Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Buyer's Remorse?

From Charles Gasparino in the New York Post, an article about how Obama did not turn out the way that those very smart senior executives on Wall Street thought he would:
The execs who had such hopes for the president are now wondering fearfully just how radical he really is.
Plus there is this bit of humor at the end:
The funniest story I've heard lately came from a former Wall Street executive and longtime Democrat who anxiously recounted a recent conversation with Obama.

The executive said he told the president that he's at a disadvantage because he's relatively inexperienced in economic matters during a time of economic crisis. "That's why I have Valerie," came Obama's reply.

"Valerie" is senior adviser Valerie Jarrett -- a Chicago real-estate attorney and one of Obama's closest friends, who has deep ties to the Windy City's Democratic political machine.

Now you know why Wall Street is so nervous.

Some people who get paid a lot of money for being smart did not see what was obvious to the hicks in the hinterland.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

European socialism

The New York Times reports on the decline of the socialists parties of Europe, though it also notes what the conservative parties are conserving are existing socialist policies. The article notes:
The internecine squabbling in France and elsewhere has done little to position Socialist parties to answer the question of the moment: how to preserve the welfare state amid slower growth and rising deficits. The Socialists have, in this contest, become conservatives, fighting to preserve systems that voters think need to be improved, though not abandoned.
What the article and Europe do not recognize is that the welfare state is not sustainable when a country goes into demographic decline--a decline that the welfare state encourages. The European Union has a fertility rate of 1.51--they will gradually fade away.

Going green is the new socialism:
Mr. Winock, the historian, said, “I think the left and Socialism in Europe still have work to do; they have a raison d’├¬tre, and they will have to rely more on environment issues.” Combined with continuing efforts to reduce income disparity, he said, “going green” may give the left more life.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Distortions caused by regulations

The Wall Street Journal tells how Ford assembles vehicles in Turkey, ships them to the U.S., and then drastically alters them here as a way of avoiding tariff regulations that grew out of a chicken tax imposed by Europe on U.S. chickens. It is a good example of the mess that tariffs can cause. What are the costs of practices such as this one:

With the globalization of the auto industry, American companies have joined the game. Until recently, Chrysler Group LLC imported Dodge Sprinter vans made in D├╝sseldorf, Germany, by former owner Daimler AG. The engine, transmission, axles and wheels were removed, allowing the truck bodies to cross the border as auto components, which aren't subject to the tax. Daimler then reassembled the vehicles at a factory in Ladson, S.C.

What do want to be when you grow up?

From Carpe Diem.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bush and the GOP

John Fund at The Wall Street Journal discusses an upcoming book by a Bush speechwriter. The interesting bit:
Mr. Latimer said he found it surprising that the president seemed to equate the conservative movement, which has a proud pedigree stretching back to Robert Taft and Barry Goldwater, with the candidacy of Mr. Bauer, a second-tier figure who had little impact on the 2000 presidential primaries. Mr. Bush, sensing his speechwriter was perplexed, finally filled in the blanks. "Look, I know this probably sounds arrogant to say," Mr. Bush said, "but I redefined the Republican Party."
That may explain a lot of what has been wrong with the Republican Party in the last few years.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Computers and ACORN

From Shannon Love at Chicagoboyz:"

Back when I did computer tech support, we had a rule of thumb for evaluating the significance of reports of unusual and previously unreported failures .

  • One report of a failure is a fluke.
  • Two reports of a failure is a coincidence. It might just be two users making the same error.
  • Three reports indicates a pattern of failure that arises from the hardware or software itself.

    She then applies that principle to the ACORN videos.

    Monday, September 14, 2009

    The ghost ships and the recession

    From Mail Online:
    The cost of chartering an entire bulk freighter suitable for carrying raw materials has plunged even further, from close to £185,000 ($300,000) last summer to an incredible £6,100 ($10,000) earlier this year.

    The best columnist in American (or Canada)

    Mark Steyn on Dominick Dunn, a writer of whom I had never heard.

    Friday, September 11, 2009

    De Soto on PBS

    Hernando De Soto will have a documentary on PBS in October. It should be worth watching. Here is the preview:

    Thursday, September 10, 2009

    Doing Business report

    The World Bank publishes a ranking of countries by how easy it is to do business in each country. The new ranking is here.

    Tuesday, September 8, 2009

    Wind farms and bird kills

    The Wall Street Journal has a piece in the opinion section about the double standard regarding bird kills--they are serious when done by the oil industry but not when done by wind farms.

    I have a solution, discussed here.

    Discouraged workers

    The New York Times has an article on discouraged workers, those who want to work but are not actively working because they do not think there are any jobs they can get. The article tells why several individuals are in the situation that they are in.

    Saturday, September 5, 2009

    Understanding your opponents, or not

    John Carney writes at The Business Insider:

    The Obama administration "expended great effort to line up the support of health-care insurers, pharmaceutical makers and care providers, believing that by keeping them around the table, they could win over Republicans and stop the kind of industry-led attacks that helped sink the Clinton plan," writes the Journal team.

    It was supposed to be a simple formula. Win over the health care industry shepherd, and the Republican will follow like sheep. But it didn't work.

    What seems to have gone wrong can be described as a failure of the imagination: Obama's administration just never believed Republicans would stand up for their limited government principles if that meant opposing business interests. They were apparently assuming that Republicans and conservatives could be won over by winning over "business interests," as if free market and anti-government positions were just rhetorical cover for policy making at the behest of business.

    If what he writes is correct, liberals really do not understand conservatives at all. Maybe that is why the two sides so often seem to be talking past each other.

    Mitch Daniels on the the future of state government

    In The Wall Street Journal Mitch Daniels writes that states face serious problems in the next few years because revenues will not recover for some time. He especially thinks the tax-and-spend states faces a bleak future:
    The "progressive" states that built their enormous public burdens by soaking the wealthy will hit the wall first and hardest. California, which extracts more than half its income taxes from a fraction of 1% of its citizens, is extreme but hardly alone in its overreliance on a few, highly mobile taxpayers. Both individuals and businesses are fleeing soak-the-rich states already. Those who remain in high-tax states will be making few if any capital gains tax payments in the years to come. Even if the stock market comes roaring back to life, the best it could do is speed the deduction of recent losses.

    Government failure

    Economists often talk about market failure and sometimes about government failure. The airport at Johnstown, PA seems to be a pretty good illustration of government failure.
    In 20 years, Mr. Murtha has successfully doled out more than $150 million of federal payments to what is now being called the airport for no one.

    Friday, September 4, 2009

    Property rights in the ocean

    An article about lobstermen in Maine talks about how they have unofficial property rights to various parts of the ocean. It does not explain how this overcomes the problem of the commons.
    Lobster fishermen have feuded for generations over who can set traps, and where. To protect their fishing grounds, the lobstermen here have been known to cut trap lines, circle their boats menacingly around unwelcome vessels and fire warning blasts from shotguns.
    This year there has been violence as outsiders have infringed on those informal property rights.

    Something to worry about

    While lots of people are worried about the possibility of doom and gloom from global warming, there are other, more likely things to worry about. 150 years ago the sun sent a solar storm our way that resulted in visible auroras as far south as Havana. It also generated enough current in telegraph lines that the operators disconnected the batteries and ran them on the electricity in the air. It was, based on readings of ice cores, twice as big as any other solar storm in the last 500 years. Today it would wreak havoc with electrical transmission and could disrupt the world for years.

    Unemployment rate

    The unemployment rate for August is 9.7%, a new high for this recession as the economy continues to lose jobs. (Current report is at http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf, which is not a permanent link.) Alternative measures of unemployment can be found at http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t12.htm. These measures attempt to add in the effects of discouraged workers and people who are working part time but would like to be working full time. The highest, U-6, which includes both of these groups, is 16.8%.

    Update: The teenage unemployment rate rose by 1.7% from the previous month to 25.5% and now is at an all-time high. The rise is consistent with the hypothesis that a rise in the minimum wage will result in job loses for those who have the least skill.

    Update: The alterntive measures of unemployment are now at http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t15.htm

    Tuesday, September 1, 2009

    Meltzer on the recession

    Allan Meltzer argues in The Wall Street Journal that the current recession is not like the Great Depression. I thought this paragraph was interesting.
    The Federal Reserve also shared this Keynesian viewpoint. It provided unprecedented monetary stimulus, increasing the monetary base by more than $1 trillion. Much of this increase corrected for its major mistake: allowing Lehman Brothers to fail. After 30 years of bailing out almost all large financial firms, the Fed made the horrendous mistake of changing its policy in the midst of a recession. That set off a scramble for liquidity and heightened the public's distrust in the market.

    Catholics react to the death of Ted Kennedy

    In the National Catholic Reporter, Sister says she was inspired by the late senator:
    But today feels a bit like the end of an era. Ted Kennedy, like his brothers, was a champion of civil rights, women’s rights, and the welfare of the “least of these.” He strongly and eloquently opposed the war in Iraq. Because his life (and the lives of others in his family) embraced the great Catholic social justice tradition, they have made me proud to be a Catholic.
    Patrick Madrid responds on his blog:
    At best, Mr. Kennedy was highly selective as to which of "the least among us" he would deign to defend. Case in point: Abortion. The senator established his record squarely on the extremist position of defending the legality of abortion.
    Many are not aware that he was originally publicly pro-life (I comment on the details of his transformation from pro-life to pro-abortion here).As a result of Ted Kennedy's indefatigable championing of the pro-abortion movement, tens of millions of the "least among us" — unborn girls and boys — were killed through abortion under his senatorial auspices.Whatever his positive qualities may have been, and no doubt he had some, the tragic reality is that Senator Kennedy's long political career was squandered by his vociferous, relentless promotion of abortion. And that, sadly, will be his enduring legacy.
    A post at America Magazine finds his post boorish and offensive:
    Someone named Patrick Madrid, who runs a blog and is involved with something called the Envoy Institute at Belmont Abbey in North Carolina, decided to attack my colleague at NCR Sister Maureen Fiedler for her post remembering the late Senator. "Maureen, with all due respect," he begins, words that reek of condescension.
    ....
    Who are these people? To what level of boorishness have the spokespeople for the pro-life community descended? And, it is any wonder we keep losing the political fight for life when some of our own exercise such obvious, callous, inhumane indecency as to ignore a lifetime of good works, render judgment not just on a man’s ideas but on his soul, and to speak ill of the dead when the body is still warm. It is shameful. And, I hope the bishops recognize that it is counter-productive to the pro-life goals we should share. Hatefulness is not attractive or persuasive.
    If you are damning someone for being condescending and boorish, should you be so blatantly condescending and boorish?

    One of the comments caught my attention:
    Senator Kennedy did more for the unborn by turning Catholic Social Teaching into law than anyone in the pro-life movement. Had it not been for his list of accomplishments in the social welfare area, the abortion rate would have been much higher, as people would have been poorer, felt more trapped and resorted to abortion more often.
    I can make arguments for and against markets and socialism, but I have no idea how you can argue that social-welfare legislation increases national wealth to the extent that this comment suggests. It is not government social programs and welfare programs that create wealth. Inventors and entrepreneurs working in the private sector create wealth. It is discouraging to see comments that betray this complete lack of understanding of why we are a wealthy country, but I suspect that in some intellectual circles that sort of sentiment is acceptable.

    Elizabeth Scalia reflects on the exchange at First Things.