President Obama’s 2014 State of the Union Address

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 30th, 2014

Politics 101

Democrats offered Enthusiastic Applause for Unsound Policy Proposals that have no Basis in Reality

President Obama’s 2014 State of the Union address was a little longer than an hour.  But if you didn’t look at a clock it felt a lot longer.  For it was the same tripe you hear all the time from this administration.  And the political left.  It was full of misleading statements.  Inaccurate facts and figures.  And some lies.  The usual stuff you expect from the liberal left.  But what was really disturbing was the enthusiastic applause for some really unsound policy proposals that have no basis in reality.  Showing either how clueless these enthusiastic Democrats are about economics, business, national security, etc.  Or how amoral they are in their quest for power.  As they judge and implement policy not by how it will improve the lives of Americans.  But how it will improve their lives in government.

Some Big Reasons why Businesses export Jobs are Taxes, Regulations and Labor Costs

If there was ever an example of what people not to have in power this state of the union theater was it.  Following are excerpts from President Obama’s speech (see FULL TRANSCRIPT: Obama’s 2014 State of the Union address posted 1/28/2014 on The Washington Post).  Comments and analysis follow each excerpt.

And here are the results of your efforts: the lowest unemployment rate in over five years; a rebounding housing market — (applause) — a manufacturing sector that’s adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s — (applause) — more oil produced — more oil produced at home than we buy from the rest of the world, the first time that’s happened in nearly twenty years — (applause) — our deficits cut by more than half; and for the first time — (applause) — for the first time in over a decade, business leaders around the world have declared that China is no longer the world’s number one place to invest; America is.

The total number of people who left the civilian labor force since President Obama took office is 11,301,000 (see The BLS Employment Situation Summary for December 2013 posted 1/13/2014 on PITHOCRATES).  Which means the unemployment rate is meaningless.  The only reason why it’s falling is that the BLS doesn’t count unemployed people who gave up looking for jobs that just aren’t there.  Oil production on private land may be up.  While overall oil consumption is down because of the Great Recession that just won’t end.  Which is helping to keep gas prices down.  Unemployed people just don’t have the money to buy gas.  So they don’t.  Greatly reducing the demand for gas.  Thus reducing gas prices and oil imports.  George W. Bush’s last deficit was $498.37 billion.  President Obama’s first deficit was $1,539.22 billion.  And it was over $1 trillion in 2010, 2011 and 2012.  It fell to $680 billion in 2013 thanks to the sequester.  But the deficit is larger now than when President Obama assumed office.  The only reduction in the deficit is a reduction in the amount he increased it.

Now, as president, I’m committed to making Washington work better, and rebuilding the trust of the people who sent us here.

Really?  You’re committed to rebuilding the trust of the people?  Mr. “If you like your health insurance you can keep your health insurance.  Period.”  Otherwise known as the lie of the year.  You’re going to rebuild the trust of the people?  Good luck with that.  What with your pants on fire and all.

Today, after four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better. But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled. The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by; let alone to get ahead. And too many still aren’t working at all.

Well, finally something Republicans can agree with the president about.  Yes, his economic policies have benefitted Wall Street.  While hurting Main Street.  Finally some bipartisan agreement.

So let’s make that decision easier for more companies. Both Democrats and Republicans have argued that our tax code is riddled with wasteful, complicated loopholes that punish businesses investing here, and reward companies that keep profits abroad. Let’s flip that equation. Let’s work together to close those loopholes, end those incentives to ship jobs overseas, and lower tax rates for businesses that create jobs right here at home. (Cheers, applause.)

There are only a few reasons why businesses export jobs.  And the big three are taxes, regulations and labor costs.  The Obama administration wants to raise taxes.  They’ve increased regulatory costs.  And they support costly union labor.  So everything they stand for encourages businesses to export jobs.

But — but I’ll act on my own to slash bureaucracy and streamline the permitting process for key projects, so we can get more construction workers on the job as fast as possible. (Applause.)

So how’s that approval for the Keystone XL pipeline coming along?  That thing you’ve been studying since 2010?  Which by the laws of arithmetic is approximately 4 years ago.  Is this slashing bureaucracy and streamlining the permitting process?  At this rate it would probably be quicker to elect a Republican president in 2016.  You know, someone who, when it comes to economic activity, walks it while the Democrats only talk it.

We also have the chance, right now, to beat other countries in the race for the next wave of high-tech manufacturing jobs. And my administration’s launched two hubs for high-tech manufacturing in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Youngstown, Ohio, where we’ve connected businesses to research universities that can help America lead the world in advanced technologies.

Universities are in the grant business.  They want as many grants as they can get to help bring money into the university.  And to do so they will study anything the government wants them to.  No matter how wasteful it is.  While some of the biggest high-tech companies started in garages.  Apple, Google, Hewlett Packard and Microsoft.  To name a few.  Yes, there is a lot of university-driven research.  But the big innovation is more entrepreneurial.  Created by people thinking up new stuff no one thought of yet.  Which is the last thing you want government involved in.  That same government that can’t build a website using 1990s technology.

Let’s do more to help the entrepreneurs and small business owners who create most new jobs in America. Over the past five years, my administration has made more loans to small business owners than any other. And when 98 percent of our exporters are small businesses, new trade partnerships with Europe and the Asia-Pacific will help them create even more jobs. We need to work together on tools like bipartisan trade promotion authority to protect our workers, protect our environment and open new markets to new goods stamped “Made in the USA.” (Applause.)

You want to help entrepreneurs and small business?  Get rid of Obamacare.  And slash tax rates.  This will provide incentive.  And allow them to reinvest more of their earnings to grow their business.  Allowing them to create those jobs.

Now, one of the biggest factors in bringing more jobs back is our commitment to American energy. The “all the above” energy strategy I announced a few years ago is working, and today America is closer to energy independence than we have been in decades. (Applause.)

‘All of the above’ as long as it isn’t coal, oil or nuclear.  But if it’s solar power and wind power they are committed to giving more tax dollars to their friends and bundlers in the green energy industry.

Meanwhile, my administration will keep working with the industry to sustain production and jobs growth while strengthening protection of our air, our water, our communities. And while we’re at it, I’ll use my authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations. (Applause.)

You can’t sustain production and jobs growth by strengthening protection of our air, water and pristine federal lands.  That’s just more regulatory costs.  And raising energy costs by not allowing any oil or natural gas production on those pristine federal lands.  Raising energy costs by restricting supply.  Which raises business costs.  In addition to those new regulatory costs.

Every four minutes another American home or business goes solar, every panel pounded into place by a worker whose job can’t be outsourced. Let’s continue that progress with a smarter tax policy that stops giving $4 billion a year to fossil fuel industries that don’t need it so we can invest more in fuels of the future that do. (Cheers, applause.)

That says it all.  Fossil fuels don’t need subsidies because their costs are affordable.  While solar (and wind power) are so costly that they are unaffordable.  Unless government heavily subsidizes them.

But the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact. (Applause.) And when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did. (Cheers, applause.)

There is no such thing as settled science.  Only science that has yet to be disproved.  Besides, once upon a time glaciers stretched down from the poles to near the equator.  And then receded back to where they are now.  All without any manmade carbon in the atmosphere to warm the planet.  As we were still simple hunter and gatherers then.  So if the glaciers moved more before there was manmade global warming they’ll move again regardless of what man is doing to warm the planet.

Finally, if we’re serious about economic growth, it is time to heed the call of business leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders, law enforcement — and fix our broken immigration system. (Cheers, applause.) Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have acted, and I know that members of both parties in the House want to do the same. Independent economists say immigration reform will grow our economy and shrink our deficits by almost $1 trillion in the next two decades. And for good reason: When people come here to fulfill their dreams — to study, invent, contribute to our culture — they make our country a more attractive place for businesses to locate and create jobs for everybody. So let’s get immigration reform done this year. (Cheers, applause.) Let’s get it done. It’s time.

Funny how that argument doesn’t apply to birth control and abortion.  The reason we need to “fix our broken immigration system.”  For if we were having babies at the rate when government created the welfare state we could pay for that welfare state today.  But thanks to the Sixties, birth control, abortion and feminism women stopped having babies.  Which is fine if a woman doesn’t want to.  But the progressives designed the welfare state based on them being baby machines.  Creating a greater number of taxpayers with each generation.  So more people pay into the welfare state than collect from it.  The way it must be for a Ponzi scheme to work.

That’s why I’ve been asking CEOs to give more long-term unemployed workers a fair shot at new jobs, a new chance to support their families. And in fact, this week many will come to the White House to make that commitment real.

When you raise the cost of labor (union labor, Obamacare, etc.) businesses tend to look at automating production instead of hiring that costly labor.  They may not be able to do anything about the higher regulatory costs but they can do something about higher labor costs.  Use more machines than people.  If you want CEOs to create new jobs stop making labor so costly.  And you can start with getting rid of Obamacare.

Of course, it’s not enough to train today’s workforce. We also have to prepare tomorrow’s workforce, by guaranteeing every child access to a world-class education. (Applause.)…

Five years ago we set out to change the odds for all our kids. We worked with lenders to reform student loans, and today more young people are earning college degrees than ever before. Race to the Top, with the help of governors from both parties, has helped states raise expectations and performance. Teachers and principals in schools from Tennessee to Washington, D.C., are making big strides in preparing students with the skills for the new economy — problem solving, critical thinking, science, technology, engineering, math.

Yes, more kids are going to college than ever before.  But they’re going there to have fun.  And to facilitate their fun many are getting easy, worthless degrees in the social sciences and humanities.  Costly degrees that universities sold them promising them future riches.  Enriching the university.  While impoverishing their graduates.  For a high-tech company has no use for these degrees.  Which is why a lot of these people end up in jobs they didn’t need that costly degree to do.  And our high-tech companies are using the visa program to get foreigners who have the skills they want.  Problem solving, critical thinking, science, technology, engineering and math.

It requires everything from more challenging curriculums and more demanding parents to better support for teachers and new ways to measure how well our kids think, not how well they can fill in a bubble on a test. But it is worth it — and it is working.

If you want kids to do better we need to champion marriage and family more.  And they should embrace religion a little more.  Instead of encouraging our young women to use birth control and abortion to avoid marriage and family.  And pulling every last vestige of religion from our lives.  Kids growing up in a household with a mother and a father who go to church do far better on average than kids growing up in a single-parent household and don’t go to church (see Strong families steeped in Conservative Values and Traditions do Well in America posted 1/11/2014 on PITHOCRATES).

Research shows that one of the best investments we can make in a child’s life is high-quality early education. (Applause.) Last year, I asked this Congress to help states make high-quality pre-K available to every 4-year-old. And as a parent as well as a president, I repeat that request tonight.

Actually, research doesn’t show that.  Yet they keep saying that.  For it’s like that line in the musical Evita, “Get them while they’re young, Evita.  Get them while they’re young.”  The sooner they can take them away from their parents the sooner they can start turning them into Democrat voters.  Such as teaching them to blame their parents for the manmade global warming that is killing the polar bears as they have no ice to rest on while eating their baby seals.

You know, today, women make up about half our workforce, but they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment.

Women deserve equal pay for equal work. (Cheers, applause.)

Actually, it’s closer to 91 cents (see The White House’s use of data on the gender wage gap by Glenn Kessler posted 6/5/2012 on The Washington Post).  And the small difference is not due to discrimination but personal choice.  When you look at aggregate wages women will make less than men.  Because more women are teachers (with 3 month off without pay) than men are.  Some women work fewer hours at work to spend more time with their children. While men tend to work more overtime.  Men also work the more dangerous and higher paying jobs.  And are more likely to belong to a union.  When you compare childless, single men and women with a college degree some women are actually earning more than men.  Figures don’t lie but liars figure.  And for the contortions the Obama administration did here The Washington Post’s The Fact Checker gave the president one Pinocchio.

Now, women hold a majority of lower-wage jobs, but they’re not the only ones stifled by stagnant wages. Americans understand that some people will earn more money than others, and we don’t resent those who, by virtue of their efforts, achieve incredible success. That’s what America’s all about. But Americans overwhelmingly agree that no one who works full-time should ever have to raise a family in poverty. (Applause.)

In the year since I asked this Congress to raise the minimum wage, five states have passed laws to raise theirs.

You’re not going to have a lot of upward mobility when you pay people more to remain in the jobs they hate.  All the talk about making college more affordable and bringing employers and community colleges together to help give people the skills they need to fill the jobs employers have is all for nothing if they just pay people more for doing an entry-level job.

Let’s do more to help Americans save for retirement. Today most workers don’t have a pension. A Social Security check often isn’t enough on its own. And while the stock market has doubled over the last five years, that doesn’t help folks who don’t have 401(k)s. That’s why tomorrow I will direct the Treasury to create a new way for working Americans to start their own retirement savings: MyRA. It’s a — it’s a new savings bond that encourages folks to build a nest egg.

Once upon a time people opened a savings account at their local bank and they saved to buy a house.  And they saved for their retirement.  That’s how people saved when they didn’t have a pension or a 401(k).  They can’t do that today because of the Federal Reserve destroying the banking industry by keeping interest rates at zero.  If the Fed stopped printing money and let investment capital come from our savings like they did before the Keynesians gave us the Federal Reserve people would be saving like we once did.  And we’d stop having Great Depressions, stagflation and Great Recessions.  Created by their prolonging the growth side of the business cycle.  Which raises prices higher than they normally would go.  Making the contraction side of the business cycle that much more painful.  As those prices have a much longer way to fall than they normally would.  Thanks to the Fed’s meddling with interest rates.

MyRA guarantees a decent return with no risk of losing what you put in. And if this Congress wants to help, work with me to fix an upside-down tax code that gives big tax breaks to help the wealthy save, but does little or nothing for middle-class Americans, offer every American access to an automatic IRA on the job, so they can save at work just like everybody in this chamber can.

You know why they want these MyRAs?  Because they can’t stand people saving money.  They love Social Security.  Because they can borrow from the Social Security Trust Fund.  Which is what they will do with these MyRAs.  They will take this money and spend it.  Filling the MyRA Trust Fund with a bunch of IOUs.  Just like they do with the Social Security Trust Fund.  And then provide a retirement benefit like Social Security.  That is too small to live on.  Whereas if we saved the money ourselves our retirement nest-egg will be much larger.  And it will provide for our retirement.  Unlike Social Security.

And since the most important investment many families make is their home, send me legislation that protects taxpayers from footing the bill for a housing crisis ever again, and keeps the dream of homeownership alive for future generations. (Applause.)

It was Bill Clinton that set the stage for the subprime mortgage crisis with his Policy Statement on Discrimination in Lending (see Bill Clinton created the subprime mortgage crisis with his Policy Statement on Discrimination in Lending posted 11/6/2011 on PITHOCRATES).  Using the heavy hand of government to get lenders to qualify the unqualified.  Then the Fed’s artificially low interest rates were the bait for the trap.  Enticing people to borrow huge sums of money because those interest rates were just too good to pass up.  Even if they weren’t planning to buy a house to begin with. The subprime mortgage crisis and the resulting Great Recession were government made.  If we want to prevent the taxpayers from footing the bill for another housing crisis we need to get the Keynesians out of government.

Already, because of the Affordable Care Act, more than 3 million Americans under age 26 have gained coverage under their parents’ plans. (Applause.)

More than 9 million Americans have signed up for private health insurance or Medicaid coverage — 9 million. (Applause.)

The Washington Post gave this lie three Pinocchios (see Warning: Ignore claims that 3.9 million people signed up for Medicaid because of Obamacare by Glenn Kessler posted 1/16/2014 on The Washington Post).  For they’re counting some 3.9 million who would have signed up anyway for Medicaid regardless of the Affordable Care Act.  Also, the government was counting people who put a health care plan into their shopping cart as if they signed up for it.  Which many couldn’t.  As they haven’t programmed the back end of the health care website yet to actually accept payment or to pass that information on to the insurers.

And here’s another number: zero. Because of this law, no American, none, zero, can ever again be dropped or denied coverage for a pre-existing condition like asthma or back pain or cancer. (Cheers, applause.) No woman can ever be charged more just because she’s a woman. (Cheers, applause.) And we did all this while adding years to Medicare’s finances, keeping Medicare premiums flat and lowering prescription costs for millions of seniors.

That’s right.  Women with reproductive systems that men don’t have won’t pay more for their health insurance than men pay for theirs.  How can they do that?  Simple.  They just are charging men more.  To cover the cost of a reproductive system they don’t have.

Citizenship means standing up for the lives that gun violence steals from us each day. I have seen the courage of parents, students, pastors, and police officers all over this country who say “we are not afraid,” and I intend to keep trying, with or without Congress, to help stop more tragedies from visiting innocent Americans in our movie theaters and our shopping malls, or schools like Sandy Hook. (Applause.)

If you take away guns from law-abiding gun owners that won’t keep dangerous people with mental health issues that want to harm people out of our movie theaters, our shopping malls or schools like Sandy Hook.  For there are other ways to harm people.  Just look at the Boston Marathon bombers.  The people he’s talking about not only had mental health issues but they were also smart.  Many were even college students.  Who probably could think of other ways to hurt people.  And you just can’t take away everything they might use to harm people.  But you can place these people somewhere where they can’t harm anyone.

You see, in a world of complex threats, our security, our leadership depends on all elements of our power — including strong and principled diplomacy. American diplomacy has rallied more than 50 countries to prevent nuclear materials from falling into the wrong hands, and allowed us to reduce our own reliance on Cold War stockpiles.

Since President Obama assumed office he did nothing to support the Green Revolution in Iran.  Which kept the hard-line Islamists in power there.  He gave Egypt to the Muslim Brotherhood by telling Hosni Mubarak that he had to go.  Removing the stable anchor of the Middle East.  And moved Egypt closer to Iran.  (The Egyptian people eventually rose up to overthrow the oppressive Muslim Brotherhood).  He went to war in Libya and helped to overthrow Colonel Muammar Qaddafi.  Who at the time was a quasi ally in the War on Terror.  After the Iraq invasion frightened him into believing he may be next.  President Obama was thanked for his Libyan war by al Qaeda with 4 dead Americans in Benghazi on the anniversary of 9/11.  He waited too long to act in the Syrian civil war.  Which only brought al Qaeda into the conflict.  He failed to attain a status of forces agreement in Iraq.  So he pulled all U.S. forces out of Iraq which has only invited al Qaeda in.  And it looks like this will be repeated in Afghanistan.  He blamed George W. Bush’s wars as recruitment tools for al Qaeda.  While his extensive drone use is doing the same thing.  Especially in Yemen.  The hotbed of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.  All that his diplomacy and leadership has done was to make the world a more dangerous place.

American diplomacy, backed by the threat of force, is why Syria’s chemical weapons are being eliminated. (Applause.) And we will continue to work with the international community to usher in the future the Syrian people deserve — a future free of dictatorship, terror and fear.

His diplomacy with Bashar al-Assad in Syria only gave his oppressive regime legitimacy in the civil war he was raging against his people.  Making it easier for Assad to kill Syrians with conventional arms while he gives up a token amount of his chemical weapons.  While also making Russia who brokered the deal the dominate player in the region.

And it is American diplomacy, backed by pressure, that has halted the progress of Iran’s nuclear program — and rolled back parts of that program — for the very first time in a decade. As we gather here tonight, Iran has begun to eliminate its stockpile of higher levels of enriched uranium.

It’s not installing advanced centrifuges. Unprecedented inspections help the world verify every day that Iran is not building a bomb. And with our allies and partners, we’re engaged in negotiations to see if we can peacefully achieve a goal we all share: preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. (Applause.)

All Iran is doing is pausing their program.  And chemically altering some of their enriched uranium to meet the requirements of this diplomatic deal.  But this chemical process is reversible.  And they will reverse it once they get what they want.  This deal makes the world no safer.  If anything it makes it more dangerous.  For it does not diminish the Iranian nuclear program in the least.  But gives them more time to work on it as they prop up their regime with much needed supplies thanks to a relaxation of the sanctions against them.

These negotiations will be difficult; they may not succeed. We are clear-eyed about Iran’s support for terrorist organizations like Hezbollah, which threaten our allies; and we’re clear about the mistrust between our nations, mistrust that cannot be wished away. But these negotiations don’t rely on trust; any long-term deal we agree to must be based on verifiable action that convinces us and the international community that Iran is not building a nuclear bomb. If John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan could negotiate with the Soviet Union, then surely a strong and confident America can negotiate with less powerful adversaries today. (Applause.)

The sanctions that we put in place helped make this opportunity possible. But let me be clear: if this Congress sends me a new sanctions bill now that threatens to derail these talks, I will veto it. (Applause.) For the sake of our national security, we must give diplomacy a chance to succeed.

The Soviet Union never attacked U.S. soil.  And there was a reason they didn’t.  They were rational.  And knew they would lose a great deal in a war with America.  Especially a nuclear one.  Which is why they never used their nuclear weapons.  But Iran giving a nuclear weapon to a shadowy group that is not a state?  With little to lose in using a nuclear weapon?  If it’s not a nuclear missile there will be no way in knowing where the nuclear bomb came from.  We can have our suspicions that Iran made it and gave it to someone.  But do we nuke Iran over that?  What if there are more nukes in the hands of al Qaeda, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, etc.?  You could nuke Iran back to the Stone Age but it won’t stop those others being used.  The president insists this will not happen as Iran signed an agreement.  The only problem with that is the Iranians are liars.  And they call the United States the Great Satan.   These two facts suggest that replacing those sanctions with a promise not to build nuclear bombs was probably not a wise trade.

But for more than two hundred years, we have put those things aside and placed our collective shoulder to the wheel of progress: to create and build and expand the possibilities of individual achievement; to free other nations from tyranny and fear; to promote justice and fairness and equality under the law, so that the words set to paper by our founders are made real for every citizen.

Use our collective shoulder to expand individual achievement?  The president believes in the former more than the latter.  He didn’t help the Iranians get free from tyranny when he had the chance.  And he turned the Egyptian people over to tyranny.  The Muslim Brotherhood.  Who were oppressing women and Christians.  Fairness and equality under the law?  Ask those Tea Party groups who were targeted by the IRS about fairness and equality under the law.  The Constitution?  That document of negative rights?  The left hates it.  And insists it’s a living document that can evolve over time to suit the needs of an expanding government.  So they can do exactly what the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution to prevent from happening.

The Left endorses Unsound Policy Proposals with no Basis in Reality to improve their Chances of Winning Elections

The country is more conservative than liberal (see Liberal Self-Identification Edges Up to New High in 2013 by Jeffrey M. Jones posted 1/10/2014 on Gallup).  Which is why liberals want state-funded pre-K to start indoctrinating our children as soon as possible.  To get them away from their parents so they can begin the process of turning them into Democrat voters.  It’s why kids are getting worthless social science and humanities degrees.  To further indoctrinate them.  Because their views are minority views.  So they need to play loose with the facts.  And lie.  Which is easier to do with indoctrinated kids than educated adults.  You’ll even hear Democrats talk about lowering the voting age.  To get a few more years of voting out of these kids before they grow old and wise.  And begin voting conservative.  So they do what they can to dumb down education.  Lie.  Cheat.  And buy as many votes as they can by giving away free stuff.  And the thing they really want to give away is citizenship for illegal aliens.  Who they are sure will be forever grateful.  And show it by voting Democrat.

This explains the enthusiastic applause for unsound policy proposals that have no basis in reality.  For the left is not interested in improving the lives of Americans.  They just want to improve their chances of winning elections.

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Roosevelt, Wage and Price Controls, Fringe Benefits, Health Insurance, Pensions, Unions, Bankruptcy and Bethlehem Steel

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 3rd, 2013

History 101

(Originally published November 20th, 2012)

The Roosevelt Administration fought Inflation by Passing a Law to Cap Employee Wages

Most times when those in government try to fix things they end up making things worse.  Giving us the unintended consequences of their best intentions.  And the government had some good intentions during World War II.  They were printing money to pay for a surge in government spending to pay for war production.  As well as a host of New Deal programs.  Which sparked off some inflation.  Inflation is bad.  Enter their best intentions.

One of the biggest drivers of inflation is wages.  Higher wages increase a company’s costs.  Which they must recover in their selling prices.  So higher wages lead to higher prices.  Higher prices increase the cost of living.  Making it more difficult for workers to get by without a pay raise.  Which puts pressure on employers to raise wages.  If they do they pass on these higher costs to their customers via higher prices.  It’s a vicious cycle.  And one all governments want to avoid.  Because higher costs reduce economic activity.  And that’s how governments get their money.  Taxing economic activity.

Enter wage and price controls.  The Roosevelt administration thought the way to solve the problem of inflation was simply passing a law to cap employee wages.  To halt the vicious cycle of escalating prices and wages.  Something employers didn’t like.  For that’s how they got the best people to work for them.  By offering them higher wages.  With that no longer an option what did these employers do to get the best people to work for them?  They started offering fringe benefits.  Which became a killer of business.

As People lived longer in Retirement Retiree Pension and Health Care Expenses Soared

Employers began offering health insurance and pensions as fringe benefits for the first time.  To get around the wage and price controls of the Roosevelt administration.  Which they had to pass on to their customers via higher prices.  So the wage and price controls failed to do what they were supposed to do.  Keep a company’s costs down.  Worse, these benefits made promises many of these businesses just couldn’t keep.

Roosevelt also empowered unions.   Who would negotiate ever more generous contracts.  By demanding generous pay and benefits for current workers.  And pensions and health care for retired workers.  But it didn’t end there.  The unions also expanded their membership as much as possible.  So in those contracts they also got very costly workplace rules.  If a lamp burnt out at a workstation the worker had to call an electrician to replace the lamp.  They could not screw in a new lamp themselves.  The unions defined every work activity in a workplace and created a job classification for it.  And only a worker in that job classification could do that work.  Which swelled the labor rolls at unionized plants.  Who all were receiving generous pay and benefits.  As were a growing number of retired workers.  Greatly increasing labor costs.

For awhile businesses could absorb these costs.  Business was growing.  As was the population.  There were more younger workers entering the factories than there were older workers retiring from them.  But things started changing in the Sixties.  The population growth rate flattened out thanks to birth control and abortion.  So as the population grew slower the domestic demand for manufactured goods fell.  While in the Seventies foreign competition increased.  So you had falling demand and a rising supply.  Making it harder to pass on those high labor costs anymore.  Which proved to be a great problem as their market share fell.  For as they laid off employees fewer and fewer workers were paying the pensions and health care costs for an ever growing number of retirees.  Pensions were chronically underfunded.  Worse, people began to live longer in retirement thanks to advances in medicine.  Increasing retiree pension and health care expenses for these businesses.  Bleeding some of them dry.

Bethlehem Steel filed Bankruptcy when they had 11,500 Active Workers and 120,000 Retirees and Dependents

Bethlehem Steel helped build America.  And win World War II.  It made the steel for the Golden Gate Bridge.  And the bridges between New York and New Jersey.  Many of the skyscrapers you see on Manhattan are made with Bethlehem steel.  Little Steel.  Second only to Big Steel.  U.S. Steel.  Big Steel and Little Steel dominated the US steel industry.  Until, that is, foreign competition entered their market.  And the steel minimills arrived on the scene.  Neither of which had unionized workforces.  Or those legacy costs (retiree pension and health care expenses).  Which spelled the doom of the sprawling Bethlehem Steel.  From 1954 to 2003 hot-rolled steel sheet prices rose 220%.  While wages soared over 900%.  And it got worse.

Employment peaked in 1957 at 167,000 workers.  By the mid Eighties that fell to 35,000.  With some 70,000 retirees and dependents.  That is, Bethlehem’s retiree costs were about twice their active labor costs.  As business continued to fall employment fell to 11,500.  While their retirees and dependents rose to 120,000.  Just over 10 retirees for each active worker.  Unfunded pension obligations soared to $4.3 billion.  Just impossible numbers to recover from.  Which is why Bethlehem Steel is no longer with us today.  The company was dissolved in 2001.  With International Steel Group (ISG) buying some of their remaining assets.  Then, in 2005, a foreign steel company, Mittal Steel, merged with ISG.  Leaving no remnants of Bethlehem Steel in American hands.

ISG got the steelworkers union to reduce the number of job classifications in the Bethlehem plants they took over from 32 to 5.  Greatly shrinking the labor rolls.  And increasing efficiency.  Helping these remaining assets to move forward.  The pension fund was taken over.  With retirees losing only about $700 million, giving retirees a pension of up to $44,386.  But retirees lost their health care.  Some $3.1 billion in spending obligations that the company couldn’t pay.  And didn’t.  A sad ending for an American great.  A failure the Roosevelt administration was responsible for.  As their good intentions resulted in unintended consequences.  Setting businesses up to fail with costly fringe benefits.  Adding yet another demand to the union’s list of demands.  Spending obligations these businesses couldn’t pay once domestic demand fell while steel supplies rose.  Leading to the inevitable.  Bankruptcy of large unionized companies.

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To avoid Detroit’s Fate Chicago looks at Revenue Generation from Speed Cameras

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 11th, 2013

Week in Review

The City of Detroit bankruptcy shows how the massive costs of a city’s public sector are strangling these cities.  Promises of generous pensions for a long retirement and free health insurance up until you die are just promises these cities can’t pay for.  So some (like Detroit) raised their tax rates so high that people left the city in droves.  Further reducing the tax base.  While other cities turn to other revenue generating schemes (see Speeders were plentiful in camera test run by David Kidwell and Bill Ruthhart posted 8/12/2013 on the Chicago Tribune).

As Mayor Rahm Emanuel rolls out his long-delayed speed camera plan, new numbers his office released suggest that drivers who speed in Chicago could rack up way more in fines than a cash-starved City Hall initially projected.

The mayor had hoped to bring in $30 million this year. But results from a monthlong test of the automated camera system indicate the city could reap well into the hundreds of millions of dollars in the program’s first year.

City transportation officials argue that estimate is overblown, but the test period statistics the mayor’s office released Friday reinvigorated critics who argue that the program is more of a cash grab than the child safety measure Emanuel sold it as…

City transportation officials put estimated first-year revenues at $40 million to $60 million, arguing that several factors will cut down on the number of tickets actually issued.

For starters, they argue that it’s incorrect to estimate revenues based on the test program. They suggest the money will never reach into the hundreds of millions of dollars because of a number of factors. The most important: the fast learning curve of Chicago drivers…

Ald. Leslie Hairston, 5th, who voted against the speed camera program, said the number of speeders captured on the test cameras supports her insistence that the main motivation is to generate more city revenue.

“I guess this is just going to be a city for wealthy people, that’s where we’re headed,” she said…

The speed camera rollout was scheduled for closer to the start of the year, but it was delayed after City Hall came under scrutiny following Tribune reports of an alleged bribery scandal involving its 10-year-old red light camera program.

Making the streets safer for children is a noble goal.  But like their red light camera program it’s all about the Benjamins.  The money.  And they love cameras because they can rake in the money without having to put more costly public sector workers (i.e., cops) onto the streets.  That is, they’re outsourcing these costly union jobs to machines.  To minimize their labor costs.  Just like corporations try to minimize their labor costs.  Because union workers are very, very expensive.

But like every government revenue policy they’ve overstated the expected revenue from these cameras.  Just like a higher cigarette tax rate reduces cigarette tax revenue.  Taxes, and these revenue cameras, change human behavior.  Actually achieving the stated purpose for them (better health if people don’t smoke and safer streets if speeders are punished).  Which means though they have a burst of revenue in the beginning it will eventually taper away.  Requiring a new revenue generating scheme.  And then another one to replace that one.  And so on.  On and on.  Forever and forever.  Instead of doing the simpler thing.  And the thing that would work best.  Forever and forever.  Just stop spending so much.

If the public sector union enjoyed pensions and health care benefits like they do in the private sector there would be no Detroits going bankrupt.  Because there would be no generational theft.  These workers would provide their own pensions—401(k)s—and pay a much larger portion of their health care expense.  And they would work into their Sixties (or more) like the rest of America.  Instead of retiring in their 40s or 50s.  To enjoy a retirement that in some cases lasts longer than their working career.  This would solve the budget problems of the big cities.  Instead of passing it on to future taxpayers who were not included in those generous contract negotiations that they find themselves stuck paying for.

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The Rise and Fall of the American Textile Industry

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 2nd, 2013

History 101

Inventions and Innovation gave the United States a Burgeoning Textile Industry

The American textile industry was founded by businessmen.  And inventors and their inventions.  Not by any labor movement.  For before there could be a labor movement there first had to be industry to employ laborers.  And laborers weren’t creating these industries.  They were just selfishly waiting for others to do this so they could get a job in them one day.

We may never know which came first.  The chicken or the egg.  But we do know which came first when it comes to industries and laborers.  The mind came first then the muscle.  Rich people with a keen eye to judge a good investment.  Businessmen and entrepreneurs unafraid to take a risk.  And who will throw their body and soul into their business.  Then the non-risk taking people come along.  The laborers.  Who have no skin in the game.  Who wait until the minds come together to create something in which they can apply their labor.  And get a paycheck.

Samuel Slater built cotton mills in New England (1800ish).  Slatersville Rhode Island, the town he established, bears his name.  Francis Cabot Lowell and Paul Moody created a more efficient power loom and a spinning apparatus (early 1800s).  Elias Howe invented the sewing machine (mid 1800s).  And the lock-stitch.  Throw in a few more inventions, some improvements on past inventions and some innovation and you have a burgeoning U.S. textile industry.

The Luddites went about England smashing the Machines of the Mechanized Textile Industry

Cloth-making used to be a labor-intensive activity of highly skilled artisans.  For those who had the money to afford the costly clothing they made.  Many could not.  And made their own clothing in the home.  Women would spin fiber into yarn.  And weave the yarn into cloth.  Which was very labor intensive.  Allowing only a meager production of clothing for the family to wear.  Which meant a lot of darning for worn out clothing.  Hand-sewing patches to cover holes.  Sewing ripped seams back together.  And sewing together rips and tears.  Until the clothing was so worn that it couldn’t be darned anymore.

It is hard to fathom how important this was during early America.  A time of a mini ice age.  In the north the winters were long and they were cold.  This homemade clothing may not have been pretty.  But it could keep you from dying of exposure in those brutally cold winters.  The mechanization of the textile industry changed all of that.  Smart inventors and business owners used machines to automate the cloth-making process.  Allowing less skilled people to operate smart machines.  Producing more clothes for less.  Bringing the cost of clothing down.  So anyone could afford to buy clothing.

Of course, this did not make everyone happy.  As those machines replaced the need for highly skilled artisans.  Who demanded high prices for their craft.  Allowing only the rich to afford their wares.  They didn’t like these machines cutting into their high wages.  And did something about it.  A group of people called ‘Luddites’ went about England smashing the machines of the mechanized textile industry (1811-1817).  Hoping to force a return to the old ways of making clothing.  By skilled artisan.  Where only the rich could afford to buy clothing.

Unions have Exported Entire Industries to Emerging Economies to Escape Soaring Labor and Regulatory Costs

Just as the textile industry was modernizing and mechanizing two seamstresses formed the first all-women’s labor union in 1825.  The United Tailoresses of New York.  Protesting 16-hour workdays.  And the lack of a living wage.  Strikes followed.  The Lowell, Massachusetts, mill women’s strike in 1834.  The Manayunk, Pennsylvania, textile strike in 1834.  The Paterson, New Jersey, textile strike in 1835.  And the Llowell, Massachusetts, mill women’s strike in 1836.  In 1844 women formed and ran the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association.  Then more strikes.  The Cohoes, New York, cotton mill strike in 1882.  The Fall River, Massachusetts, textile strike in 1884.  The Augusta, Georgia, textile strike in 1886.  The Fall River, Massachusetts, textile strike in 1889.  In 1890 New York garment workers won the right to unionize.  Close their shops to nonunion workers.  And fire any nonunion workers on the payroll.  In 1900 the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union was founded.  In 1901 the United Textile Workers was founded.  Then came the New York shirtwaist strike in 1909.  Massachusetts passed the first minimum wage law for women and minors in 1912.  Then came the Lawrence, Massachusetts, textile strike in 1912.  Giving us the walking picket line.  Then the Paterson, New Jersey, textile strike in 1913.  The Amalgamated Clothing Workers union was founded in 1914.  Then the Fulton bag and cotton mill strike in 1914.  The Passaic, New Jersey, Textile Strike in 1926.  And so on.

The Luddites hated the machinery of the modern textile industry.  As they didn’t like the idea of replacing many highly skilled and well-paid artisans with automated machinery operated by fewer low-skilled laborers.  So they tried to smash the automated machinery.  To try and save their jobs.  Which the labor movement was happy to see go away.  For they would rather pack as many low-skilled laborers into those Dickensian factories as possible.  For the more members they had in their unions the more powerful they were.  And the more they could demand from the business owners.  They demanded a lot, too.  Higher wages, shorter hours and better working conditions.  So much so that the cost of labor rose while productivity fell.  Throwing the door open to foreign competition.

The big labor movements used their friends in government to protect their generous union contracts.  By passing pro-union legislation.  And placing tariffs on imported textile goods.  Keeping clothing prices high.  So business could earn enough to pay those generous union pay and benefits.  But this left these businesses uncompetitive in the world’s markets.  Which they wanted to sell in.  For it wasn’t only Americans that wore clothes.  Those union contracts increased labor costs so much that businesses found it hard to remain in business let alone remain profitable.  So they started leaving the United States during the 20th century.  Which is why today there is no U.S. textile industry.  Because of the high cost of labor.  And costly regulatory policies.  Where is the textile industry today?  In the emerging economies.  Where labor and regulatory costs are lower than in America.  While the standard of living for those employed in these factories are often higher than their fellow countrymen.  Which is what unions have often done in the United States.  Create good jobs in emerging economies.  By exporting entire industries from the United States to these emerging economies.  Where they can escape soaring labor and regulatory costs.

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Labor and Energy Costs

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 1st, 2013

Economics 101

If you want to Destroy an Industry and Kill Jobs all you have to do is Raise the Cost of Labor

What happened to American manufacturing?  The Industrial Revolution swept through the United States and made America an industrial superpower.  By the beginning of the 20th century the United States became the world’s number one economic power.  Immigrants poured into this country for those manufacturing jobs.  Even though some of these jobs may have come out of a Dickens novel.  Because being able to eat had it all over starving to death.  And in America, with a good factory job, you could put food on your family’s table.

Most of those manufacturing jobs are gone now.  Why?  What happened to the once booming textile industry?  The once booming steel industry?  The once booming automotive industry?  Unions happened to them.  That’s what.  These jobs were so horrible and unfit for humans that unions stepped in and organized them.  But the jobs never got better.  Based on the ever more generous union contracts they kept demanding.  Increasing the cost of labor more and more.  Which chased the textile industry out of the country.  And much of the steel and automotive industries as well.

Is there anything we can learn from this?  Yes.  If you want to destroy an industry, if you want to kill jobs, if you want to damage the economy, all you have to do is raise the cost of labor.  The largest cost to most businesses.  Which is why many businesses have been replacing people with machines.  Advanced machines.  Computer-controlled machines.  Robots.  Because they can work 24/7.  They’re never late.  Never hung over.  Never out sick.  They don’t take lunch.  And they will work as fast as possible without ever complaining.  This is why businesses like machines.  For they let them lower their costs.  Making them competitive.  So they can sell at prices lower than their competitors.  Allowing them to remain in business.

Uncompetitive American Manufacturers go to Emerging Economies where they can be Competitive

Labor is a big cost of business.  Especially in an advanced economy.  With a high standard of living.  Where people own houses and cars.  Where those houses have central heat, air conditioning, televisions, sound systems, kitchen appliances, washers and dryers, etc.  These things cost money.  Requiring paychecks that can afford these things.  As well as pay for clothes, groceries, gasoline, utilities, etc.  Common things in an advanced economies.  But not all that common in an emerging economy.  Where factory workers aren’t accustomed to those things yet.  And don’t demand paychecks that can pay for those things.  Yet.

Still, people in developing economies flock to the new factories.  For even though they are paid far less than their counterparts in advanced economies these factory jobs are often the highest paying jobs in their countries.  And those who have these jobs have a higher standard of living than those who don’t.  Even when the occasional factory burns to the ground or collapses killing everyone inside.  As sad as that is.  But if you want to eat and provide for your family these factories often offer the best opportunity.

So this is where American manufacturing jobs go to.  Where labor costs are lower.  Allowing business to stay competitive.  Because if they can’t be competitive no one will buy what they are selling.  And without any revenue they won’t be able to pay their suppliers.  Their employees.  Or their energy costs.  Another large cost of business.  Especially for manufacturers.

Unions and Regulatory Costs haven’t made Emerging Economies Uncompetitive Yet

A lot of houses today come with a 200-amp electric service.  Assuming a house uses about 100 amps on average that comes to 24,000 watts (100 amps X 240 volts).  Now consider a large manufacturing plant.  Like an automotive assembly plant.  That can have anywhere around 8 double-ended unit substations.  Which are pieces of electrical distribution equipment to feed all of the electrical loads inside the plant.  Each substation has two 13,800 volt 3-phase primary electrical services.  If you’re looking at one you will see the following from left to right.  A 600-amp, 15,000 volt switch, a transformer to step down the 13,800 voltage to 480 voltage, a 480-volt main switch, a bunch of 480-volt switches to feed the electrical loads in the plant, a ‘tie’ switch, another bunch of 480-volt switches, another 480-volt main switch another transformer and another 600-amp switch.

The key to a double-ended unit substation are the two 480-volt main switches and the tie switch.  Which normally distributes the connected electric load over the two primary services.  With both 480-volt main switches closed.  And the tie switch open.  If one service fails because a car knocks down a cable pole these switches will sense the loss of that service.  The 480-volt switch on the side of the failed service will open.  And the tie switch will close.  Feeding both sides of the unit substation on the one live primary service.  So each primary service carries half of the connected load.  Or one primary service carries the full connected load.  Assuming each unit substation uses 600 amps on average (2 services at 300 amps or 1 service at X 600 amps) that comes to approximately 13,194,070 watts (600 amps X 13,800 volts X √3 X .92 PF).  Where we multiply by the square-root of 3 because it is three phase.  And assume a 0.92 power factor.  If a plant has 8 unit substations that comes to 105,552,562 watts.  Which equals approximately 4,398 houses with a 200 amp service.  Now to further our crude mathematical approximations let’s take a typical electric bill for a house.  Say $175 on average per month.  If we multiply this by 4,398 that comes to a monthly electric bill for this manufacturer of about $769,654.  Or $9,235,849 per year.

So here is another way to destroy an industry, kill jobs and damage the economy.  By increasing the cost of electric power.  Which is already a very large cost of business.  And ‘going green’ will make it even more costly.  As the Obama administration wants to do.  With their war on coal.  The cheapest source of electric power we have.  By increasing regulations on coal-fired power plants.  Even implementing some kind of a carbon tax.  To punish these carbon emitters.  And to subsidize far more costly green energies.  Such as solar.  And wind.  Going from the least costly to the most costly electric power will greatly increase a business’ electric utility costs.  Easily adding 15%.  30%.  40%.  Or more.  A 40% increase in our example would increase the electric utility cost by $3,694,340 each year.  If a plant has 1,200 workers that’s like adding another $3,000 per worker.  And we’ve seen what higher labor costs have done to companies like General Motors.  Chrysler.  And the textile industry.  By the time you add up all of these new regulatory costs (Obamacare, green energy, etc.) businesses will be so uncompetitive that they will have to follow the textile industry.  Out of the country.  To a country that will let them be competitive.  Such as an emerging economy.  Where unions and regulatory costs haven’t made them uncompetitive.  Yet.

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How a 12-Year Old Canadian and U.S. Unions see Business Differently

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 12th, 2013

Week in Review

Advancing technology has greatly increased productivity.  Allowing fewer workers to do what workers a generation earlier did.  Causing our workforce to age.  Fewer workers are entering the workforce than are leaving it.  And costly union contracts paying pensions and health care to those who have left the workforce has decimated union membership.  For the costs they place on business have made these businesses uncompetitive in the market place.  Chasing manufacturing jobs out of the country.  Leaving union membership in the private sector at its lowest rates since the heyday of the labor movement.  To understand why let’s take a business lesson from the Canadians.  Who are trying to encourage their kids to become entrepreneurs.  Unlike in America.  Where business and profits have become a 4-letter word (see Canadian entrepreneurs: Born or made? by BARRIE McKENNA posted 5/10/2013 on The Globe and Mail).

[Entrepreneurial Adventure] pairs students with local business people to create a business, design a product, sell it and then give the profits to charity.

Why?

Evidence suggests Canada suffers from a weak entrepreneurial culture. While it’s relatively easy to start a company, the record of turning start-ups into fast-growing and successful enterprises is less convincing.

A 2010 study by Industry Canada…

… found that Canada generates a lower proportion of fast-growing companies than other developed countries, that relatively few small companies export and that the age profile of business owners is getting older…

Many business schools, including McGill University and the University of Toronto, now offer special entrepreneurship programs.

This is a problem.  For the number one job creator in any free market economy are small business owners.  People who go into business for themselves.  Taking great risk.  And hiring people as they grow.  This is the entrepreneurial spirit.  People who start out small.  And become someone like Steve Jobs.  Most people don’t understand the entrepreneurial process.  And the importance of having a business-friendly environment to encourage entrepreneurialism.  To create jobs.  To grow a healthy economy.  Creating new products that make our lives better.  And to do that one of the first things an entrepreneur must learn is what this 12-year-old learned.

“Some things work and some don’t,” acknowledged Alim Dhanani, 12, who worked on project management and Web design for the company. “To sell something, you have to have the right price. Not too small, so you have a profit, but not too big, so people will buy it.”

A 12-year-old can understand this.  The role of prices in the economy.  They have to be high enough to pay the bills.  But low enough to encourage people to buy from you.  Often times it’s not a matter of a business owner determining the price he or she wishes to charge.  They have to figure out how to pay their bills (and earn a profit) at the prevailing market price.  Something labor unions don’t understand.  Or they simply don’t care (see Fast-food workers in Detroit walk off job, disrupt business by Steve Neavling and Lisa Baertlein posted 5/10/2013 on Reuters).

Hundreds of fast-food employees in Detroit walked off the job on Friday, temporarily shuttering a handful of outlets as part of a growing U.S. worker movement that is demanding higher wages for flipping burgers and operating fryers.

The protests in the Motor City – which is struggling to recover from the hollowing out of its auto manufacturing sector – marked an expansion in organized actions by fast-food workers from ubiquitous chains owned by McDonald’s Corp, Burger King Worldwide and KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut parent Yum Brands Inc.

Fast-food workers, who already have taken to the streets in New York, Chicago and St. Louis, are seeking to roughly double their hourly pay to $15 per hour from around minimum wage, which in Michigan is $7.40 per hour…

“People can’t make a living at $7.40 a hour,” said Rev. Charles Williams II, a protest organizer. “Many of them have babies and children to raise, and they can’t get by with these kind of wages.”

Those workers face high hurdles in their fight for better pay. Low-wage, low-skill workers lack political clout and face significantly higher unemployment than college graduates…

The Detroit action was put together by the Michigan Workers Organizing Committee, an independent union of fast-food workers, that is supported by community, labor and faith-based groups such as the Interfaith Coalition of Pastors, UFCW Local 876, SEIU Healthcare Michigan and Good Jobs Now.

The unions want to do to fast-food what they did to the automotive industry.  In this case the union basically gave unskilled workers the wages and benefits of skilled workers.  Sounds great if you’re an unskilled worker.  But the UAW priced the U.S. auto manufacturers out of the market.  The Big Three are a shell of what they used to be.  With both General Motors and Chrysler requiring taxpayer bailouts to avoid bankruptcy.  And pay for their crushing pension and health care cost obligations.  For GM was paying for more people not working than they were paying to work.  Even a 12-year-old can understand that this is a business model that just won’t work.

So what will happen in fast-food restaurants if you raise the labor wage from $7.40 per hour to $15 per hour?  That’s a labor cost increase of 103%.  In the restaurant business the rule of thumb for calculating your selling prices is as follows.  You calculate your food cost then triple it.  For in general one third of a menu price goes to food.  One third goes to labor.  And one third goes to overhead (utilities, rent, insurance, etc.) and profit.  Now let’s take a typical combination meal (sandwich, fries and beverage) price of $7.50.  One third of this price is $2.48 which represents the labor portion of the price.  The increase in labor is 103%.  So we take 103% of the $2.48 ($2.54) and add it to $7.50 to get the new selling price of the combo meal.  Bringing it to $10.04.

What will customers do?  Now that the combo meal will cost $2.54 more will they just continue to eat fast-food like they once did?  Will they stop adding an extra item from the dollar menu?  Will they just buy a burger and eat it with a beverage from home?  Will they just buy from the dollar menu instead of buying combos?  Of course, with the increase in labor costs that dollar menu will have to become the $2.03 menu.  Will people stop going to fast-food as often as they once did?  Some may decide that if they’re paying for a $6 hamburger the may go to a diner or bar for a $6 hamburger.  Worried about the lost business would fast-food owners try to cut their costs elsewhere to try to continue to sell fast-food at the market price?  By hiring fewer people?  Pushing current workers to part-time so they don’t have to give them costly health insurance?  Or will they just close their restaurant.  As people just won’t pay fancy restaurant prices for fast-food.

That 12-year-old in Canada would understand how the higher labor costs would affect business.  Causing changes in buying habits.  And changes in business practices.  He would not start up a fast-food franchise if labor prices were 103% higher than they are now.  For he would have to raise prices high enough to pay the bills.  But when he did they might be too high to get people to come in and buy food.  Causing a fall in business.  And a loss in revenue.  Making it more difficult to pay the bills.  That 12-year-old would see this as bad business.  Because he understands that a business owner can’t charge whatever he wants to charge.  He has to figure out how to stay in business while selling at the prevailing market price.  And though he may love fast-food he knows that his allowance won’t be able to buy as much as it once did.  So he would reduce his purchases at fast-food restaurants.  Just as his father will probably take the family out less often because of the higher prices.  Just as single mothers struggling to pay their household bills will, too.  But the unions don’t understand this.  Or simply choose not to.  Instead they just tell the workers that their employers are greedy.

It’s a sad day when a 12-year-old has better business sense than our unions.  Then again if unions cared about business they wouldn’t have bankrupted two of the Big Three.

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President Obama has given us the Worst Economic Recovery since the Great Depression

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 10th, 2013

Week in Review

The president’s economic policies have done nothing to improve the economy.  The labor participation rate continues to fall.  As more people give up finding a job.  Because there are none to be found.  And it makes one wonder.  Why?  Why are things so bad in the economy?  The last 4 years have been the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression.  And what has been the common denominator these past 4 years?  President Obama.  And his anti-business policies (see The Cruel Things President Obama Is Doing To The Labor Market by John Goodman posted 3/7/2013 on Forbes).

President Obama’s proposal to increase the minimum wage and the health insurance employer mandate will combine to destroy job opportunities for young, unskilled workers in cities and towns across the country.

With respect to the new health law, the Congressional Budget Office estimates the cost of the minimum benefit package that everyone will be required to have will be $4,750 for individuals and $12,250 for families. That translates into a minimum health benefit of $2.28 an hour for full time single workers and about $3 an hour for someone working 30 hour a week. For family coverage, the cost is $5.89 an hour for a 40-hour-a week employee and $7.85 an hour for a 30-hour-a-week employee.

These are not small changes. They can double the cost of labor in some cases…

Employers have four ways to reduce this burden: (1) the mandate doesn’t apply to firms with fewer than 50 workers, (2) the mandate doesn’t apply to employees who work fewer than 30 hours, (3) the employer doesn’t have to offer or subsidize family coverage and (4) rather than provide health insurance, the employer can pay a $2,000 per (full-time) worker fine.

There are going to be lots of firms that fail to grow beyond 49 employees. But be warned: If an individual owns, say, two or three fast food franchises, the IRS has signaled that it will treat their combined operations as a single business. Also, in calculating the number of full time workers, the IRS is going to count “full-time equivalents.” That means that two workers, each working 15 hours a week, will count as the equivalent of one full-time (30 hour) worker.

As noted, employers are already reacting to ObamaCare. In fact, there was a huge shift to part-time employment in the fast food industry beginning in January. The reason: ObamaCare will employ a 12 month “look back.” That is, in deciding whether a worker is full-time or part-time next January (when the mandate becomes effective) the government will look at the average weekly hours worked in the previous year…

Bottom line: employment opportunities are being curtailed by the imposition of ObamaCare. Things will be even worse if a 24 percent increase in the cash minimum wage is heaped on top of it.

Economists have traditionally believed that an increase in the minimum wage (as well as mandated benefits) causes unemployment. However, a study by David Card and Alan Krueger found very little employment effect in the fast food industry in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

You wonder if economists ever talk to employers when they do these studies…

If government imposes higher labor costs on this industry, the restaurants will try to make it up by raising their prices. However, if the customers won’t pay the higher price — as may be the case in poorer neighborhoods — the restaurant will have to close.

Moreover, in order for prices to rise in one market there must be a corresponding decline in other markets. For the economy as a whole, employers can’t raise prices on the average with no change in the money supply.

Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of economics knows these policies don’t help business.  They don’t create jobs.  And if they aren’t helping to create jobs is it any wonder we’re in the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression?  Of course not.  And we’re back at that question.  Why?

Well, we have two possible answers.  Because the Obama administration is just incompetent and doesn’t understand economics.  Or they know exactly what they’re doing.  And if they do there would be but one explanation for their anti-business policies.  They are purposely trying to make businesses drop their health insurance as paying the fine is less costly.  Leaving the door open for the federal government to step in.  And be the insurer of last resort.  A backdoor way to national health care.  The Holy Grail of the Left.

So is the Obama administration incompetent?  Or devious?  It is one or the other.  And neither choice bodes well for the country.

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The UFCW wants to unionize Workers at Medical Marijuana Pot Shops

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 9th, 2013

Week in Review

The unions have always advertised that union made was better made.  Because it was safer.  And of higher quality.  For unions look out for the people.  They protect our kids in school.  And demand high safety standards in industry.  They even have a zero tolerance policy on drug use in the workplace.  Large union contracts on big construction projects have mandatory drug testing to hire in.  And have random-random drug tests monthly.  Once a month on some random day at some random time they call workers in to pee in a cup for testing.  That’s how committed the unions are in combating drug use.  So you never would have expected to see something like this (see Insight: Shrinking U.S. labor unions see relief in marijuana industry by Samuel P. Jacobs and Alex Dobuzinskis posted 2/6/2013 on Reuters).

During the last few years, unions, led by the UFCW [United Food and Commercial Workers union], have played an increasingly significant role in campaigns to allow medical marijuana, now legal in California, 17 other states and Washington, D.C…

Union officials acknowledge that their support stems partly from the idea that the marijuana industry could create hundreds of thousands of members at a time when overall union membership is shrinking…

Industry advocates acknowledge that the legal marijuana industry’s potential to produce jobs is difficult to project. One reason: uncertainty over how the U.S. government will deal with an industry whose product is illegal under federal law but increasingly accepted by state laws.

Since Colorado and Washington state voted to legalize marijuana on November 6, President Barack Obama has said his administration will not pursue recreational pot users in those states.

This is interesting.  If the states don’t like a federal law they just ignore it.  If Colorado and Washington can simply ignore a federal law they don’t like then every state that doesn’t like Obamacare should be able to ignore it, too.  If the unions protest states that ignore Obamacare (the unions endorsed Obamacare) and insist that they follow federal law then so should Colorado and Washington.  Who should immediately re-criminalize marijuana under state law.  To match federal law.

By joining a union, marijuana workers could have more sway in pressing for higher pay and benefits such as healthcare…

The retailers there say they are conflicted – grateful for the legitimacy that labor’s involvement could bring their businesses, but worried that the support could undermine the already shaky financial footing of their small operations.

One marijuana business owner in Denver said he considered aligning with the UFCW but eventually backed away. He said he was worried that having a union shop would hurt the value of his business by driving up employment costs…

Eventually, [UFCW's Rush] helped to persuade enough labor leaders that the same union that organized Hostess bakery workers could represent people who made pot brownies.

High union labor costs just bankrupted Hostess and put them out of business.  So, yeah, marijuana retailers are worried about higher labor costs if their shops unionize.  There’s a reason why there is so little union membership today.  It is very difficult for a business to stay in business with those high union costs.  The very costs that bankrupted General Motors and Chrysler requiring the government bailout.  If they unionize their costs will go up.  As will their prices.  Giving the non-unionized shops a price advantage.  As well as the drug dealer on the street.

In Los Angeles, UFCW Local 770 is pushing a ballot measure that would set zoning and safety standards for medical pot dispensaries. For years, police and residents have complained about the impact that less-than-reputable medical marijuana dispensaries have on some neighborhoods.

Dispensary workers and owners who have aligned themselves with the union say that some competitors undermine prices and security by flouting labor laws and avoiding taxes.

Decriminalizing marijuana is not the panacea they think it is.  First of all no one wants what drugs attract.  Addicts.  And crime.  Shutting down the nonunion shops won’t take care of that problem.  Because the higher prices at the ‘reputable’ drug retailers will only broaden the market for the drug dealers on the street.  Who are also nonunion.  And can sell their marijuana for less than a pot shop with high union labor costs.

Medical marijuana retailers have provided more than medical marijuana.  People wanting marijuana for recreational use had no problem getting a doctor’s prescription.  Including people who bought marijuana and resold it to kids.  Higher retailer prices at ‘reputable’ pot shops are not going to change that.  It will only raise the street value of marijuana.  Making for a prosperous black market.

The UFCW is obviously backing and lobbying for full decriminalization.  So their members can prosper from a rise in drug use.  And addiction.  It is interesting how the Left attacks cigarette smoking.  Even suing Big Tobacco for the harm their addictive product has done to those who smoke.  Yet as evil as cigarette smoking is there is no such outrage over marijuana smoking.  Which they say is not only harmless but medicinal.  Talk about your double standards.

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Economies of Scale

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 31st, 2012

Economics 101

Employers are very Reluctant to hire Additional Employees because Labor Costs are their Greatest Costs

When it comes to running a business there is nothing more costly than people.  Employee salaries and wages.  Payroll taxes.  And benefits.  People need a large paycheck to live on and will go to the employer that offers the highest pay.  Government has imposed costly taxes and regulatory costs.  And to further entice good workers employers have to sweeten the deal with some fringe benefits like health insurance, paid vacation time, holiday pay, paid sick days and retirement plans.  It adds up.  Something like this:

As you can see the amount of pay employees are familiar with (the working pay above) is far less than the total cost to the employer.  The employee doesn’t see the 63.1% markup on their working pay that their employer has to pay in addition to paying the employee.  As a business hires more employees these costs add up.  A small factory with 15 workers on the factory floor can cost the employer $1.6 million.  Which is why labor costs are the greatest costs of most businesses.  And why employers are very reluctant to add additional employees.

The more Productive you are the Lower your Unit Cost and the Lower the Selling Price in a Store

Besides labor costs a business like a factory will have material costs, too.  These are variable costs.  They’re variable because they vary with varying levels of production.  The more production there is the more variable costs there are.  In addition to variable costs businesses have fixed costs.  Often simply called overhead.

Factories make things.  Like things you can pick up off a store’s shelf.  Things with low prices on their price tags.  But when it can cost a small manufacturer $1.6 million JUST for its labor costs how can they sell things with such low prices?  By making a lot of those things to sell.  As much as they possibly can with their variable and fixed costs.  What we call economies of scale.  And the more they can make for their given costs the lower the unit cost is for each thing you can buy off a shelf at a store.   As you can see here:

Assuming a factory can produce anywhere from 1,250,000 to 2,750,000 units with a given labor force operating the same production equipment in a factory you can see how the unit cost falls the more they produce.  Which is why there is so much talk about productivity.  The more productive you are (the more you can produce for a given cost) the lower your unit cost.  And the lower the selling price in a store.  Increasing productivity could mean moving an assembly line a little faster.  Or replacing some people with machines.  Things that workers don’t like.  But things consumers love.  For they like low prices when they go shopping.

Employers are very Reluctant to Hire New Employees and Prefer Increasing Productivity with Automation

If you crunch these numbers for the labor costs of 16 and 17 workers you can see how unit costs rise as an employee or two is added to the production floor.  At an annual production of 2,000,000 units the unit cost increases $0.05 (4.6%) going from 15 to 16 workers.  Adding two workers increases the unit cost $0.11 (10.1%).  Doesn’t seem like a lot.  But we notice when something we once bought for $0.99 now costs $1.04.  And we don’t like it.  But business owners like it even less.  Here’s why.

Business may be booming.  Those on the factory floor may be working a lot of overtime to produce at a rate of 2,000,000 units per year.  And are growing unhappy with all of that overtime.  They keep demanding that the owner hire another person.  The owner does.  Increasing unit costs by $0.05.  But the owner hopes the booming economy will continue.  And that they can even increase the production rate.  For if they can sell an additional 250,000 units the unit cost can actually fall $0.07 to $1.02.  Making the addition of a new worker on the factory floor not increase costs.  As the increase in production will make costs fall greater than that increase in labor costs.

But it doesn’t always work like that.  Economic booms don’t always last.  When too many factories increase production to meet booming demand they bring too much supply to market.  Causing prices to fall.  And forcing factories to cut back on production rates.  So instead of increasing the production rate they may find themselves cutting back.  Perhaps going from 2,000,000 to 1,750,000.  A fall of 250,000 units.  Increasing the unit cost $0.21 (19.3%).  Which could very well raise the unit cost above the prevailing market price.  Requiring layoffs.  To get the unit cost back down to $1.09.  Allowing them to sell at the prevailing market price.  And at a production rate of 1,750,000 units that may require letting go more than just one worker.  Maybe even more than two.  Which is why employers are very reluctant to hire new employees.  And prefer increasing productivity with automation.  For it is far easier to make machines increase or decrease production rates than it is to hire and lay off people.  Making it easier and less costly to reach great economies of scale.  Which makes low prices.  And happy consumers.

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Roosevelt, Wage and Price Controls, Fringe Benefits, Health Insurance, Pensions, Unions, Bankruptcy and Bethlehem Steel

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 20th, 2012

History 101

The Roosevelt Administration fought Inflation by Passing a Law to Cap Employee Wages

Most times when those in government try to fix things they end up making things worse.  Giving us the unintended consequences of their best intentions.  And the government had some good intentions during World War II.  They were printing money to pay for a surge in government spending to pay for war production.  As well as a host of New Deal programs.  Which sparked off some inflation.  Inflation is bad.  Enter their best intentions.

One of the biggest drivers of inflation is wages.  Higher wages increase a company’s costs.  Which they must recover in their selling prices.  So higher wages lead to higher prices.  Higher prices increase the cost of living.  Making it more difficult for workers to get by without a pay raise.  Which puts pressure on employers to raise wages.  If they do they pass on these higher costs to their customers via higher prices.  It’s a vicious cycle.  And one all governments want to avoid.  Because higher costs reduce economic activity.  And that’s how governments get their money.  Taxing economic activity.

Enter wage and price controls.  The Roosevelt administration thought the way to solve the problem of inflation was simply passing a law to cap employee wages.  To halt the vicious cycle of escalating prices and wages.  Something employers didn’t like.  For that’s how they got the best people to work for them.  By offering them higher wages.  With that no longer an option what did these employers do to get the best people to work for them?  They started offering fringe benefits.  Which became a killer of business.

As People lived longer in Retirement Retiree Pension and Health Care Expenses Soared

Employers began offering health insurance and pensions as fringe benefits for the first time.  To get around the wage and price controls of the Roosevelt administration.  Which they had to pass on to their customers via higher prices.  So the wage and price controls failed to do what they were supposed to do.  Keep a company’s costs down.  Worse, these benefits made promises many of these businesses just couldn’t keep.

Roosevelt also empowered unions.   Who would negotiate ever more generous contracts.  By demanding generous pay and benefits for current workers.  And pensions and health care for retired workers.  But it didn’t end there.  The unions also expanded their membership as much as possible.  So in those contracts they also got very costly workplace rules.  If a lamp burnt out at a workstation the worker had to call an electrician to replace the lamp.  They could not screw in a new lamp themselves.  The unions defined every work activity in a workplace and created a job classification for it.  And only a worker in that job classification could do that work.  Which swelled the labor rolls at unionized plants.  Who all were receiving generous pay and benefits.  As were a growing number of retired workers.  Greatly increasing labor costs.

For awhile businesses could absorb these costs.  Business was growing.  As was the population.  There were more younger workers entering the factories than there were older workers retiring from them.  But things started changing in the Sixties.  The population growth rate flattened out thanks to birth control and abortion.  So as the population grew slower the domestic demand for manufactured goods fell.  While in the Seventies foreign competition increased.  So you had falling demand and a rising supply.  Making it harder to pass on those high labor costs anymore.  Which proved to be a great problem as their market share fell.  For as they laid off employees fewer and fewer workers were paying the pensions and health care costs for an ever growing number of retirees.  Pensions were chronically underfunded.  Worse, people began to live longer in retirement thanks to advances in medicine.  Increasing retiree pension and health care expenses for these businesses.  Bleeding some of them dry.

Bethlehem Steel filed Bankruptcy when they had 11,500 Active Workers and 120,000 Retirees and Dependents

Bethlehem Steel helped build America.  And win World War II.  It made the steel for the Golden Gate Bridge.  And the bridges between New York and New Jersey.  Many of the skyscrapers you see on Manhattan are made with Bethlehem steel.  Little Steel.  Second only to Big Steel.  U.S. Steel.  Big Steel and Little Steel dominated the US steel industry.  Until, that is, foreign competition entered their market.  And the steel minimills arrived on the scene.  Neither of which had unionized workforces.  Or those legacy costs (retiree pension and health care expenses).  Which spelled the doom of the sprawling Bethlehem Steel.  From 1954 to 2003 hot-rolled steel sheet prices rose 220%.  While wages soared over 900%.  And it got worse.

Employment peaked in 1957 at 167,000 workers.  By the mid Eighties that fell to 35,000.  With some 70,000 retirees and dependents.  That is, Bethlehem’s retiree costs were about twice their active labor costs.  As business continued to fall employment fell to 11,500.  While their retirees and dependents rose to 120,000.  Just over 10 retirees for each active worker.  Unfunded pension obligations soared to $4.3 billion.  Just impossible numbers to recover from.  Which is why Bethlehem Steel is no longer with us today.  The company was dissolved in 2001.  With International Steel Group (ISG) buying some of their remaining assets.  Then, in 2005, a foreign steel company, Mittal Steel, merged with ISG.  Leaving no remnants of Bethlehem Steel in American hands.

ISG got the steelworkers union to reduce the number of job classifications in the Bethlehem plants they took over from 32 to 5.  Greatly shrinking the labor rolls.  And increasing efficiency.  Helping these remaining assets to move forward.  The pension fund was taken over.  With retirees losing only about $700 million, giving retirees a pension of up to $44,386.  But retirees lost their health care.  Some $3.1 billion in spending obligations that the company couldn’t pay.  And didn’t.  A sad ending for an American great.  A failure the Roosevelt administration was responsible for.  As their good intentions resulted in unintended consequences.  Setting businesses up to fail with costly fringe benefits.  Adding yet another demand to the union’s list of demands.  Spending obligations these businesses couldn’t pay once domestic demand fell while steel supplies rose.  Leading to the inevitable.  Bankruptcy of large unionized companies.

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