HA HA....CONGRESS ALREADY PRIVATIZED......THEY DOUBLE DIPPING....TAKING GOVERNMENT MEDICAL AND DENTAL AND GOVERNMENT,TAX PAYER PENSION AND SOCIAL SECURITY HA HA HA

May 27, 2013 at 9:23 a.m.
chet123 said...

WHAT WORLD YOU LIVING IN CONSERVATIVE????

May 27, 2013 at 9:24 a.m.
mountainlaurel said...

Conservative says: “You still have not admitted that you would never favor privatizing Congress as I have now stated for the fouth time.”

Since you’ve demanded that I cite specific examples in regard to my comments about your posts, I will take this opportunity to say the above is an example where I think you’re saying silly stuff just for the sake of arguing. I’ve already said that I simply want Congress to do its job and conduct itself in an ethical and responsible manner. Government shutdowns, debt defaults, fiscal cliffs, endless filibusters, hate speeches and divisive attempts to disenfranchise voters are all destructive acts that undermine our democratic way of governing.

Conservative says: “The writer takes both positions. Would that be an example of talking out of both sides of your mouth as you charged me with?.”

No, the TFP writer's reference to “privatizing” Congress is clearly “tongue and cheek” and is meant to humorous, which it is. . . Indeed, how can one privatize Congress when it has already been privatized in every way but name? . . . This is quite different from what I had in mind when I mentioned that you sometimes speak out of both sides of your mouth. . . I only said this because I had noted that some days you’re in the pulpit quoting biblical passages and the next day you’re encouraging people to go to web sites to look at Israeli women carrying guns and wearing bikinis. . . . Speaking of which, you never answered the question I asked a few days ago. . . Do gawkers get into heaven, Conservative?

May 27, 2013 at 7:27 p.m.
conservative said...

I note once again you’re being less than honest here, mountainlaurel (Sigh)

YOU mountainlaurel started arguing with me, YOU addressed me first after I wrote:

"There is no way these special interest groups would ever favor or allow private enterprise running Congress for private enterprise would not funnel money to these same special interest groups and thus this country would not be in debt trillions of dollars."

YOU also altered my comment by omitting half of it. YOU capitalized "private" making it appear as though that is where my comment started - Conservative says: “Private enterprise would not funnel money to these same special interest groups and thus this country would not be in debt trillions of dollars. Who does this writer think he/she is fooling?”

Just because I didn't point out YOUR dishonesty until now doesn't mean I didn't notice.

YOU then compound YOUR dishonesty by again accusing me of talking out of both sides of my mouth. First YOUR example is not an example of talking out of both sides of my mouth, because that terms means to say different things to different people on the same subject, an impossibility as our discussion has been between just the two of us. Secondly YOU now say I recently was "encouraging people to go to web sites to look at Israeli women carrying guns and wearing bikinis."

YOU know that is a lie. I was pointing out that Israeli women in the military were carrying their assault rifles around in public and gave several websites that showed Israeli women in uniform carrying their assault rifle as well as one in a bikini! The subject was women in combat not women in bikinis. Furthermore, I said this after YOU had dishonestly tried to list countries with their women in combat.

May 27, 2013 at 8:36 p.m.
mountainlaurel said...

Dear Conservative:

Since you specifically requested that I cite specific examples in regard to my recent comments about some of your TFP posts, I thought I should bring it to your immediate attention that the above post is another good example of a post where I think you’re saying a lot of silly stuff in an effort to argue just for the sake of arguing.

Please also note that I believe two good examples is sufficient evidence to prove my point and I do not see any need to continue discussing the matter. In other words, I’m leaving the room so if you feel compelled to continue this conversation it’s highly probable that you’ll be talking to yourself and four walls. . . so to speak.

M.L.

May 28, 2013 at 7:17 a.m.
Carl said...

The plain and simple fact is privatization of TVA would result in higher rates for consumers. It will drive up operating costs which will be passed on to consumers. Borrowing rates have already risen because of the conversation. Potentially under privatization there would layoffs in an effort to reduce costs. Why would anyone be in favor of damaging such an important economic resource?

TVA is a rare success of the federal government and should be cause for celebration. Maybe that is the real issue, Congress is afraid people will realize there was a time when they were actually productive.

May 28, 2013 at 8:58 a.m.
conservative said...

Very good, I applaud your decision.

I must note that YOU started and continued the arguments that you deem silly.

You deem my defense of your false accusations as "silly stuff," I do not share your view.

May 28, 2013 at 9:08 a.m.
please login to post a comment

videos »         

photos »         

e-edition »

advertisement
advertisement

Find a Business

400 East 11th St., Chattanooga, TN 37403
General Information (423) 756-6900
Copyright, Permissions, Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policy, Ethics policy - Copyright ©2014, Chattanooga Publishing Company, Inc. All rights reserved.
This document may not be reprinted without the express written permission of Chattanooga Publishing Company, Inc.