It’s the economy stupid! With that we could get health care

February 26, 2010

“It’s the economy stupid” — wasn’t that Bill Clinton’s campaign mantra ?

That’s what I wish the Obama administration would adopt. If it could get the economy moving then it could assure itself that it will be around for a second term and health care would take care of itself (almost).

We’ll get universal health care when and if the public really wants it. The public at large must be somewhat ambivalent about it right now. They need work to either buy their own insurance or get it through their job or even to pay taxes for government-sponsored health insurance.

People need jobs, and government, particularly at the state and local level, needs revenue, revenue that can only come from a robust economy.

Free enterprise is great, but it needs a jump start from government now.

And we need to rebuild our industrial base and not waste time about it.

Yes the learned will point to history and say that protectionism is bad — it exacerbated (or even helped cause) the Great Depression.

But right about now we need to do something to strengthen our industry and protect it from cheap imports and protect our workers from going the way of those in third world countries. We don’t want to go back to slave labor.

Ironically as hopefully what is left of our domestic auto industry may be turning back towards the idea of quality and value and hopefully (I don’t know) moving somewhat away from planned obsolescence, Toyota of Japan has shot itself in the foot by adopting the more aggressive, quality and safety be damned attitude which helped bring down the American auto industry. Well at least this might give the domestic auto makers a chance to catch up and surpass the imports.

The federal government needs to offer major incentives to domestic industry, and I mean industry not only located here but run by Americans, not foreign entities.

And the government needs to discourage and penalize domestic industry that moves its production across our borders and overseas and then imports the goods back here to sell.

We don’t want to get carried away and cut off all trade. We need imports so we can match them with exports. We need to be competitive on the world market by specializing in quality. But part of being competitive is allowing ourselves to play on a even playing field and not let other countries dump products on us that result from unfair price supports from their own countries. These world trade agreements have to work both ways.

Our own society has to rediscover hard work and real labor and realize that unrealistic demands by labor only hurt everyone.

And our capitalists need to rediscover something called patriotism and put their own nation who they owe their own comfort and protection from the evil forces of the world to first.

Levi Jeans are as American as apple pie, but years ago their production was moved across the border. Justin cowboy boots have not been made in America for a long time either. Just two examples of capitalism being unpatriotic.

Budweiser beer isn’t even owned by Americans anymore, and ironically uses the slogan now: “America’s beer” or something like that.

Personally I prefer Sierra Nevada, brewed in Chico, Ca, (please don’t sell off to a conglomerate and please not a foreign conglomerate).

I say to the president and congress — quit spinning your wheels and politicking on health care (important as it is!), and get America moving again. Both the right and left may need to compromise on this one, but unless something is done we are destined to be a third world nation by the time our children or grandchildren are adults.

Possibly one of the symptoms of our malaise is the disappearance of morals and civility. Mass marketing seems to thrive on immorality and even uncivil behavior. I don’t really know why.

Perhaps we’ve had the bread and circuses presented to us too long.


Raise tariffs, re-tool America, lower retirement age, and go for universal health care…

July 17, 2009

I watched Charlie Rose last night and heard Bob Woodward say that President Barack Obama has not really been tested by his own crisis yet. He said that he did not know what crisis might be in the offing, but perhaps unemployment might be it. And today I read that unemployment has reached 10 percent in 15 states. I know it is higher than that in my local area, and maybe in yours. If unemployment remains high, I think the Obama administration will be seen as a failure. Actually we are already in an unemployment crisis — so let’s see how Obama handles it.

Raise tariffs and provide tax incentives to U.S. industry that employs people right here in America, lower — not constantly raise — the retirement age to increase job opportunities for younger folks, and relieve businesses of providing costly health plans and thereby at the same time free up workers to more easily go to better or more suitable jobs by providing some type of universal health care scheme not tied to employment.

And so the doctors, and others, will not gripe that government bureaucrats (as opposed to private health insurance bureaucrats?) are dictating health decisions, let doctors serve on public boards to oversee the government-guaranteed health care. Notice, I have not written “government-sponsored”. Actually I assume that under any scheme to guarantee that everyone has health care coverage there will be government funding.

How about those ideas to put America back to work and get the economy going?

And while I don’t want to just concentrate on health care, I can see from my own personal experience that health care rules so much in our lives (it’s the cost and availability).

So I will address health care and then go back to some of the other economic recovery ideas.

The only way I can see that there is ever going to be health care for everyone is for the government to be involved, the free market can’t seem to do it.

I watched part of a documentary on PBS some time ago about how other nations handle health care, but it was kind of hard to follow or at least remember, except that it seems to have a lot to do with attitude of the public. For some reason maybe the rest of the world is just crazy, but they see a role for their governments to serve the interests of their citizens. For all the need and talk about health care reform in this nation, I sometimes get the idea that the general public is not into it as much as one might imagine, that is until something bad happens in one’s personal life, but then you’re so mired in your own mess, it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. But if the public really cared as much as it is reputed to, I think we would have had reform long ago. I keep hearing that Teddy Roosevelt ( a Republican – a progressive one) pushed for some type of national health care. That’s a century ago.

I’m extremely surprised the business sector has not pushed for national health care, seeing as how providing health care coverage for employees is such a major expense. And if employees don’t have coverage they will eventually be less productive and certainly it would seem more vulnerable to worker’s comp claims, which really can cost employers a lot.

Right now with so much of the work force out of work, huge numbers of people are without or soon to be without health care coverage or are trying to figure out how poor they have to let themselves get to become eligible for government programs.

Health care has become so expensive but is so necessary that it has become one of the most important, yet hard to meet, requirements in life, darn near beating out food and shelter.

Unless you have the fortune required to pay out of your pocket for all health services you might need, you generally have to join together with others in some type of group plan. So why can’t virtually the whole nation join together as a group? Yes it is going to cost, and everyone should have to pay a fair amount according to their means. And the amount of taxes raised for health care cannot be unlimited. So, yes, that means that decisions as to what is covered and how much the insurance will pay will have to be made. They always are, even in private insurance.

Taxing the rich (and who figures out what rich is?) to pay for health care is a bad idea. Social Security, the one program with “social (ism)” in its name that seems to have near universal support or at least acceptance, was designed so everyone (almost) pays for it and everyone is eligible and everyone has a stake in it.

A doctor who writes a column for my local newspaper said he dreaded any type of public option because the government would be telling him how long or what kind of treatment he can give his patients. Not any more than private or so-called group insurance does. And no one would tell him how long he can spend with a patient. That is up to him. He’s talking about his reimbursement. He can spend longer with his patient than the reimbursement covers (the government or other insurance entities only limit the money, not the time), and he can charge the patient the difference (and that is what is often done). Whether the patient can pay that extra amount is always in question (and do doctors consider themselves mere hourly employees?). And it might seem nice to compare the medical care market with any other consumer offering, but, you know, there is just not much competition. In fact, a lot of doctors do not accept new patients.

There is a concern that the number of family practitioners is dwindling because there is just not the money in the field there once was (still better than when they used to accept chickens from farmers). Maybe there needs to be more incentives to create new family practitioners, such as subsidized training for promising students. And maybe if the private sector cannot offer enough services, there needs to be government clinics staffed by well trained doctors and support personnel.

Such clinics would have to be well funded, because if not, you get the stereotypical zoo.

And then there is the problem – who wants to go to a cut rate doctor?

I got off the track on this medical thing. I was really wanting to put another pitch in for the re-industrialization of America. I know all the learned economists and political historians will tell you that raising tariffs is “protectionism” and protectionism is a bad thing because it leads to retaliatory protectionism from other countries and stymies world trade and leads to even more economic hardship and that there is precedent that proves it – the Smoot-Hawley Act of 1930 and the Great Depression. But that notion has been brought into question by some. And besides, that was then and this is now. I love history, but we live now and maybe things are slightly different today.

What so-called free trade has brought us is unbalanced trade where the U.S. competes with nations with a much lower standard of living and it continues to drag the U.S. down. Free trade was sold partly on the idea that other nations would prosper and come up to our standards. And I have to admit that in my ignorance I once thought if something can be made cheaper elsewhere, so be it, I’m generally for it. But there is such a thing as buying value (something that is hard to find these days – except in foreign cars), and there is such a thing as keeping the wealth in one’s home country. In our own greed we may have been tricked into giving up the store by becoming a nation of bargain hunters rather than a nation of those who produce or support in the production of quality products  and who share in the wealth that the demand for quality brings. Developing nations may develop, but they also may surpass us while we are not paying attention.

And even though a lot of money is made out of war, our current wars are a net drag on our economy and it is morally wrong to base our economy on war anyway. We should work to get out of war situations as quickly as possible and avoid wars when we can. And we are finding out that in today’s world rapidly moving events all over the globe can cause us to be overextended easily.

Kind of a scatter shot approach here. But just some thoughts.

P.s.

I heard someone mention on a TV news talk show that even with all the hubbub about whether a health care plan will make it through congress this term, even if it did it would be five years before anything went into effect. That’s absurd.

I still think everyone is trying to make this whole thing too complicated. Complication is not what we need. And it is hard to shop for health care, especially when you need it (think about it).

Just expand Medicare for those who cannot afford to pay for private plans now on the market. The market has no interest in providing health care for those with no means to pay. In fact, left to its own devices, the private health care industry would avoid offering coverage to anyone who might actually want to use it.


Let’s go back to work and then become green…

June 29, 2009

A green revolution, windmills, cap and trade, universal health care, cutting dependence on foreign oil, reform in the financial markets – all that may help, but really what is needed more than anything is jobs and the only way to produce large numbers of jobs is to re-industrialize America.

I’ve blogged this before. But it’s kind of maddening to listen to the talking heads argue over whether government stimulus checks and the bank and auto bailouts will do any good and whether health care reform will turn into some kind of super government boondoggle of an entitlement that will bankrupt or re-bankrupt the nation when it takes no degree in economics to see the obvious – large numbers of people need work.

At one time, say right after World War II, this nation was an industrial giant (and technically, of course, it is still a major industrial power) but somewhere along the line the U.S. decided to take a shortcut and let more of the producing of things go elsewhere where the labor was cheaper. Meanwhile it became a so-called service economy, the idea we could provide high tech and financial services and then added to that everyone could live off of real estate value (real estate after all is finite – there’s only so much earth – therefore the price can never go down – wrong).

Society has also spent far too much effort in producing and buying and consuming stuff it may not really need. There seems to be some kind of spiritual (and I am not just talking in the strictly religious sense) bankruptcy afflicting society. Wealth and pretense often seem to trump long-held cultural values revolving around the value of honest work, family, and personal responsibility.

Dare I say that an apt example – maybe not the best – is the fact that all the news channels are broadcasting non-stop eulogies or tributes to Michael Jackson and news updates revolving around the mystery of his premature death and the mystery of his whole life. No offense to the highly talented late self-described King of Pop, but why all the exhaustive coverage? Talent aside, is he the model of cultural hero we want to emulate or see our children and grandchildren emulate? I suppose the coverage is based on measurable public interest – and I guess that pretty much says it all.

I’ve blogged much of this previously, but I read a story quoting GE’s CEO Jeff Immelt calling for a re-emphasis on industrialization in the U.S. He says the U.S. must refocus its economy on manufacturing and exporting if it is to recover from the recession. He even admits that his own company may have outsourced too much and says it now in fact plans to in-source. He said the U.S. has lost its competitive edge.

Personally, while I am 100 percent for environmental or so-called green industry and for anything within reason to cut our dependence on foreign oil. I think the bottom line is that we need to produce products more than import them. Over time and no doubt with government incentives more environmentally sound ways of producing things and obtaining energy will be developed – they have to be. But let’s don’t put the cart before the horse. We have to go back to work first. And the effort to go green all by itself will not produce enough jobs.We need to go to work to earn more green so we can become green.

And as I have blogged previously about health care, the first thing that should be done is simply guarantee that no one goes wanting for it. Those who can pay should (nothing is free, someone has to pay for it) and those who can’t need to be covered. Eligibility requirements will have to be tight to eliminate freeloaders and those who are in effect sent here by other nation’s governments as a subsidy back to them. We may find that the 50 million without health care figure may be sharply reduced once those who could actually afford to take out coverage are forced to and once illegal aliens are removed from the rolls (they should always get actual emergency care, such as the result of automobile accidents – but not regular family care when they are not citizens or legal aliens).

While the U.S. needs a more efficient system of health care there seems to be too much resistance and the effort it takes to fight it may be wasted when, again, simply extending coverage to those who really can’t get it any other way is what will solve the problem for the time.

All the effort to pass health care reform and to force banks to loan money (and they still don’t or can’t) and to prop up failing auto companies could be instead in some way plowed back into the economy more directly, either through reduced taxes and/or incentives to re-industrialize (and we can make other things besides monster cars – although we could make them too).

Come to think of it, why the Republican Party, the opposition, is not pushing wholeheartedly for re-industrialization, I am not sure. At least I don’t think I’ve quite heard them put it that way, although that may be what they mean – don’t really know.


Expand Medicare, stop bailouts, reinstate draft, support science, admit that to be gay is genetic…

May 18, 2009

Some more public policy suggestions from Tony Walther’s Weblog:

HEALTH CARE:

Expend a lot fewer resources and energy on the subject. Simply expand Medicare by extending it to those who cannot afford or are not eligible for private insurance, regardless of age. There of course would have to be a strict means test for this. And I don’t mean to suggest that it would be inexpensive to do this, but it might be no more or even less expensive and more practical than what we are doing now or what is being proposed (which is not clear at all). And it could be all done so much quicker (how long has congress faced the health care issue? Decades now).

It occurs to me that health care could be seen as a personal right in our modern society, but it might also be seen as a personal responsibility at the same time. I don’t think those two conditions are mutually exclusive. While it is a personal responsibility, if you cannot afford that responsibility, you need help.

And I realize we read that both the Medicare and Social Security trust funds are fast running out. But something will have to be done about that. I doubt that either program will be cancelled, so our elected representatives will have to, dare I say it, make some decisions and the electorate itself has to accept certain priorities. But it would seem that a secure and stable retirement system and some form of universal health care (I refer to a system in which no one is denied health care simply on the basis of cost) would be at least near the top of those priorities. 

ECONOMIC STIMULUS:

Give business back to business for the most part. Stop all bailouts. Let failing enterprises, banks included, go bankrupt. But at the same time offer incentives, such as tax breaks, to businesses that create American jobs (and these need to be jobs that don’t require further government subsidy to workers – such as the old Walmart approach of handing out how-to-get-government-assistance flyers to employees). At the same time apply penalties to businesses that ship jobs overseas, such as high tariffs on products being imported back in. And I was going to write simply, enact penalties for outsourcing (maybe a penalty tax on outsourcing). But I don’t know how practical or practicable that would be. But if there is enough incentive for hiring American, then maybe that would not be necessary.

Our government should encourage a return to the production of manufactured goods and consumer products, again through incentives such as tax breaks.

Also, renegotiate our so-called “free trade” agreements with other nations so that we are all playing on a fairly level field. Other nations subsidize industries and/or have labor forces that work at extremely low wages. We need “fair trade”, not so much “free trade”.

Instead of bailing out failing businesses, divert some of that funding to help displaced workers, but do not make this commitment open ended. The ultimate goal for able-bodied people should be new jobs.

DEFENSE:

Make our policy one of defense rather than offense. While I don’t think the United States, even under George W. Bush, has been an imperialist nation, we have long held the belief that we have to exert our influence all over the world. I think we should promote our form of democratic government by example more than by force. We should be supportive to the extent we can of nations who would model themselves after us, but leave it at that.

I do, though, realize that in some situations we may find that the best defense is a good offense. This would be in cases of true emergency when it comes to our attention that, say, a rogue nation or rogue regime in a nation might come within grasp of having the means along with the aim of destroying us. Strangely, that last sentence sounds like Bush 2’s rationale for going into Iraq. So, if he and Cheney had been honest about such, that is if Iraq would have really been in the position to attack us or supply weapons of mass destruction to our enemies, I might have seen the Iraq invasion as the necessary choice (although a more surgical choice might have been wiser). But the information that has come out points the other way (and some of this info was at least hinted at even before we went into Iraq). I believe Bush and Co. have even admitted they were wrong (if not that they knew they were wrong at the time). They had a predilection, that is they were predisposed to go into Iraq and then they manufactured an excuse.

Iran’s (reported) continued development of nuclear weapons capability might someday require an offensive, pre-emptive reaction, and perhaps more urgenty, the possibility of Islamic militants getting hold of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. But let’s hope none of that becomes necessary. But let’s also hope no potential adversary doubts our resolve to defend ourselves.

MILITARY SERVICE:

I think the all-volunteer professional military has big advantages and that we should maintain a large and highly-trained and motivated professional cadre, or really a permanent professional force that would be larger than the word cadre connotes. But along with that professional force I would be supportive of a mandatory military service of youth, beginning at age 18. Two years of active duty would seem appropriate, if a little bit arbitrary. There of course would probably be provision for conscientious objectors with some type of compulsory public service. I think with a new military draft or compulsory service you would find that we would be a lot more thoughtful and careful about using military force. We might also have more resolve once we did commit force. And why is it not everyone’s duty to defend the nation?

My reading of recent history is that the so-called neo conservative movement was disappointed with the nation’s lack of resolve in Vietnam and thought it endangered us by making us look weak. The liberals who had pushed for ending the draft got caught in their own trap. The neocons decided that the all-volunteer force would leave so many off the hook that it would be easier to commit forces where they desired. And I think it did make it easier.

But it seems to me we are all in this or should be all in this together. Not everyone serves on the local police force and that is understandable. But too many have come to view the military as a police force that they can simply expect to “handle it”. When only a minority is left with the responsibility to protect a nation I think we lose our sense of nation and one day might be in jeopardy of losing the nation itself.

 ENVIRONMENT:

We need strong public investment in science more than anything else. And it is the government’s job to protect the environment and to enact laws that support that. Environmental regulation needs to be based on science and not politics. We cannot afford to cut off our nose to spite our face by enacting unreasonable and over-reactive environmental regulations that stifle commerce, but at the same time we do not want to destroy our planet or our quality of life.

THE MORAL QUESTIONS:

Societies have rules, often called “morals”. The United States has been unique in that we are a blended society whose members may have similar, but not necessarily the same moral code. We are not all of the same religion and we are indeed not all religious, although for the most part our laws regulating social behavior are I suppose based on Judeo-Christian principles.

For the most part there is not a problem. We virtually all agree, for example, that it should be illegal to murder someone. We don’t all agree on the proper punishment, though. There has been a continuing debate over capital punishment. I think I am correct in saying that the anti-capital punishment forces seem to be holding the edge on this one. I have my own opinion, but I think this has to be left to voters and legislatures, and to some extent the courts (who seem to be frequently confronted as to the question of the constitutional prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment – you can execute someone as long as it is not cruel? Unusual?).

Abortion and gay (or homosexual) marriage seem to be the hot moral topics now.

As to these two subjects, I have to ask whether there is a rightful governmental interest.

Abortion is a far more complicated topic than those on both sides of the argument make it out to be. But under current law, based on the Roe Vs. Wade decision, the Supreme Court has held that the intent of the constitution was to in the name of individual liberty leave such a personal decision up to the individual. The justices at the time had to reach for that decision by finding it based in part on what was not explicit but what they felt nonetheless was implicit in the constitution. But that is really often the case with decisions in courts. If literal meaning was always evident we probably would not need justices to render decisions (think about it).

As to gay marriage, the only government interest is that marriage is a contract and the government has oversight of contract law. As to the religious aspects, the government has no rightful role. It’s all more a problem of terminology and context and tradition. We have simply called these government-sanctioned contracts between, yes, what have been traditionally men and women, “marriage”. We might have been better off to call all of them “civil unions” from the beginning. Some religious people object to gays forming unions with each other and calling them “marriage”. They have been willing to compromise by accepting “civil unions” for gays. But civil unions are not always equal to marriage and not equally recognized within the 50 states. And if you legislate that only heterosexuals can have “marriages” and homosexuals must have “civil unions”, even if those civil unions were supposedly made equal to marriage, I think you would have something equivalent to the “separate, but equal” doctrine that was used to justify Jim Crow laws that forced black people to be discriminated against. Separate but equal was originally recognized by the Supreme Court, but decades later was struck down by the high court.

Those who oppose gay marriage argue that homosexuality is anti-social behavior. Most everyone else has come to realize by simple observation that homosexuality is apparently genetic and has come to accept it even if they are not always comfortable with it.

One solution would be to take the government out of the marriage business and have it issue civil union contracts to all, straight and gay. The churches could handle marriages as a religious and symbolic ceremony. That seems an equitable approach to me, but might be socially confusing (how would we refer to a couple now joined? they’re married, no they’re “civil unioned”, and how would you refer to already married people under the old rule, and it’s a whole can of worms).

As to the implications on our society moving forward if we fully accept the gay lifestyle under the law by granting gay marriage or unions, I actually think there is a question, but I do not think it is one government can resolve.

One of the problems is that government itself may have lost some of its moral authority.

Just some ideas.


Re-industrialization could save America; time can save Republicans…

May 2, 2009

While I am not a Republican and doubt I ever could be, I am thinking the GOP might find its salvation if it can just have some patience and it probably wouldn’t hurt if a few of its leaders didn’t feel they had to kowtow or at least walk on egg shells around the talk show blowhards that give it such a bad name. They already have accepted Bush Jr. as a bad memory, that’s a good first step on the road to salvation. And maybe they ought to talk Dick Cheney into going peacefully into retirement.

While I along with most folks hope the nation’s economic ills will improve soon, I think reality is that while there will likely be improvements in some areas there will also be much discontentment – cue the Republicans.

And maybe we don’t really want to use our tax dollars to guarantee warranties for domestic autos but at the same time cut aid to the needy (trouble is the Republicans probably don’t want to use tax money for warranties, but don’t mind cutting the aid).

While President Obama seems like he can’t lose right now, over time some of his program will wear thin – again cue the Republicans.

I didn’t jump on the bandwagon and try to assess President Obama’s first 100 days, but, belatedly now I’d say he certainly has faced the most pressure at one time of any president of the United States in my lifetime: the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression, ongoing wars in the Middle East and terrorists close to grabbing nuclear weapons in Pakistan, health care that is becoming costlier and less available to the populous, global warming (or at least some type of extreme environmental change), and a possible pandemic.

But for the most part he has come through with flying colors. He is calm, cool, and collected. He gives press conferences and to my ears his answers seem well thought ought and reasonable whether I agree with all of his points or not. He is able to use clear English sentences and is not given to goofy looks, malapropisms, or deer-caught-in-the-headlights moments. He did make an unfortunate reference to the mentally challenged a while back on the Jay Leno show while perhaps acting a little too glib and cool (maybe presidents don’t need to be on late night TV).

I agree with Arianna Huffington, for someone who has done such a good job so far on so many things it is dismaying that he is bungling in his bailouts, that is to say he should not be bailing out banks or big business.

I mean billions to Chrysler and what do we get? Bankruptcy. We could have had that without billions in taxpayer dollars. We want to preserve our domestic auto industry but to do it Chrysler has to make a deal with Fiat of Italy.

At least saving the auto industry has something to do with preserving jobs.

The big bank bailouts? All they seem to have to do with is throwing money down a rathole. I still say let the big banks fail. Something will take their place. Why doesn’t the government just cut out the middle man and loan money to businesses and individuals? (not forever – just in the short term.)

As we all know, there are thousands of relatively small banks around the U.S. that acted like traditional bankers, extremely cautious with their money and did not get into trouble. Why can’t there be newer large banks, if they are needed, to replace the thieves and greedy devils who got us into this mess in the first place?

President Obama says he does not want to keep running the car companies and that he does not have the power to get the banks to do what he wants, at least not right away.

I say quit trying to run the car companies Mr. President; you have way too much else to do. And you do have power over the big banks because they would not be in business were it not for the generous giveaway bailouts of taxpayer money begun by George W. Bush and continued by you. Tell them either do what you want or you cut off the money and demand what you have given them back (although the latter is problematic).

From now on out let’s stop this hideous bailout program for private enterprise. While the bailouts may seem by some a means to save private enterprise they are in fact the seeds of destruction for private enterprise.

And this may be the answer the Republicans are looking for. I think they need to calm down and stick to their supposed free market principles and let the cards fall where they may. Hyper inflation along with a continued stagnant economy seems likely to be in the offing (although I certainly hope not). Get your act together Republicans and come up with coherent and acceptable programs to counteract this disaster. Just saying no and calling the Democrats “socialists” will not suffice.

Make your program or proposed program known and when things get bad enough, the electorate will turn back toward you, realizing they didn’t want so much socialism after all.

And lest anyone get the wrong impression about what I personally think, I will say right here and now that both parties have accepted forms of socialism for decades and so do I. But eventually there is a limit, just like there is a limit to free-wheeling capitalism (we reached that limit round about last September).

The independence and flexibility true private enterprise presents is eroded by the artificial element bailouts present in what should be a natural market of supply and demand and success or failure dependent upon business expertise rather than the generous hand of Uncle Sam, who will not be able to be generous once the money is gone (China will not be able nor willing to support us forever).

Rather than fund Wall Street-type big bankers and auto makers and others who have failed to make good business decisions, the government should be rescuing, lending a helping hand, to those citizens in need – not necessarily on a lifetime permanent basis, but on an emergency basis. But the government coffers to enable government to come to the aid of the citizenry are being depleted by the profligate and shortsighted ways of the business elite who use their lobbying powers to extract as much out of Uncle Sam as they can before the well runs dry.

Of course the political power of the United Auto Workers has played a big part in getting President Obama to work so hard to salvage as much as he can of its memberships’ jobs too. Now the UAW is taking a 55 percent ownership stake in Chrysler. Hopefully at least that will give its members incentive to help operate a lean and mean machine that can survive tough competition without more government aid.

Saving jobs is a good thing, but how far can the government go? Will it step in to save your job?

What we need is something that probably cannot be done via politics, at least not directly. We need a new attitude among those in business that says that their mission, aside from the obvious one of making a profit, is to produce products and services for a sustainable economy that will keep our nation strong for our generation and the next generation and for all to come.

We’ve gone too long on the notion that quick profits and making money solely through speculative bubbles is the way to go. We need capitalism, but regulated capitalism. We do not want to smother ourselves in total socialism, which stifles the very soul of a nation and each human being.

Yes, we do need to energize the economy through new green energy sources, but we also need to re-introduce ourselves to the industrial sector as a whole. 

While researching for a separate transportation blog I do, I was dismayed to read that a big truck manufacturing executive predicted that partly due to the current recession and the lower returns his industry is seeing it will likely move all production to Mexico or elsewhere where labor is cheaper.

Personally I think that is an unpatriotic attitude on the part of industry. Any industry that moves out of the country and then tries to import its products back in, all the while enjoying the benefits of the American taxpayer, to include legal protections and free-world defense, should face a strong tariff for those goods.

I am not so sure that free trade is what it was cracked up to be. It seems kind of a lopsided deal to me. We are cutting our own throats in the process.

The socks, the work shoes, the jeans, the shirt, and the cap a truck driver wears and the rig that he drives could all be made in the United States. More people would have jobs and there would be more freight to haul. Right now fewer people have jobs and there is less freight to haul – although granted a large portion of what freight there is comes from overseas.

Our elites thought they were clever when they said we could be a service economy, shut down the smoke stacks and live clean and not get our hands dirty. We shipped our jobs overseas and now have a lot less to do here. And we will not be able to continue to pay ourselves to stand around and do nothing, even if we do go to more socialism.

World trade of course must continue to be part of the equation. But what we call “free trade” ought to be replaced by “fair trade”. Other nations heavily subsidize their industry and many do little to nothing for their citizens who must endure terrible working and living conditions. As for competing with modern industrial nations, that should not be a problem.

Re-industrializing alone will not solve the problem I realize. Germany, for instance, is a major industrialized nation and it is suffering from the worldwide recession and is facing major unemployment and for the first time in decades its industries and skilled workers are facing doubts about the future.

Unfortunately, boom and bust seem inherent in capitalism. We need to be ready for the boom.


I agree and disagree with McCain (and Obama) on Afghanistan war policy…

March 29, 2009

Just watched Sen. John McCain on Meet the Press and had thoughts that maybe he should have been elected after all.  And maybe if his own party would have done more to support him, he could have won, maybe.

But while I agree with his contention that although he agrees generally with President Obama’s approach in Afghanistan, he, McCain, would favor an even more aggressive approach, I think even McCain is not aggressive enough.

And sorry for the previous awkward sentence; I’m writing this on the fly.

If you read my last blog (just scroll down), you will see that I would propose we either go all out or cut out. While McCain favors more troops than Obama, he suggested that we don’t need to move on Pakistan even though it is aiding and abetting, harboring if you will, our enemy.

I do give McCain credit for saying that Obama should warn the American people that we have a long and hard road ahead there and that there will be a high level of casualties.

And please don’t think I am some type of war hawk. Actually, I would prefer that we cut our losses and get out. But I know that is not going to happen. At least I don’t think so.

I actually think that Mr. Obama has another Vietnam on his hands. And unfortunately, much of the electorate now does not understand, or even care, about the history and legacy of  Vietnam.

It has always been my belief that we could have won in Vietnam, but we might have then been left with a burden.

Even though Vietnam was partly an insurgency, it was also a conventional war with regular North Vietnamese Army troops, pith helmets and uniforms and all, and even tanks, invading South Vietnam. We never effectively cut off the North Vietnamese supply lines, even though we could have, albeit with great cost. But we expended great costs anyway for no favorable result.

Late in the Vietnam War President Nixon did at least one right thing, but failed to follow up — the public mood had turned decidedly against the war by then. He mined Haiphong Harbor, temporarily preventing Soviet supply ships from delivering war materials to the North.  Even though the Soviets threatened directly or indirectly (I don’t recall) nuclear confrontation with us, they backed down, as they always did during the Cold War.

The only logical approach in Afghanistan would be to call up the military draft, throw as many troops in as possible, and support them with our new sophisticated weapons and go for all out victory, which would be complete control of the territory. If the enemy is hiding in the border areas of Pakistan, then we must attack there too.

There is a prevailing thought that in this modern day and age, facing a hard-to-find and even to identify enemy that seems to come out of nowhere and then disperse so we can’t find and kill them, that we have to employ smarter tactics with fewer forces.  I know, I don’t get that either.

Historically, down through the centuries, no one has ever been successful in conquering Afghanistan, not even the once no.2  super power of  the Earth the Soviet Union. That should be instructive.

So the choice is to try to win or realize we can’t and get out.

Obama claimed this week that we are no longer attempting nation building in or image in Afghanistan, but McCain seemed to imply that we should. That worries me.

The only nation we need to build  — or rebuild and maintain — is our own.

McCain seemed reasonable on his economic policy suggestions, but he is in the comfortable position of not having to take the heat as Mr. Obama must.

Again, while I really do not prefer the war option, I would suggest if we choose to stay and fight, then we must go all out with military conscription.

We could solve our unemployment problem overnight and ramp up our sagging industrial sector, which could then in a future peacetime be maintained to keep us self sufficient as a nation.

What we probably should do though is cut our losses over there and pour all of our resources into rebuilding our own economy — while maintaining a strong defense, as opposed to offense — and turn ourselves back into a nation of producers of things rather than consumers of the world who buy our way into insolvency.

P.s.

The reason I doubt we could ever win the hearts and minds of the population in Afghanistan is that they are so backward that they are easy prey for the Taliban and Al Qaeda, who help them a little at times, but promise them that all will be better in the great Islamic after life.

After we won World War II, the Germans were more easily subdued because they were already a modern industrial nation with a culture a parrallel to ours. And even Japan, although Asian, was a modern western type industrial nation. And both societies were not broken up into tribes.

P.s. P.s.

Please check out my German-American blog where I’ve composed my own version of the Hansel and Gretel story with a suspect German translation at: http://vonwalther.wordpress.com

Danke


Income, not loans, is what the nation needs

March 22, 2009

I’ve had two cups of coffee this morning so I am wired and have to blog.

A financial analyst, one Charles Biderman, speaking on Bloomberg TV last night,  said something I can relate to:

Speaking of our economic crisis, he said: “the problem is not getting the banks to loan money, it’s increasing income.”

He did not elaborate on that particular point as I recall, but it seems plain to me that simply loaning money to businesses and even homeowners would be too risky and foolish if people are not working and have no money to support the businesses by making use of their products and services.

Exactly how we get there from here I am not sure.

I continue to be an advocate of the re-inudstrialization of America. That belief was reinforced within me yesterday when I went shopping at Walmart. I bought a toothbrush made in Brazil; there were no USA one’s available. I did notice that some type of high tech disposable battery operated toothbrush made in Switzerland was on sale. I was in the market for new socks and found the reliable Dickie (work clothes) brand, but was turned off by the big bold letters that read: “Made in Pakistan”. Yeah, I want to help support a country who hides the forces who kill our soldiers. There were some made-in-America socks, but they were white and I prefer dark colored socks.

I suppose it comes down to the cost of labor. While I don’t like the idea of government subsidizing labor, we might be better off doing so and thus putting everyone back to work and get the economy going. That old idea that we are better off concentrating on the higher end — you know, computer software, financial services, has been proven wrong, wrong, wrong. Sure some people do well in that, but the majority of the public suffers from lack of jobs and in turn our economy has been brought to a near standstill by the lack of consumer buying power.

I don’t see protective tariffs or most other trade barriers as the way to go either. But I do see becoming competitive on the world market as a way to to go. We do not want to and should not accept third world living conditions, so we again might have to look at a government subsidy for labor — I don’t know. Walmart essentially did that when some time ago they were hiring part-time workers and providing them with info on how to take advantrage of various government social programs. Maybe they had the right idea after all. Walmart is becoming so successful by offering lower prices in this time of economic depression that it is reportedly improving the conditions of its workers (that may be more hype than reality, but apparently Walmart is doing well).

One more thing: the debt that is being piled up by the Obama administration is worrisome. The Bush administration put us back into big-time deficit spending after the former Clinton administration pulled back. And now, citing economic emergency, the Obama administration has upped the ante.

It is said that a household cannot spend or borrow its way out of debt. How can our government do so?

I took a class in college in which the professor said that American companies are run by and large by folks who know how to make quick profits, but know little about what they produce. His idea, for example, was that a mining company should be run by an engineer (with business acumen, I would add), not an MBA.

I have a notion that our domestic auto companies are run by executives who know a lot about sales and manipulating their books, but probably could not change a fuse in their cars if their headlights went out.

Because of that, with their mind-set about pleasing the investors for the next quarter, they are blind to changing technologies and actual market conditions.