“Socialism is a
philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy.” Sir Winston Churchill
There’s good news and bad news about liberal states going to hell in a handcart. The good news is that the faster they implode, the more chance there is for even the most minimally informed electorate to come to their senses and turn away from socialism. The bad news is that minimally informed electorates seldom turn back from their race over the cliff.
And from a selfish point of view, being a resident of one of the worst states in this quandary, California will lead the way along almost every pernicious metric you can imagine. The most obvious one is net migration which Bill Watkins of Cal Lutheran University in his ‘California is in for World of Hurt’ calls the “canary in the mine” that gives advance warning to jurisdictions headed for failure.
Established residents of our state and others have been emigrating to greener pastures for years. But now, as the nearby chart shows, immigration is no longer able to stem the net outflow. Even poor people are leaving in droves, being hurt by the same innumerate idiots that they sent to Sacramento. Citing data from California’s Department of Finance, Watkins writes –
“California’s political class, led by Governor Brown, has been patting itself on the back for solving California’s problems. This celebration is ludicrous. What they’ve done amounts to a mere slowing down in a long-term political, fiscal, and demographic decline. … Demographic trends themselves are creating a crisis brought about by a population that is simultaneously losing its children and getting older, and to a frightening extent poorer. From 2000 to 2010, the percentage of Los Angeles’ population under 15 years old fell by 15.6 percent. This was the greatest decline of any U.S. major metropolitan area, and about double the U.S. average of 7.4 percent.”
In the 27mar13 WSJ Art Laffer and Stephen Moore take a broader national look (here) at how the blue states are headed into the toilet, and what the red states are doing to avoid the same fate. From independent Census Bureau sources they observe –
“You can tell a lot about prosperity in America by observing the places people are moving to and where they are packing up and moving from. New Census Bureau data on metropolitan areas indicate that the South and the Sunbelt regions continue to grow, while the Northeast and Midwest continue to shrink. ... Among the 10 fastest-growing metro areas last year were Raleigh, Austin, Las Vegas, Orlando, Charlotte, Phoenix, Houston, San Antonio and Dallas. All of these are in low-tax, business-friendly red states. Blue-state areas such as Cleveland, Detroit, Buffalo, Providence and Rochester were among the biggest population losers.”
Laffer and Moore go into some detail to compare and contrast the tax and regulatory policies between the red and blue states. Part of the good news here is the clear contention between diametrically opposing economic policies of tax and control socialism, and low tax and regulation capitalism. They observe that “the contrast sets up a wonderful natural laboratory to test rival economic ideas.”
I don’t know how effective this display of successes and failures will be to the rank and file American workers and transfer payment recipients. But with great purpose our Founders did put in place a republic that can concurrently try out different approaches to make the country grow and prosper. The Left has been doing its level best to squash this diversity of liberty into one of centrally controlled homogeneous squalor. So far their success has been short of complete as we observe that “red states of the South and other areas of the country are moving forward with pro-growth tax reform, while California and the blue states of the Northeast are doubling down on Obamanomics and European progressivism.”
[30mar13 update] SESF published its first report on unfunded liabilities in 2007 and presented it to the Board of Supervisors. RR started warning its readers of the magnitude of debt facing Nevada County, California, and jurisdictions across the country. These reports were politely sniffed away by politicians and bureaucrats ignorant of what was owed. Now as Europe’s fiscal fractures are making daily news, and the magnitude of the Obama financial mismanagement of the country becomes clear, reports like this one - 'The Debt Bomb that Taxpayers won't see coming' - in the 30mar13 WSJ are starting to clamor about the amounts that was committed by scumbag politicians end running their electorates.
None of this should be news to RR readers. The news is that it is only now being recognized in the media, but not yet by the public. And the progressives will be forever blind to what the public service unions have bamboozled from the public that their members were supposed to serve.
California’s Prop8 rescinded gay marriage in the state. The will of the people may now be overturned by the Supreme Court which is hearing the appeal to uphold Prop8 that in the interval was overturned as unconstitutional by lower courts. In this debate we recall that under California law, gay couples can already register domestic partnerships that provide the same rights and responsibilities as marriage.
So, as a couple of justices observed, it really comes down only to the use of the label ‘marriage’ when describing the association between homosexuals. Historically all cultures have reserved that label to identify the prime familial relationship between a man and a woman. Now the issue seems to be for the homosexual community to co-opt that label to also and with ambiguity identify their special relationship. It is no longer a matter of the rights and privileges that the relationship confers, they already have that.
As another side matter in this decision, the impact of same-sex marriages on children raised in such families is not known as is claimed by the usual activists promoting this new type of marriage. More here.
My preference is to retain the historical word ‘marriage’ in all languages to refer to the established union between a man and a woman. We make up new words for new ideas every day. Why can we not concoct a brand new label for the brand new relationship that the modern age recognizes between people of the same gender? The benefits to such unambiguous identification in all matters of social administration and intercourse would be enormous. One simple word would distinguish between the traditional societal norm and the newly imposed norm, and inform all of the exact nature of the so referenced couple.
After all, there is no intention to hide anything here, is there?
[5apr13 update] In
the comment stream below I introduced ‘garriage’ as the working label for gay
or same sex marriage in order to facilitate debate and discussion. Messing with an institution as fundamental as
marriage in its expansion to embrace same sex unions has unintended
consequences. Some of these are now
coming out in the media, even the lamestream, after chair of the Georgia
GOP Sue Everhart raised the benefits that straight people may gain when they game garriage. (She was instantly denigrated by the usual
liberal intellects like Stephen Colbert.)
With each passing day, more and more interesting possibilities open up for
non-homosexuals to become garried. The
most recent one I heard today was fathers garrying their sons and grandsons to gain
relief from asset transfer taxes that today don’t apply in marriages.
We can all now anticipate the elaborate patchwork of exceptions, codicils, and special provisions that will have to be appended to any law that will insist on calling such gay unions 'marriage' instead of giving them a unique and informative label. What a curiously deviant world progressive
thought provides us in so many areas of human intercourse.
"... invoking an infinity of unseen universes to
explain the unusual features we see in this one is just as ad hoc as invoking
an unseen Creator.", Paul Davies, physicist
On these pages I have long advocated intelligent design (ID) as the most compelling idea that unifies science and certain philosophies/religions (here). A strong supportive argument for ID has been the idea that our universe is really a massive running program, that all that we are and perceive is the result of an ongoing cosmic computation. Physicists have posited this as a very plausible explanation of how things work when they look at matter, energy, and even time at the smallest of scales.
A stumbling block for the universe as a running program has been that no one was able to grapple with the configuration of such a humungus piece of code that could compute an entire universe right down to the interaction of the most basic pieces of what is called the Standard Model (which recently received additional credibility with the observation of the Higgs particle in the CERN super collider in Geneva). However, it now looks like this difficulty has also been overcome with the discovery of a very simple and short piece of code that can compute this and all logical universes.
Jürgen Schmidhuber introduced a simple ten-line code snippet to TEDx audiences recently that indeed can optimally compute the universe. He opened with –
“I will talk about the simplest explanation of the universe. The universe is following strange rules. Einstein’s relativity. Planck’s quantum physics. But the universe may be even stranger than you think. And even simpler than you think.” (the rest of the transcript and video is here)
This topic is difficult for secular humanists to consider primarily because it avoids the spot creation explanation of religious fundamentalists, explains all that science has observed, and yet allows for a “Great Programmer”, Intelligent Designer, or, if you will, God. So the secular humanists’ answer is to simply lump ID as another sneaky way to impose fundamentalist creationism on society, and then dismiss the whole thing out of hand. Next case please.
You know you’re old when you realize that there’s a good chance that your pets will survive you.
Benghazi is not going away. Hillary’s ‘what difference does it make?!’ tantrum in front of the Senate is coming back in spades to haunt (and worse?) this administration. Meanwhile, the WH continues to lie through its teeth claiming not to have silenced the survivors who are now being interviewed by Senators (here) and telling quite a different story of having been told to shut their mouths during the last five months. This adds more to the pile of evidence that Team Obama is corrupt, incompetent, and perverse. Readers hewing to the lamestream are being spared all this.
Stay tuned to see how Kerry handles the ‘it didn’t happen on my watch’ as the survivors tell us how the Libyan terror strike was mis-managed from the gitgo - Hillary call your campaign headquarters. And the liars still maintain that Al Qaeda is a shadow of its former self as it spreads and strengthens in ALL quarters.
DHS with MRAPs and billion bullet buys. Speaking of the lamestream, that branch of our Fourth Estate has achieved the status of your local high school newspaper as far as currency is concerned. For almost a year they have fastidiously ignored the news of what federal agencies are doing to apparently prepare for civil insurrection in America (here). Now we begin to see reports (here) in various outlets evincing surprise and finally acknowledging the obvious, much asked, and ignored questions. Not the brightest bulbs on the tree, but their progressive agenda does explain away why liberals are so out of touch when talking about current affairs. Sounding lame probably comes from restricting your news sources to the lamestream and their blogging echo chambers.
Cyprus taxes bank deposits. So, does anyone out there believe that the Tuesday taxing of Cypriot bank accounts will really be a "one-off", and that government money grab will not be repeated in other failing EU countries (here and here)? And is the Atlantic wide enough to prevent the progressives (and their Democrat surrogates) from succumbing to that disease on our shores, especially with the crowd that now 'works' at 1600 Pennsylvania?
"... there is no weakness without its admirer, so be not discomfited because your ways displease some, for they will not fail to be pleasing to others; nor let their approval of them make you vain, for still others will condemn them." Gracian #101
Britain’s biggest coal fired power plant is being forced by EU green standards and British government fines to convert to burning wood chips. But that’s just the beginning of what Idiots International is foisting on the Brits. The wood for the chips will come from the US where 4,600 square miles have been designated to be logged for this power plant. There the trees will have to be chipped and shipped thousands of miles across an ocean into special storage facilities built to house the ‘biomass’ until used. And the gory story goes on, a story which should not be read after a big meal while standing on a good carpet.
Next we move to Alabama where its Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a plaintiff suing the original manufacturer of a drug that has been off patent for years, and then taken by said plaintiff under a secondary manufacturer’s label. The secondary manufacturer is by law required to print verbatim the original manufacturer’s FDA vetted information on the drug, information which the plaintiff claims was misleading to the point of causing him harm. The broad application of such “innovator liability” will have a devastating effect on America’s ability to remain the leader in bringing new and innovative products and services to market. Again, a barf bad at the ready is recommended before reading this piece.
Exit question: These examples of our achieved state of obvious social madness have their champions claiming convoluted contortions of social justice being served. Who are these constituencies, and what kind of ideologies could be used to support such government diktats?
[This is the transcript of my regular KVMR commentary broadcast on 15 March 2013.]
Cardinal of Argentina and Jesuit, Jorge Bergoglio, was elected Pope last Wednesday, the first from the Western Hemisphere to hold the Holy Office of Catholicism. He chose to be known as Pope Francis (the First), a name that fits his reputation and humble demeanor. His major tasks will be to straighten out the Vatican bureaucracy, also known as the Roman Curia, the standing of the Catholic priesthood, and halt the decline of Christianity in Europe and North America.
“This apparent stability, however, masks a momentous shift. Although Europe and the Americas still are home to a majority of the world’s Christians (63%), that share is much lower than it was in 1910 (93%). And the proportion of Europeans and Americans who are Christian has dropped from 95% in 1910 to 76% in 2010 in Europe as a whole, and from 96% to 86% in the Americas as a whole.”
And even these statistics mask the actual declines in people who regularly attend church or even confess to believing in God. Protestant Northern Europe has become a Christian wasteland, and in North America secular humanism is making great strides in attracting both young and old away from the faith of their fathers.
Today in America the state is actively and selectively proscribing Christianity and purging its presence from public life. The ruling progressive mentality is dominant and has prescribed that we be sensitive to all religions in our midst save Christianity. When the perceived sensibilities of people of other faiths are somehow disrespected, there is an uproar in the media with America’s secular humanists lending their weight to restore those aggrieved. The only exception is the sound of crickets when a Christian or Christianity is disparaged or mocked.
Today Christians in America are a mobile bunch with over 50% having changed their religious affiliation at least once. And the churn continues as the overall numbers decline. To me that reflects an attitude that shopping religions is rapidly becoming the norm because people more and more are dissatisfied with what they learn or don’t learn during their encounter with this or that denomination.
As a Protestant Christian, I have seen that branch of the faith change markedly over my lifetime. Churches no longer feel that their theology, with its message of salvation and how to live, is sufficient to contain the faithful. Something different is required today if the pews are to be filled on Sunday. The overwhelming solution has been to adopt a new ‘contemporary’ style of service that concentrates on entertainment and expunges the wonders of Christian cosmology and theology from its sermons. ‘Sunday school light’ is the new liturgy in which a progressive ‘liberation theology’ focuses on current social issues during many Protestant and Catholic worship services.
The consequence is that altars have become rock band stages, the sacraments have been silenced, and an all-inclusive Christianity is the order of the day. The parishioner soon asks himself ‘is that all that there is?’, if so, then let’s go find a place that has a better band, cooler songs, and more skits to entertain us. If the church seeks first to be a social services club washed of irrelevant theology, then finding the best club is the order of the day. The Pew Forum describes it as “a very competitive religious marketplace.” And today that marketplace is more and more filled with Comfort Christians who cannot conceive of contending for what used to be their faith.
On an even bigger scale, respected scientists tell us (here) that the world is rapidly becoming an arena of clashing civilizations, each of which hew to one of the world’s great religious traditions. It is into that arena that the humble and evangelical Pope Francis now takes the Throne of St Peter as the de facto leader of Christians of all hues.
My name is Rebane, and I expand on this and related themes on georgerebane.com where the linked transcript of this commentary is posted, and where such issues are debated extensively. However these views are not necessarily shared by KVMR. Thank you for listening.
Capitalism works best when corporations must woo their customers instead of government.
There is something in the liberal mindset that does not understand ‘choice’ when applied to individual responsibility. In a recent comment stream one such reader stated –
“Do people actually choose to be poor? How many poor people would refuse a million bucks if handed to them by their daddies? Do people choose to die young because they can't afford proper healthcare? Do people choose to be hungry or watch their children starve? Do people choose to be homeless and sleep under a tarp in the snow? Do people choose to be miserable? I think not. "Individual choice" is corporate double speak for the freedom to pollute, sell us products that are unsafe, and use our children as cannon fodder to rid the world of leaders and economic systems not to their liking, all in the name of profit. Don't you get that you are being conned?”
Since the apparent answer to such ‘choose’ questions is NO, then that is sufficient reason to 1) require those not so afflicted be forced to sustain the afflicted, and 2) that there is a mysterious yet substantial connection between the notion of ‘freedom to choose’ and a nefarious catalog of corporate misbehaviors. Before going further, I want to emphasize that such a belief and its follow-on reasoning is a common thought pattern among our liberal brethren – the above commenter is not flying solo.
Astounding as it may be, it is clear that the liberal does not consider or understand the causal sequence of mediating events/states that is usually involved between a decision to do/be or not, and the resulting state of misfortune. They see it as a one step process – you either chose to, say, “watch your children starve”, or it was visited upon you by fate. And since no one would really choose misfortune, it had to be the result of spontaneous and pernicious fate, or worse, the inevitable outfall of capitalism, corporatism, Christianity, greedy enterprise, free markets, and other divers trappings of social injustice.
"The time has come," the Walrus said./ To talk of many things:/ Of shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax—/ Of cabbages—and kings—/ And why the sea is boiling hot—/ And whether pigs have wings." Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll
Older readers will recall President Lyndon Johnson’s famous use of that phrase as he invited opposing politicians to join him in deal making. Although history shows that after ‘reasoning’ with ol’ Lyndon you almost always walked out scratching your head, counting your fingers, and wondering after the health of your wallet. But it’s hard to say no to your counterparty when he issues a civil invitation to come and reason together about a disagreement you may have. It’s the penultimate invitation during a dispute that quickly achieves ultimate status, the more publicly it is issued.
In these pages we now have a significant history of debating literally every issue under the sun (well, almost); I have yet to find a single subject that has been out of bounds. Now that doesn’t mean that we always conduct ourselves in ways that generate light instead of contributing to global warming. But most of us do try to put our best foot forward instead of in our mouths.
In spite of that, we more often than not wind up talking way past each other, realizing that we are really trying to convince the anonymous middle road reader – I’m assured that they do exist – who pores over our deft arguments that firmly nail our stand. Quite often these arguments wind up sounding daft instead. So I’m going to list some steps that in my field have almost always led to a working compromise or even a meeting of the minds. And applying this discipline to the business side of things, I have seen amazement in people new to the approach. They are astounded by how easy it is to come to a closure – whether that means a working agreement, or a detailed understanding why none is possible, and where the ‘give’ must occur to make progress.
My consternation has always been that so few people understand or use this straightforward method to sort out their differences. And, as you may have guessed, I have found the people of various hues of collectivism to be most resistant to this process. So here are the steps –
1. What’s your objective or purpose in resolving the problem/dispute. This can be stated in words. All parties don’t necessarily have to agree on the objective, but they should know what each is trying to achieve. 2. How will you measure progress/achievement? What is the metric that will satisfy or confirm for you that you are either making progress or achieving your objective? The metric can be a proxy – e.g. number of marriage licenses issued for, say, the number of new households formed, or for the survival of the institution of marriage. 3. It would be useful if the parties agreed on the metric, even though their stated objective or purpose would be at variance. 4. Are some kinds of re/solutions unacceptable? Are there any constraints on the alternative solutions to be considered? What are they? 5. Generating alternative solutions is the hard part, and anyone can now participate, whether they agree on the objective or the evaluating metric. 6. Are there any data sources for input to the metric that will not be accepted – i.e. how will the input data be vetted. Here one can posit that some data set is correct, and return to its acceptance at a later time. Hypothetical data can also be used to determine the sensitivity of the metric to variations in or accuracy of the data – i.e. does it make a significant difference? 7. Put the ‘solutions’ through the metric. Calculate the value(s) of the metric(s) and see what kind of changes in the solution alternatives will help maximize (or minimize) the metric. At this point all parties should be closing in on agreement, or knowing why their effort is turning out fruitless. Learning will have taken place. 8. If there is a will, go back a few steps, change things and try again. But stick to the paradigm.
What if your counterpart doesn’t want to play this game? What if he just wants to shout his (baseless?) opinion past you. Then you know he’s not serious and has an agenda in the debate not based on any acceptable form of reason, and that he’s probably there to jack you around.
Once more –
1. State objective/purpose 2. Select/define progress measure 3. Constrain solution/outcome alternatives 4. Generate/present alternatives 5. Crank data for solution(s) through metric 6. Evaluate results
Watching the news we were reminded that 20% of post-op patients are back in the hospital within 6 months at a marginal annual cost of almost $100B nationwide. It is one of the biggest components in the expense of healthcare. And we know that hospitals are very dangerous places for your health – medical mistakes kill over 100K patients annually.
So it occurred to me that a promising alternative to recuperating in the hospital would be to recuperate at home, a place that is usually much more free of all those drug resistant bugs comfortably ensconced in our hospitals. Today, the desperate loved ones of patients essentially park themselves bedside in the hospitals to monitor what the staff and docs do and shouldn’t do. The stories of the mistakes they catch are hair raising. In addition, their being there provides much more attentive care to the patient who can otherwise go into early stages of starvation, bedsores,dehydration, over/under/mis medication, ... when waiting for a response from a nurse.
My solution is to bring the patient home and set him up in his own bedroom or house where a loved one is already in residence. Bring all the electronic monitoring equipment along, and wire him up like in the hospital. It doesn’t take much to add a smart (and tomorrow even smarter) box that communicates the whole myriad of readings to the hospital staff at the nurse’s station, and also to the cell phone of the home caregiver. This is the caregiver who now doesn’t have to drive to the hospital, stay there interminably, and try to get some sleep in a chair.
Besides the psychological benefits to the patient, the savings in such a set up would be enormous. The caregiver can be taught fairly quickly to do almost all of the routine maintenance of the patient, including administering certain drugs and procedures under the direction of healthcare professionals at the hospital or the attending physician’s office (recall that we have video monitoring now). When some combination of patient signs triggers an alert, the professional can contact the at-home caregiver to instruct him what should be done. And, of course, if the situation is beyond the ken or capability of the caregiver, then a professional can be dispatched or the patient brought in. But that is a low probability event over the aggregate population of such recoveries.
Yes, there is always the chance that something can happen to the patient that requires the full facilities of a hospital’s emergency response capability, but again look at the probabilities. No doubt some patients will die if this policy is implemented nationwide. But I submit that the attendant morbidity and mortality rates of this approach will be insignificantly different from those encountered in hospital recoveries. And none of this home care will take place without the full permission of the patient or his responsible agent.
However, such enlightened approaches to healthcare will make a difference only when the informed patient (or agent) is allocating his own healthcare dollar. The perception of spending other people’s money in any medical undertaking will only continue the insane policies of today’s government mangled healthcare markets that promise to become more so as Obamacare increases its cold embrace of the nation's ill and infirm in the coming months.
This is TechTest season, and we're in the middle of the preparatory seminars for this year's test to be given on 23 March. In an ongoing discussion about Nevada County schools' performance in preparing students for STEM careers, I received a succinct summary (below) from a respected Nevada Union teacher about the problem we at SESF have observed now for some years - it appears that the malady is both entrenched and systemic.
main problem is the complete lack of technical focus in education. How is
it possible that any child can make it to Nevada Union and have never used
Word and Excel? Yet this is the case. We have no computer science
classes taught here and what is taught has to be done in too short a
time. Even the best and brightest students at NU are intimidated by
technology. Not only that, they don't see why it is needed. I think
this stems from an education that does not stress its importance, most teachers
have no background in any technical major and therefor avoid tech like the plague. The foundation
needs to be set in the middle schools or perhaps even younger. We have 2
clubs here that are harboring some talent, but this constitutes about 0.5% of
our student population. (emphasis mine, gjr)
The US Postal Service reports a ‘loss’ of $15.9B last year. We're told that $11B of it was a mandated payment into their employees’ pension fund. With that union negotiated albatross around their neck there’s no way in hell that they can ever hope for solvency. Another government agency bites the dust from pension corruption costs. And the country’s Left continues to deny that public service pensions are taking jurisdiction after jurisdiction down the toilet. Where is that elusive common ground?
In response to the USPS woes a Berkeley city councilman (where else?) is proposing a national tax on emails to do what? To fund the pension liabilities of the USPS, what else? The Repubs may have shot themselves in the foot for sticking to principles and issues few people care about, but the Dems continue to demonstrate that most of them are simply certifiable.
Well, it turns out that I’ve underestimated the deep doo-doo that LA is in and sinking ever deeper. In addition to Vallejo, Stockton, San Bernardino, ..., Moody’s says that 30 more California cities are on their debt downgrade list headed for bankruptcy, and odds are overwhelming that LA is one of them. The city is in an awful state of disrepair, owes tens of billions, has most of its elected officials in some condition of corruption, an education system that is in the gutter, no major industry left besides the socialist socialites of Hollywood, … - the list goes on. Meanwhile, Moonbeam and his merry morons in Sacramento have not a clue about what is happening other than trying to patch the state’s hundreds of billions in unfunded liabilities with yet more taxes.
As we have noted for some years, California’s progressives now ensconced in Democrat super-majorities are continuing policies that are harmful to the economic health of those they claim to help, and whom they regularly bamboozle with their election year rhetoric. Those folks are not all that bright since they keep voting for the same political shills year after year. In recent times the pain has gotten so bad that there has developed an exodus of these middle class and poorer people headed for places where they can find work and afford to live. The state’s lamestream, of course, keeps a lid on such news, but more journalistic national and international newspapers like the WSJ and The Economist are keeping a close eye on California.
The Great Depression saw an influx of 1.3M from parts east like the Dust Bowl states. But decades of Democrat control have now reversed the direction for the less well heeled – a net 3.4M have moved out over the last twenty years during which things have gone from bad to worse for all but the upper quintile of Californians. Yes, the wealthier get taxed more, but to the real wealthy it really makes no never mind. They have ways to avoid the pain, and therefore still continue to come and land on/near a California beach somewhere. It has to do with esoteria like monetary utility (which I’ll talk about in the future).
[This piece continues the RR series on the US economy and the factors taking it into new regions - unknown unknowns - during these pre-Singularity years. As usual, the frail and the young should be spared from these deliberations.]
Productivity of a nation’s workforce is an important metric in understanding its prospects for growth and its ability to compete globally. The bottom line metric of workforce productivity has been to divide gross national product (GDP) by the number of workers involved in producing it. But puzzling on it a bit reveals that there’s more to the story. After all, we are talking about a nation’s ability to output product at some level of unit cost – note that I did not say ‘unit of labor cost’.
Since the GDP of a country includes government spending, and since a big part of what government spends is in transfer payments that don’t directly support production (see figure in endnote), shouldn’t that somehow enter the productivity calculation? Also, workforce members not participating, due to a number of reasons, are still sustained by the economy (to a large part by transfer payments), should they not be factored in since they remain as a ballast or deadweight in their unemployed condition?
In short, if we were to compute a true productivity index for a nation in the units of productive GDP per each member of the workforce, whether employed or not, then we should compensate that index for these factors since they affect both growth and global competitiveness. My effort to do that required searching for a lot of data that could be used commensurately. The result is shown as the ‘Available Workforce Compensated Productivity Index’ (AWCPI) which uses the workforce as consisting of the total of employed and unemployed for any given year. The GDP is compensated by subtracting out that year’s direct transfer payments, but leaving in any multiplier effect from such payments – i.e. a consumer spending his unemployment check on household expenses, entertainment, etc.
America is being harmed beyond measure by its government. It is no longer death by a thousand cuts – we have advanced to the slash and burn level of self destruction. The Competitive Enterprise Institute in cooperation with the Weidenbaum Center has compiled these astounding stats from the feds’ own data. Under the Obama administration -
- $1.752T is the FY2012 cost of regulatory compliance inflicted on the country’s private sector. This is more than one tenth of the country’s entire GDP. - In FY2012 Obama issued another $216B in regulatory costs. This was actually an election year pullback which will be remedied in the remainder of his second term. - In FY2013 the feds will spend $59B in regulatory enforcement. - Regulatory agencies employ 283,600 people in full time staff positions.
And according to the WH Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (the outfit run by Cass Sunstein), during the Great Recession (aka Depression2) –
- Obama’s administration issued five times more regulations during his first three years than Bush2 in his eight years. - The cost per regulation for Obama has been 3.5X the cost under President Clinton.
And this is only a small part of the whole trail of tears onto which Washington has marched the country. It is hard to accept that this self-administered pain and suffering during a time of economic hardship is being inflicted by a pro-America government vs a regime with another agenda. Perhaps we err as we hopefully continue to view it as iatrogenics.
Detroit is cueing up as the nation’s latest testimony to collective mismanagement. It is truly the poster child for what happens when you mix capitalist hubris, progressive pap, unions (public and private), and politically correct ignorance with generous dollops of corruption. The result is a city that is now on the last stages of life support, a city where the remnants of those who can are leaving, and leaving it to those who can’t or won’t. Or as the WSJ puts it, Detroit is “a sprawling city with $14 billion in debt, a depleted tax base, a legacy of government corruption—and very little time left to avert financial collapse.” Chapter 9 bankruptcy is in the offing.
Few cities have had the geographical advantage and abundant gifts of commerce that blessed post-WW2 Detroit. In 1950 its population was 1.5M, and today it has shrunk to 700K, as the productive and civilized are still taking their leave in droves. The latest we hear is that the state of Michigan will take over, and run the city with an appointed ‘financial manager’. Readers already know that Detroit has debt and unfunded liabilities hole too deep to climb out of (see ‘Hiroshima+66, Detroit+welfare’ and here).
Detroit is just the latest and most visible on the list of cities across the country going under. (See nearby interactive map for the most recent jurisdictions filing Chapter 9.) California, of course the leader in all things social and socialist, already sports a Chapter 9 club with Vallejo, Stockton, Mammoth Lakes, and San Bernardino as members. And its crown jewel, the City of the Angels, is quietly fighting insolvency. A look at the nature of LA’s fiscal countermeasures again gives lie to the leftwing denial that public service unions and their pension programs are not to blame for the nationwide scourge (here). But there will be anything but crickets if LA has to declare insolvency. I believe Sacramento will sacrifice everything except its socialist goals to keep that from happening.
Across the country teetering giant Atlanta is also fighting to avoid following in the footsteps of another big southern jurisdiction, Jackson County. It is considering the sale of major city infrastructure assets to keep the wolves from its door (here). And so this is a small sampling and an update of what it looks like on the other side of the tipping point as the feds continue to use their fiscal proctoscope to stimulate the country's jump off the real fiscal cliff. As usual, the government always starts on the wrong end of the problem.
[This is the transcript of my KVMR commentary broadcast on 1 March 2013.]
It’s hard to think good thoughts about what is going on in Washington and the competency of our government. We seem to have entered into an endless sequence of crises, questionable appointments, and scandals which literally have no end – they now stretch into the future as far as the eye can see, and then there are still more out there waiting that we can’t see. As a political junkie even I am overwhelmed.
We just concluded cabinet appointments that made it not because of the candidates’ sterling resumes – they are arguably awful - but simply because of party loyalty. The guy for Secretary of Defense was at a loss to explain anything that was relevant to his office, and the Secretary of the Treasury candidate told the Senate that he didn’t really know what he did in private practice, why he got those big million dollar bonuses, and what experience recommends him for the job. Nevertheless, these two are now the worthies one of whom will maintain our national security in the face of shrinking defense budgets, and the other one will be in charge of keeping China lending us money they will never see repaid.
And the borrowing will go on forever because we will never bring our federal budget under control – all budgets and obligations call for every aspect of spending to increase indefinitely. Washington’s claim of reducing spending is a very big fairy tale told repeatedly to a very large population of faithful morons. The rule to spending cuts is simple – publicly plan to spend at some arbitrary and prodigious rate, then with much breast beating reduce the planned outlays to their usual budget busting levels, and then credit the difference to your having reduced spending – the sheeple will never know. Meanwhile, the actual dollar amounts of spending just keep roaring upward year after year.
If you see fraud, and you don’t shout fraud, you are a fraud. – NN Taleb
Among other things Nassim Nicholas Taleb is a flâneur, mathematician, probabilist, systems thinker extraordinaire, philosopher, elitist, and most certainly a curmudgeon. I ran into him years ago when doing some research in financial engineering. He had just quit being a successful Wall Street trader, and got a job as a college professor exploring and disseminating (mostly his) ideas about “decision making under opacity.” The more I read him, the more I wanted to be like him when I grew up – so I became his student.
Readers may have heard about Taleb when they first ran into the now well-worn notion of a ‘black swan’ event (q.v. and here and here). Besides numerous technical papers on things like low probability events and infrequent happenings, he has written three books for the intelligent reader – the man is also extremely well-read, well-traveled, speaks several languages, and does not readily suffer fools nor write for the thinking impaired. Fooled by Randomness (2001) was his initial foray in which he introduced Black Swan to a wider audience. Because the book also introduced realworld risk taking in a new and revealing light, it was immediately picked up by the investment and banking communities, and we began seeing ‘black swan’ in the popular press.
His next book – surprisingly titled Black Swan (2007) - expanded on the topics of risk that now reached into public policy making, and embraced people familiar with behavioral economics. Somewhere in there he caught the attention of Nobelist Daniel Kahneman, who along with Tversky RIP, founded behavioral economics, and documented the foibles and fables of human decision making in his recent Thinking,Fast and Slow (2012), a must read in its own right.
And after letting a few more years pass and his popularity (notoriety?) grow, Taleb decided to gather his own near and far thinking into one volume that he purports as his summa, Antifragile – Things That Gain from Disorder (2012). The book runs over 570 pages with diagrams and squiggly laden technical appendixes. In the process of covering the extension of his ideas to what Taleb calls antifrigility, he takes the reader through a wonderful journey of western philosophy going back past the Greeks. Heavy emphasis is shown to Mediterranean civilizations since Taleb is an immigrant from Christian Lebanon, and all things Levantine (including things Arabic) are firmly embedded in his double helix. But the reader also learns about fine foods and wine available in various hideaways all over Europe, as he is regaled with the inner workings of complex systems that have been intelligent enough to adapt and even thrive in hostile environments – Man happens to be one of them.