Friday, October 18, 2013

If Redskins is bad Vikings is far worse

There has been much to do about the nickname of the Washington football team - the Redskins. Some think it is a slur. If calling someone a Redskin is bad then calling them a Viking should be regarded as far worse. We might have different impressions of what being a Redskin was all about, but there is no doubt about the dreaded Vikings. Raping, pillaging and burning churches was their stock in trade. How is it then that a professional football team in an area with a significant population of Scandinavian descent could be proud of a team called the Vikings? I suspect that the passage of time has healed some wounds and that there is a nostalgia for the glamorous image of bold seafarers and adventurers with little regard for the horrors of the reality. Could not the same be true of the Redskins. When we think of Redskins today the image that comes to mind is of a proud warrior or perhaps a skilled hunter. If, in fact, the term Redskins brought to mind a negative image of native Americans no sports team in its right mind would want it as a nickname.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Labor Is A Commodity - Get Over It!

Once when I was being interviewed on a very liberal radio talk show I said, what seemed very obvious to me, that labor was a commodity. Much to my surprise the host went absolutely berserk. How dare I talk about the labor of human beings as if it were an inanimate object like corn or steel. The liberal view seemed to be that there was something so special about labor that it defied the laws of economics. Our nation is faced with a severe problem of unemployment. There is good reason to believe that, no matter what is done in the short term, in the long term it is going to become increasingly worse. Some of this stems from the fact that we ignore some very basic economic laws. The more something costs the less people buy. Isn't this rather obvious? When the price of gas goes up we drive less or trade in the gas guzzler for a hybrid. When the price of beef goes up we switch from steak to hamburger or buy chicken. When the price of labor goes up we don't employ as many people or substitute other factors of production. Any government policy that increases the cost of hiring an employee increases unemployment. This was brought into sharp focus recently when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. A little noticed until now provision of the bill is that employers who don't provide health care insurance to full-time employees will be fined. There is no fine applied to part-time employees. This is not a small thing. The fine would be at least $2,000 a year per employee. If the employer provides access to insurance but the insurance is unaffordable the fine goes up to $3,500 a year. A recent survey found that the cost of health insurance averaged more than $11,000 a year and that the employee share of that cost was about $2,700. Let's consider the plight of a minimum wage worker. At $7.25 an hour, earnings for a full-time job are $14,500 a year. How many employers can afford to tack on another several thousand dollars to that amount? How many employers would find it much more economical to hire several part-time employees rather than one full-time employee? Not having health insurance sucks. Not having health insurance or a jobs sucks even more.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Restored Faith

Sometimes in this fast paced world it is easy to become a bit cynical about the nature of business. Too often it seems as if you are a pawn in a big game you are destined to lose. A recent experience helped to restore my faith in the system.

One of my hobbies is wire wrapping. I make pretty things - rings, bracelets, necklaces, earrings, etc. - by wrapping wire. If you want to take a quick look at the possibilities look at the cover of something like "Wire and Bead Celtic Jewelry" or "Bead & Wire Art Jewelry"

Anyway, to make a long story a bit shorter, if you are going to really get into wire wrapping you will end up needing a jig. That's a board covered with little holes and pegs of various size that you use as a pattern for wrapping the wire into different shapes. To broaden my horizons in wire wrapping I bought a BeadSmith Deluxe Thing-A-Ma-Jig. This is a marvelous tool for bending and twisting wire into different shapes, particularly when for the success of your project each piece needs to be as much like the others as possible.

The Thing-A-Ma-Jig rests on the workbench on short metal legs with a plastic foot at the bottom of each. My Thing-A-Ma-Jig was missing one of the little plastic feet. Seeing little prospect for getting one from people I got the jig from, I sent an e-mail to BeadSmith to see if they would send me one. I even offered to pay for it.

Therein lies the restoration of my faith. They actually took a strong interest and sent me an entire new Deluxe Thing-A-Ma-Jig. Wow! Just when you think that nobody really gives a darn and you are all alone in an unforgiving world, something like this comes along.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that everyone is like BeadSmith. It's just that when someone takes a personal interest and goes out of their way to help, it does tend to restore faith. Thank you BeadSmith and all the other companies that go the extra mile on customer service.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Reduce My Social Security Benefits - Please

It may seem a bit strange, but I wrote to my Congressman recently telling him to reduce my Social Security benefits. There's a catch to it, of course. I wanted the benefits reduced by the same percent that the federal budget was reduced. I would gladly get by on 10 percent less in Social Security benefits, if the federal government's budget was reduced by 10 percent.

This isn't really out of character for me. Back in the 1960's, I went to college after I got out of the Navy. I lived at home and worked part-time as a security guard. Legislation was being considered by Congress called the Vietnam Era GI Bill. It would have put about $100 a month in my pocket as an education benefit. I wrote to my Congressman, Charles Gubser, telling him that as much as I would appreciate the money he should vote against it if it would help balance the federal budget. Gubser wrote back saying that if voting against it would balance the budget he would consider it, but that the cost of the bill wasn't enough to make much of a dent in the budget deficit.

I wonder whether there is a lesson in this. How many little things add up to something big? How motivated are people who benefit from one of those little things to raise the roof if it might be eliminated compared to how interested those who don't benefit from it are in eliminating it.

I hear radio advertisements from a committee opposed to cutting Social Security. I almost have to laugh at the line about how Social Security didn't cause the problem. For decades Social Security taxes have produced a surplus and Congress promptly spent that surplus while giving Social Security an I.O.U. That, by any definition is deficit spending. The money was spent on all those neat things that now need to be cut, but Congress doesn't have the will power and/or the guts to make the cuts. Too many highly motivated small special interest groups are clamoring (and paying lobbyists) to protect them.

Perhaps that's what's new and different about the Tea Party movement and why it poses such a threat to the establishment. The Tea Party is demanding spending cuts without regard to whether the cuts hurt.

The bottom line is that we can't go on this way much longer. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and interest on the national debt are becoming such a huge proportion of the budget that they must be reduced to avoid financial Armageddon.

It would be better to make reasonable, well thought out reductions now than to wait until it is too late and draconian cuts must be made in a panic.

Friday, February 18, 2011

No "Right" to Collective Bargaining

The protesters in Wisconsin and Ohio are crying alligator tears about the loss of collective bargaining rights. Let's be clear on this. There is no right to collective bargaining. All the laws that have required collective bargaining between employers, be they public or private, with certified labor unions as the exclusive representative of employees in a bargaining unit have extended privileges, not rights, to labor unions, often at the expense of the rights of individual employees.

There are several federal court decision in cases where government employee unions have claimed the right to collective bargaining and in every instance the courts have ruled that there is no right to collective bargaining.

In the private sector the federal government gave unions monopoly bargaining powers through the National Labor Relations Act, which doesn't cover public employees. Many states have enacted similar laws covering public employment.

On several occasions public sector unions have gone to court demanding the right to collective bargaining and in every case the courts have said that there is no such right, it is a legislated privilege.

This is a topic of great interest to me. I am the author of "The Case Against Public Sector Unionism and Collective Bargaining" and a coauthor of "Vallejo Con Dios: Why Public Sector Unionism is a Bad Deal for Taxpayers and Representative Government."

I commend them to your attention.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I Was Wrong

I was wrong. In my Fearless Forecast of October 30 I predicted that the polls were underestimating the enthusiasm of the Tea Party movement. The November 2 elections included some truly historic wins for the Tea Party movement, but the public opinion polling overestimated rather than underestimated the enthusiasm.

The best and most telling example of this was Sharon Angle's loss to Harry Reid in Nevada. The polls right up until election day had Angle ahead by several points, but when all the votes were counted Reid won by 50.6 to 44.2. The same sort of thing happened in Pennsylvania where the last polls showed Pat Toomey ahead by five points and he only won by two.

Just like they say about real estate where the three most important things are location, location, location, in politics the three most important things are turnout, turnout, turnout.

I fear that I got so caught up in my enthusiasm for the Tea Party movement that I let it cloud my judgment. I suspect that the idea that my favorite candidates would do even better than the polls predicted was a bad case of wishful thinking.

This isn't the first time I've been wrong. I recall once back in 1957..., but then that's another story.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Elections 2010 - A Fearless Forecast

Here it is just three days before the 2010 general elections and I feel as if I have some sort of insight into the results. If I wait until after the election to write about this, it might seem like 20-20 hindsight, so I'll put it out there now.

I believe that there are going to be some big surprises in the November 2, elections. I say that because I don't believe that the polling companies are capable of dealing with the intensity of mood. When I studied this years ago we referred to it as "salience." The idea at the time was that some people would agree or disagree on an issue or candidate, but the strength of their conviction was what really mattered.

It is my sense of things that the uprising Tea Party rebellion has a great deal more intensity than is being measured in the polls so that if a Tea Party candidate is behind by five, or even slightly more than five, percent in the polls going into election day they have an excellent chance of winning. By the same token, Tea Party candidates that are running even will win by about five percent and those that are in the lead will win by even greater numbers.

I plan to look carefully at this after election day and will report the success or failure of this analysis.