Free Markets, Free People

Economy

Destroying “the Iraq war caused the huge deficits” meme

Democrats are particularly fond of that meme because it provides them the opportunity to again shift the blame for something on their arch enemy, George Bush. It is also a convenient way to claim they’re blameless for all of these trillions of dollars in deficit spending that has taken place over the years.

But a funny thing happened on the way to using this convincingly. The real numbers simply don’t support it. In fact, they show us something a lot more believable to be the cause of our new and huge deficits. And it is certainly not anything the Democrats want associated with them.

Randall Hoven at American Thinker does an excellent job of dismantling the myth that the Iraq War and George Bush’s decision to prosecute the war (with the permission of Congress – to include almost every Democrat) are the reason we’re suffering these huge deficits today. And he uses the CBO’s numbers and the Federal government’s own budget figuress to prove that it wasn’t Iraq that put us in the poor house, but the Democrats.

Take a look at this chart:

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According to the CBO’s numbers, the Iraq war has cost $709 billion. Not the wild estimates by some on the left (to include the absurd claims by James Carville and others that the war cost $3 trillion). And look carefully at the added cost of the war on top of the federal deficit spending shown in red.

Notice anything? Now think back – who was in charge of Congress from 2003 – 2007? And what was the trend in overall deficit spending – including the cost of the Iraq war – through 2007. Any impartial observer would point out the trend was downward. The party in charge of Congress at the time was the GOP.

Who took over the Congress in 2008? And what has happened to deficit spending since? Certainly the cost of Iraq has increased the deficit somewhat, but in comparison to the deficit spending since the Democratic Congress has been in session it pales in comparison.

And now, that war is essentially over and we’ve pulled the last combat brigade out, costs will certainly come down and eventually be quite small. But the trillion dollar yearly deficits – the Obama budget for 2011 is $1.4 trillion dollars – aren’t coming down at all, are they?

Be sure to read Hoven’s piece – he shows his work and provides a powerful tool to debunk the left’s “Iraq is why we have a huge deficit” canard. It has, instead, been the spending of the Democrats in Congress. Hoven’s work easily puts lie to the Democrat’s attempt to once again shift the blame for their own profligacy on to George Bush and the Iraq war.

~McQ

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Stimulus spin

This is being pointed to as a validation of the “stimulus” plan:

The oft-criticized stimulus plan boosted the economy in the second quarter by as much as 4.5%, the Congressional Budget Office said on Tuesday.

In a report published the same day as Minority Leader John Boehner’s criticism of President Obama’s economic policy, the CBO said the stimulus law boosted the economy by between 1.7% and 4.5%, lowered the unemployment rate by between 0.7 percentage points and 1.8 percentage points and increased the number of people employed by between 1.4 million and 3.3 million.

Of course it boosted the GDP by a sizeable amount.  When you pour almost a trillion dollars out of the government bucket and that is part of the calculation of GDP, then naturally the GDP is going to be “boosted”.

The question is, what good did it do.  Claims of “increasing the number of people employed” is, as is obvious, a guess cranked out by an economic model. 

But look around you.  When what the bucket has dumped out drains away, what do we have?

9.5% unemployment – at least at an official level – 1.5% higher than what was promised if the “stimulus” wasn’t passed.

A stagnant economy. 

Businesses neither expanding nor hiring.

Car sales – down.

Housing sales – way down.

Consumer confidence – in the tank.

Expanded regulation, increased taxation and a war on business.

Policies that have been described as an “economic Katrina.”

So let the left and the media try their best to make this more than it is – the effect on GDP calculation that absurd levels of governmental deficit spending will have.

Take that out and there isn’t much to shout about, is there?

In practice, that means the stimulus plan is the main reason the U.S. economy grew during the second quarter. The Commerce Department estimates the economy grew 2.4% in the second quarter, a figure most economists expect to be sharply revised lower in a report due Friday.

Uh, no, there isn’t.

One last little point:

The CBO also upwardly raised the cost of the stimulus plan to $814 billion from $787 billion.

Nice.

~McQ

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Administration knew drilling moratorium would cost 23,000 jobs

In the middle of a recession, with joblessness hovering around the 10% mark, the Obama administration made a deliberate decision to impose a drilling moratorium knowing it would cost at least 23,000 jobs. Why?

Senior Obama administration officials concluded the federal moratorium on deepwater oil drilling would cost roughly 23,000 jobs, but went ahead with the ban because they didn’t trust the industry’s safety equipment and the government’s own inspection process, according to previously undisclosed documents.

Never mind the fact that an event like this had never happened before in deep water.   Never mind there were hundreds of deepwater wells functioning properly and well.  Never mind that those jobs were well paying jobs  and that through their elimination would cause ripple-effect unemployment down the supply chain.

Instead, deliberately trash the lives of 23,000 workers – and their families – because of unfounded fears.

Yeah, that’s leadership, isn’t it?

Asked to comment, a White House spokesman said the administration "well understood, and understands, the enormous importance of oil and gas to the region’s economy," but the potential economic risks from another spill to other elements of the Gulf economy—such as fishing and tourism—also informed the administration’s deliberations, "especially as spill-response resources were fully engaged to address the BP Deepwater Horizon spill."

What “potential economic risk”?  What was the “potential” for another such freakish accident?  Well the history of deepwater drilling says not very high at all.  And while I have some sympathy with the “our spill-response resources were fully engaged”, there were certainly ways to ensure that other operations were safe and following approved drilling procedures.

You know, like put freakin’ inspectors on the deepwater drilling rigs full time to ensure those procedures were followed to the letter.  Yeah, a bit of an imposition on the inspectors, but it would have saved 23,000 jobs.  So you tell them to suck it up or you’ll find someone who will.

Wondering: do these jobs go in the negative column of the jobs “created and saved” the Obama administration?

~McQ

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Surprised again – Weekly job loss numbers “unexpectedly” rise

I think I need a special category for this.  The “unexpected surprise of the week”.  Of course, it would mostly be filled with posts about unemployment numbers – although there’d also be plenty about “disappointment” concerning other economic numbers as well.

Apparently the “Recovery Summer” sunshine show is showing it’s tattered edges fairly obviously.

New U.S. claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly climbed to a nine-month high last week, yet another setback to the frail economic recovery.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 500,000 in the week ended August 14, the highest since mid-November, the Labor Department said on Thursday.

And last week’s loss was revised upwards another 4,000 lost jobs.

The economy grew at a 2.4 percent annualized rate in the second quarter, much slower than the 3.7 percent pace in the first three months of the year.

Which, politically, means:

The economy’s poor health has handed President Barack Obama a tough challenge and put at risk the Democratic Party’s majorities in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate in November’s mid-term elections.

Obama’s approval ratings have tumbled to the mid- to lower 40 percent range and Congress’ ratings are hovering at about 20 percent.

Hey, when you’re the loudmouths who stand on the side and blame the other guy for the problem and claim you are the only ones who can “fix” it  – elect me – then you by God better fix it when it is handed to you (even if you haven’t a clue of how to do it).

Irony can be a bitch, can’t she?

~McQ

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Why aren’t Democrats running on their record?

Seriously? If, as the President touted in LA the other day, they’ve passed the most progressive agenda in decades, why in the world aren’t they trumpeting it to the hills?

Instead, as a headline notes in the POLITICO, “White House searches for villain”.  Apparently they’ve finally figured out that they’ve worn the “blame Bush” card out. However, instead of a strategy to remind the public what Congressional Democrats have done in this session of Congress, they’re looking for a bad guy on the other side to vilify instead.

You could write it off to their usual penchant for the politics of personal destruction and blame-shifting.  But it’s hard to blame Republicans for “obstruction” when you had majorities in both houses of Congress that nullified the GOP’s ability to do that.

So what’s up with them ignoring their own record?

Perhaps, as Thomas Sowell points out, it is how they accomplished that record and what that means that they’d rather play down instead of play up:

‘We the people" are the central concern of the Constitution, as well as its opening words, since it is a Constitution for a self-governing nation. But "we the people" are treated as an obstacle to circumvent by the current administration.

One way of circumventing the people is to rush legislation through Congress so fast that no one knows what is buried in it. Did you know that the so-called health care reform bill contained a provision creating a tax on people who buy and sell gold coins?

You might debate whether that tax is a good or a bad idea. But the whole point of burying it in legislation about medical insurance is to make sure "we the people" don’t even know about it, much less have a chance to debate it, before it becomes law.

The health care bill is the most prevalent example of what Sowell is talking about.  So intent were they on passing what liberal Democrats considered one of their most cherished ideological dreams they pulled out all the stops, invented procedures on the fly and essentially rammed this legislation through without even them knowing what all was in it. 

Debate?  There was none.  None. They wouldn’t allow it. And certainly none about what was in the bill and would become law of the land.  So we continue to find little nuggets of crap in the law as we wade through it.  Gold taxes for instance.

But his larger point is the important one here.  It is  what has spawned the Tea Parties and the anger throughout the nation that is now boiling over.  “We the People” – that would be anyone outside of DC – are simply tired of being ignored and having things imposed upon us by out of touch politicians.  And we’re certainly tired of seeing legislation passed as this Congress has done.

Another way we have our freedoms and liberties imposed upon is also been used by this and other Congresses:

Yet another ploy is to pass laws worded in vague generalities, leaving it up to the federal bureaucracies to issue specific regulations based on those laws. "We the people" can’t vote on bureaucrats. And, since it takes time for all the bureaucratic rules to be formulated and then put into practice, we won’t know what either the rules or their effects are prior to this fall’s elections when we vote for (or against) those who passed these clever laws.

Consider the EPA’s attempt to regulate greenhouse gasses by fiat.  If Congress can’t pass a law to regulate them because of popular opposition, well they’ll just reinterpret existing law to their benefit and try to do it anyway.

If you wonder why people think government is out of control, those are two good examples. 

Is it any wonder people see politics today as agenda driven for the benefit of the parties instead of the people?  Is it any wonder that people are feeling more and more like serfs and less like equal citizens?

Not since the Norman conquerors of England published their laws in French, for an English-speaking nation, centuries ago, has there been such contempt for the people’s right to know what laws were being imposed on them.

Until this government is drastically pared back to some basic functions, this is going to continue and get worse.  It is in many areas in which it has no business and it is consuming more and more of our GDP doing things it has no business doing.  If we’re not already bankrupt, runaway government is doing its level best to do so.

There’s a reason the Democrats are searching for a bad guy instead of running on their record.  They can sense something’s wrong, but they really can’t – for whatever reason – put their finger on it. Well, my guess is they can cloak the next villain in Nazi SS regalia and call him the worst thing since Adolph Hitler and it won’t matter a whit in November.

This has got to stop and “the people” have figured it out.  In November, methinks, they’re going to help the politicians figure it out as well.

~McQ

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Obama argues against letting the Bush tax cuts expire

I know, you’re going,” say what!?

A year ago, probably when Obama thought we’d be out of the recessionary woods by now and only 20% of the “stimulus” had been spent, he was questioned while in Elkhart, IN, about the economics of a tax hike during a recession.  The question was submitted by an Elkhart resident (Scott Ferguson) and asked by Chuck Todd of SNBC.  Todd asked, “Explain how raising taxes on anyone during a deep recession is going to help with the economy.”

Obama said it wouldn’t:

“Well—first of all, he’s right. Normally you don’t raise taxes in a recession, which is why we haven’t and why we’ve instead cut taxes. So I guess what I’d say to Scott is—his economics are right. You don’t raise taxes in a recession. We haven’t raised taxes in a recession.”

Absolutely true to that point.  But the larger point is the admission – “you don’t raise taxes in a recession”.

Todd riposted with “But you might for health care. You might for the high—for some of the wealthiest.”

Obama responded very emphatically:

We have not proposed a tax hike for the wealthy that would take effect in the middle of a recession. Even the proposals that have come out of Congress—which by the way, were different from the proposals I put forward—still wouldn’t kick in until after the recession was over. So he’s absolutely right, the last thing you want to do is to raise taxes in the middle of a recession because that would just suck up—take more demand out of the economy and put businesses further in a hole.

Emphasis added, but wow – exactly.  It is “the last thing you want to do” and it will “put businesses further in a hole”.

So that was then and this is now – everyone who is actually having to deal with what is going on know we’re still in a recession.  But technically, we’ve had the “two consecutive quarters of growth” necessary to claim we’re in a recovery.  The fact that the “growth” was pretty much all government spending – borrowed money – doesn’t count.  The technical definition wins out.

That means he can, with a straight face, claim that letting those tax cuts expire is OK because we’re no longer in a recession.

Of course that’s just ludicrous to anyone who has two brain cells to rub together.  It is unwise and economically the wrong thing to do.  But, as Turbo Tax Timmy Geithner has decided, when asked about those expiring tax hikes, “The country can withstand that. The economy can withstand that. I think it’s good policy.”

Is it?  Or is it good “ideology”?

Tax the rich – a liberal mantra for decades.  Take the seed corn and pass it out to those who will eat it instead of plant it.  Ensure that those of the investor class have less to invest. Put businesses in a deeper hole.  Give the money to government which can obviously spend it more wisely than can the private side.

The $787 billion dollar “stimulus”? 

Move along, citizen – nothing to see here.

~McQ

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Dear GOP – don’t get too froggy thinking you’re the “solution”

Because most Americans don’t share your evaluation of yourself.  In fact, because of the dismal performance of the Democrats, you’re only slightly more “acceptable” than they are:

Americans are growing more pessimistic about the economy and the war in Afghanistan, and are losing faith that Democrats have better solutions than Republicans, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.

Underpinning the gloom: Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe the economy has yet to hit bottom, a sharply higher percentage than the 53% who felt that way in January.

The sour national mood appears all-encompassing and is dragging down ratings for the GOP too, suggesting voters above all are disenchanted with the political establishment in Washington.

In fact, just 24% have positive feelings about the GOP, which according to the WSJ, is a new low in the 21 year history of the poll.  In fact, the only reason you’re under any sort of consideration at all is because we’re stuck with a two-party system –something you and the Democrats have been careful to manage – and you’re the only other choice.

If you’re thinking “mandate” in November, I’d change my thinking.  I think it may be better described as “your last chance” … or maybe your “next to last chance”, the last chance coming on the heels of the 2012 presidential elections.

"The Republicans don’t have a message as to why people should vote for them, but it’s pretty clear why you shouldn’t vote for the Democrats," said poll respondent Tim Krsak, 33, a lawyer from Indianapolis and independent who has been unemployed since January. "So by default, you have to vote for the other guy."

Great reason to vote, isn’t it?

You guys better buy a clue (and if you do, use your own money).

~McQ

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Is the US bankrupt?

A good number of voices are beginning to say that technically, if not in fact, the country is bankrupt.

For instance:

America is a "Mickey Mouse economy" that is technically bankrupt, according to Jochen Wermuth, the Chief Investment Officer (CIO) and managing partner at Wermuth Asset Management.

"America today looks like Russia in 1998. Consumers, companies and the government are all highly indebted. America as a result is a bankrupt Mickey Mouse economy," Wermuth told CNBC.

Wermuth goes on to say that if the same IMF team that managed the 1998 Russian financial crisis in Russia were to walk into the US Treasury today, “they would withdraw support for current US policy”.

And don’t forget Mort Zuckerman who called the present policies our “economic Katrina”.

But as bad as present policies are, they aren’t solely the reason we’re in the awful economic shape we’re in.  We have a history of that.

"Even before the (Troubled Asset Relief Program) and the expansion of the Fed’s balance sheet, total US public and private debt as a percentage of GDP in the US stood at 290 percent, that figure is now far higher," Wermuth added.

Laurence Kotlikof explains it in terms of a “fiscal gap”. 

The fiscal gap is the value today (the present value) of the difference between projected spending (including servicing official debt) and projected revenue in all future years.

The IMF pointed out in its last report that the US must close this fiscal gap to “stabilize the debt to GDP ratio”.  The IMF estimates ““closing the fiscal gap requires a permanent annual fiscal adjustment equal to about 14 percent of U.S. GDP.”

So what does that mean in dollars?

To put 14 percent of gross domestic product in perspective, current federal revenue totals 14.9 percent of GDP. So the IMF is saying that closing the U.S. fiscal gap, from the revenue side, requires, roughly speaking, an immediate and permanent doubling of our personal-income, corporate and federal taxes as well as the payroll levy set down in the Federal Insurance Contribution Act.

Note the two words – “immediate” and “permanent”.  In order to pay off the huge debt our “betters” in Washington DC have run up over the years, strictly from the revenue side, our taxes would have to see an “immediate” and “permanent” doubling.

Sounds like bankruptcy to me.

Kotlikof also tells us about the shady book keeping Congress has been engaged in for decades and what the books probably really look like:

Based on the CBO’s data, I calculate a fiscal gap of $202 trillion, which is more than 15 times the official debt. This gargantuan discrepancy between our “official” debt and our actual net indebtedness isn’t surprising. It reflects what economists call the labeling problem. Congress has been very careful over the years to label most of its liabilities “unofficial” to keep them off the books and far in the future.

But of course, “official” or “unofficial” it is still debt.  Whether Congress will admit to it doesn’t change the fact that it is future debt that Congress has incurred through its profligate policies.

And what’s going to bring this all crashing down, despite the smooth and reassuring words of politicians without a clue?  Promises made with no fiscal ability to keep them because, in reality, they’re Ponzi schemes:

We have 78 million baby boomers who, when fully retired, will collect benefits from Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid that, on average, exceed per-capita GDP. The annual costs of these entitlements will total about $4 trillion in today’s dollars. Yes, our economy will be bigger in 20 years, but not big enough to handle this size load year after year.

Got that – government promised $4 trillion a year that it doesn’t have and never has had.  And, thanks to Congressional Democrats, it just expanded that bill under ObamaCare.  The system, much like an engine running at hight RPMs with no oil, is going to stop and stop abruptly:

The first possibility is massive benefit cuts visited on the baby boomers in retirement. The second is astronomical tax increases that leave the young with little incentive to work and save. And the third is the government simply printing vast quantities of money to cover its bills.

The result of any of those, of course, would be economically catastrophic.  And the results among the citizens of this country would be horrible:

Most likely we will see a combination of all three responses with dramatic increases in poverty, tax, interest rates and consumer prices. This is an awful, downhill road to follow, but it’s the one we are on. And bond traders will kick us miles down our road once they wake up and realize the U.S. is in worse fiscal shape than Greece.

For years and years, politicians have claimed all is well with these programs, that we can afford them and that they’ll always be there for those who need them.  None of the above is or has been true since their inception.  If any private business operated as these programs have, the CEOs would be under the jail and wouldn’t see daylight until our sun exploded.

For years, the left and Democrats have made war on corporations and businesses all the while it has been government leading us to financial ruin.  This debt isn’t debt run up by the private side of the economy.  It is purely government’s doing.  Now, given the gravity of the situation, we have very few options and the future does not look bright.

Next time you see your Congressional representative or Senator, thank him or her for the mess they’ve had a hand in creating and ask them how they are going to fix it.  Don’t be surprised by the blank stare you receive in return.  They haven’t a clue.

~McQ

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We should pay less attention to "results" produced by computer models

That’s the basic message our friend Warren Meyers (of Coyote Blog and now Forbes) makes in an article. His points are not only good, but valid. And if one thinks about how inaccurate the models we’ve seen drive debate and spending are, we’d insist on better data before those decisions are made.

Meyer points out that there are few, if any CEOs in non-financial firms who would invest  a penny based solely on computer models. Yet we have this propensity to place much more confidence in models that have done nothing to earn that confidence than they deserve.

For instance:

Last week the Council of Economic Advisors (CEA) released its congressionally commissioned study on the effects of the 2009 stimulus. The panel concluded that the stimulus had created as many as 3.6 million jobs, an odd result given the economy as a whole actually lost something like 1.5 million jobs in the same period. To reach its conclusions, the panel ran a series of complex macroeconomic models to estimate economic growth assuming the stimulus had not been passed. Their results showed employment falling by over 5 million jobs in this hypothetical scenario, an eyebrow-raising result that is impossible to verify with actual observations.

Not only is it impossible to verify, it was issued as a defacto “truth” and the “stimulus” was declared a “success”.  And don’t forget the inclusion, now, of one of the world’s best weasle words to pad the results – jobs “saved”.  However the administration goes to great lengths to ignore its previous claim that if the “stimulus” was passed, unemployment wouldn’t rise above 8%. One has to guess, given the results, that the computer model was wrong about that.

Meyer goes on to point out how the modeling which can’t predict the complex world of economics, is somehow considered the “gold-standard” of predictability when it comes to the exponentially more complex climate.  So much so that governments everywhere are basing trillions of dollars of taxes (cap-and-trade) on the results of such models in an supposed effort to “save the planet”.

While we have been bombarded with hockey sticks and forlorn polar bears, our focus in climate should really be on the computer models. The primary scientific case for man-made CO2 as the main driver of global temperatures is made in exactly the same way that the stimulus was determined to have created 3.6 million jobs: computer modeling. No one yet has been clever enough to structure a controlled experiment to isolate the effect of rising CO2 levels from other changing variables in the complex global climate. So, just like the CEA did in scoring the stimulus, climate scientists use computer models to run virtual experiments, running the models backward over the last century with varying assumptions for CO2 levels.

This modeling approach yields amazingly circular logic. Like macroeconomic models built by devoted Keynesians, climate models are constructed by academics who passionately believe that a single variable, CO2 concentration, is the dominant driver of the whole complex climate system. When run retrospectively, the models they create unsurprisingly give the result that past temperature increases are mainly attributable to CO2. The problem with these models is that when run forward, as in the case of the Washington Redskins election model, they do a terrible job of predicting the future. None of them, for example, predicted the flattening of global temperatures over the last decade.

Yet policy has been proposed and written based on results that are nonverifiable and questionable at best.  That’s insanity.  But the purported case for using the results is if we wait for real data it may be too late.  But when the real data appears (such as the flattening of global temps for this past decade) the modelers and proponents of the government action want to ignore it and deny its importance.

This all goes back to two themes I’ve been hammering for quite some time – common sense and scientific skepticism.  Both are necessary tools of a rational person.  And Meyers nails the point:

Our common sense about government stimulus tells us that the government is highly unlikely to invest money more productively than the private entities from whom the government took the money. Unfortunately, we have allowed this common sense to be trumped by computer models. Once our imperfect understanding the economy was laundered through computer models and presented with two-decimal precision, smart people somehow lost their skepticism.

We are now facing what is potentially an even more expensive decision: to regulate CO2 based mainly on computer models that claim to be able to separate the effects of trace concentrations of CO2 from a hundred other major climate variables. If your common sense is whispering to you that this seems crazy, listen to it. Otherwise all we get is garbage in, money out.

The “garbage in” should be obvious. Unfortunately, the “money out” is money coming out of your wallet to pay for unproven science and unfounded economic models. 

~McQ

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The Economy In An Anecdote

I think this entire article entitled “Why I’m Not Hiring” could qualify as the QOTD. It neatly explains why businesses are so reluctant to hire anyone right now.

Meet Sally (not her real name; details changed to preserve privacy). Sally is a terrific employee, and she happens to be the median person in terms of base pay among the 83 people at my little company in New Jersey, where we provide audio systems for use in educational, commercial and industrial settings. She’s been with us for over 15 years. She’s a high school graduate with some specialized training. She makes $59,000 a year—on paper. In reality, she makes only $44,000 a year because $15,000 is taken from her thanks to various deductions and taxes, all of which form the steep, sad slope between gross and net pay.

[…]

Employing Sally costs plenty too. My company has to write checks for $74,000 so Sally can receive her nominal $59,000 in base pay … When you add it all up, it costs $74,000 to put $44,000 in Sally’s pocket and to give her $12,000 in benefits. Bottom line: Governments impose a 33% surtax on Sally’s job each year.

There is no grand revelation in Mr. Fleischer’s explanatory essay. Just hard cold reality: make the costs of hiring more expensive, and less hiring will happen.

Some may argue that just because Mr. Fleischer’s company isn’t hiring for these reasons, that doesn’t mean that other companies are refraining on the same basis. True, but what are the other possible reasons then? Logan Penza summarizes some of the arguments:

It’s those Evil, Greedy Corporations.

That’s the simple explanation most of the talking heads have for the continuing high unemployment numbers. Those Evil, Greedy Corporations horde their money and refuse to hire anyone. When they do hire someone, they don’t pay them enough, don’t offer them enough benefits, don’t pay enough taxes, pollute the planet, steal candy from babies, kick puppies, and make obscene gestures at your auntie. Evil, Greedy Corporations are offered up as cartoon villains, detestable and vile and without any redeeming value.

The trouble with cartoon villains is that they are fictional.

Well, yeah, but it’s so much easier to blame fictional bogeymen then to address what the real businesses say.

Another argument I’ve seen advanced is that the marketplace is inherently uncertain, and that businesses who can’t cope with changes in the law are simply unfit to survive. There is a certain laissez-faire appeal to this argument, but ultimately it doesn’t make sense.

The fact of the matter is that the types of market risk that businesses can and do adjust to, aside from increased competition, are changes in demand and supply, natural disasters and war. The more savvy, efficient and customer-sensitive businesses do survive these sorts of uncertainties and ultimately enhance the economy when they do.

In contrast, when the government continually raises the costs of doing business in the first place (or threatens to do so), the only ones who really survive are either the politically connected or the very wealthy (yes, they are often the same thing). That doesn’t have anything to do with building a better mousetrap, as it were, or growing the economy. And it certainly doesn’t do anything to raise everyone’s standard of living. Instead, all it does is reward those closest to the rule-makers, thus creating more competition to be closest to the King rather than satisfying the marketplace. It is exactly the sort of crony-capitalism we claim to detest.

As Mr. Fleischer summarizes:

A life in business is filled with uncertainties, but I can be quite sure that every time I hire someone my obligations to the government go up. From where I sit, the government’s message is unmistakable: Creating a new job carries a punishing price.

Perhaps instead of punishing business, the government could get out of the way. Maybe then we could get some of that job growth we’ve all been looking for. Unfortunately, it seems that few in Washington are listening, or worse, that they don’t really care.

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