Random Thoughts, 31 March 2009

2009/03/31

Given the new bailout mentality that predominates the mindset of most Democrats these days, I guess it was inevitable that we would start to see some pushback when one industry perceives its bailout to be less generous than those extended to other industries. [1]

Speaking of the bailout being extended to the automotive industry, is it just me, or is the administration resorting to the bludgeon more frequently these days? Both automakers receiving the funds (GM and Chrysler) were given failing marks by the President on their recovery plans, and while I am not surprised by this, I was a little shocked to hear the conditions attached to the authorization of any additional funds to either company. [2] The CEO of GM has effectively been forced out as a condition of the company receiving additiona funds, and Chrysler has effectively been forced to make a partnership deal with a foreign automaker. [3] I hope that I am not the only citizen who is more than a little concerned with the direction the administration is heading towards with such measures.

The administration now appears to have the opinion that they know best WRT how to run private companies, and that they can stick their fingers into the operations of said companies at will. Granted, this attitude is currently contingent on the company receiving Federal funds (for now), but how much of a step is it from this attitude to meddling in the affairs of other companies whenever they like? So, unlimited executive authority is not okay when it is applied to foreign countries (as many in the current administration and Congress have argued WRT Bush II’s administration), but it is fine when it is applied to our own citizens? Something sounds very, very wrong with this notion. Additionally, why would the administration effectively demand that Chrysler partner with a foreign company as a means of restructuring their domestic operations? Are we not already too much beholden to foreign companies and countries as a result of our reckless outsourcing habits? I’ve voiced this question before, but it begs repeating: just whose economies are the President and his cronies trying to save? Would it not be more prudent to invite American investment in a domestic manufacturer before demanding that said manufacturer partner up with a foreign company? Again, something sounds very wrong with this idea. At least Ford seems to have thought so, too. [4]

On the subject of wrong directions, the President seems dead-set on cramming an environmentally-friendly agenda down our collective throats, and possibly those of the rest of the world. [5] I was not entirely convinced WRT the efficacy of using “green” energy projects as economic stimulation, but for the moment, I am willing to give the administration the benefit of the doubt. But I am not at all convinced that now is the time to pursue an ideological goal, possibly at the expense of other, more worthy projects and goals. Do we really have the time or, for that matter, the money to pursue combative efforts to thwart climate change NOW? Anthropogenic climate change is hardly proven science, even though there are many supporters of the idea; even less consensus exists WRT the consequences of global warming. Excluding the most alarmist predictions (which, to my mind, are clearly intended to be inflammatory), the general consensus seems to be that it will take decades (or even centuries) for noticeable effects to occur. I don’t disagree that early prevention would be best (if we are truly the primary agents responsible for these changes), but how much time do we lose if we hold off for the few years (or, at worst, a decade or so) that it will take for our economy to recover? Should we not focus our efforts on said recovery, so that we will have real funds to use for such altruistic pursuits, rather than entirely fiat funds? Need I also point out that some of the world’s largest polluters (China and other developing nations) are not likely to embrace the high costs associated with such measures, and are far more likely to use whatever cheap (and dirty) energy production methods they can afford to fuel their industrial production? Do we not handicap ourselves (even more so) compared to countries with such attitudes, if we effectively force our nation’s production industries (such as still remain) to use more expensive energy sources, while the rest of the world still reaps the benefits of cheap fossil fuel energy? And how much of an impact do we truly make on climate change if we are alone in forcing our economy to abandon fossil fuel sources?

 Regarding the border situation with Mexico and the war on the drug cartels, it occurs to me that a much simpler option than investing our own blood and treasure against said cartels would be to simply fortify the border. Nothing says “Stay the f*** out!” like a 30-ft high, solid concrete wall with machinegun-equipped guard towers and roving partrols. Combined with expanded coastal patrol and interdiction efforts, this would likely prevent most (if not all) of the violence from crossing the border. A few additional benefits may also be reaped from such a strategy. One of the primary (and obvious) weaknesses of our borders WRT external terrorist threats is that it is, well, WIDE OPEN; a physical wall would make it much more difficult to smuggle all manner of goods across the border, from WMDs to drugs to human cargo. This is not to say that we should completely seal the borders, merely that we should have a greater say over who crosses it, and who should stay out. At the same time, we could do an end-run around free trade by arguing that fees paid for inspections prior to crossing the border (either on land, or at sea) are not tariffs, but simply fees to support our national security efforts. Okay, so it would probably be a rather transparent argument, but still. As securing our coasts, I would love to see offshore weapons platforms and inspection stations located along the major trade lines, but I’m sure most would call me belligerent for supporting such things. Alas.

On a different domestic front, the company that owns the Chicago Sun-Times (and a host of other newspapers around the country) is filing for bankruptcy. [6] Mostly, I’m ambivalent about this, given that I get nearly all my news from online sources (as you’ll probably figure out from my notes below, CNN is a popular choice); I rarely pay attention to local news (wherever I am), but when I do, I get it from local TV stations. And, of course, now that I can access the internet on my phone (woohoo!), I don’t need to worry about picking up a newspaper to check the news while I’m on the trains here in Chicago. I had heard a few weeks back that House Speaker Pelosi was clamoring for a bailout of newspaper companies, but I haven’t heard much about this topic since. Again, given the bailout mindset that now predominates the national government, I wouldn’t be surprised if such talk comes up in the near future. While it is somewhat disappointing that these companies, some of which have been around for over a century, may not exist for much longer, this alone does not mean that they should continue to exist on the Federal dole. [7]

Finally, in today’s WTF?!? moment, apparently, some French workers have blockaded their superiors in the latters’ offices to demand concessions from the company, after being laid off. [8] And you thought we had hostile work environments here. Then again, the French routinely take to the streets and set things on fire when something or other arouses their suppressed desire to break things.

Notes:

[1]: CNN commentary, 23 February 2009. Granted, this article is just one man’s opinion, but I’ve heard of similar grumblings coming from within the automotive industry.

[2]: CNN article, 30 March 2009.

[3]: CNN article, 29 March 2009.

[4]: CNN interview, 31 March 2009.

[5]: CNN article, 29 March 2009.

[6]: CNN wire article, 31 March 2009.

[7]: “There has grown up in the minds of certain groups in this country the notion that because a man or corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with the duty of guaranteeing such profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary to public interest. This strange doctrine is not supported by statute or common law. Neither individuals nor corporations have any right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back.” – from Life Line, a short story by Robert Heinlein.

[8]: CNN article, 31 March 2009.

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