Friday, July 16, 2010

The Warping of Constitutional Space

Theblogprof notes that Obama visited our fair state yesterday to bolster Jennie's chances for re-election... What? Term limited?   Oh.  Right.

Well, maybe the President needed the practice.  Democrats who are running for office this fall can't risk close association with him.  How he risks association with Ms Granholm is explained by the fact that he's not up for re-election until 2012, by which time no one will admit to remembering her name, and that he polls even worse than she does.

Anyway, the point of the Presidential trip was less about jobs than to trumpet a federal subsidy for the possible opening of a South Korean manufacturing business making batteries possibly to be sold in automobiles for which foreseeable demand ranges from minuscule to non-existent.  

It wasn't about jobs.  It was about the power of the federal government to dispense money and its dedication to a fantasy world.  Despite the fact that jobs remain hard to find for the unemployed, the feds can find them easily and everywhere.  Moreover, they can magically connect those jobs to their own efforts and expenditure.

The job salvation/creation program has to get its numbers somewhere, and lately it's been very light on the creation side of the messianic equation, so why not borrow jobs from the future? The theblogprof's complaint:
A $151.4 million giveaway for the possibility of 300 jobs - sometime in the future. That amounts to $504,667 per promised future job.
...means he's missing the President's more nuanced point: Temporal job creation shifting.

Since the science of temporal job shifting is uncertain, it could turn out to be only 151 jobs.  Or none.  Though I guess that's been the President's point for as long as he's been talking about jobs.  Who knows, right?  Well, I think I do.  It's related to his interpretation of Einstein's theory of relativity.  

I got A's in high school physics and have read quite a bit since, so let me try to explain the President's thinking.  It isn't simple, even for me, so you'll have to concentrate here just a bit.  

There is some background that can help. It can found in a paper described to the WaPo by David Axelrod as one that Obama "worked on with [Harvard professor] Larry Tribe" which deals with "the legal implications of Einstein's theory of relativity."  While you can download a copy here, for our purposes all you need know, fortunately, is the title: The Curvature of Constitutional Space.  Says a lot, doesn't it?

In the interests of fairness and balance, let us note there are critics (with PhDs in physics) who suggest that if the paper proves anything, it would be that Professor Tribe and student Obama brought to it an abysmal ignorance of physics. 

Still, you need be concerned with neither legal nor physical questions.   Here is the condensed version of how Obama's thinking applies to a Korean owned battery factory in that universe where, like ours, the rules of law may be suspended by executive fiat but where physical reality is, ah, somewhat different from our own:

  1. There could be as many as 300 new private-sector jobs sometime in the future - at a cost of $500,000 each.
  2. There could be none - at a cost of $151 million.
  3. There could even be less than none, because we are redistributing a lot of money that could otherwise have been invested by individual Americans in businesses of their choice and/or in products they want today.
  4. From the foregoing, it is clear that we could lose many other jobs if we do not spend $500,000 for every job we are not certain we will create in the future.
  5. Assume many equals 4.
  6. If the government spends $500,000 to create each potential future private sector job when it could, instead, have given a $500,000 tax cut for every job actually created in present time - we will all be better off.  (At the very least, there will be many new positions in Federal government regulatory agencies.)
  7. Finally, if we lose the 4 jobs we assumed in point 5 we would lose (4x300) 1200 jobs.
From this, it becomes simple: Creating 0 jobs = 0. Losing 1200 jobs = -1200. By creating 0 jobs for a mere $151 million, the government has actually offered salvation to 1200 jobs.  Whoa!?  So maybe theblogprof was right in the first place.  It was about jobs.  Well, you can't tell until you do the alternate universe math.

Even so, the thing I don't understand is why the president didn't hold out for China to get the free money (in reference to the US$ I use the term money in an increasingly loose fashion every time I say it). Surely we need China's good will more than that of the South Koreans.  I mean, the Feds are so good at trading with South Korea that we already have them paying less than half the cost of maintaining the 25,000 US soldiers, sailors and Marines we deploy to defend their country.


So, let's build those batteries, because $151 million used to be a terrible thing to waste.

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