Tuesday, January 31, 2012

How Many Jobs Can a Politician Create if a Politician Could Create Jobs?

First, an apology to woodchucks.  Thoughtful Ideas does not intend to disparage woodchucks by likening them to politicians.

Politicians can create jobs in their respective government spheres by hiring friends, relatives, and cronies.  They cannot create jobs in the private or business sectors.  Only real or potential employers, along with individual entrepreneurs, can create jobs.

To be sure, politicians can improve the business climate by enacting pro-growth legislation, or they can make it worse through anti-growth legislation and regulation.  The business cycle can be stretched out or compressed.  Sometimes we are lucky, e.g., President Reagan, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and China’s great visionary Deng Xiaoping.  Other times we are unlucky—take your pick from a long list of U.S. and global leaders.

Just one time Thoughtful Ideas would like to hear a member of the media tell a politician who claims to have created millions of jobs that in fact he or she did not create those jobs.  All he is trying to do is take credit for jobs that hard working private individuals and enterprises created.

Don’t hold your breath.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The U.S. Has and Will Retain a Commanding Lead Over China In

Socialist thought in America’s colleges and universities
Socialist policies in the federal government
Political hypocrisy
Fiscal deficits and public debt
Decaying infrastructure
Obstructive public sector unions
Futile overseas nation building exercises
Diminishing work ethic
Declining K-12 educational standards relative to China
(Fill in the blanks)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Four Decades of Feminist Journalism Celebrated at Stanford.

Ms. Magazine is forty years old.  Stanford brought together six prominent feminine journalists to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the magazine in a panel discussion held on January 26, 2012.

Thoughtful Ideas attended the event to learn about the past and present in feminist journalism and concerns about the future of the feminist movement.

An overflow crowd of more than 200 attended.  About two-thirds were elderly veterans of the feminist revolution; a third was Stanford graduate and undergraduate students.  The panelists’ biggest concern was the lack of money that would enable full-time, paid feminist journalists and bloggers in place of the current part-time, after-hours bloggers who needed a regular day job to support themselves.  Monetizing the movement was deemed crucial to its sustainability. Another goal was uniting with other diverse communities to advance the cause of social justice.

The audience was remarkably homogeneous, consisting of more than 90% white women.  TI counted six males along with a handful of Asian and African-American women.  The movement was largely talking to itself.

If male acceptance of absolute equality for women is a central goal of feminism, the lack of men in the audience suggests that feminists have a long way to go to draw men into the feminist world view.  Nor has it incorporated women from non-Western cultures.

It will be interesting to follow the movement in the coming years. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

China Bashing

Those whom the Gods would destroy they first bash China.

So spoke President Obama in his January 24, 2012, State of the Union speech.
"I will not stand by when our competitors don't play by the rules. We've brought trade cases against China at nearly twice the rate as the last [Bush] administration -- and it's made a difference.  Over a thousand Americans are working today because we stopped a surge in Chinese tires. But we need to do more. It's not right when another country lets our movies, music, and software be pirated. It's not fair when foreign manufacturers have a leg up on ours only because they're heavily subsidized.

"Tonight, I'm announcing the creation of a Trade Enforcement Unit that will be charged with investigating unfair trading practices in countries like China."

Obama's remarks are hopefully nothing more than campaign rhetoric.  If he wins a second term and aggressively follows through, Airbus executives could soon be licking their chops while Boeing executives would end up licking their wounds.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Hoover-Gingrich Connection

Thoughtful Ideas first met Gingrich in April 1981.  Newt is a strong proponent of an optional flat tax modeled along the lines of Hong Kong's personal income tax, which we discussed on several occasions.

TI advises Newt to read the previous three memos to Mitt.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Memo to Mitt, No. 3

If you are elected, you will find yourself in the White House surrounded by a Praetorian Guard of advisers, handlers, assistants, and numerous well-wishers, most of whom will try to curry favor by reinforcing your predilections.  Those who disagreed with their boss, e.g., Paul O’Neill and Larry Lindsay in the first year of the Bush Administration, were quickly dispatched from office.

After you remove President Obama’s czars, Thoughtful Ideas suggests that you appoint an official Remonstrator.  The person holding this post must be completely independent from other White House staff, objective and trustworthy.  The remonstrator's job description is to keep you in touch with reality however unpleasant it may be to hear.  He or she should meet with you privately for 15 minutes once a week to tell you the unvarnished truth about the past week’s developments in Washington, the United States, and the world that you will not hear from members of the Praetorian Guard.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Memo to Mitt, No. 2

Your economic policy team, listed below, includes two distinguished economists, one from Columbia and one from Harvard.  They served as back-to-back Chairmen of the Council of Economic Advisers under President George W. Bush in his first term.

"Economic Policy Team
(announced Sept. 6, 2011)  Led by Dean R. Glenn Hubbard, Professor N. Gregory Mankiw, former Senator Jim Talent and former Congressman Vin Weber (note Weber was first announced as special advisor on policy on Aug. 24)."

To augment their advice, Thoughtful Ideas suggests that you add several experts to provide additional views.  A good place to start is with three Chinese experts, one from the People's Bank of China, one from the Ministry of Finance, and one from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences or leading economics departments of China's universities.

They can help you understand how China has grown 9-10% during the last 30 years, as well as indicate the consequences to the U.S. economy of any unwarranted restrictions you impose on trade or investment with China.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Memo to Mitt

China is heir to a long, proud, distinguished civilization.  Its people have long memories.  If you try to muscle China with punitive sanctions over their currency’s exchange rate, they will respond in kind, perhaps switching orders from Boeing to Airbus.

China’s economy is trending upward at a rapid rate.  The U.S. economy grows slowly.  As the economic, political, and military power lines cross in the years to come, China will increasingly flex its muscles.

If you are elected president, I hope you will listen to a range of China experts, not just those who reinforce your beliefs.  Jon Huntsman would be a good place to start.  Thousands of Americans have worked, and live, in China.  Find a way to get their views before taking precipitous action.  Above all, beware of Russian and Middle East experts advising you on how to conduct relations with China.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Demonizing the 1%

President Obama and Congressional Democrat party candidates intend to portray Republicans as the party of the 1%, especially when it comes to tax policy, during this election year.

If Republicans only care about the top 1%, Democrats should have no trouble sweeping the November elections.

So how did Republicans pick up seats in the Senate and a majority in the House in November 2010 if they only care about the 1%?  Can you explain that?

Is public education in America so bad that Republicans can fool voters into electing candidates who only care about the 1%?

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Era of U.S. Military Nation Building Is Over

So said President Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Thursday, January 5, 2012.  In announcing plans for a leaner military, they put the military back on track of its historical role in defending U.S. interests at home and a broad.

After more than eight years of war and occupation in Iraq at a cost of over a trillion dollars, thousands of U.S. troops killed, and tens of thousands wounded, Iraq is on the precipice of a civil war between Sunnis, Shias and Kurds.

Iraq is not unique.  Democratic nation building is not easy in plural societies.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Ebooks vs. Tree-Books

Print media is steadily giving way to digital media.  Print newspapers and magazines have especially felt the brunt of the shift.  Ebooks are also fast replacing print copies.  From nothing in 2007 to 20% of all books sold in 2011, projected to reach 50% in a few years, the benefits of ebooks are apparent.

Ebooks are green, saving trees along with the costs and energy it takes to produce, store, and distribute print books.   Self-published ebooks foster individual entrepreneurship.  Ebooks reduce the cost of books by two-thirds or more in many cases, thereby increasing readership.  Ebooks  ease back pain and related medical expenses since several thousand books can be stored on a lightweight reader.  Ebooks can be interactive, combining text, audio, and video.

Read an ebook, save a tree.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Monday, January 2, 2012

Our Campaign, Not My Campaign?

Thoughtful Ideas plans to be a bit curmudgeonly in 2012.

Have you noticed that every politician running for office talks about “our campaign,” not “my campaign.”  Last time I checked, only one person is elected to each office.

Yet when boasting of achievements, politicians say “I created millions of jobs, etc.”  What happened to “we” and “our” when it comes to taking credit?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

12 Questions for 2012

1.  Now that U.S. troops have withdrawn from Iraq, do those who supported the war, with its huge cost in blood and treasure, feel the effort was sufficiently warranted and successful to invest their retirement accounts and other savings in Iraq?  Are they concerned about ethnic cleansing of Christians?  Do they still believe in nation building in the Middle East?

2.  Why does anyone think we can teach democracy to other countries when our democracy includes voter fraud, the politics of personal destruction, negative (dishonest) ads, corrupt funding, cash for favors, and so on?

3.  Americans have to earn a living to support themselves and also pay taxes to support the government.  Why is working in the government called “public service (giving back to the country)” while working for oneself is private or selfish.

4.  Why are firms and individuals punished for fraudulent accounting and insider trading when Members of Congress and government accounting agencies are not?

5.  Why does anyone take seriously 10-year projections of revenues, expenditures, and deficits when economists cannot accurately predict next week’s unemployment claims, last month’s BLS employment report, revised GDP, and so forth?

6.  Why is it a crime for individuals to lie to Congress when it is not a crime for Members of Congress to lie to Americans?

7.  Why do two unrepresentative states–Iowa and New Hampshire–continue to play such an important role in selecting presidential nominees?

8.  How does issuing more debt, whether in the U.S. or Europe, solve the long-run debt problem?

9.  What happened to the sanctity of the Social Security Trust Fund to pay retirement and disability benefits?  Is a holiday on the Medicare payroll tax the next government assault on elderly beneficiaries of medical care?

10.  How can the U.S. compete with China given the poor performance of our K-12 public schools, especially those serving minority students in inner cities?

11.  Major Hassan (allegedly) killed 13 and wounded 29 American soldiers in an attack in Fort Hood on November 5, 2009.  Will he ever be tried?  Or will the trial be postponed until after the election, and then he declared unfit for trial so that those who passed him up the ranks need never tell why?

12.  Who are America’s real allies?  Saudi Arabia?  Turkey?