Tag Archives: Unions

Destruction Compared: Atom Bomb Vs. Government

Seared on the minds of the American psyche like permanent light etchings on metal from the blast of an atomic bomb is the horror that was our annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in an ultimately successful attempt to strike the final death-blow to the god-complex surrounding the Japanese Prime Minister necessary to end World War 2.

With these two ominous mushroom clouds forever hanging in our collective memory, it is easy to forget that is history now and Hiroshima and Nagasaki might not be what we Americans expect them to be.

And conversely, in our hotbed of industrialization and commercialization and progress, it is easy to forget that those places the government has lavished substantial attention on may not be the paradises we envision they ought to be.

First, there is the cloud we all know so well. That evidence of ultimate destruction, the mushroom cloud. But where we see this eternal spectre, the enterprising Japanese, freed from their oppressive military/industrial complex serving the whims of sycophantic minions of the Emperor-god Hirohito, have turned a thousand-year wasteland into this:

Hiroshima Japan

Where is that man-made desert of radioactive fallout we’d expect? Not here apparently.

Compare that thriving scene with this image that is becoming all too common in that cesspool of government largesse, Detroit:

Detroit Michigan

Depressed is a charitable description.

Maybe we should drop a few more A-bombs?

Just kidding. And honestly, the Japanese government tends to be significantly more meddlesome on average and for a longer time than the US government. But when you look at the wasteland and tragedy that once was this shining city of American ability and pride, the automobile capital of the world, that is now an also-ran laughing stock for most and a hell-hole and increasingly decrepit pit for many of those unfortunate enough to live there, there really is little comparison between this place that ought to be surging and that place, which we generally write off in our mind’s eye.

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Government Epic Fail: USPS

Chicago has enjoyed the dubious distinction of having one of the worst United States Postal Service systems. And you wanna know what the Postmaster General had to say about it?

US Postmaster General Jack Potter, responding in 2007 to findings that Chicago’s USPS had the worst reliability records said…

…that some managers created the problem by cutting costs.

“They obviously had expectations that were beyond what they were able to achieve and as a result we saw a decline in service performance,” Potter said.

Union leaders representing mail clerks and carriers said the cuts have created an environment in which managers put a lot of pressure on them.

This may well be an out of context quote taken by CBS2 to show their preferred view on the story. But I don’t think that is too likely.

The lack of business sense is appalling, though coming from someone who has worked in the money hole that is the USPS since the ’70’s, it’s not that surprising.

The two main points of the article are that cutting costs necessarily hurts efficiency and effectiveness and that unions and unionized employees don’t like an environment where they’re pressured to work.

Successful businesses require profitability. Profit is achieved by cutting costs, raising productivity, and otherwise adjusting the variants you have control of to maximize the return for any investment.

To dismiss, out of hand, one of the primary methods of improving profitability is to have bought into the idea that any problem can be surmounted if you simply throw enough money, real or imagined, at it. An idea all to prevalent in government.

Regarding workers experiencing a pressure to work, yes, there can be inordinate expectation to go beyond what is reasonable. Many businesses have environments that encourage, rather strongly, overtime and weekends and hours beyond the normal and already codified restrictions. But laws already exist that protect workers’ 8-hr day and 5-day work week. Reasonably safe work environments are already required and discrimination is illegal as well. So what’s this kvetching over feeling pressure to work?

Government-union collusion is one of many things that must end in order to starve and shrink the government back to reasonable and helpful levels. Unions know they’ve already extended their requests beyond the reasonable and admirable into the insane and obscene, and they know the best way to ensure their own survival is to give loads of money to people who can legislate their life-support.

Be careful, those who can legislate can also legislate. And what is given can be taken away.

Jack Potter ought to be required to work in the real world, starting with flipping burgers at McDonalds, and then being a middle manager who is required to actually show something for all his effort. Then, and only then, should he be welcome back at the head of the USPS.

And the unions? They should innovate somewhere besides DC.

Walmart Calls Chicago

No Wal-Mart in Chicago
"No Wal-Mart in Chicago"

For y’all who don’t know, Chicagoans must deal with, among other things, a city hall in the pocket of labor unions. One of the results of this is that only very few Walmarts are allowed to be built within the city limits.

As noted before, Walmart saves money for people in neighborhoods nearby by creating pressure to lower prices in surrounding stores as well as allows people to choose healthier food options because of the greater strength of their dollars.

Despite Chicago’s efforts, though, Walmart continues to try to build more stores here, and city hall just decided they could get Walmart where it hurts while pretending to be for the “little guy”.

Responding to one of the latest applications, Chicago said Walmart could build their store if they paid an artificially inflated minimum wage higher than the minimum wage for the rest of the employers in Chicago.

Lesson one in hurting people: make it hard for employers to hire people.

Walmart called Chicago on their scheme, and one can’t help but grin at this call:

Rolando Rodriguez, vice president and regional general manager for Wal-Mart, said the company would be willing to swallow a Chicago wage mandate under certain conditions.

“If there is a minimum wage ordinance that applies to everybody, and every business in Chicago is held to that ordinance, then the answer would be yes,” Rodriguez said Thursday. “There’s no need for Wal-Mart to be singled out. Why is it all other retailers are allowed to build in Chicago and we are not?”

Answer that fat cats and charlatan pols in Chicago City Hall.

You raise the wage for all employers in the city and half of them will go out of business. The other half will hate your guts.

Nobody will higher full-time employees because there’s no way they’d agree to pay benefits and full-time taxes on top of that exorbitant wage.

Walmart And The Healthy Free Market

In case you had trouble guessing: I like businesses.

If there weren’t business there wouldn’t be internet, iphones, cars, bicycles, buildings, tents, sleeping bags, fresh produce in the middle of winter, heat and A/C, in cars too, hospitals, medication, surgery…

You get the picture.

We’ve had government since the beginning of time, and it hasn’t done a thing directly to benefit or develop beneficent products and services (except nuclear energy and other war-related items).

We’ve also had businesses since the first person decided he’d rather spread and grow his wealth instead of laboring over the same rows in the same farm for his own families sustenance.

Chipotle is an excellent example of a good business.

Our wealth allows us to pay premium price for food raised and prepared in a reasonably environmentally conscious and sustainable manner.

And it tastes good, too.

Walmart is not too different from Chipotle.

The monstrous store chain that’s easy to hate until we need cheap razer blades and jeans and socks and hand towels and garbage can liners. Then everybody loves it.

Except the unions, who are never going to love Walmart until it caves to their regressive and stiflingly stupid and anti free market strong man tactics and effects.

I pray Walmart never does, and for good reason.

When Walmart enters an area, consumers win as the often cheaper prices at Walmart “encourage” the other stores to moderate their own prices.

The prices are not always better, but they are better enough of the time and for enough products to justify the crowds you normally find at these supercenters.

Does Walmart Save You Money? (read the comments, many people report savings in the $1000’s each year while others disagree with their perception of the business practices)

But enough about prices already, Walmart benefits your health!

Huh?

Indeed, studies are showing that people living near a Walmart or “club store” (Costco, Sam’s Club, etc) are lighter on average.

But don’t all the fat and ugly people shop at Walmart? No, it’s just the ugly people and me.

In an article published in Forbes Magazine, Art Carden, an Professor of Economics at Rhodes College in Memphis TN, reports on studies showing that the increased buying power people experience when benefiting from the Walmart effect has a direct and close correlation to the health of those people.

There are several reasons this may be, and the why or how is always a bit murkier than fact of correlation, but all of the possibilities enjoy sound economic sense.

Those benefiting most from the Walmart affect are…

…women, the poor, African-Americans and people who live in urban areas.

The arguments as to why and how and many, as I noted earlier, and some may find them difficult. Read it a few times if necessary.

Our evidence is indirect, but we think it shows that price changes can have subtle and sometimes hard-to-detect consequences. Any change in price results in two phenomena. The first is the substitution effect: a change in consumption mix due to a change in relative prices. If a bag of salad is $2 and a bag of potato chips is $1, then the price of salad in terms of chips is two bags and the price of a bag of chips is half a bag of salad. If a Wal-Mart opens and reduces the price of salad to $1 a bag and the price of chips to 75 cents a bag, the “salad price” of chips has risen (from 1TK2 bag to 3TK4 bag) and the “chip price” of salad has fallen from 2 bags to 4TK3 bags. In short, salad has become cheaper relative to chips.

This argument is based on basic price comparison. If the salad cost 2 times what chips cost before Walmart,  Jack and Jill are more likely to buy the salad now because it only costs 1.3 times more than the chips now.

Then there is the income effect:

If Wal-Mart sells food at lower prices–even if our incomes don’t change–every dollar can buy more. Therefore, we’re richer.

The crux of their findings is that people, when given a choice and a suitable price range, will purchase healthier foods.

Our data suggest that we buy healthier food when our purchasing power increases. There is a small increase in consumption of fruit and vegetables in places where Wal-Mart does a lot of business and a decrease–or smaller increase–in fatty food consumption relative to places where Wal-Mart doesn’t do business. That is, people might consume more fatty foods, but consumption of those unhealthy goods increases more slowly than it does for the rest of the population.

There are other facts, findings, and arguments in the article. I urge you to read the whole thing: Wal-Mart’s Weight Effect.

The point is, don’t be too quick to denigrate or disparage the current state of our free martket system.

It’s not always pretty, and it’s easy to find fault.

However, compared with any other system out there, capitalism and the free market are the best at providing escalating levels of service and product to the most people most equitably and with the least amount of downside.

It’s been proven time and again, yet we in America now are dangerously close to forgetting completely, if we haven’t already.

The free market and capitalism isn’t about the blind, mindless pursuit of money at all costs, that’s anarchy.

Free markets and capitalism are about working in tandem with those around us to maximize our return by providing the best service or product to others. It’s a mutually beneficial system.

And we’re in danger of throwing it away.

Castles Of Corruption

Newt Gingrich:

Americans should look carefully at the anti-politician, anti-government mood exhibited in California last week.

This vote is the second great signal that the American people are getting fed up with corrupt politicians, arrogant bureaucrats, greedy interests and incompetent, destructive government.

The elites ridiculed or ignored the first harbinger of rebellion, the recent tea parties. While it will be harder to ignore this massive anti-tax, anti-spending vote, they will attempt to do just that.

Voters in our largest state spoke unambiguously, but politicians and lobbyists in Sacramento are ignoring or rejecting the voters’ will, just as they are in Albany, N.Y., and Trenton, N.J. The states with huge government machines have basically moved beyond the control of the people. They have become castles of corruption, favoritism and wastefulness. These state governments are run by lobbyists for the various unions through bureaucracies seeking to impose the values of a militant left. Elections have become so rigged by big money and clever incumbents that the process of self-government is threatened.

Albany is even more corrupt and dysfunctional. The special interests that own the legislators in both parties have been exploiting New York for two generations. They have impoverished the Upstate region to the point where it is a vast zone of no jobs and no opportunities. Their predatory tax and bureaucratic union behavior is beginning to cripple New York City. More and more successful New Yorkers are leaving the state. In the face of multiple crises, Gov. David Paterson has shown himself incapable of carrying out reform.

…the machines don’t care because all they want to do is own the wreckage.

…look again at the 62 percent-plus majority in California in favor of smaller government and lower taxes.

In the great tradition of political movements rising against arrogant, corrupt elites, there will soon be a party of people rooting out the party of government. This party may be Republican; it may be Democratic; in some states it may be a third party. The politicians have been warned.

Read all about it: States have become castles of corruption

But Dan Walters, in the Sacramento Bee,  says we shouldn’t be as upset as we are:

When… new taxes expire in a couple of years, Californians’ relative tax burden could also drop further – but if the economy is rising by then, it could also mean a surge of revenues even when the increased rates disappear.

If nothing else, these data indicate that while income and sales tax rates may make a difference, the economy is the biggest factor in how much tax Californians pay in aggregate.

When the economy rises, so do tax collections, and when it falls, revenues fall with it.

Walters asks if Californians taxes are too high or too low.

It’s not that the taxes are too high or too low, it’s the socio-political philosophy which supports such confiscatory policies and uses the money to pad pockets and entrench power.