Wednesday, January 26, 2011

It's the productivity, stupid.

The major cause of loss of manufacturing jobs? Manufacturing output has more than doubled since 1975. Employment is down less than one-third. Overall, productivity has tripled.

U.S. Manufacturing: Output vs. Jobs Since 1975

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

California reaming

I see our ex-Governor will be teaching at UC Berkeley. A natural fit for California taxpayers, and only fair. Michigan taxpayers subsidized Hollywood, now California taxpayers can take her off our hands.

Well, except for the health care and pension.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Public/Private Partnership carried to its logical conclusion

Anyone with the least ethical sensitivity would steer well clear of the nearly invisible line between "public/private partnership" and "corporatist whoredom."

That line proved too faint for Barack Obama and Jeffrey Immelt. Immelt will continue to serve as CEO of General Electric while simultaneously shaping the competitive environment for his competitors the nation. The President's appointment of Mr. Immelt to head the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness can be distinguished from similar actions in Mussolini's Italy primarily because of the good intentions of the participants. I'm not sure which set of participants.

The CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs) will run on time. Important, since GE recently closed the last US factory making incandescent light bulbs - because of a Congressional mandate to ban incandescent light bulbs for which GE lobbied. (CFLs are made almost entirely overseas, mostly in China. GE's CFLs come mostly from Asian factories.)

There is more on Immelt's appointment to be found at these links:
He melt for Obama
What's Good for Jeffrey Immelt Is Good for America
Obama Teams Up With G.E.
When Democrats said President Obama was “pro-business,” we didn’t know they meant one business in particular...

It is unclear how the administration plans to deal with the ethics challenges created by having a CEO whose income is determined by stock performance leading a panel designed to recommend government policies. G.E. (2009 revenue: $157 billion) is a huge government contractor and is always in the market for new subsidies and incentives.
Putting such decisions in the hands of bureaucrats is a sure recipe for corruption. They can practice it openly, and even be praised for it. It's to create jobs; It's for the environment; It's for national security; It's for the children.

That's actually the most evil part, far worse than the actual dollars being wasted. It habituates taxpayers to... well Tocqueville said it best:
After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.
Administrative despotism - EPA, HHS, TSA, FCC, FRS, FDA, FERC and most certainly Immelt's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness - is a greater threat to liberty than merely seizing our treasure and wasting it. Administrative despotism blames its failures on the supposed greed, parsimony and lack of compassion of capitalism and the free market, providing a ready list of red herrings and straw men for our Presidents, Governors, Senators, et. al..

It is often argued that with the right, and upright, people in charge these hazards can be avoided. Even if we accept that, and I do not, those "upright people" are complicit in preserving a legacy of corruption and misuse of power. That legacy is not as old as you might think it is, as this Heritage paper points out.

Other TOC commentary on corporatism can be found been here.

Update: 4:45PM
He Certainly Knows How to Cut Jobs…
GE finished 2009 with 18,000 fewer US workers than it had at the end of 2008, and US headcount is down 31,000 since Immelt’s first full year in 2002. During his [Immelt's] tenure, GE workers based in the US as a percentage of total employees has fallen to 44% from 52%.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Jared Loughner was NOT a feminist... don't blame them.

I do not read the Huffington Post, but I was asked by a close friend to read this and then tell her what I thought. 

Do not bother to read it, I will summarize: The missing element in the dialog about why Jared Loughner shot a congresswoman is that nobody is blaming it on his misogyny. Also, guns are bad and men are violent. 

To give you a flavor of how truly bad this is, I give you a few selected bits (Yes, I have suffered on your behalf.) Keep in mind that this was written a full 9 days after the shootings:
...mental illness itself has critical gendered dynamics...

While it is obviously necessary to resist drawing premature conclusions based on a still-incomplete picture...

One only hopes that among the many Americans [Sheriff] Dupnik has inspired by his fearless calling out of right-wing bullies will be many more middle-aged and older white men...

Is it possible that if the congressperson in his district had been a man, Loughner would still have shot him? From what we know today, it's impossible to say.
You are probably laughing already, but this howler takes the prize:
When the shooter is identified as mentally ill, much of the serious sociological or political dialogue shuts down. In this case the right has an obvious self-interest in depoliticizing the killings, attributing them to the crazed acts of a deranged lunatic, and accusing progressives of opportunistically using the tragedy as a stick with which to beat conservatives.
Why, one might wonder, is the "right's" collective "self"-interest more obvious than say, deranged people's self-interest? Is it not even more obvious that everyone has an interest in depoliticizing the killings? The identification of any particular group in this context presumes that group is responsible, why else is their self-interest notable compared to anyone and everyone's self-interest?

Once accused, however, defending yourself is a further sign of culpability. The reason the "right" accused progressives of opportunistically politicizing the tragedy is because that is exactly what happened. Pointing this out is unfair and incivil.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Fed Feds

A friend sent me this link to a January 12th, 2011 speech by Richard W. Fisher. Mr. Fisher is president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. My friend attached this note:
This short speech is 1/4 defense of the Fed, 1/4 attack on the General Government, 1/4 warning of storms ahead, and 1/4 PollyAnna. Worth reading ...
My friend was correct. You should read it, too.

After reading it, I had these thoughts:

I think defending the Fed while dissing the Feds puts more emphasis on the latter's sibilant than it can bear. I appreciate Mr. Fisher isn't happy with the "Fed, Feds," but that's like Whoopie Goldberg's infamous comment regarding Roman Polanski's violation of a 13 year-old female, "it wasn't Rape, Rape."

Ending the Fed would not, as Fisher says, necessarily end the fiscal debacle. But never having had the Fed would have made that debacle significantly more difficult to implement. The Fed does, indeed, not create government debt. It merely enables "fiscal authorities" like Timothy Geithner and Ben Bernanke to do so.

Fisher sees this quite clearly, I think. Yet, he is able to say,

The Fed has reduced the cost of business borrowing to the lowest levels in decades. It has seen to it that liquidity is widely available to banks and businesses. It has kept the economy from deflating and it has kept inflation under control. This has helped raise the economic tide. Recent data make clear that the risks of a double-dip recession and deflation have ebbed and that economic growth and job creation are beginning to flow.
Perhaps none of that would have been necessary without the Fed enabling the Feds.

Taking the speech as a whole, perhaps that quote represents irony. Maybe sarcasm. Either way, it argues that the good guys in the Fed(s) periphery, however free-market oriented, are not doing God's work. Or Adam Smith's. Or John Cowperthwaite's. Or Milton Friedman's.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Please, Mr. Snyder, live up to the expectations you have created.

I emailed this link: State Employee Pay Up 46% Between ’01 and ‘08, to several people as a comment on the coming Michigan budget debate. I received several responses. One of them,
I will be shocked if Snyder does not take this on as a top priority, and that's not only the wage/benefit/retirement structure but the unions as well.
...prompted this response:

I will be surprised if he does. Joel Ferguson was on M. P. Shiels radio show this AM praising Snyder for his bi-partisanship. It's a set up.

That said, nothing would please me more than to hear Snyder was going to fight MEA and disband MEDC. I give each equal probability since they are both public/private partnerships. On the one hand, government schools. On the other hand, government businesses. I cannot find where he articulated the principle he will use to separate these things.

Friday, January 14, 2011

BATFE hijinks

TOC has commented on the disingenuity of claims by the President and by the Secretary of State, that 90% of all weapons seized by Mexican authorities in Mexican drug war related busts originated in the United States.  If you don't already know why that is a lie, read Mexican firepower from April, 2009.

That post also contains a letter I wrote to BATFE inquiring whether any of the guns seized in Mexico, and analyzed by BATFE - the source of POTUS and SECSTATE numbers - had been part of government to government sales. That is, did US government, at any level, sell guns to Mexican government, at any level, which subsequently turned out to be used by drug gangs. I was interested in this because the weapons seized were implied to be fully automatic by Our President and Our Secretary of State, among other US officials who oppose the civil rights protected by the 2nd Amendment. I was sure any such sales would have meticulous recording of serial numbers as a condition of sale, and that BATFE would have this information readily to hand.

Basically, I was wondering whether the governments of Mexico and the United States were responsible for any part of what they both claimed to be a reason to repeal the 2nd Amendment. This was especially interesting regarding automatic weapons, since US citizens are already prohibited from purchasing them. 

I did not receive a satisfactory response from BATFE. Noted here, BATFE camouflage, in June, 2009.

Now, I understand why. BATFE was interested in coerced public/private "partnerships" with Arizona firearm retailers. BATFE wanted semi-automatic weapons sold to people who were suspected not to be citizens.

H/T Of Arms and the Law

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Naive hubris

Greg Main, the retiring head of the MEDC looks back on his accomplishments. This is his second term (his first stint was in the 1980s) as Michigan's chief economic planner, and it appears he has learned little from the experiences.
"When I came back (in 2009), it was apparent that there was a good plan in place (at the MEDC) already," Main said. "It is just a matter of executing it."

..."It became real clear to me that it was one thing to create plans, and another thing to get them implemented," Main said.
Well, yes, it is. Unfortunately, the plan executed during his second term is not what rational people would describe as "good." So it is just as well it was not easy to do. In any case, no government has ever successfully executed an activist economic plan, so Main is not to be faulted for that failure. Only for the attempt, and continuing faith in it. (Note: the LSJ seems to have disappeared this next part in the online version. It was there this morning, online and in print.)
The strategies are paying off, Main said. Since he came to the MEDC, the state has captured six new manufacturing plants for advanced battery technologies.

"We are going to be the epicenter of that industry, and it didn't even exist in the U.S. two years ago," Main said.

Manufacturers of products needed by the solar and wind energy industries also have invested in Michigan.

Other campaigns and incentives - such as a tax credit for filmmakers who hire state residents and film in Michigan, and the state's Pure Michigan travel ads - have elevated the state's profile.
Windmill manufacture, battery plants that will be obsolete before they are fully operational, solar panel subsidies for India, and movie subsides(!)? Since he didn't mention it, I guess ethanol was before his time.

This all makes me even more nervous about Rick Snyder, first head of MEDC, and his "public/private partnership" "plans." If the "plan" requires public funding because private capital sees it as too risky, then it probably is too risky. Maybe a good test would be whether Union pension plans would provide the venture capital - with a no bailout clause.

This fascination with mini-Manhattan Projects needs to cease.