Monthly Archives: February 2013

Open Question For Minimum Wage Supporters

Cafe HayekAn open and earnest question for our President and any minimum wage supporters from Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek:

If a government policy that artificially raises the price of Chinese-made tires reduces the quantities of such tires that are bought, why does a government policy that artificially raises the price of low-skilled labor not reduce the quantities of such labor that are hired?

Fascinating.

An Impact Of Sequestration

Budget Cut

I’m more than a little annoyed that the whole sequestration process is refereed to as a cut in funding.  Washington is referring to the budget action in this manner and worse, the media is reporting as a cut in funding as well.  The truth is that spending will not be cut but will. in fact, increase.  The difference is that the level of increase is less than it might otherwise have been.

Only slightly less annoying than this detail is the rhetoric coming out of the White House regarding the impacts of these cuts.  Everything from having to mothball an aircraft carrier to the FBI losing agents to DHS releasing illegal immigrants to teachers and first responders getting fired.  Heck, even traveling is going to get harder with TSA agents facing shortages.

I suspect precious little of this will actually occur.  Take for example, teachers:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjS0Qp5JiNI

The good part is at 1:30.

The sequestration is SO bad that teachers are already receiving pink slips; they are already being fired.

But, is it true:

Near the very end, the Secretary gets into a little detail.  The teachers in jeopardy of losing their jobs are Title I teachers; folks who are funded through the federal government. But right after that, at about 1:50, he also mentions a teeny tiny piece of information:

The cuts may not be related to sequestration.

Further information:

When he was pressed in a White House briefing Wednesday to come up with an example, Duncan named a single county in West Virginia and acknowledged, “whether it’s all sequester-related, I don’t know.”

And, as it turns out, it isn’t.

Officials in Kanawha County, West Virginia say that the “transfer notices” sent to at least 104 educators had more to do with a separate matter that involves a change in the way West Virginia allocates federal dollars designated for poor children.

The transfer notices are required by state law and give teachers a warning that they may be moved to a different position next school year. They don’t necessarily mean a teacher has been laid off, said Pam Padon, director of federal programs and Title 1 for the Kanawha County public schools. “It’s not like we’re cutting people’s jobs at this point.”

She said those 104 notices will ultimately result in the elimination of about five to six teaching jobs, which were likely to be cut regardless of the sequester.

“The major impact is not so much sequestration,” she said. “Those five or six jobs would already be gone regardless of sequestration.”

So we have increases in spending referred to as cuts in spending.  Then you have cuts in services turning out not to be true.  I’m beginning to believe the reports that more frightening to the democrats than the actual sequestration is that the impact won’t even be noticed.  America is going to wake up on Friday and realize that we can cut $85 billion and not even know we did it.

 

Irony

My home state doing my not proud:

Thousands of teachers across Minnesota take the Basic Skills Test every year. They are required to pass it before they receive their license to teach. One lawmaker says about 20-percent of those teachers fail the exam. And now there’s a bill in the House that would repeal the Basic Skills Test as a requirement for a teaching license. Some critics of the exam say it unfairly keeps highly qualified teachers out of the classroom.

Seriously.  How can an occupation that subjects people to routine tests to demonstrate mastery also claim that such tests on themselves are onerous?  It’s as bad as when teachers, people who claim to be able to adjudicate mastery of such things as understanding of Shakespeare, claim that teachers can not be measured.

One of the best things I ever did was to decide to be a teacher.  Additionally, one of the best things I ever did was leave teaching.

Rand Paul: Values

Rand Paul

Look, you might like more government rather than less.  Perhaps you like more guns than less.  Taxes on the rich?  More money on the less fortunate?

Let’s debate that.  Earnestly and honestly.

But honestly.

And when you are living the line and walking the walk, walk it like this:

(CNN) – Sen. Rand Paul cut another six-figure check to the United States Treasury Wednesday, taking the money he said he didn’t need from his office’s budget to make a tiny dent in the nation’s massive federal debt.

“We watch every purchase,” Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, said at an event next to an oversized check for $600,000. “We watch what computers we buy, what paper we buy, the ink cartridges. We treat the money like it’s our money, or your money, and we look at every expenditure.”

The $600,000 reflects more than 20% of Paul’s annual office budget, according to a press release.

Last year Paul returned $500,000 to the Treasury, and said he hoped other members of Congress would follow his cost-cutting lead. In total, Paul’s office says they’ve returned $1.1 million that was unspent from his office’s operating budget.

Rand.  Ayn Rand.  A little weird, sure.  But the dude’s living the lesson.

Unions: Legalized Racketeering

Unions

I have no issue whatsoever with the McWorker, along side his McFriend, walking into the McBoss’s office and asking for a raise.  And if denied, threatening that the two of them, in hopes they are valuable, will walk off the job and go to work somewhere else.

In this case, the McBoss can call the McBluff and say, “No raise for you!” and hope the McWorkers get back to McWork.  Or, perhaps the McBoss, seeing the value of the McWorkers, will relent and approve the raise and everyone is happy.

In other words, uniting in the pursuit of self interests is fine.  As long as the rules are fair for everyone.  And when it comes to unions, the rules are most certainly not fair:

“The most glaring examples of union favoritism under state laws,” notes a 2012 U.S. Chamber of Commerce report, “tend to occur in criminal statutes and allow individuals who engage in truly objectionable behavior to avoid prosecution solely because they are participating in some form of labor activity.”

Pennsylvania unions now enjoy a loophole that the state’s anti-stalking law “shall not apply to conduct by a party to a labor dispute.” In Illinois, anti-stalking laws exempt “any controversy concerning wages, salaries, hours, working conditions or benefits … the making of collective bargaining agreements.”

These exemptions prove that organizing tactics used by unions can have something in common with those of stalkers – and can perhaps inflict similar emotional distress.

While a number of states have exemptions that have allowed union members to intimidate and harass, California is by far the worst actor. As in other states, it is a crime in California to interfere with a lawful business through physical obstruction or intimidation of workers or customers.

Yet California has exempted unions from this law. The negative effects were clear in 2008, when United Food and Commercial Workers Union members picketed a new Ralph’s grocery store in Fresno. They went beyond traditional picketing, harassing customers and instigating confrontations with employees on store property. When store workers finally called the police, authorities refused to come and put a stop to the union’s disruptive behavior.

The police refused to even dispatch to the site.

But it gets even worse:

California also has a host of exemptions that allow union members to violate the property rights of private citizens. The 2008 Researcher Protection Act makes entering the residences of academic researchers to interfere with their work a crime. Sounds reasonable. Yet this doesn’t apply to union members. They can invade a professor’s home in California and it’s not a crime – so long as the invader is “engaged in labor union activities.”

And even worser:

Labor bosses have even deemed it necessary to get legislators to grant unions exemptions from laws against sabotage. Wisconsin’s state law against sabotage exempts unions, so as to not curtail their organizing activities. The fact that anti-sabotage laws might be construed as an impediment to union organizing says more about union organizing efforts than anything else.

Yet, in 2011, union members were alleged to have sabotaged equipment belonging to supporters of Governor Scott Walker’s labor reforms. In New York and New Jersey, during a labor dispute between Verizon and the Communications Workers of America, the telephone company contacted the FBI to investigate allegations of sabotage. The company reported equipment being stolen, fiber-optic lines cut and an office heating system tampered with.

During a union organizing effort in Ohio, the owner of one non-union electrical services company had his tires slashed and rocks thrown at his windows. One of his employees was assaulted. The owner was himself shot in the arm while confronting a person who was vandalizing his car on his property. Other owners of non-union shops experienced similar harassment and intimidation. When the Associated Builders and Contractors called on unions to halt such odious behavior, the unions responded that their actions were perfectly legal.

We all should have the right to bargain for our services and our compensation.  We should be able to grieve our differences when they occur.  But we should all be safe from threats, violence, theft and assault.

Strange But True: Elements Of Obamacare Cost Most Than Originally Expected

Imagine my shock when I heard that portions of Obamacare are running into financial difficulty:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Obama administration on Friday said it would stop enrolling new beneficiaries in a special $5 billion insurance program for people with pre-existing medical conditions, because of rising costs and limited funding.

The news comes a day after a top U.S. healthcare official told lawmakers on Capitol Hill that the administration is grappling with financial difficulties but determined to keep the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) operating in 23 states and the District of Columbia through 2013.

PCIP was established in 2010 under President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law to provide coverage for sick people unable to find it in the private insurance market. The program is designed as a bridge to January 1, 2014, when legal restrictions barring discrimination over medical conditions come into force.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a notice on Friday saying it would suspend new enrollments beginning on Saturday to “help ensure that funds are available through 2013 to continuously cover people currently enrolled in PCIP.”

And what happens to government agencies that find they are short on money?  Why, they ration:

Gary Cohen, the HHS official responsible for overseeing implementation of Obama’s healthcare reforms, including PCIP, told the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday that the administration had begun to alter program benefits while grappling with funding restrictions.

It’s not very difficult to see where this whole thing is going to go.

Starting The Process To Live Legally

I think that this is the right thing to do:

Raleigh, N.C. — State transportation officials announced Thursday that they will begin issuing driver’s licenses and ID cards March 25 to some immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children but qualify under a federal program that blocks deportation and grants work permits.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program blocks deportation of and grants work permits to immigrants brought to the United States as minors without authorization. Eligible applicants include high school students, high school graduates, those with a GED and those who have served in the military and have no felony convictions or significant misdemeanors.

State Transportation Secretary Tony Tata said the issue comes down to accountability and safety. The decision, he said, balances the rights of lawful citizens and those who have a newly accorded lawful status under the DACA program and wish to become citizens.

“They will be able to come in and get a driver’s license. We will know who they are,” Tata said. “They will have a license. They will have insurance, and it will make our roads safer.”

I know that it’s gonna be tricky and tough, but we simply have to begin to address the large number of folks who, for every single intent and purpose, are Americans to be able to live the life of a legal American.

Crafting Legislation Without Passing Laws

Gavel

Yesterday I posted on the trend, new or old it turns out, taking place in statehouses across the country.  We are seeing a rash of new legislation being proposed that would make it a crime for anyone to enforce any federal regulation speaking to the control of guns.  I find such actions concerning.  Concerning in the same way that I see the federal government prohibiting states from enforcing federal laws.  The example I used yesterday was immigration.

I made the point that Obama wanted to adjust the policy on immigration and implement reforms that he favors.  Earlier in his 1st term he was speaking to proponents of immigration reform and mentioned that there is very little that he could do; current law is, after all, current law and he is obligated to enforce that law.

Well, as we know, he walked away from that position.  First he sued states like Arizona who wanted to enforce federal law.  Then, of course, he issued an executive order that said, in part, that he would not prosecute “Dreamers”.  That is, those folks who are here illegally but were brought to America as children, are not going to be subject to current immigration laws.

Justification was that Obama isn’t changing laws, he’s simply allocating scare resources and, as executive, he can do that.

I think this whole concept, as I mentioned, is dangerous.  And I think that the precedent is going to lead to very undesirable outcomes.

For example, consider the next time we have a republican in the White House.  And suppose that he doesn’t agree with the tax code, specifically feels that tax levels are too high at various level of income. Rather than wrestle with congress to pass new laws, he can simply issue an executive order stating that he will not prosecute individuals, at specific levels of incomes, who don’t pay taxes in excess of what he feels is fair.

Or, perhaps taking cue from the waivers to Obamacare, he decides to issue corporate tax waivers to selected industries or corporations.

Complete confusion and chaos.

Enforcing Federal Laws

Federal vs State

I don’t like strategy of individual states introducing, perhaps passing, legislation codifying a crime to enforce federal laws.  The rage right now is, of course, those laws referring to the enforcement of any federal ban or restriction on  gun ownership.

The latest version that I’ve seen is in Texas:

AUSTIN, Texas –  Under a measure advancing in the Texas Capitol, local police officers could be convicted of a crime for enforcing any new federal gun control laws.

Rep. Steve Toth, a newly elected Republican from the Woodlands, said his proposal would prevent officers from carrying out any future federal orders to confiscate assault rifles and ammunition magazines.

Toth’s proposal would create a Class A misdemeanor for police officers enforcing any new federal gun regulations. It also would establish cause for the state attorney general to sue anyone who seeks to enforce new federal gun regulations. It is one of several states-rights measures being offered by conservative state lawmakers nationwide in response to federal gun control proposals.

I think this is a dangerous path to go down.  We can’t have states running around claiming not to enforce federal laws.  The confusion it would create is massive.  Not to mention the continual lurching back and forth as one party or another assumes the role of majority and passes legislation that would enforce said law.

Untenable.

With that said, I have to admit that I feel a bit of “tribal yelp” as I see the states reacting like this.  And I have to work hard to subdue those passions are work to look at the goal objectively.

However, while I don’t think states should willy nilly decide which federal laws they will or will not enforce, it is important to point out that this is in direct response to Obama’s decision to restrict states from enforcing federal laws that HE disagrees with.  Namely, states trying to enforce immigration laws already on the books.  Let’s not forget the battle in Arizona where the Obama administration sued Arizona.

So, while the logical conclusion of this activity is undesirable, that conclusion was set in motion by Obama.

French Unions

FailCould it get worse than that?

Anyway, turns out that France is trying to induce business to invest in France.  And one of the areas is in tire manufacturing:

French Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg had asked the U.S. mogul [Maurice Taylor of Titan] to take over a Goodyear tire factory that is due to close.

The factory is located in Amiens in France’s industrial heartland, 75 miles north of Paris. Goodyear Tire & Rubber company reported in January that it will close the unprofitable plant, putting around 1,000 workers out of jobs.

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and guess that the French factory is full of union workers, that they are wonderfully unproductive and THAT is the reason why the plant is:

  1. Closing
  2. Not going to be purchased by Titan

“How stupid do you think we are?” wrote Maurice Taylor, in a letter to French Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg, obtained by French business newspaper Les Echos on Wednesday.

“I have visited that factory a couple of times. The French workforce gets paid high wages, but works only three hours. They get one hour for breaks and lunch, talk for three and work for three hours,” he wrote.

“I told this to the French union workers to their faces. They told me that’s the French way!”

“Titan is going to buy a Chinese tire company or an Indian one, pay less than one Euro per hour wage and ship all the tires France needs,” he wrote. “You can keep the so-called workers. Titan has no interest in the Amiens North factory.”

Yup.  Sounds about right to me.