Thursday, June 23, 2011

America needs freedom from government, not deficit spending fueled "nation building"

President Obama promised to start bringing home the troops from Afghanistan last night, rather slowly but I get where he is coming from. The bigger problem has nothing to do with Afghanistan. The ominous tone that he struck tells the story that he still seems to not get what is going on here at home. He said:

America, it is time to focus on nation building here at home.

Dear President Obama. We already have a nation. We don't need "nation building" in America. While I am not 100% sure what that means, I am pretty sure that what you mean is "more government spending". That is the last thing we need. When the Left speaks of "investment" they mean more deficit spending aimed at making an ever larger part of the U.S. economy dependent on the Federal government. We never could afford that and that sort of interventionism cripples the economy. The prolonged recession and ballooning deficits speak to the truth of that statement, not to mention the looming entitlement crisis that we have no way of paying for.

What President Obama is hinting at with "nation building here at home", what he really means is remaking America in his image, an America that looks more like Europe and less like the entrepreneurial risk taking capitalism that has made America the envy of the world. I hope that my fellow Americans will see through this and reject the false hope we are promised by trading opportunity for perceived economic security.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The most foolish and illogical New York Times editorial ever?

That would be a bold claim but I think I can substantiate it. Nelson Lichtenstein is outraged over the Supreme Courts rejection of the class action lawsuit lumping 1.6 million women into one enormous suit. According to Mr. Lichtenstein, Wal-Mart is just a step down from a North Korean prison camp and his editorial, Wal-Mart’s Authoritarian Culture (you know, unlike all of the other corporations out there that don’t have authoritarians hierarchies) demonstrates an amazing lack of understanding about even basic economic concepts.

Apparently the very corporate policies that have made Wal-Mart successful and provided hundreds of millions of consumers with the low cost consumer goods that they demand are somehow inherently discriminatory to women. The solution Mr. Lichtenstein proposes will shock you!

Warning. Hyperbole ahead.

There are tens of thousands of experienced Wal-Mart women who would like to be promoted to the first managerial rung, salaried assistant store manager. But Wal-Mart makes it impossible for many of them to take that post, because its ruthless management style structures the job itself as one that most women, and especially those with young children or a relative to care for, would find difficult to accept.

Why? Because, for all the change that has swept over the company, at the store level there is still a fair amount of the old communal sociability. Recognizing that workers steeped in that culture make poor candidates for assistant managers, who are the front lines in enforcing labor discipline, Wal-Mart insists that almost all workers promoted to the managerial ranks move to a new store, often hundreds of miles away.

For young men in a hurry, that’s an inconvenience; for middle-aged women caring for families, this corporate reassignment policy amounts to sex discrimination. True, Wal-Mart is hardly alone in demanding that rising managers sacrifice family life, but few companies make relocation such a fixed policy, and few have employment rolls even a third the size.

Egad, the horror of common sense! Promoting someone to manage people who were their peers few days ago is problematic, so they move promising future managers to stores where there are actual openings. What sort of crazy talk is that?! Doesn’t Wal-Mart know that making promotions as easy and convenient as possible is their primary corporate priority?

Moving for promotions is typical in much of corporate America and especially so in retail. There are hordes of nomads who relocate year after year as part of new store set-up teams. They move to a town where a new Wal-Mart/Home Depot/Lowes etc is opening, spend a year or so setting up the store for its grand opening and then relocate to open the next store. That is just reality, a place unfamiliar to most of the authors invited to pontificate on the hallowed pages of the New York Times. Wait, there is more!

The obstacles to women’s advancement do not stop there. The workweek for salaried managers is around 50 hours or more, which can surge to 80 or 90 hours a week during holiday seasons. Not unexpectedly, some managers think women with family responsibilities would balk at such demands, and it is hardly to the discredit of thousands of Wal-Mart women that they may be right.

Maybe, just maybe, there are real trade offs that people have to make in balancing career and family. Wal-Mart offers jobs with particular requirements. One of those requirements is that Wal-Mart managers work tons of hours. That is pretty typical in retail where the small number of managers are almost always salaried and work long hours. My first job out of college was in retail store management and my work week was five “regular” days where I worked 11 hours and one “half day” where I worked six hours. A typical week saw me working more than 55 hours for an annual salary of about $21,000 or the equivalent of around $7.34/hour. I made less per hour in management than many of the regular workers in the store, including cashiers. That is simply the reality of the retail world. Don’t fret though, Mr. Lichtenstein has a radical solution: unionize!

There used to be a remedy for this sort of managerial authoritarianism: it was called a union, which bargained over not only wages and pensions but also the kind of qualitative issues, including promotion and transfer policies, that have proved so vexing for non-unionized employees at Wal-Mart and other big retailers.

There “used to be” something called a union? I think we still have them although they are rapidly falling out of favor in the private sector. So according to this fella, the solution to Wal-Mart’s “managerial authoritarianism” is to unionize Wal-Mart employees, the fantasy of every leftist in America. What will that accomplish? Typically unions don’t cover management, so that does very little to alleviate concerns over working hours and required relocations. Plus unionizing Wal-Mart workers will invariably lead to higher costs. Guess who is going to pay those higher costs? If you answered “the consumer”, i.e. “the little guy” you are correct! It probably goes without saying but given that we are dealing with the New York Times here even the most obvious, common sense statements bear repeating: The “rich” are not the primary consumers of Wal-Mart’s products. They can afford to shop wherever they like. It is middle and lower class Americans who are able to buy products at the lower prices offered by Wal-Mart because of Wal-Mart’s culture of purchasing in massive quantities and corporate austerity. Those are the very consumers who would be hurt by unionizing Wal-Mart. Raising the cost of wages doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Those costs are built into the price of goods and services. Raise wages and you inevitably raise the prices paid by consumers. This is precisely why minimum wage laws are illogical. The only way this would conceivably work is to couple price controls with wage controls and we all know how well that worked in the Soviet Union.

Wal-Mart, for all of its flaws, is first and foremost a corporation run by a board of directors appointed by its shareholders. Just like every other corporation in the world including the New York Times. Like every corporation, it is driven by profit. Wal-Mart also happens to be the largest company in America, a company that provides both great prices on consumer products to consumers across America as well as jobs to literally millions of people. Unionizing Wal-Mart, which will never happen thank goodness, would lead to “higher” wages for low skill workers and higher prices for hundreds of millions of low to mid income Americans. If you don’t like Wal-Mart’s policies, don’t shop there. Pay higher prices somewhere else or make your own stuff. Just don’t make the rest of us pay higher prices because you have a beef with the largest private job creator in America

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Chinese menace and the national debt

Many of the arguments against cutting defense spending revolve around a hypothetical war with China. The argument goes something like this. China is eager to establish itself as a military powerhouse in the Pacific. If the U.S. blinks on defense spending, the Chinese will slowly catch up to us and take away our numerical and technological superiority. That will leave us poorly positioned to defend Taiwan, Japan, Korea or Australia. Without the deterrent of an overwhelming U.S naval power in the Pacific either China will become ascendant and aggressive or Japan will have to rebuild its navy and no one wants that. In short, we have to maintain our level of military spending to prevent a disastrous war with China.

Guess what.

We are already at war with China and we are losing. Badly.

I don’t think the Chinese have much interest in getting into a shooting war with America. Why do that when they are defeating America little by little each day? They have turned around and adapted the U.S. strategy under Reagan during the Cold War but we are too dense and too apathetic to even realize it. We cannot keep spending at our current levels but no one is willing to make the cuts we need and that absolutely includes serious cuts to defense spending. As it stands we are slowly losing our economic dominance and China is intentionally building its economic juggernaut while we push ourselves further into debt, threatening our long term economic stability and position as the leader of the free world.

We simply cannot afford to spend upwards of a trillion dollars each and every year on defense, especially since what we are buying is not “defense” but “offense” in many cases. The news has long been full of stories out of Iraq and Afghanistan but we are seeing new stories as President Obama inexplicably extends our military even further into Libya and airstrikes on Yemen. How long until we get involved militarily in Syria where conditions are at least as bad as they were in Libya?

The US military of the future needs to be a lot of things: nimbler, more adaptable, more technologically driven, more focused. It also needs to be smaller and cheaper. We need to have serious conversations about how to make that happen in the context of drastic spending cuts now, not twenty years from now when it is too late.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal must read my blog

Back in March, I put up a post, A Simple Solution, where I suggested that we could kill two birds with one stone by cracking down on illegal immigrants who do farm labor and cutting unemployment benefits to incentivize people to take on harder jobs. Turns out Governor Nathan Deal of Georgia must have read my post according to CNN, To address unemployment, Georgia governor proposes farm work.

Are you out of work? Are you looking for a job? Do you live in Georgia?

If the answer to those questions is "yes," Gov. Nathan Deal has an idea for you: Become a farm worker.
Governor Deal seems to have made the connection: a lot of people out of work, no money for unemployment, lots of openings in farm work because of actually enforcing immigration laws in his state.

Ah, but in the spirit of American entitlement, this is pretty unpopular among those getting free money from the government for not working…
For some unemployed Georgians, however, the idea is not so appealing.

Marci Mosley, who lives in Atlanta, has been out of work for more than a year. She said she would only work on a farm as a last resort.

"I have a phobia of snakes," Mosley said. "I hate spiders...You have to get up early in the morning, and it's hot."

Mosley, an African-American, said she used to work on her grandfather's farm in Texas, where he stressed the importance of a good education to get off the farm. Mosley believes Deal's plan would be a tough sell for many other African Americans, who saw their older relatives struggle farming.

"It could be a setback for people," Mosley said. "The only people that would even think about doing that are people who have nothing else left...An educated black person does not have time for that. They didn't go to school to work on a farm, and they're not going to do it."
That’s the spirit! It is hot and you have to get up early, so we ain’t doing it! It is apparently my right as an American to only do jobs that I really, really like doing and that are not too physically taxing or require me to change my sleep patterns or for crying out loud where I might see a spider!

I am willing to bet that if unemployment ran out a lot sooner, all of a sudden jobs that were “jobs Americans won’t do” would suddenly seem a lot more acceptable.

Double standard anyone?

So the Obama administration has decided that amidst the budget crisis, the looming debt ceiling “catastrophe”, a still very weak job market, a similarly cruddy housing market, three wars, etc., etc. that it must make it a priority step in to prevent the people of Indiana (you know, the tax payers) from deciding to defund Planned Parenthood.

The administration, rather than admitting that the puppet-masters at Planned Parenthood are pulling their strings, are just throwing up their hands in helplessness. What can they do, this is “the law”!

"We expect Indiana will comply with the federal law. That's our position now," Berwick told Fox News. "Medicaid can't pay with federal dollars for abortion, but that does not mean the state can deny services from a willing provider. That's just what the law is and we're just implementing the law."
Huh. It seems like only yesterday that the same administration refused to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) because they arbitrarily decided it was unconstitutional. Sure it was also “the law” but in this administration only certain laws are real laws apparently.

We of course have to set aside the fact that funding “family planning services” of any sort really is way outside of the Constitutional mandate of the Federal government. After all, this administration has demonstrated long ago that the Constitution only means what Barack Obama wants it to mean.

Defend DOMA? No. Defend tax payer subsidies for abortionists? Absolutely!