Free Markets, Free People

Daily Archives: May 31, 2012


Why do unions see the recall election of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker as a “must win?”

The answer is actually quite simple – because the dramatic losses in membership public unions have experienced under him could be a harbinger of something that might occur nationwide:

Failure to oust Mr. Walker and overturn the Wisconsin law "spells doom," said Bryan Kennedy, the American Federation of Teachers’ Wisconsin president.

[…]

A victory by Mr. Walker "will be a dramatic signal to local and state politicians they can, in the name of fiscal responsibility, tell unions…to come into parity with private-sector workers, especially on benefits," said Michael Lotito, a San Francisco attorney who represents management in labor disputes and has testified on labor issues before Congress.

Yeah, that would be horrible, wouldn’t it, since private-sector workers get less in benefits than do most public sector workers.

Gov. Walker took some steps to curb public sector union power in the state soon after taking office:

The Walker law sharply curbed collective bargaining for nearly all the state’s public-employee unions except those for police and firefighters. Unions no longer can represent members in negotiations for better working conditions or for pay raises beyond the increase in inflation.

He also gave union members an actual choice of membership by no longer allowing the state to collect the dues for public sector unions.

Choice – that freedom prerequisite – has seen membership drop dramatically:

Wisconsin membership in the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees—the state’s second-largest public-sector union after the National Education Association, which represents teachers—fell to 28,745 in February from 62,818 in March 2011, according to a person who has viewed Afscme’s figures. A spokesman for Afscme declined to comment.

Much of that decline came from Afscme Council 24, which represents Wisconsin state workers, whose membership plunged by two-thirds to 7,100 from 22,300 last year.

And the American Federation of Teachers union"?

In the nearly 15 months since Mr. Walker signed the law, 6,000 of the AFT’s Wisconsin 17,000 members quit, the union said. It blamed the drop on the law.

Amazing what will happen when “members” aren’t coerced into becoming or staying members.

According to the most recent Marquette poll, Walker is leading his Democratic rival by 7 points.  His state’s structural fiscal insolvency has been remedied by making public union workers bear more of the cost of their benefits (while still being over 20% higher than private sector benefits). 

In other words, he’s actually done something to solve the problems he was elected to tackle. 

Perhaps that’s why a state that went 14 points for Obama in 2008 is plus 7 on his side in this recall farce.

And it is equally easy to see why the unions are in panic mode.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


The law of unintended (but obviously expected if you know anything about human nature) consequences

Remember the “digital divide”.  The bloviating over the “right” of access to the internet and how the “poor” were being left out and that was hurting their chances of advancement?

Remember how government decided it would fix that and take your money and provide hardware and connectivity to the poor?

Well it did, with predictable results:

As access to devices has spread, children in poorer families are spending considerably more time than children from more well-off families using their television and gadgets to watch shows and videos, play games and connect on social networking sites, studies show.

This growing time-wasting gap, policy makers and researchers say, is more a reflection of the ability of parents to monitor and limit how children use technology than of access to it.

Is it?  So if it is a parent problem, what’s the solution?

Ha, ha, ha … you already know the answer, don’t you?

The new divide is such a cause of concern for the Federal Communications Commission that it is considering a proposal to spend $200 million to create a digital literacy corps. This group of hundreds, even thousands, of trainers would fan out to schools and libraries to teach productive uses of computers for parents, students and job seekers.

Yes, friends, the solution is just as predictable as the problem.

More government, of course.

You just can’t make this stuff up.

Like other researchers and policy makers, Ms. Boyd said the initial push to close the digital divide did not anticipate how computers would be used for entertainment.

“We failed to account for this ahead of the curve,” she said.

Ya think?  Name another government policy or program that ever has accounted for consequences ahead of the curve.  Back to our most recent Quote of the Day.  How in the world do we continue to let this sort of inept, wasteful, ill-thought-out nonsense continue?

Who knew, when free access was provided to the internet, that most would use it to entertain themselves?  Nothing like free YouTube and porn, right?

Thanks, taxpayers.

Forward!

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Economic Statistics for 31 May 12

The following statistics were released today on the state of the US economy:

The Commerce Department has revised 1st Quarter GDP down to an annualized 1.9% from the initial 2.2% estimate. In other words, the 1st quarter was even more lackluster, and the economy even more moribund than it initially appeared.

Initial jobless claims rose 10,000 to 383,000. The 4-week moving average rose 3,750 to 374,500.

Last week’s massive 27,000 layoff announcement from HP swelled the Challenger Job-Cut Report to 61,887 layoffs for May.

ADP estimates that May private payrolls rose 133,000 vs. its revised rise of 113,000 for April. We’ll see how close that estimate is to reality tomorrow morning.

Corporate profits in 1Q 2012 grew to $1.669 trillion annualized, compared to $1.494 trillion in 4Q 2011.

The Chicago Purchasing Manager’s Index came in well below analysts’ expectations at 52.7, the lowest reading since September 2009.

Consumers are reporting their personal finances are in better shape, leading the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index to a 4-week high at -39.3.

~
Dale Franks
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What is the Sierra Club’s real agenda?

The Sierra Club would like to convince you they’re all about clean air, water and protecting wildlife.  But if their latest campaign is any example, it’s really about banning fossil fuels.

We are in the middle of a growing natural gas boom.  We have a glut of the stuff.  Prices of natural gas continue to drop as more and more of the fuel is brought to market.  That opens up the field to new applications from a fuel supply that is acknowledged as cleaner burning than oil.   It could completely change the energy industry.

If it is given the chance.

Here’s the irony.  When the “drill, baby, drill” campaign to exploit our oil resources was underway, the Sierra Club was in the forefront of pushing natural gas as a much cleaner alternative.

And, in fact, it accepted $26 million in donations from Chesapeake Energy and others in the gas industry from 2007 to2010.

Now, suddenly, it is at war with the industry as reported by the Wall Street Journal:

The battle plan is called "Beyond Natural Gas," and Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune announced the goal in an interview with the National Journal this month: "We’re going to be preventing new gas plants from being built wherever we can." The big green lobbying machine has rolled out a new website that says "The natural gas industry is dirty, dangerous and running amok" and that "The closer we look at natural gas, the dirtier it appears; and the less of it we burn, the better off we will be." So the goal is to shut the industry down, not merely to impose higher safety standards.

Another, among many, who feels entitled to limit your choices.

The Sierra Club has lobbied to stop nuclear power plants from being built and against coal and oil.  They claim they are interested in fuels that have “lower carbon emissions”.  Natural gas is, well, a natural in that area.  And the statistics prove the point:

The federal Energy Information Administration reports that in 2009 "the 4% drop in the carbon intensity of the electric power sector, the largest in recent times, reflects a large increase in the use of lower-carbon natural gas because of an almost 50% decline in its price." The Department of Energy reports that natural gas electric plants produce 45% less carbon than coal plants, though newer coal plants are much cleaner.

Researchers at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences found that electric power plants reduced their greenhouse gases by 8.76% in 2009 alone. Most of the carbon reduction was driven not by mandates or regulation but by the economics of lower gas prices. The lead researcher, professor Michael McElroy, says: "Generating one kilowatt-hour of electricity from coal releases twice as much CO2 to the atmosphere as generating the same amount from natural gas, so a slight shift in the relative price of coal and natural gas can result in a sharp drop in carbon emissions."

So, what’s not to like?

The answer surely is the industry’s drilling success. The greens were happy to support natural gas as a "bridge fuel to the 21st century" when it cost $8 or more per million BTUs and seemed to be in limited domestic supply.

But now that the hydraulic fracturing and shale revolution has sent gas prices down to $2.50, the lobby fears natural gas will come to dominate U.S. energy production. At that price, the Sierra Club’s Valhalla of wind, solar and biofuel power may never be competitive. So the green left has decided it must do everything it can to reduce the supply of gas and keep its price as high as possible.

And that means attacking hydraulic fracturing (something we’ve been doing since 1948 in over a million wells) as the villain.  Because it would seem somewhat hypocritical to attack the fuel that they’ve been touting for years, wouldn’t it? So instead, they’ll attempt to make the process the problem.

So let’s ask the “what if” question.  What if they succeed in this hypocritical campaign of theirs?

The losers if this effort succeeds would be the millions of Americans who are benefitting from the shale boom. Shale gas supports some 600,000 jobs in the natural gas industry, according to an analysis by the consulting firm IHS Global Insight. That’s almost eight times more jobs than are employed by the wind industry.

But the losers would also include electricity consumers paying lower prices at home; the steel workers in Youngstown, Ohio who have been rehired to make pipe for gas drillers in the Marcellus Shale; and the thousands of high-paying jobs in chemicals, fertilizer and other manufacturing that is returning to the U.S. because natural gas prices are so much lower.

They’d limit your choice, drive up your energy bill, kill jobs and all for what?

For their extremist agenda, which, by the way, really has little to do with clean air, water and protecting wildlife.

It’s a cult with money – the most dangerous kind.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Three examples of government intrusion where it has no business

Yes, just three.  You’re right, I could probably make it 30 or 300.  3,000 even!  But for brevity sake, three current examples where government has no business yet feels somehow justified in intruding or regulating in a manner that limits freedom.

First is an example of excessive regulation which in reality is an example of crony capitalism, where a regulation or mandatory licensing creates a state enforced bar to entry into an industry.

Louisiana has a plethora of such laws which regulate or license all sorts of things that few of the other states do.  An example?  The manufacture of caskets is illegal unless, well, you read it:

Brown, a soft-spoken man who is only the fifth leader of a monastery that dates to 1889, said he had not known that in Louisiana only licensed funeral directors are allowed to sell “funeral merchandise.”

That means that St. Joseph Abbey must either give up the casket-selling business or become a licensed funeral establishment, which would require a layout parlor for 30 people, a display area for the coffins, the employment of a licensed funeral director and an embalming room.

“Really,” Brown said. “It’s just a big box.”

Indeed it is.  And buyers should have a choice as to whether to buy it or some other casket.  They likely could pick up the Abbey’s “big box” for much less than it might cost to buy a similar casket in a "licensed funeral director’s” place given the required overhead that the regulatory mandate places on such entities.

In effect, the mandate acts as a high bar to entry.  It is likely the existing funeral industry in LA helped write the law.  That’s called “crony capitalism”.  The Abbey simply provides the illustration of the result.  If freedom equals choice, LA is in the choice limiting business with regulatory and licensing regime like this.

Some good news on that front:

The monks won round one in July, when U.S. District Judge Stanwood R. Duval Jr. ruled Louisiana’s restrictions unconstitutional, saying “the sole reason for these laws is the economic protection of the funeral industry.”

As you might imagine, the other side is not happy.  So is it the state that is appealing?  Well not the state, exactly:

The Louisiana State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors, which has argued that the law protects consumers, has appealed, and the circuit court in New Orleans will hear the case in early June.

That’s right … the protected want to continue to have their state protected industry … protected.  Good lord, if consumers have real choice, well, they might not buy the crony capitalist’s overpriced “funeral merchandise”.

And, of course, that state isn’t the only one with choice limiters working to cut down on your freedom.  Our next two examples come from the state of New York.  I know, shocking.

Case one – Mayor Bloomberg of NYC has decided that you fat folks just shouldn’t have the right to decide (there’s that choice thing again) on the size of “sugary drink” you can buy.

New York City plans to enact a far-reaching ban on the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants, movie theaters and street carts, in the most ambitious effort yet by the Bloomberg administration to combat rising obesity.

The proposed ban would affect virtually the entire menu of popular sugary drinks found in delis, fast-food franchises and even sports arenas, from energy drinks to pre-sweetened iced teas. The sale of any cup or bottle of sweetened drink larger than 16 fluid  ounces — about the size of a medium coffee, and smaller than a common soda bottle — would be prohibited under the first-in-the-nation plan, which could take effect as soon as next March.

The measure would not apply to diet sodas, fruit juices, dairy-based drinks like milkshakes, or alcoholic beverages; it would not extend to beverages sold in grocery or convenience stores.

“Obesity is a nationwide problem, and all over the United States, public health officials are wringing their hands saying, ‘Oh, this is terrible,’ ” Mr. Bloomberg said in an interview on Wednesday in City Hall’s sprawling Governor’s Room.

“New York City is not about wringing your hands; it’s about doing something,” he said. “I think that’s what the public wants the mayor to do.”

Nanny Bloomberg assumes New Yorkers need a mommy.  That they’re fat because of their diet of sugary drinks of a certain size. He’s sure if he limits you to 16 fluid ounces of such belly wash they’ll slim right down.   Nanny Bloomberg also assumes that the public wants him to intrude into every deli, fast-food franchise, food cart and sports arena to save them from themselves.

Because that’s a nanny’s job – limit choice.  Limit freedom.  All for the common good, of course.  (added: here’s a distant cousin’s view – “Sixteen Ounces of Bull”.  Amen, cuz).

Case 2?  Well it seems a couple of state legislators in NY want to outlaw anonymous posting on the internet.  A couple of Republicans, by the way.

New York State Senator Thomas O’Mara recently proposed legislation that would ban anonymous postings on websites in his state.  The bill requires citizens posting on any blog, social network, message board or other forum, to turn over their full names, home addresses and IP address to web site administrators for public posting.  Supposedly it is being pushed as an “anti-bullying” step.

His cohort in this nonsense, however, reveals the real purpose.  State Assemblyman Jim Conte released a statement saying:

…the legislation will help cut down on the types of mean-spirited and baseless political attacks that add nothing to the real debate and merely seek to falsely tarnish the opponent’s reputation by using the anonymity of the Web. By removing these posts, this bill will help to ensure that there is more accurate information available to voters on their prospective candidates, giving them a better assessment of the candidates they have to choose from.

Or, the “let’s limit free speech to protect politician’s reputations” bill.

As the Center for Competitive Politics points out:

Anonymous speech has played a part in our political process since the very founding of our nation.  Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison wrote the Federalist Papers, which where primarily targeting voters in New York, under various pseudonyms.  The Supreme Court upheld this precedent in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission, noting:

“[u]nder our Constitution, anonymous pamphleteering is not a pernicious, fraudulent practice, but an honorable tradition of advocacy and of dissent. Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority.” McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Comm’n, 514 U.S. 334, 357 (1995)

and:

“But political speech by its nature will sometimes have unpalatable consequences, and, in general, our society accords greater weight to the value of free speech than to the dangers of its misuse.” McIntyre, 514 U.S. 334, 357 (1995)

Everyday in just about every way, our freedoms are under assault at all levels of government in this country.  I spend a lot of time recording those at a federal level.  But just as pernicious and certainly just as dangerous are those at local and state levels. 

The cumulative result is we live in a much less free society than we did 100 years ago.  50 years ago.  in fact, 20 years ago.

These three examples can indeed be multiplied by hundreds if not thousands.  They are fairly common unfortunately.  They cost a lot to enforce.  They’re unnecessary.  Most important though,  in each case they limit choice and thereby freedom.

Frog.  Pot. Rising heat.

Time to start getting serious about turning off the freedom limiting burner.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO