Free Markets, Free People

Daily Archives: November 11, 2009


Depression-Era Unemployment Looms

Since the Great Depression, the peak unemployment rate was 10.8% in November, 1982.  We will, in all likelihood, set a significantly higher record for the unemployment rate in the next 12 months. Here are 12 reasons why the unemployment rate will reach at least 12%.

I would also remind you that if we currently reported the unemployment rate as they did in the 1930′s, our current rate of unemployment would be around 17.2%  In any event, here are just two of the most compelling reasons why the job picture is going to remain very cloudy:

For the first time in at least six decades, private sector employment is negative on a 10-year basis (first turned negative in August). Hence, the changes are not merely cyclical or short-term in nature. Many of the jobs created between the 2001 and 2008 recessions were related either directly or indirectly to the parabolic extension of credit…

But when we do start to see the economic clouds part in a more decisive fashion, what are employers likely to do first? Well, naturally they will begin to boost the workweek and just getting back to pre-recession levels would be the same as hiring more than two million people. Then there are the record number of people who got furloughed into part-time work and again, they total over nine million, and these folks are not counted as unemployed even if they are working considerably fewer days than they were before the credit crunch began…So the business sector has a vast pool of resources to draw from before they start tapping into the ranks of the unemployed or the typical 100,000-125,000 new entrants into the labour force when the economy turns the corner. Hence the unemployment rate is going to very likely be making new highs long after the recession is over — perhaps even years.

There are other compelling reasons at the link, but the two above are enough to ensure that the unemployment rate will remain high for quite some time.


That Was Then. This Is Now.

So, the deal was supposed to work like this: The government takes over Chrysler, then sells a big chunk of it to Fiat.  In return, Chrysler would give us all these cool, American-made electric cars that would turn the planet sparkly, and make the unicorns smile.

6 April 2009:

If you’re tooling around in a Chrysler electric vehicle in a few years, you’ll still be driving an American car.

While some other companies are looking to foreign battery suppliers, Chrysler said Monday that it’s going to stay all-American. It announced it is choosing A123 Systems, a Massachusetts company, as its battery supplier. A123 will make the battery packs for Chrysler’s wave of electric vehicles at a new plant in Michigan. The first will hit the streets in 2010, says Lou Rhodes, vice president of advanced vehicle engineering for Chrysler. With Monday’s announcement, Chrysler is “that much closer” to getting its vehicle on the road.

Of course, the news that it could generate more American jobs could play well in Washington, D.C., where Chrysler is under the gun from the Obama administration to close its deal with Italy’s Fiat and take other drastic steps if it wants up to $6 billion in additional government loans.

How’s that working out for us?

11 November, 2009:

Chrysler has disbanded the engineering team that was trying to bring three electric models to market as a rush job, Automotive News reports today. Chrysler cited its devotion to electric vehicles as one of the key reasons why the Obama administration and Congress needed to give it $12.5 billion in bailout money, the News points out.

The change of heart on electric vehicles has come under Fiat. At a marathon presentation of Chrysler’s five-year strategy, CEO Sergio Marchionne talked about just about everything on Chrysler’s plate last week except its earlier electric-car plans. With the group’s disbanding, Chrysler’s electric plans will be melded into Fiat’s. Marchionne is apparently no fan of electric power:

He says electrics will only make up 1% or 2% of Fiat sales by 2014 and that he doesn’t put a lot of faith in the technology until battery developments are pushed forward.

Now, the unicorns are crying.  And considering the money we shelled out, we should be, too.

If you’re tooling around in a Chrysler electric vehicle in a few years, you’ll still be driving an American car.

While some other companies are looking to foreign battery suppliers, Chrysler said Monday that it’s going to stay all-American. It announced it is choosing A123 Systems, a Massachusetts company, as its battery supplier. A123 will make the battery packs for Chrysler’s wave of electric vehicles at a new plant in Michigan. The first will hit the streets in 2010, says Lou Rhodes, vice president of advanced vehicle engineering for Chrysler. With Monday’s announcement, Chrysler is “that much closer” to getting its vehicle on the road.

Of course, the news that it could generate more American jobs could play well in Washington, D.C., where Chrysler is under the gun from the Obama administration to close its deal with Italy’s Fiat and take other drastic steps if it wants up to $6 billion in additional government loans.


Ft. Hood – Intel Failure A Contributor?

One of the jobs of intelligence services is to “connect the dots” and paint a picture with them of looming threats.

Does anyone remember what one of the supposed lessons of 9/11 was?  That intelligence agencies, law enforcement and the services all need to talk and share what they know.  It was the compartmentalization of intelligence which some blame the tragedy of 9/11 on.  The dots were there, but each agency and service was holding them close to their chest and not sharing.  As it turned out, what each had wasn’t enough for that agency or service to positively identify the threat, but when put together, after the fact, painted a pretty clear picture that they should have seen.

Almost 9 years later, if what we’re hearing about Ft. Hood is true, the same problem, at least to some degree, still exists:

Pentagon officials said Tuesday that no one in the U.S. intelligence or law-enforcement community, despite all the new ways information is shared, warned them that accused shooter Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan had been in contact with a radical Islamic cleric living in Yemen who had known three of the 9/11 hijackers. The officials said that information was provided to them only after Thursday’s shooting spree.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, which was tipped about Maj. Hasan based on his communications with the cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki, was probably in the best position to flag officials at the Army or the Pentagon. But the FBI says communications between the men were innocuous and didn’t warrant more than the basic assessment it performed. Without directly pointing any fingers, the bureau also says members of the military served on two separate FBI-led counterterrorism task forces that reviewed the contacts between Mr. Awlaki and Maj. Hasan.

The content of the pair’s communications didn’t raise red flags because terrorism task-force members checked with the military and found that Maj. Hasan was an Army psychiatrist who conducted research and was working on a master’s degree, FBI officials said.

So assumptions were made by the FBI that apparently made them decide this wasn’t information which needed to be shared with the organization with whom Hasan worked. However, had that information been added to the already growing information the Army was acquiring about Hasan internally, would it have made a difference?

I, nor anyone else, can answer that question. However, the fact remains, given the existence of this information, that the Army’s information about Hasan was incomplete. And, it can be suggested, had it been provided, the Army may have taken a much more critical look at Hasan than it apparently did.

That’s not to say Hasan would have been removed, forced out of the Army or anything else by the disclosure of this information. He may have been. But it does give you an idea of what an intelligence failure – in this case the failure to share information that we now know may have connected the dots the Army already had, or prompted them into a more thorough investigation – can cost lives.

There are many, many more things to discuss about this massacre, but that’s one that shouldn’t be among them. This was supposedly solved by all those commissions and a intelligence czar and regulations and laws which required everyone share intel. Now we have a prima facia case where we find out that isn’t the case. And the results were deadly.

This also points to what may be a wider problem and one that could be – again – just as deadly, if not more so, in the future. This needs to be fixed once and for all, and if heads need to figuratively roll to reinforce the point and make it happen, then get to choppin’.

~McQ


The Judas Goat (update)

Bill Clinton visited Senatorial Democrats yesterday and told them to “just do it” when it comes to passing the health care bill.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said Clinton told the caucus that when the bill is passed, the American public will begin to realize that “none of the bad things that people are talking about will come to pass.”

Well, except their taxes are going up immediately with no benefit (until 2013) and possibly killing any recovery – not to mention the debt increasing.  And then there’s that little thing about the majority of Americans not wanting anything to do with the monstrosity the Democrats have concocted and preferring they kill this bill and start over with clearer and much more limited goals.  Not to mention the polls which show a majority of the country agreeing it’s headed in the wrong direction, mostly because of the radical increase in the size and scope of government. Or how about joblessness and economic recovery ignored for more government intrusion and spending?

But hey, Dems, blow all that off, listen to Bill and suck it up. He wouldn’t lie to you, would he?

Meanwhile Gallup, apparently not privy to the Clinton promise, found:

Republicans have moved ahead of Democrats by 48% to 44% among registered voters in the latest update on Gallup’s generic congressional ballot for the 2010 House elections, after trailing by six points in July and two points last month.

Phaa – no biggie, Bill has it all figured out:

But, he pointed out that while Republicans have already been emboldened by divisions within the Democratic Party over reform, passing a bill can turn the tide.

“And the opposition has already been generated,” he said, “but if the support gets disenchanted, then the turnout goes down and surveys don’t mean anything.”

Except, perhaps, the “survey” taken on the first Tuesday in November of 2010 – less than a year away. But let’s not dwell on negatives!

So “don’t worry, be happy”, Dems. Do the Clinton thing and take one for the party. I mean it’s not like Bill Clinton has ever given bad advice or been at the helm during an electoral disaster, is it?

UPDATE: An apparently inspired Harry Reid has put the Senate health care bill on the Senate calendar. That alone ought to tell you how bad an idea this is for Democrats.

~McQ


Happy Veteran’s Day

I wrote this in 2006, and it is as true today as then. Our combat troops are the best the world has ever seen – but without those who support them so well they wouldn’t be anywhere near as effective as they are.

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Anyone who doubts all veteran’s are heroes need read no further. But for the vast majority of you who do, I’d like to take a little different slant in my tribute than you might read elsewhere. Most of the time when you read tributes to vets, they’re filled with the stories of those who’ve suffered in combat and we see pictures showing the battle-weary combat vets which pointedly make the argument about the sacrifices our veterans have made and continue to make.

But not all sacrifices are made on the field of battle. While infantry, armor and artillery are the combat arms – the tip of the spear – they, better than anyone, know how important the team that makes up the rest of the spear are to their success on the battlefield.

Those F-16s don’t show up on target at the right time unless that kid flying the boom of a KC10 tanker at 30,000 feet at 2am doesn’t do his job. That sabot round from an M1A1 fired at a threatening T72 isn’t there unless the truck driver hauling ammo day in and day out gets that ammo where it needs to be when it needs to be there.

Veterans are the guys like the cook who gets up every morning at 3:30 am and begins to prepare breakfast for his guys and gals. The kid below deck on an aircraft carrier who makes sure the F/A 18 he’s responsible for maintaining is in perfect shape and ready to fly. The nurse who holds a dying soldier’s hand as he takes his last breath, wipes away the tears, straightens her uniform and heads out to do it again.

He’s the kid in the fuel soaked coveralls who hasn’t slept in 2 days gassing up another Bradley from his fuel tanker. The company clerk who makes sure all of the promotion orders are correct and in on time, or the instructor in basic training who ensures those he trains get his full attention and who puts his all into helping them learn important lessons that will save their lives. He’s the recruiter who’d rather be where the action is, but does what is necessary to make sure he gets the best and brightest available for his branch of service. Or the MP at the gate who shows up every day, does her job to the very best of her ability and never complains.

Most vets have never seen combat in the sense we think of it. But every single solitary one of them has contributed in vital ways to the success of our combat efforts. Without those who support the combat troops, success would impossible. Without the wrench turners, truck drivers, fuel handlers, cooks, clerks and all those like them, the greatest military the world has ever seen is an “also ran.”

It doesn’t matter what a vet did during his or her service, it matters that he or she chose to serve and do whatever vital job they were assigned to the best of their ability. It isn’t about medals, it isn’t about glory, it isn’t about what job they did. It is about the fact that when their country called, they stood up and answered. They are all, every one of them, heroes.

To all the vets out there – Happy Veteran’s Day.

And thank you for your service.


My Favorite Part of the House Health Care Bill

Coming in at 1,992 pages, I’m sure there’s something in there that appeals to everyone.  But if I had to pick any part of the bill to single out for special mention, it’s this:

Today, Ranking Member of the House Ways and Means Committee Dave Camp (R-MI) released a letter from the non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) confirming that the failure to comply with the individual mandate to buy health insurance contained in the Pelosi health care bill (H.R. 3962, as amended) could land people in jail. The JCT letter makes clear that Americans who do not maintain “acceptable health insurance coverage” and who choose not to pay the bill’s new individual mandate tax (generally 2.5% of income), are subject to numerous civil and criminal penalties, including criminal fines of up to $250,000 and imprisonment of up to five years.

Now, it’s a bit more complicated than that, because it requires that you wilfully evade the tax by refusing to pay it, or by fraudulently claiming reduced income in order to evade income taxation under the IRS code.  But still, the statutory authority is there to send you to federal prison for five years for essentially refusing to maintain the appropriate medical coverage, and then refusing to pay the 2.5% income tax surcharge.

No doubt this will make the public much more excited about the House version of health care reform then they were previously.

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