Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Why, You Ask, Are Businesses Not Hiring? The EPA For One Reason…

As regular readers know, we’ve been talking about why businesses are sitting on the sidelines and not hiring at the moment.  Businesses don’t like unsettled questions about the arena in which they must operate.  Health care legislation will effect the cost of doing business.  Until that is settled, there’s little incentive to take a chance and hire or expand their business.   If it costs more to do so after the legislation is passed – and it seems it will, they’ll wait to see the eventual outcome (and cost) and adjust accordingly.  Same with cap-and-trade.

However, in that regard, the EPA seems ready to proceed on it’s own schedule and businesses are not liking what they’re hearing:

Officials gather in Copenhagen this week for an international climate summit, but business leaders are focusing even more on Washington, where the Obama administration is expected as early as Monday to formally declare carbon dioxide a dangerous pollutant.

An “endangerment” finding by the Environmental Protection Agency could pave the way for the government to require businesses that emit carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases to make costly changes in machinery to reduce emissions — even if Congress doesn’t pass pending climate-change legislation. EPA action to regulate emissions could affect the U.S. economy more directly, and more quickly, than any global deal inked in the Danish capital, where no binding agreement is expected.

Bottom line – if the administration can’t get it done legislatively, they’ll just assume the authority and implement what they wish to do to restrict emissions and require “changes in machinery” unilaterally.

An EPA endangerment finding “could result in a top-down command-and-control regime that will choke off growth by adding new mandates to virtually every major construction and renovation project,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue said in a statement. “The devil will be in the details, and we look forward to working with the government to ensure we don’t stifle our economic recovery,” he said, noting that the group supports federal legislation.

Can you imagine a more pervasive “emission” or arbitrarily applied set of mandates? Start asking yourself who the favored and unfavored industries are out there? Do you suppose coal fired power plants might be target one? And I’d guess that refiners would be in the same boat – unless they make ethanol.

The point of course is this is a perfect way to target and increase the cost of operating businesses that the EPA decides are the worst CO2 polluters. They’ll just write regulations that require costly renovations and changes. The net outcome, of course, is increased cost to consumers – most likely in their electricity bills, the cost of goods (transportation) and just about every other aspect of life you can imagine.

An endangerment finding would allow the EPA to use the federal Clean Air Act to regulate carbon-dioxide emissions, which are produced whenever fossil fuel is burned. Under that law, the EPA could require emitters of as little as 250 tons of carbon dioxide per year to install new technology to curb their emissions starting as soon as 2012.

The EPA has said it will only require permits from big emitters — facilities that put out 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year. But that effort to tailor the regulations to avoid slamming small businesses with new costs is expected to be challenged in court.

Legislators are aware that polls show the public appetite for action that would raise energy prices to protect the environment has fallen precipitously amid the recession.

Understanding that the public appetite for such action is very low, legislators are perfectly happy to let cap-and-trade languish. So the bureaucracy is being empowered to go where no elected politician dares at the moment. And if you’re a business, that means you’re still not clear what that means to you at the moment.

And so, you don’t hire. You don’t expand. You’re barely competitive in the global market as it is and now they’re talking about adding more cost? Yeah, that settles everything, doesn’t it? They’ll start hiring tomorrow.



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Action : Reaction

Gee, I wonder who would have guessed that this would happen:

In a London preview of Wall Street’s bonus nightmare, more than 1,000 investment bankers have quit Royal Bank of Scotland to work at rivals due to curbs on their paychecks, according to people familiar with the situation.

Wall Street banks fear top talent would flee en masse for greener pastures if Uncle Sam’s pay czar, Ken Feinberg, and Congress try to put more ceilings on bonuses and pay at financial firms.

In the UK, the rules are modeled after US actions to curb pay at firms bailed out by the government.


The protest exodus at RBS — first reported on the Web edition of the Times of London — involved less than 5 percent of its banking professionals.

Some headhunters see more bankers jumping ship in the coming year as the controversy deepens over pay freezes and curbs.

Pay people less than they think they can earn elsewhere, then “elsewhere” is where you will find them.

Some will say that these ship-jumpers can’t be worth too much if their companies had to be bailed out, but that gets it exactly backwards. For the most part, it’s those who are responsible for the floundering that will be left working for the rotting (and now government owned) corpse, while those most capable find positions in more stable firms.

There’s nothing particularly bad about this sort of slough off, except that with the bailouts thrown into the mix, it’s the public that’s left holding the bag. Absent the government takeovers, the same sort of thing would have happened, only in a quicker, more orderly way (see, e.g. the fallout from the collapse of Arthur Anderson, or the bankruptcy of BearingPoint).

Moreover, the demonization of Wall Street types accomplishes nothing constructive, and may very well convince otherwise enterprising young B-school grads (or potential grads) to employ their intellectual talents in other fields that may not fully capture their potential or interest. All that does is deprive the rest of us of smart, young and industrious business people who might make our world better, and instead treats us to a glut of some other professionals that we likely don’t need (i.e. lawyers). And we really don’t want that now, do we?

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Copenhagen Is Not About “Science”, It’s About Income Redistribution (Update)

The Guardian today, in its sub headline above an editorial concerning the Copenhagen summit announces:

This editorial calling for action from world leaders on climate change is published today by 56 newspapers around the world in 20 languages.

And, as you might imagine, it is an editorial unwritten by any of them. Of course we all know papers routinely give over editorial space for guess editorialists. But this goes beyond that to pure propaganda. And, as you read the editorial, it completely ignores the scientific scandal now growing ever larger and more serious, to declare the “facts are clear” and that the world needs to take “steps to limit temperature rises to 2C.

I’m reminded of how well our steps to limit unemployment by blowing 787 billion we didn’t have worked in a complex economy which apparently those who claim to know about seemingly didn’t. You can imagine my skepticism (and those of many others like me) concerning the assertion we can change anything (much less have an effect) on anything as complex as a global climate.

Yet these 56 newspapers uncritically reprint this editorial (to include the Miami Herald).

In reality, I’ve come to understand this isn’t about “climate change”, this is about the politics of income redistribution. I’ve spoken of it in the past. This has been a goal of the third-world debating club, also known as the UN, since it has come into existence. The IPCC is just a convenient vehicle on which to base their claims and put them forward to the industrialized countries for fulfillment. The underlying “science”, like a wet paper box, is coming apart at the seams. And not a single mention in the editorial. But it becomes clear, the further you get into it, that it is about what I contend it is about:

Social justice demands that the industrialised world digs deep into its pockets and pledges cash to help poorer countries adapt to climate change, and clean technologies to enable them to grow economically without growing their emissions. The architecture of a future treaty must also be pinned down – with rigorous multilateral monitoring, fair rewards for protecting forests, and the credible assessment of “exported emissions” so that the burden can eventually be more equitably shared between those who produce polluting products and those who consume them. And fairness requires that the burden placed on individual developed countries should take into account their ability to bear it; for instance newer EU members, often much poorer than “old Europe”, must not suffer more than their richer partners.

If you were playing buzz word bingo with this paragraph you’d be at the prize table right now picking one out. It hits all of the favorite themes of income redistributionists. And its blatancy should scare you. This is about your wallet, your money and the rest of the world making a claim on it. This is the third world’s dream come true.

In Copenhagen these next two weeks, our “leaders” will attempt to find a way to accommodate those who are making this claim on your money. What they won’t do is question the “science”. They won’t ask how CO2, which science has told us is an 800 year lagging indicator and an effect of warming suddenly became a cause of warming. They won’t question why the models that predict our environmental Armageddon can’t duplicate the past and have been totally wrong about the last 10 years. Or why those models don’t take into account the effect of the sun, solar wind, cosmic rays or cloud albedo – all things which heavily effect our global climate.

Instead they plan on doing what has been in the works for decades – use this as an excuse to loot the riches of the more industrialized world. The 56 tools of that movement who’ve uncritically reprinted this editorial call the Copenhagen meeting “14 days to seal history’s judgment on this generation” and conclude:

It is in that spirit that 56 newspapers from around the world have united behind this editorial. If we, with such different national and political perspectives, can agree on what must be done then surely our leaders can too.

The politicians in Copenhagen have the power to shape history’s judgment on this generation: one that saw a challenge and rose to it, or one so stupid that we saw calamity coming but did nothing to avert it. We implore them to make the right choice.

I go with “stupid” in this case. Unfortunately the real “stupid” thing to do would be to rush into something using unproven, or even untested science, as the basis for the action – but that’s precisely what the plans are for Copenhagen. And we’ve seen this before. Kyoto was simply a less ambitious attempt than Copenhagen. And we “stupidly” sat it out. Temperatures have cooled since.

So my hope is we stupidly do that again. I’ll be glad to suffer the brickbats from the alarmists and the redistributionists. But until we have real science which is transparent, open and actually tested, I’m not willing to consider letting anyone near my wallet and my freedoms. And that’s what our politicians need to know – loud and clear.

UPDATE: If you’re still doubting my point, I don’t think this fellow could done a better job of making it for me:

A similar theme will play out in Copenhagen as rich countries wrangle over how much they should have to pay to help the developing world shift to cleaner technologies.

“There is no agreement without money,” says Rosário Bento Pais, a top climate negotiator for the European Commission, the European Union’s executive arm. “That is clear.”



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More Stupid Journalist Tricks

This quote from the NYT‘s Robert Frank is enough to cause any half-way intelligent person apoplexy [HT: Ramesh Ponnuru]:

Anti-tax zealots denounce all taxation as theft, as depriving citizens of their right to spend their hard-earned incomes as they see fit. Yet nowhere does the Constitution grant us the right not to be taxed. Nor does it grant us the right to harm others with impunity. No one is permitted to steal our cars or vandalize our homes. Why should opponents of taxation be allowed to harm us in less direct ways?

Oh, Jeez. Correcting all of the problems with this statement could fill volumes, but at its core is this mind-numbingly stupid assertion: “Yet nowhere does the Constitution grant us the right not to be taxed.

That’s right, genius, it doesn’t. Wanna know why? Because nowhere does the Constitution grant us any rights, you imbecile! That’s not what the Constitution is about or for. It doesn’t grant us the right to free speech, or to bear arms, or to due process, or to be secure in our possessions and properties. It doesn’t even grant anyone the right to vote. What it does is protect those individual rights, all of which existed prior to the Constitution even being contemplated. Which, incidentally, was the point to having a government in the first place (and not to use the state’s police powers to dole out goodies to favored constituencies, as seems to be all the rage nowadays).

Indeed, the only thing that Constitution does grant is limited powers to the federal government, all other powers being reserved to the States or the people (see Amendment X to that Constitution you are blathering about).

Accordingly, your argument is not just “insane”, to use Mr. Ponnuru’s term, it is also fundamentally misinformed. In the future, should find the need to expound upon the foundation of our government and/or its relation to individual rights, perhaps you should educate yourself about those concepts first.

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BlogTalk Radio – 8pm (EST) Tonight

Call in number: (718) 664-9614

Yes, friends, it is a call-in show, so do call in.


Climaquiddick – with Copenhagen next week, why are the warmists trying so hard to pretend the CRU scandal doesn’t mean anything significant.

Afghanistan – the President’s West Point speech – what does it mean? Is there really a withdrawal date or is that as soft as the administration is trying to make it since the speech?

Unemployment – are the new numbers really good news? Really?


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Warmists and Their “Science” Head To Copenhagen

Those who would like to restrict how you live depending on how big your carbon footprint might be apparently don’t have a problem with the size of theirs.  Theirs will be a 41,000 ton carbon footprint which will include 1,200 limousines, 141 private jets and just about every 5 star hotel in the city is booked up by the 15,000 delegates.

Perhaps it is the members of the world’s oldest profession which best help identify what this is really all about.

And this being Scandinavia, even the prostitutes are doing their bit for the planet. Outraged by a council postcard urging delegates to “be sustainable, don’t buy sex,” the local sex workers’ union – they have unions here – has announced that all its 1,400 members will give free intercourse to anyone with a climate conference delegate’s pass. The term “carbon dating” just took on an entirely new meaning.

This, my friends, is how absurd it has become. In fact, I would suggest the local sex workers are an analogy for exactly what these Warmists intend to do to the entire world. And the world is pretty much giving it up for free.

Pretty sad.

And as the delegates meet, they do so under a shadow. For the first time, not just the methods but the entire purpose of the climate change agenda is being questioned. Leaked emails showing key scientists conspiring to fix data that undermined their case have boosted the sceptic lobby. Australia has voted down climate change laws. Last week’s unusually strident attack by the Energy Secretary, Ed Miliband, on climate change “saboteurs” reflected real fear in government that momentum is slipping away from the cause.

Let’s make sure that’s precisely what happens.



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UK’s Met Office To Re-Examine Climate Data

In a staggering blow to the credibility of the CRU at the University of East Anglia, the UK’s Met Office will re-examine 160 years worth of climate data in light of the scandal there.  You can read about the Met Office here. They have been a very important and influential part of the man-made climate change cabal and are a government agency.  They along with the Royal Society and the Natural Environmental Research Council issued a statement as recently as November 24th saying AGW was real and the scientific evidence for that hypothesis has actually “strengthened significantly”.

Now, apparently, it is concerned enough by what has been revealed through the released emails from the CRU to decide to review the entire 160 years of data upon which the hypothesis rests.  The Times tells us:

The Met Office plans to re-examine 160 years of temperature data after admitting that public confidence in the science on man-made global warming has been shattered by leaked e-mails.

The new analysis of the data will take three years, meaning that the Met Office will not be able to state with absolute confidence the extent of the warming trend until the end of 2012.


The Met Office’s published data showing a warming trend draws heavily on CRU analysis. CRU supplied all the land temperature data to the Met Office, which added this to its own analysis of sea temperature data.

Why is this important?

The Met Office database is one of three main sources of temperature data analysis on which the UN’s main climate change science body relies for its assessment that global warming is a serious danger to the world. This assessment is the basis for next week’s climate change talks in Copenhagen aimed at cutting CO2 emissions.

Said another way, those in Copenhagen next week, will be making policy based on an assessment in which one of the providers of the data has no confidence.

Make sense?

And you’ll love this:

The Government is attempting to stop the Met Office from carrying out the re-examination, arguing that it would be seized upon by climate change sceptics.

Facts? We don’t need no stinkin’ facts – our minds are made up.  It’s much more important that we don’t give the skeptics ammo than actually settle the science. Talk about vested interests.

And, of course, there’s a bit of whistling past the graveyard:

The Met Office is confident that its analysis will eventually be shown to be correct. However, it says it wants to create a new and fully open method of analysing temperature data.

Couldn’t agree more on the “open method of analysing temperature data” – long, long overdue. And NASA needs to release their data as well and the sooner the better.

Meanwhile, even the IPCC has had to finally admit somethings actually going on which may have an effect on their findings:

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change admitted yesterday that it needed to consider the full implications of the e-mails and whether they cast doubt on any of the evidence for man-made global warming.

Here’s an idea – cancel Copenhagen until there’s some level of confidence that the “science” that undergirds the hypothesis claiming human activity is a main source for ongoing climate change is actually based in real, factual data before rushing into economy killing emissions controls.

Fat chance, I know – we’ll soon learn what the term “bureaucratic impetus” means, I’m afraid.



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The Unemployment Situation

I see that Megan McCardle thinks the unemployment numbers released today are enough to make her make her “cautiously optimistic” about the jobs picture.  I’ll meet her halfway.  I see room for caution, but not yet for optimism.

Ms. McArdle writes:

It’s very solidly good news: the labor force participation rate was basically unchanged, which means we’re seeing an actual decline in the unemployment rate, not a spike in the number of people leaving the labor force because they can’t find a job.

My reading of the numbers is precisely the opposite.  It appears to me that teenagers, high school dropouts, and those with only a high school diploma, all of whom have high unemployment rates, did, in fact, drop out of the labor force, which led to the decrease in the employment rate.

I also think the numbers are skewed by the seasonal adjustments.  The BLS adjusts the figures for seasonal changes, with extra weighting given to more recent years.  Last November, the Lehman collapse led to the loss of 610,000 jobs–the largest ever recorded by the BLS–so I suspect the weighting for seasonal factors is skewed to the point where the jobs situation may look better than it actually is.

We do see an increase in hours worked of 0.6 hours, but that doesn’t really create new jobs, it just provides more hours for current part-timers.

However, temporary employment rose significantly for the 4th straight month, and it appears that the mass layoffs have petered out.

So, as far as I can tell, there may have been a bottom, but there are still some anomalies that need to be explained before I jump into the optimist camp.

And, of course, none of this even touches on the 800-pound gorilla in the room, which is monetary policy.  The Fed’s policy of quantitative easing, i.e. massive increases in the money supply, still present us with hundreds of billions of dollars in low-velocity money floating around, all of which will have to be absorbed through higher interest rates, or through significant inflation.  The possibility still remains that necessary credit tightening will strangle any nascent recovery over the next 12-18 months, and send the economy on a another downward leg.

It’s very solidly good news:  the labor force participation rate was basically unchanged, which means we’re seeing an actual decline in the unemployment rate, not a spike in the number of people leaving the labor force because they can’t find a job.
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Interview with Tom Campbell, CA Gubernatorial candidate

I spoke with Tom Campbell for over 45 minutes on a range of topics, and I’ve split my posts on that discussion into two posts, one here and one over at The Next Right. Here at QandO, I’m going to cover the more policy-oriented topics, and over at The Next Right the topics have to do with new media, elections, and the politics of fiscal conservative governance.

It pains me to see my native California in such dire straits. The state is broke, farms are collapsing, and unemployment is over 12 percent. The public colleges that might help retrain a lot of those workers are slashing classes.

The tax and regulatory burden has finally overcome the state’s many natural advantages, leading its citizens to abandon the Golden State. And these are people who can’t be having an easy time selling their homes: California, one of the first to suffer in the real estate collapse, is still near the top of the heap in foreclosures.

California, as we say, has issues. I talked with Tom Campbell about some of the most important ones: the budget deficit, jobs, health care, education, water and infrastructure.

Continue reading

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