Monday, May 16, 2005

I'm Down with the Sunset Commissions

John Fund has a "magic wand" solution to reducing much of the government waste our taxes support. I wish his idea was implemented, but know full well it is probably just a dream. Notice the knee-jerk-sky-is-falling-opposition quote near the end from my local representative, Henry Waxman.

What Fund mentions, but doesn't stress enough, in my view, is how resilient the free-market economy is. In most instances where bases have been closed, local economies adjust and the bases are turned into thriving business parks, airports, and even wildlife sanctuaries. Fund uses the cliche "Turning lemons into lemonade." The lesson is applicable across just about every government function: the private sector can do things far more efficiently than the federal government ever could.

Are you listening, opponents of Social Security reform? How about those who want government to exert more control over our healthcare system?

So Much for 'Innocent Until Proven Guilty'

Howard Dean once again shows why he never was Presidential material. And good for Barney Frank (who I'm no fan of) for taking the high road. Frank, as you will recall, also ripped Eason Jordan back in January for Jordan's slanderous remarks accusing the U.S. military of targeting journalists.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Thanks for Paying the Ransom

My Three Cents isn't dead or in a persistent vegetative state. Just needed a few days off to collect thoughts, finish reading a few books, take a little break, catch up on other neglected chores, projects, prior social engagements, and even do a little work.

One of the things I'm [still] doing is contemplating format changes and perhaps even a new URL. I've been thinking of this almost from the beginning, as old-time readers will no doubt recall. I'm no technowiz (and many would argue I'm no blogginwiz either) so it's tough to devote time to both blogging and learning new techie skills. If I spend hours reading news, then I'm not reading about HTML. Not whining here, just stating fact, there's only 24 hours to the day.

I'll be business traveling again this week, but keep checking back for new stuff. Of course, in the absence of fresh M3C commentary, feel free to click the permalinks on my blogroll. Those are real bloggers and excellent sources for news. They will keep you entertained and informed, no doubt. And as always, thanks for stopping by.....

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Where is the Left's Hanson?

I'd like to challenge M3C readers to list any new Democratic proposal for any of the number of problems facing the country today. The minority party is thoroughly devoid of solutions, period. Do they have a fix for social security? National security? The global war on terror? The economy, other than their default position of raising taxes? Improving education? Forget even about a total fix for any of these issues, how about a single step toward improvement?

Yesterday Harry Reid stepped in it again. Every time he opens his mouth he embarrasses himself. Nothing but negativity and obstructionism from the gentleman senator from Nevada. He's the Senate's Minority Leader too, so that makes it very difficult for the Democrats to distance themselves from such asshattery. After all, they've elevated him to a leadership position. Nancy Pelosi has the same problem, yet neither Pelosi or Reid seem capable of elevating their rhetoric. Their words and deeds ensure that neither will go down in history as one of the country's premier statesmen.

Yesterday, Victor Davis Hanson, with his usual brilliance, delivered more hammer blows to Democratic Party prospects in future elections. Here's a small taste, but do yourselves a favor and read every word of it.

When we see Democrats speaking and living like normal folks — expressing worry that the United States must return to basic education and values to ensure its shaky preeminence in a cutthroat world, talking of one multiracial society united by a rare exceptional culture of the West rather than a salad bowl of competing races and tribes, and apprising the world that we are principled abroad in our support of democratic nations and quite dangerous when attacked — they will be competitive again.
VDH also had a piece in yesterday's Washington Post, entitled "What Happened to History?" Simply put, more brilliance. Sorry to gush like some starstruck groupie, but if the Left had such intelligent thinkers or scholars guiding their party, not only would the Dems fare better in elections, but the country would be far better off.

A side note: compare the increasingly shrill and hateful rhetoric of Harry Reid (or Howard Dean, Al Gore and Barbara Boxer) to Hanson's reasoned intelligence. Victor Hanson, in every interview I have seen or heard, is calm. That's a sign of confidence in one's ideas and suggests that the facts are on your side. Can the Democrats make such a claim?

Anyway, please also read the last link. VDH stresses the importance of teaching history (meaningful historical events, not trivial garbage like "history of the pencil"). I leave with a short excerpt and my sincerest hope that you will read "What Happened to History?" and consider its importance.

Reverence for those who came before us ensures humility about our own limitations. It restores confidence that far worse crises than our own -- slavery, the great flu epidemic, or World War II -- were endured with far less resources.

By pondering those now dead, we create a certain pact: We, too, will do our part for another generation not yet born to enjoy the same privilege of America, which at such great cost was given to us by others whom we have now all but forgotten.
Powerful stuff. Have a wonderful weekend.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Cinco de Mayo Numerology

Posted on today (I haven't confirmed or researched the numbers, but if true are kind of interesting):

Today at 5:05:05 am & pm the time will be 05:05:05 05/05/005....

05.05.005 comes only once in 1000 years and coinciding with Thursday (5th Day of the week) comes only once in 7000 yrs...

Shame on Detroit

More woes for Ford & G.M. announced today. The two biggest U.S. automakers' credit ratings have been downgraded to "junk." It will be interesting to see if big labor will cooperate in helping the automakers get back onto a solid (profitable) footing. I'm guessing they won't. (In fact, the UAW has rejected a request to renegotiate the health benefits program despite skyrocketing costs). I don't blame the unions for all of G.M.'s or Ford's problems. Management is responsible for more than their share. Let's face it, when you're in charge, you get the credit and the blame.

It saddens me that the big automakers are struggling so much. They should be a benchmark for other industries. With such highly paid workers, they should put out the finest quality cars on the planet. (Anecdotal evidence: My Ford Explorer has had three problems in less than a year, and the Chevy rental car I had last week was a certified piece of sh*t). Ford and G.M. should put out well-engineered and innovative marvels. I'm not a car expert or nut, but it sure seems like the Big 3 are failing miserably in each area. I guess the downgrade by Standard & Poors echoes this claim.

"Profit" Isn't a Four-Letter Word

The New York Times printed yet another Wal-Mart hit piece yesterday. As usual, the meme is to criticize the low wages that Wal-Mart pays its employees. I have a problem with this type of complaining (and reporting) for many reasons.

First and foremost, no company should be forced to pay workers anything other than what the free market dictates. If someone is hired to do a job, they have the freedom to take the job (or not), for the pay that is offered. Companies exist to provide products or services to their customers. No one starts a company with the intent of giving people jobs, and certainly not high pay for low-skilled positions. That just doesn't make good economical sense.

According to Wal-Mart, $9.68 is the average wage for full-time workers. The federal minimum wage is $5.15 an hour. What exactly is the problem? We aren't talking about brain surgeons here. These are cashiers, shelf stockers, and shopping cart, um, "valets." Again, not highly skilled positions.
If Wal-Mart spent $3.50 an hour more for wages and benefits of its full-time employees, that would cost the company about $6.5 billion a year. At less than 3 percent of its sales in the United States, critics say, Wal-Mart could absorb these costs by slightly raising its prices or accepting somewhat lower profits. (Emphasis mine).

So if Wal-Mart raises its prices, would they expect to gain or lose business? And if they accept lower profits, will shareholders be pleased or displeased? If sales stayed the same, this would wipe out 2/3 of Wal-Mart's profit (I guess that's "somewhat" lower). And it isn't a safe assumption to think that sales would remain constant if prices go up, usually the opposite is true.

Isn't it more likely that if Wal-Mart pays its employees 35% more (a very steep increase in their labor factor) it will hire fewer employees to do the same amount of work? So wouldn't fewer workers working be a bad thing? Wal-Mart doesn't operate in a vacuum, they have competition. Wal-Mart's actions will have consequences for their employees and shareholders in the marketplace.

So just who exactly is criticizing Wal-Mart for it's low wages? According to the Times' piece, "a coalition of lawmakers (doesn't mention who), community groups, labor unions, women's advocates, and environmental groups." Think any of them are conservative? Doubt it. This quote passes for good reporting at the New York Times (emphasis mine):

But Jason Mrkwa, 27, a high school graduate who stocks frozen food at a Wal-Mart in Independence, Kan., maintains that he is underpaid. "I make $8.53, even though every one of my evaluations has been above standard," Mr. Mrkwa (pronounced MARK-wah) said. "You can't really live on this."

Well if you can't live on that wage, go across the street and get a job at Costco. Or Target. Better yet, get yourself a college degree (and take some economics and accounting coursework while you're at it). You are worth what you negotiate.
Wal-Mart critics often note that corporations like Ford and G.M. led a race to the top, providing high wages and generous benefits that other companies emulated. They ask why Wal-Mart, with some $10 billion in profit on about $288 billion in revenue last year, cannot act similarly.
How are Ford and G.M. doing these days? They are hurting, big time. And if big corporations are hurting, do they hire new employees? No, in fact, they announce layoffs. I maintain that one of the reasons why the big automakers are in trouble is because of the unions, so to see unions complaining about Wal-Mart is no big surprise. And if "acting similarly" means laying off workers, I don't want Wal-Mart to follow G.M.'s lead.
Burt Flickinger, another retailing consultant, said it would be in Wal-Mart's long-run interest to pay better. "Wal-Mart's turnover will be close to half a million workers this year," he said. "By paying higher wages, Wal-Mart will make its employees happier and will reduce turnover. A lot of its new workers, for instance, don't know where to stock things. Higher wages will mean more productivity per person, and that should help raise profits."
How on earth did Wal-Mart become one of the largest, most successful corporations in the history of mankind without the help of "retail consultant" Flickinger? Talk about hubris! But he did mention the P-word, which brings me to my major point.


Companies must turn a profit. This simple fact is lost on the Marxist coalitions and most NY Times journalists it seems. If companies aren't profitable, they don't hire many employees. They won't open more stores, and they won't be in business very long. Profits are good. Profits are necessary.

I think we start down a very slippery slope when we start discussing "how much" profit is fair or just. Similarly, I was never comfortable with the notion that certain executives (or sports players) are overpaid. Or that certain corporations (Wal-Mart, Microsoft) are "too large" or "too powerful." I certainly don't want anyone telling me I'm overpaid, so I'm not going to do it to anyone else. Ditto corporations. If a company's profits are obscenely large, then the market has provided an opportunity for some other corporation to come in and do a better job for less money.

The constant harangue of Wal-Mart (or other large, successful corporations) ignores basic economic realities and in my view it is bad for business. And when we create or foster an environment that is bad for business, it is the worker that will be hurt most. The leftist agitators who claim to be for the working man are actually hurting him with their misguided goals.

Idol Reject Corey Clark Back in the News

Last night's A.I. broadcast was overshadowed by the claims of Corey Clark, a former contestant alleging an "inappropriate" affair with Paula Abdul, one of A.I.'s three judges. ABC has been threatening to broadcast his claims, and last night they did. Yawn. Corey's story is two years old, and Paula's ability to recognize talent hovers slightly below that of any UPN executive, so what's the big deal if she gets booted? Clark's claims seem credible, but again, big deal. I think this whole issue ignores the obvious and frightening similarities between Clark's appearance and that of the man in the post below. Have you ever seen Richard Reid and Corey Clark at the same party?

Corey Clark Posted by Hello

Could This Be Corey's Dad?

Shoe Bomber Richard Reid Posted by Hello

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Patterico Must Be Loving This

I saw this yesterday on Drudge. More bad news for the L.A. Times, whose circulation numbers are circling down the drain. Patterico chimes in:

I tend not to focus on circulation numbers, because I’m far more concerned with whether a paper is telling the truth than whether it is a market success. If the paper were reporting tremendous circulation and were still distorting the news the way it does today, it would not be a success in my eyes.

Still, I mention it because some people see importance in such matters – and because there is an arguable connection between a media outlet’s reputation for honesty and its financial success. (Also, if I don’t say anything about the circulation numbers, I’ll start getting e-mails and comments from people asking if I’d heard about them.)

The Times' woes are not unlike those of CBS News (and so many other MSM dinosaurs). Their credibility is shot, no matter how they spin the numbers. Ratings for the networks continue slow, steady declines. Ditto major newspaper circulation numbers. And with a declining audience goes declining influence. I think Patterico is correct, there is a connection between financial success and the reputation for honesty. This applies to all businesses, industries, and individuals. Watching the L.A. Times shriveling is a good life lesson. They've done it to themselves.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Where's Waldo?

Below is one final picture from my time in Washington DC last week. Most of you will recognize the rather large structure featured so prominently. I just noticed a man in this shot. I had no idea he was there when I took this picture, and didn't notice him until this morning. Click on the photo to enlarge it, and the first commenter who correctly identifies where the man is will win a free one-year subscription to My Three Cents (there is your hint that it isn't THAT tough to find him)....

Where's Waldo? Posted by Hello


IMAO: Unfair. Unbalanced. Unmedicated.

Larry Probably Wouldn't Take the Pay Cut

Maybe we should start a campaign to get Larry Kudlow hired as the new CBS anchor. The more I think about it, the more I like the idea. Kudlow gets it (hat tip:H2). An economist with a positive outlook is just the anti-Rather that CBS needs. And a network with a positive view of the United States is just what the United States needs. Kudlow has his own blog too, which means CBS would NEVER hire him (I've added him to my blog roll, by the way). Sometimes the crazy "Whack on the Side of the Head" ideas are the best ones....

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