And, as you might imagine, it’s all politically driven:
G.M. said that it would offer both common stock and preferred stock in the offering, which could begin as early as October, when the Obama administration will be seeking to portray its aid to the auto industry as a success before midterm elections in November.
How neat and nice. Claiming a profit from the "turnaround", something which has been debunked since, GM hopes to free itself from being called "Government Motors", which, it says is hurting sales. Additionally GM is still hemorrhaging money with a negative cash flow in the millions per month.
Given all of that though, I loved this:
The Treasury is expected to sell enough stock in the initial offering to bring its overall ownership position in G.M. below 50 percent — freeing the automaker of the stigma of being called “Government Motors,” which executives have said is hurting its reputation in the marketplace. G.M.’s 734-page filing said taxpayers would “continue to own a substantial interest in us following this offering.”
Got that? Treasury is going to sell enough stock to bring its overall ownership position in GM below 50% – however:
The Treasury, in a statement on Wednesday, said it would “retain the right, at all times, to decide whether and at what level to participate in the offering.”
The statement said the offering would not include the government’s preferred G.M. shares, worth $2.1 billion.
Read that however you wish to read it, but that says BS to the first part of the claim where I come from. The way I read it is Treasury has assumed “the right” to interfere (by buying more stock, not just selling it) at any time it deems it necessary to do so.
So – given the way the last group of investors was treated when GM went into bankruptcy and the fact that government “retains the right” to interfere – why in the world would I want to invest my money in Government Motors?
You could also entitle it "meet the new boss, same as the old boss". What I’m talking about is a recent meeting between UAW bosses and GM workers. To say it didn’t go well would be a vast understatement)(via Sweetness and Light):
Workers at a General Motors stamping plant in Indianapolis, Indiana chased United Auto Workers executives out of a union meeting Sunday, after the UAW demanded workers accept a contract that would cut their wages in half.
As soon as three UAW International representatives took the podium, they were met with boos and shouts of opposition from many of the 631 workers currently employed at the plant. The officials, attempting to speak at the only informational meeting on the proposed contract changes, were forced out within minutes of taking the floor.
The incident once again exposes the immense class divide between workers and union officials, who are working actively with the auto companies to drive down wages and eliminate benefits.
Actively working with the auto companies? They are part owners now of the auto companies – they’re "management" for heaven sake.
Interesting how it suddenly looks when you’re on the "other side", huh? And in the face of vociferous opposition, the UAW officials abandoned the podium.
All of this was written up at the World Socialist website. There’s also a video which gives real credence to the story. In the beginning someone from the local is speaking. He or she (I really couldn’t tell which) then introduces the UAW international drones at about 2:48. As you watch it, it will remind you of some of the townhall meetings of last summer:
The article goes on to say:
Workers at Local 23 voted 384-22 in May to reject reopening a previous contract, which had guaranteed that wages would remain intact in the event of a sale. GM first announced its intention to sell the plant in 2007, threatening to close it if it did not find a buyer.
Despite overwhelming opposition by the rank-and-file, UAW executives secretly continued negotiations with JD Norman, which they outlined in a document sent to workers last week.
Pretty bad when your union which is now management sells you out, isn’t it? To paraphrase one worker, “they’ll still have their jobs while they sell ours out”. Wow – wasn’t that the argument against the hated “management?” Heh …
Irony – it’s really something to be appreciated sometimes, isn’t it? The UAW always wanted control of the auto companies didn’t it? Now it has it – sweet, huh? And private sector unions wonder why their membership is dropping like a rock.
Yup, as Tim Geithner would say – “welcome to the recovery”. And, given the trends, I would guess this isn’t the last of the “unexpectedly” high unemployment report we’ll see. Again, ad nauseam, there’s been no incentive provided by government, but plenty of disincentives that are keeping businesses on the sidelines and consumers from spending:
Initial jobless claims climbed by 19,000 to 479,000 in the week ended July 31, the most since April and exceeding the highest estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The number of people receiving unemployment benefits dropped, while those getting extended payments rose.
A cooling economy means employers will resist taking on more staff in coming months, raising the risk consumer spending will weaken further. The jobless rate rose last month as payroll increases weren’t large enough to keep up with gains in the labor force, economists forecast a government report tomorrow will show.
As if anyone has to be told, this is not good. And it wouldn’t surprise me to see the U6 unemployment rate tick up over 10% again in the next few months:
“There really is no upside momentum in the labor market, and that’s a critical long-term determinant of where the economy is going,” said Steven Ricchiuto, chief economist at Mizuho Securities USA Inc. in New York. “People just aren’t getting jobs.”
That’s because jobs aren’t being created and offered. Name the incentive, at this point, to do so? Tax increases are in the offing, health care laws, 1099 requirements, Democrats still pushing for cap-and-trade, new financial regulations that impact the market and economic policies which give the impression the administration is at war with business.
Why would any sane business owner invest in his business in times as unsettled as these?
Answer: he or she wouldn’t. And that’s the biggest reason unemployment continues to “unexpectedly” rise. Headcount is the easiest thing to add when times are good. It’s also the easiest thing to reduce when times are bad. And if they stay bad – as we’re seeing now – few if any are going to be adding jobs.
Economics 101 – provide incentives to get the behavior you want. Provide disincentives to discourage the behavior you don’t want. The administration’s economic policies have, to this point, provided business with all manner of disincentives to hiring. And then the “experts” are surprised when jobless rates are “unexpectedly” higher than estimated.
Of course you an find “experts” who will point to each and say that’s our future. USA Today has a list of them in an article which explores the title question. It appears most believe it will be the latter – a slow recovery. But some are worried about signs that the present situation compares very closely with the 1930s.
And, in many ways it does. We continue to see weakness everywhere. And it appears until we get the housing market squared away (housing starts down 5% this month) and some other areas cleaned up, plus get some hiring going on, it is going to continue to be rough out there.
Jobs continue to be key to the recovery (we are a consumer driven economy – no job, no money. No money, no consumption) so the faster we can employ the jobless, the faster we see the recovery take off. However, that’s a huge undertaking:
The national unemployment rate stands at 9.5%, or more than 14 million Americans, says the Department of Labor, far below the peak unemployment rate of 25% during the Great Depression. But those numbers don’t fully convey the jobs weakness. Another 8.6 million people are working part time because they can’t get full-time jobs. And 3.8 million, discouraged by the dearth of job opportunities, are out of work but were not counted as unemployed.
So while not at 25%, we’re most likely somewhere in the 14% range in real terms (not the politically motivated U3 of 9.5%).
"If you’re not making money, it’s pretty hard to spend it," or pay bills, Johnson says. "There’s no fuel in the economic engine to make it grow. People are spending less and saving more."
This, of course, is where the impetus comes from to claim if the people can’t spend, the government should. We’ve seen, first hand, how that’s worked out – unemployment went up and stayed up. And “more” wouldn’t have made any difference as is now being argued.
The answer isn’t government spending – not in a consumer driven economy. No, the way you help solve this problem, if you’re government, is to incentivize business expansion and thereby hiring to drive consumer spending. Instead, the policies of this administration, at least to this point, have businesses on the sidelines sitting on both their hands and their money.
Further crimping the outlook for future growth is the fact that cash-rich U.S. companies, despite improving profitability, are still leery of the recovery and are reluctant to deploy that money to grow or hire new workers.
"Companies have pared their expenses dramatically, upgraded their technology, improved their profit margins," Johnson says. "But they are not hiring more people, because they would have to see greater demand to do so."
Once again, the government can’t create that “greater demand” via “stimulus”. That demand has to come from consumers. Those are the customers businesses rely on to generate demand, and with about 14% in the unemployment/underemployment mix, that demand simply isn’t there – or, at least, not enough to expand and hire.
Catch 22? In a way. So what can government do?
Cut business taxes. Get out of the way. Provide incentives to expand and hire (accelerate capital equipment depreciation for instance, if bought now).
There are lots of ways short of spending us into oblivion that the government can positively effect the market and the business climate. Unfortunately, as Mort Zuckerman has stated and the business community as a whole believe, we have an “anti-business” administration in charge right now – and that further unsettles the situation. Perception being reality, as long as the business community believe that, not much is going to change.
So, there’s your day’s sunny outlook on the economic front. As Donald Luskin says:
"The only way to get out of debt is to earn money," Luskin says. "The only way to get out of recession is to grow. If you kill growth, you are" in trouble.
And right now, we’re in trouble.
Mort Zuckerman, a former Obama supporter, has again gone after the President’s economic policies as the primary source of the economic non-recovery. In a long opinion piece, Zuckerman spells out the exceptionalism of American business through our history and why it has been able to weather financial storms of the past and come out in much better shape than other countries.
The ‘storm’ metaphor is apt, since Zuckerman likens the Obama policies to “our economic Katrina”. Not the economic problem itself, but the administration and Democratic Congress’s answer to the problem. Here’s his summation:
The unique danger today is the possibility that we may face longer-term stagnation as a consequence of relying too heavily on borrowed money. When the housing and credit bubbles burst in 2007 and 2008, the unemployment rate soared to double digits and caused a cascade of shock throughout the credit markets and the banking system. Washington’s ability to initiate a resurgence is now limited by the long-term dangers of our deficits and our debts.
But one unfortunate pattern that has emerged in the last 18 months is to lay all the blame for our difficulties only on the business community and the financial world. This quite ignores the role of Congress in many areas, but most glaringly in forcing Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Housing Administration to back loans to people who could not afford them. And not to mention the role of the Securities and Exchange Commission, which in 2004 sanctioned higher levels of leverage for financial firms, from 12 times equity to over 30 times equity.
This predilection to blame business is manifest in the unnecessary and provocative anti-business sentiment revealed by President Obama in a recent speech that was supposed to be seeking the support of the business community for a doubling of exports over the next five years. "In the absence of sound oversight," he said, "responsible businesses are forced to compete against unscrupulous and underhanded businesses, who are unencumbered by any restrictions on activities that might harm the environment, or take advantage of middle-class families, or threaten to bring down the entire financial system." This kind of gratuitous and overstated demonization of business is exactly the wrong approach. It ignores the disappointment of a stimulus program that was ill-designed to produce the jobs the president promised—that famous 8 percent unemployment ceiling.
But it’s not just the rhetoric that undermines the confidence the business community needs to find if it is to invest. Consider the new generation of regulatory rules, increased bureaucracy, and higher taxes created by the Obama administration. For example, the new financial regulation bill includes nearly 500 "rule-makings," studies, and reports, compared with just 14 in total for the controversial Sarbanes-Oxley bill, passed after the financial scandals of Enron and WorldCom. The disillusionment has spread to the Business Roundtable, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), which represents small businesses that normally account for roughly 60 percent of job creation.
The chief economist of the NFIB, William Dunkelberg, put it clearly: Small business owners "do not trust the economic policies in place or proposed." He also said, "The U.S. economy faces hurricane force headwinds and the government is at the center of the storm, making an economic recovery very difficult."
Our economic Katrina, in short.
Note that even Zuckerman recognizes the government role in the economic turmoil that was generated in late 2008, but also notes that they simply have ignored the government role in favor of blaming business. Half a trillion dollars have been quietly pumped into Freddie and Fannie and both have been delisted from the stock exchange so investors can no longer monitor them.
Instead the focus has been on blaming the private sector and clamping down on perceived problems with hundreds if not thousands of new regulations. The regulations, of course, will put a new, onerous and costly burden on the business community even while it is that community which is critical to recovery and employment.
In fact, it seems that the administration and Congressional Democrats talk out of one side of their mouths about how jobs are their number one focus (actually unemployment benefits seem to constitute the entirety of the focus) while out of the other side they talk about how “Wall Street and the banks” are the prime villains in our economic woes.
In that atmosphere, as unsettled as any category 5 hurricane can accomplish, business is battening down the hatches, moving everything inside and abandoning the marketplace until the instability subsides and a more pro-business administration is in place.
Instead of doing what it can to settle the market place and put policies in place that encourage and provide incentive to businesses to expand and hire, this Congress and administration continue to wage war on the private economic engine of the country.
And the results remain plain for anyone with a pair of eyes to see. Stagnation, no growth, high unemployment and the real possibility of a double dip recession. All to purse the “progressive” anti-business agenda and gain more control over the private economy. Clearly they simply refuse to let this crisis go to waste, and have chosen to further cripple our ability to recover instead of aiding and abetting it.
ne of the most insidious things about the development and expansion of the Nanny State is the programs that pave the way usually sound like a "good thing".
For instance, who wouldn’t think that saving for your future isn’t a good thing? Anyone? However, doing so if you so choose is the way a free people would approach that subject. Which is why, even though it may sound good to some, I would adamantly oppose any government savings program imposed on us:
The White House and congressional Democrats, with the backing of the AARP, will soon put forth a plan to automatically enroll new private-sector employees in investment retirement accounts (IRAs).
The measure will apply to new workers at firms that don’t currently offer 401(k) retirement plans, according to AARP, the lobby group for seniors. Workers would have the choice of opting out of the accounts.
Now most of you will spot the fact that the worker at a firm that doesn’t offer a 401(k) now is already able to open an IRA should they so choose. What the government and it’s crony – the AARP – are planning to do is change the choice. Now you will have an IRA unless you opt out.
Can anyone tell me where the burden will fall to ensure compliance? I mean what’s the natural collection point for this sort of paperwork? What entity will have to provide the initial paperwork as a matter of routine when the new employee is hired, ensure the option is presented and, if the employee chooses to open an IRA, provide assistance in doing so as well as provide the automatic payment allotment to the IRA?
And, last but not least, there will be a need for a new government bureaucracy to monitor and ensure compliance. In fact, this is just another in a long line of intrusions that most freedom loving people would say is none of the government’s business.
Defenders of a program like this would claim there’s nothing wrong with it, savings is good, and besides, new employees have an opportunity to opt out.
Well, right now, they have an opportunity to opt in. And that’s the point. Those who want to can choose to do so now without any government involvement or business compliance involved at all.
This boils down to another burden and cost imposed on business and yet another intrusion by government under the auspices of "you are unable to make smart choices for yourself, so we’ll do it for you".
Is anyone yet growing tired of that?
Ben White at Politico tells us:
Obama has been happy to be seen by voters as cracking down on Wall Street but those efforts have had an unintended result: feeding a sense that the president and his party are indifferent or even actively hostile toward big business, whether those businesses are Silicon Valley tech companies, Midwestern manufacturers or Main Street small businesses.
And it is more than just politics: Obama’s aides believe confidence in the general direction of White House policy has an effect on the willingness of corporations to hire, invest and push the economy toward a more solid recovery.
We’ve all heard about the $1.8 trillion that companies and corporations have saved while they sit on the side-lines refusing to invest or hire. We’ve seen the likes of Mort Zuckerman declare that the policies and attitude of the administration are decidedly "anti-business". And we’ve seen little or no evidence that anything the government has done has, in fact, spurred economic recovery.
So – what’s the administration’s answer? A public relations campaign where they essentially tell us things have happened we know haven’t, take credit for things they had little to do with and essentially try to spin their way out of the "anti-business" label.
Or, “business as usual”:
So the White House has launched a campaign to help instill that confidence, highlighted by Obama’s remarks on Wednesday stressing his commitment to lifting trade barriers as a way to spur economic growth. That was followed by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s interview on CNBC’s “Kudlow Report” last night — following his spot on PBS’ “NewsHour” on Tuesday. Obama talked up the economy in Missouri Thursday as well.
In a Thursday interview, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel argued that rather than recoiling against Obama, business leaders should be grateful for his support on at least a half-dozen counts: his advocacy of greater international trade and education reform open markets despite union skepticism; his rejection of calls from some quarters to nationalize banks during the financial meltdown; the rescue of the automobile industry; the fact that the overhaul of health care preserved the private delivery system; the fact that billions in the stimulus package benefited business with lucrative new contracts, and that financial regulation reform will take away the uncertainty that existed with a broken, pre-crash regulatory apparatus.
But you see, businesses know all of that and they aren’t “grateful”, they’re alarmed. Not only that, they don’t see private banks and financial institutions as the sole problem in the financial meltdown – but they do see government trying to pretend it was all Wall Street and greedy corporations, while Freddie and Fannie have become half a trillion dollar financial sink holes that politicians don’t want to talk about.
They also understand that the Bush tax cuts are expiring, new health care laws and taxes are pending, new and onerous regulations are in the offing and the lame duck Congress will most likely try to push through some version of cap-and-trade. Add to that failing states like Illinois and California and the probability of higher taxes all the way around.
And then there’s the possibility of a double-dip recession.
Why wouldn’t business be sitting on their money given the “rest of the story” that the administration conveniently leaves out of their pitch?
This is a crew that has supreme confidence in their ability to propagandize anything and get away with it. And why shouldn’t they – look who is sitting in the White House. You’d have to believe if you can sell an empty suit to a majority of the nation, you can probably sell anything.
Seriously, by now just about anyone – to include the President’s panel of economic advisers – should be able to figure out why there are no jobs. The QoD below tells you why in so many words. Fareed Zakaria tells you why without mincing words:
The key to a sustainable recovery and robust economic growth is to get companies investing in America. So why are they reluctant, despite having mounds of cash? I put this question to a series of business leaders, all of whom were expansive on the topic yet did not want to be quoted by name, for fear of offending people in Washington.
Economic uncertainty was the primary cause of their caution. "We’ve just been through a tsunami and that produces caution," one told me. But in addition to economics, they kept talking about politics, about the uncertainty surrounding regulations and taxes. Some have even begun to speak out publicly. Jeffrey Immelt, chief executive of General Electric, complained Friday that government was not in sync with entrepreneurs. The Business Roundtable, which had supported the Obama administration, has begun to complain about the myriad laws and regulations being cooked up in Washington.
In other words, back off, get out of the freaking way, quit talking about massive new taxes and programs that deincentivize investment and employment, and let the 1.8 trillion in cash sitting on the sidelines in private hands do its job.
Wow, I wish I’d been saying that for, oh, 18 months or so.
It still astounds me, though, that I and others are still beating this drum this late into this economic disaster. As the title points out – this isn’t rocket science. Incentives work to increase behavior you want, disincentives work to discourage behavior you don’t want. If you talk about making it harder and more expensive to hire someone, you disincentivize hiring. Same with investment.
And that’s precisely what’s going on.
One CEO told me, "Almost every agency we deal with has announced some expansion of its authority, which naturally makes me concerned about what’s in store for us for the future." Another pointed out that between the health-care bill, financial reform and possibly cap-and-trade, his company had lawyers working day and night to figure out the implications of all these new regulations.
The immediate implication is they’re sitting on the sidelines, sitting on their cash instead of investing it, and they’re not hiring. And every reason you seen listed above has to do with government. Not down markets, or lack of demand, or whatever else one might want to blame on “capitalism”.
Of course, as an aside, I have little sympathy for many of these CEOs. They’ve learned you get what you vote for:
Most of the business leaders I spoke to had voted for Barack Obama. They still admire him. Those who had met him thought he was unusually smart. But all think he is, at his core, anti-business.
Yet these titans of industry and banking apparently weren’t astute enough, or didn’t want to look under the veneer this “smart” guy presented. Seems interesting to me that they never got it, but many of us out here in fly-over land saw through candidate Obama immediately.
Now they – and we – are paying a pretty high price for voting for someone they see as “anti-business” and apparently clueless about how to do what is necessary (or, perhaps, unwilling) to settle the markets, help establish a positive business climate and provide incentives for flowing that 1.8 trillion (it won’t cost the taxpayers a dime) into the economy and spur expansion and hiring.
They must be so pleased with the regime they’ve helped put into place, given their current positions on the sidelines trying to figure out how to stay in business.
Great rant in the Las Vegas Review Journal by Wayne Allyn Root in which he points out the obvious – President Obama wouldn’t know how to create a job if his life depended on it. However, it appears he certainly knows how to kill any incentives to create jobs. Key graf:
I’ve polled all my friends who own small businesses — many of them in the Internet and high-tech fields. They all agree that in this new Obama world of high business taxes, income taxes, payroll taxes, capital gains taxes, and workers compensation taxes, the key to success is to avoid employees. The only way to survive as a business owner today is by keeping the payroll very low and by hiring only independent contractors or part-time employees provided by temp agencies.
There in a nutshell is why you see employers sitting on the sidelines – government has made it too expensive to hire new ones. Literally. So businesses are looking at ways to do the same thing they’re doing with fewer employees, and, if they need some help, looking to independent contractors (1099 hires) to fill the void. They require nothing in terms of health care, social security, or other tax collections. They can be let go at a moment’s notice. They are, at least in my opinion, the way many small businesses will choose to “hire” in the coming years, or, as long as they are essentially penalized for hiring new employees.
Root goes on to call Obama the “great job destroyer”. I’m not sure I’d go that far, but I think the policies he and the Democrats are putting in place (to include their obvious union preferences) are extremely damaging to the employment outlook and because of them, we’re going to see high single digit unemployment for a while. In fact, because of the fact that employers are being penalized for hiring new employees, high single digit unemployment may become the new “norm”.
That would include almost all of the establishment beltway Republicans:
Ethanol subsidies, oil drilling incentives, government insurance and loan guarantees for nuclear energy, natural gas subsidies: These proposals tend to have as many or more Republican advocates as Democratic advocates. Even worse, self-described free-market conservatives often rally for energy subsidies and claim it’s not a deviation from their principles.
Q. Your energy proposals consist largely of incentives — essentially, subsidies. You’ve also fought efforts to remove subsidies from fossil fuels. If you support free, open, and competitive markets, shouldn’t you support removing subsidies that distort the market?
A. [Gingrich] Not if you believe that a low-cost energy regime is essential to our country — both in terms of its internal transportation cost and its competitiveness in the world market.
Of course that argument can be made for absolutely any politically desired program. In fact, Democrats make it for solar and wind power.
So, when you hear establishment Republicans talk about “free markets” it’s really not what they’re talking about – instead they’re talking about favored businesses. Or, as Carney points out, they’re more pro-business than pro-market. Crony capitalism – not free markets.
As Dan Riehl argues that’s why grassroots conservatives and establishment “conservatives” really don’t see eye to eye:
Herein lies the dirty little secret of why the GOP is slow to actually empower the grassroots and conservative movement. It’s also why, in some measure, we can no longer rely on the so called Beltway conservative establishment. Just like Republicans, they’ve come to rely on corporate money, allowing them to drive a large part of their agenda.
Or, unsurprisingly, they’ve been co-opted – more in a long line politicians reduced to rent-seeking for favored corporations to fund their re-election campaigns.
When the GOP talks about being “pro-market”, you’re advised to take that with a grain of salt.