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January 23, 2015     Post-Gazette
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January 23, 2015

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Page 2 POST-GAZEI-rE, JANUARY 23, 2015 Nothing in Rome is said to be more ancient than the institution of a maiden priesthood. As was men- tioned in a previous issue, the worship of Vesta goes back to the time when it was difficult but necessary to ob- tain fire. The sacred fire, the source of all Roman life and power, was kept alive in an edifice known as the Temple of Vesta, and it was constantly tended by a group of virgin priestesses that were known as the Vestals. At Rome their number started at four, but was in- creased to six about the time of the early Republic. During primitive times the posses- sion of fire was the greatest gain that man had yet made, and to lose it was the great- est misfortune for the com- munity. The chief, or the so- called king, fulfilled a most important duty towards his people by keeping a fire al- ways burning from which they could at any moment kindle their own. Nothing could be more natural than for the chief's unmarried daughters to be placed in charge of this precious hearth, under the protection of Vesta, the goddess of fire. by Prof. Edmund Turiello A weekly column highlighting some of the more interesting aspects of our ancestry.., our lineage.., our roots. THE VESTALS Remains of the Tempa of Vestal The number of Vestals cor- responds to the idea that they were originally the daughters of one family, and that they were the king's daughters is traceable to their position of honor in the Roman State. They have been compared with the nuns of the Roman Catholic Church, and the Atrium Vestae has been called their convent. There was a close resemblance in their vow of chastity and the cutting of their hair. They were dressed en- tirely in white, with a coro- Publica by David Trumbull e State of the Union and International Trade net-shaped headband (infula), ornamented with ribbons (vittae) suspended from it, and also a white veil or hood (suffibulum) made from a piece of white woolen cloth with purple border. It is here that the resem- blance ended for instead of poverty and obedience, the Vestals enjoyed great inde- pendence and luxury. They were exempt from the com- mon law, and not even sub- ject to the censor's author- ity. They enjoyed a most con- spicuous freedom, having the right to hold property and make a will. These rights alone exceeded those of the average female of the times. The Vestals also enjoyed great political importance, often interposing to save a life, to restore harmony at critical moments, or even to carry out the provisions of important wills. Death was the penalty for injuring them, and anyone whom they escorted was also pro- tected from assault. Meeting them by chance in the street also saved any crimi- nal who was being led away to punishment. NEXT WEEK: More about the Vestals Average Energy Prices in Boston-Brockton-Nashua - December 2014 Boston area households paid an average of 82.785 a gallon for gasoline in December 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Regional Commissioner Deborah A. Brown noted that this was 68 cents below the December 2013 price of 83.469 per gallon. In contrast to gasoline prices, the average cost of electricity at 20.3 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) in December was up from 16.7 cents per kWh spent last year. Also up over the year were utility (piped) gas prices which averaged $1.432 per therm in the Boston area in December 2014. Area natural gas prices averaged $1.319 per therm last December. (Data in this release are not seasonally adjusted; ac- cordingly, over-the-year-analysis is used throughout.) At $2.785 the price of a gallon of gasoline in the Boston area was 6.4 percent above the national average of $2.618 in Decem- ber 2014. One year ago, the local price of gasoline at $3.469 per gallon was 4.1 per- cent above the national average of $3.333. From 2010 to 2012 in December area resi- dents paid close to the national average for a gallon of gasoline. (See chart I.) ~mct ~. A~ ~lt~ b du~~$, ~ md ttu tlnlt~ Itltm, Nl~0m ~t~mmWrl ~.zs l I Chart 2 Chart 1 The 20.3 cents per kWh Boston households paid for electricity in December 2014 was 50.4 percent more than the nationwide av- erage of 13.5 cents per kWh. Last Decem- ber, electricity costs were 27.5 percent higher in Boston compared to the nation. In each of the last five years, the price of electricity in Boston has exceeded that for the nation in the month of December, by 15 percent or more. (See chart 2.) "l'm asking both parties to give me trade promotion authority to protect American workers with strong new trade deals from Asia to Europe." -- President Barack Obama, January 20, 2015, State of the Union Address Prices paid by Boston area consumers for utility (piped) gas, commonly referred to as natural gas, were 81.432 per therm, 35.1 percent above the national average in December 2014 ($1.060 per therm). In December of 2013 local prices were 32.2 per- cent greater than those of the nation. Households in the Boston area have paid 27.7 percent or more than the national average for natural gas in the month of December in each of the last five years. (See chart 3.) I copied Mr. Obama's remarks above from an online source (in this case the Washington Post) for accuracy, but watched the speech on television for nuance and congressional response. Throughout the 70-or-so minutes of the address, as the President touted the advances in the economy, edu- cation, and healthcare under his administration, and pro- posed new programs to further his agenda, the Democrats gathered in the House of Representatives, rose and ap- plauded, while the Republicans remained seated. That is until the President spoke about international trade. Demo- crats were decidedly cool, prompting the President to add: "I'm the.first one to admit that past trade deals haven't always lived up to the hype ... But 95 percent of the world's customers live outside our borders. We can't close ourselves off from those opportunities." Republicans, for the most part, greeted with applause the President's call for free trade agreements ("FTAs") with nations in Asia and Western Europe. The attitude of many Republicans can be summed up in the admission, by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, that he "wrote a column supporting the CAFTA, the Caribbean Free Trade initiative. I didn't even know what was in it. I just knew two words: free trade." (Meet the Press, July 23, 2006}. Now, I'm for free trade. By free trade I mean that ff it is legal to buy a product made in the U.S. it should be equally legal to buy the same product when imported from another coun- try. That, however is not what our free trade agreements are about. *Free trade," as I define it already exists. What Mr. Obama's FTAs will do is give foreign producers an ad- vantage over domestic producers and maximize imports. Take the proposed FTA with the European Union. Cur- rently if you produce in the US you pay taxes in the U.S. and then ff you export to the EU you pay a very small import duty and a value-added tax (~v'AT"), which varies from mem- ber state to member state, but is typically around 17%. If you produce in the EU you pay the VAT and when you ship to America you pay import duty, which is usually low, typi- cally in the single digit as a percentage, and your Euro- pean VAT is refunded. Under this current arrangement, the American producer pays the full American tax, plus the full European VAT, plus a very small import duty. The European producer pays no European VAT, no American taxes, and just a small import duty. In other words the American company is taxed twice, while the European com- pany is not taxed. Now look what happens when the import duties are done away with. We know, historically, what has happened. Since the end of World War II there have been several international trade agreements that resulted in the EU lowering import duties. Which each lowering of the import duties the EU states have raised the VAT so that the actual cost of getting American goods into the Euro- pean market has stayed constant. There is no reason to think that the result of a US-EU FTA will be any different. European companies will have better access to the US market because they won't have to pay taxes which Ameri- can companies will still pay full US and EU taxes. FTAs can favor foreign producers over Americans in another way. In the US, through our democratic process, we enact laws and regulations that distort trade by forcing employers to abide by certain-standards regarding labor conditions, environmental protection, and consumer safety. These are constraints that a profit-maximizing firm, absent government interference, might not enact. Whatever one thinks of any particular regulation -- too lax or too rigid -- collectively they express what Americans believe is the .................................................................................................................................................. minimum acceptable level of conduct and forbid trade in lSO~to~ ar~ II u~ed scat~ $150 $1.00 ~050 $0~0 Decembe-10 Decembe-ll December-L~ C, ecemb~- II ~-14 Chart 3 The Boston-Brockton-Nashua, Mass.-N.H.- Maine-Conn. consolidated area consists of Essex, Middlesex, Norfolk, Plymouth and Suf- folk Counties and parts of Bristol, Hampden, and Worcester Counties in Massachusetts; parts of Hillsborough, Merrimack, Rocking- ham, and Stratford Counties in New Hamp- shire; pa_~, of York County in Maine; and part of Windham County in Connecticut. domestic goods or services violating those standards. How- ever, under international conventions, the US is severely circumscribed as to imposing any limitations on imports from other countries that have lower standards. It is true that some of our FTAs contain labor, environmental, and sanitary provisions, but even they are slight in many cases compared to US rules. And such international standards as there are denounced by "free traders" as trade distort- ing policies, rather than being recognized for what they are, attempts to create at least somewhat similar rules for the different players, again, a basic assumption of, not a derogation from, "comparative advantage" theory. In theory one could calculate the advantage lax rules confer on a trader and impose a countervailing "social" tariff. To the extent that we believe that our laws implement minimum humane standards, a good case could be made that we should so do. Finally, I must address Mr. Obama's misleading state- ment that "95 percent of the world's customers live outside our borders." It is misleading because it implies a vast -- 95% -- market outside of the US. The fact is that most of those 95% don't have any money to buy US goods. Yes, there (Continued on Page !4) (Continued on Page 6)