Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at intelligent and rational individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

"No matter how vast your knowledge or how modest, it is your own mind that has to acquire it." Ayn Rand

"Observe that the 'haves' are those who have freedom, and that it is freedom that the 'have-nots' have not." Ayn Rand

"The virtue involved in helping those one loves is not 'selflessness' or 'sacrifice', but integrity." Ayn Rand

For "a human being, the question 'to be or not to be,' is the question 'to think or not to think.'" Ayn Rand

26 May 2011

NASA Finally Produces A Realistic Energy Budget for the Earth

The Atmospheric Science Data Center of NASA has finally produced a realistic energy budget for the Earth.  [The link no longer works.  It is not surprising that the diagram fatal to the back radiation model of man-made catastrophic global warming due to back radiation acting on greenhouse gases is no longer publicized by NASA.  But I did find it in this educational product pdf file.  23 Feb 2013]  There is no back-radiation in this diagram due to greenhouse gases, or really due to infra-red absorbing gases, such as water vapor, CO2, and methane.  The new NASA energy budget is:

Note how remarkably different this is from the Kiehl-Trenberth diagrams NASA has previously been using:

I have discredited the Kiehl-Trenberth diagram in this post.

While the new NASA energy budget is much improved and has no back-radiation component, the web site I linked to above still talks briefly about greenhouse gases and some back-radiation effect.  As I have noted, any such effect is small and can only happen in a way to briefly slow the cooling of the Earth as solar insolation is being reduced from its maximum effect in the afternoon of a day.  Even then, infra-red absorption of incoming radiation from the sun may be greater than any back-radiation effect until evening.  The overall effect of IR-absorbing gases is a cooling effect as I have previously claimed it was.

Let us consider the new NASA Earth Energy Budget numbers.  The first thing to note is that the infra-red radiation from the ground is only 21% of the incoming radiation from the sun.  In the Kiehl-Trenberth diagram, the energy flux of out-going infra-red radiation (396 W/m^2) is actually greater than the total incoming solar radiation flux (341 W/m^2) and much, much greater than the energy absorbed by the surface from the sun (161 W/m^2).  This is patent nonsense.  Energy must be conserved and it is in the new diagram.

As I have claimed, the net effect of infra-red absorbing or greenhouse gases is that they absorb more energy from the incoming solar radiation through the course of the day than they absorb from the out-going infra-red radiation from the surface of the Earth.  In the new NASA diagram, the total radiation absorbed by the infra-red absorbing gases is 16% + 3% (clouds) = 19%.  Of the 21% of infra-red radiation emitted from the surface, only 15% is absorbed in the atmosphere.  Thus, the net absorption of incoming solar radiation at 19%, is 1.27 times greater than the net absorption of energy emitted by radiation from the ground.  This means the net cooling effect is at least 1.27 times greater than any warming effect could be.

Another point of great interest is that the new NASA diagram gets the fraction of the cooling of the surface of the Earth by infra-red radiation about right.  The fraction of surface cooling by infra-red radiation from the surface is 21% / 51% = 0.41.  This agrees with some calculations I have done based on molecular collision frequencies at the altitude in the atmosphere at which radiation competes evenly with molecular transport or movement.  The temperature of the Earth seen from space as a black body radiator is 255 K.  This is the temperature of the standard atmosphere at an altitude of 5 Km.  The altitude at which radiation cooling in the atmosphere is equal to the cooling caused by thermals, conduction, and the transport of water vapor is then a bit lower and proves to be about 4 Km.

Water vapor is the best long wavelength IR absorber and it is the best emitter of IR energy, but before it can commonly emit the energy it has absorbed from IR radiation, even it will likely suffer numerous gas collisions with much of its excess molecular energy being transferred in those collisions to the molecules which collide with the water molecule.  Nitrogen molecules are the most likely molecules to take up much of the energy from the water molecule, since nitrogen is 78.08% of the atmosphere.  Oxygen molecules are the next most likely colliders at 20.95% and then argon atoms at 0.93%.  Together, these three gases account for 99.97% of the U.S. Standard Atmosphere.  None of these gas molecules are very efficient IR absorbers in the long wavelength spectrum.

At sea level, the mean gas velocity is 459 m/s, the mean free path or distance between collisions is only 6.6 x 10-8 m or 66 nm, and the collision frequency is 6.9 billion/s.  At an altitude of about 4000 m, the radiative transfer of energy competes about evenly with transfer by collisions.  At that altitude, the frequency of gas molecule collisions is about 4.4 billion/s.  We can use the equivalency of energy transfer by radiation and gas molecule collisions at the 4000 meter altitude to estimate the fraction of energy transfer by radiation of the total of energy transferred by radiation plus gas molecule collisions. At sea level, energy transfer by radiation is equivalent to about 4.4 x 109 collisions per second, so the fraction of energy transferred by radiation is about 4.4/(4.4 + 6.9) = 0.39 of the total by gas molecule collisions and radiation.  This suggests that about 1.5 times as much energy is transferred by gas collisions as by radiation at sea level.  Note that this number is in good agreement with the fraction of the energy 0.41 given in the new NASA diagram.

This phenomenal number of atmospheric molecular collisions spreads the IR energy absorbed by a water molecule or a CO2 molecule from the ground long wavelength IR emissions to the dominant nitrogen and oxygen molecules very, very quickly.  At an altitude of 5 km, the collision frequency is still 3.9 billion/s and at 10 km altitude it is 2.1 billion/s.  If a water molecule is to radiate energy away as IR emissions, it must do so very quickly!  If it were able to emit IR very quickly, then the atmosphere would cool down very quickly and effectively at night.  Indeed, cooling at high elevations in mountains by radiative cooling is more effective than cooling from sea level because less of the radiative energy of the ground is spread to many nitrogen and oxygen gas molecules which then tend to hold the energy near the ground.

Back radiation to the ground from an infra-red absorbing molecule such as water or CO2 is thus not a likely event.  To this, we must add the very important caveat that the Earth's surface can only re-absorb that energy if it has cooled since the emission of the radiation occurred.  Given the very short time scale between emission of radiation from the Earth and the re-emission from an atmospheric molecule such as CO2 or water, any such cooling is trivial.  Radiation from molecules in equilibrium with the cooler temperatures found as one goes higher into the atmosphere will not be absorbed at all, since infra-red radiation only flows from warmer to cooler bodies.  The reverse does not happen.  This is a law of thermodynamics often violated by greenhouse gas global warming alarmists.  Thus, any back-radiation effects were always trivial and more than compensated by the cooling effect of infra-red gases absorbing solar radiation before it could reach the surface of the Earth.

23 May 2011

The Right to Work: The Economic Advantage

22 states are Right to Work states in which unions cannot make it a condition of work for a worker to join the labor union or pay some fee assessed by the union based on what it claims is its value to the nonmember worker.  Right to Work states since 1990 have demonstrated much greater economic performance in jobs creation and in the growth of state GDP.  Here are the comparisons between highly unionized and union shop states vs. the least unionized and Right to Work states:

The 22 Right to Work states have produced more new private sector jobs than the more populated 28 states fostering the union shop.  The Right to Work states created new jobs in the critical private sector at a rate 2.3 times that of the Union Shop states.  The least unionized states are increasing their state GDPs at much higher rates than the most unionized states. 

Richard Vedder of Ohio University noted in a Cato Journal publication (Winter 2010) that:
In 1970, 28.5 percent of Americans lived in right-to-work states; by 2008, the proportion had risen to nearly 40 percent (to over 121 million).  The population living in right-to-work states more than doubled, compared with a modest 25.7 percent increase in non right-to-work states. Moreover, only a small proportion (about 15 percent) of the increase in the proportion of Americans in right-to-work states is due to states newly enacting right-to-work laws. Indeed, in the last 20 years, only one state (Oklahoma) has adopted a new right-to-work law. Most of the
population gains arose from greater population increases in right-to-work states.
 Professor Vedder made a mistake in his comment about the affect of Oklahoma becoming a Right to Work state in 2001.  Oklahoma only had a population of 3.687 million in 2009.  Using that figure rather than a slightly lower population in 2008, Oklahoma's conversion only produced about 10% of the increase in the  proportion of the U.S. population in Right to Work states. 

Between 2000 and 2008, 4.7 million Americans moved from Union Shop states to Right to Work states.  Moreover, a larger fraction of the population chooses to work in the Right to Work states than in the Union Shop states.  The only four states with over 70% of the working age population working in 2007 were Right to Work states.  The national average then was 63%.  People in Right to Work states appear to prefer working more than those in Union Shop states.  Greater freedom of association on the job should make work more appealing.  That higher work force participation may also be due to the fact that people in the Right to Work states had a 10% greater growth in personal income between 1993 and 2009.  They also gave rise to the creation of 60% of all new businesses, despite having only about 40% of the population at the end of that time period and less earlier.

Public opinion has swung strongly against the unions being empowered to put workers under pressure to join a union as a condition of employment.  Only 11.9% of the work force is now union and the private sector workforce union rate is only 6.9%.  Legislation to become a Right to Work state is being considered in Wisconsin, Indiana, New Hampshire, and Missouri among other states.  For fear of the union hubbub and a desire to emphasize state debt control, Gov. Mitch Daniels decided that the Right to Work bill that had passed the Indiana state lower legislative branch was not a priority.  So it is on hold.

Missouri which was heavily unionized (25%) in 1978 when it last considered becoming a Right to Work state, was only 11.2% union in 2010.  If you count only those who are actually working, only 9.9% are union members.  In other words, if you are a union member, you are more likely than others to be unemployed.  Missouri is largely surrounded by Right to Work states, such as Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Tennessee.  Only Illinois and Kentucky of its neighbors are Union Shop states.  The legislature is lining up in favor of becoming a Right to Work state, though the Democrat Governor is expected to veto such a bill.  It is being considered for a statewide referendum to get around that.  Testimony by a company site consultant that 75% of the companies coming to him say they would prefer a site in a Right to Work state and 50% say they will not consider a site in a Union Shop state at all, had a telling effect upon the Republican committee heads.

Unions like to point out that family incomes are higher in Union Shop states, but when union dues are subtracted and the lower cost of living of Right to Work states is taken into account, family income is actually higher in the Right to Work states.  Clearly, the trend is solidly in their direction.  Business growth and jobs creation in the Right to Work states and out-migration from the Union Shop states will continue to put pressure on the Union Shop states to allow more freedom of association in employment.  Of course, many will long continue to be held hostage by unions, but they will pay a huge price.

22 May 2011

Slothful IRS Reduces Consequences of Exceeding Debt Limit

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has told us that the government has a few tricks it can use so that even though the government debt exceeds the debt limit, the government will not have to shut down until early August.  One major reason is not discussed.

The IRS is running late this year on refunding excess taxes paid.  Part of the reason for this is that Congress and Obama did not manage to work out an agreement and sign it into law to prevent a drastic raise in taxes until 17 December of 2010.  In addition to changes that affected future payroll withholdings, some changes required retroactive changes to 2010 tax forms, which delayed the start of filing for many people.  Among these,
  • Taxpayers were allowed to continue choosing to either deduct state income taxes or the state sales tax.  This affected the 50 million filers who itemize deductions.
  • A change was made in who was affected by the Alternative Minimum Tax or AMT, which also affected those who itemize deductions.
  • Teachers who claim the $250 deduction for money spent on classroom supplies which had been scheduled to expire.
  • Qualified college expenses could allow a deduction of up to $4,000 which had been scheduled to expire.
Consequently, the IRS was going to be jammed more than usual due to these late changes.  There is, however, another problem the IRS has on top of this one.

The first Democrat-controlled Congress of four years ago decided that the IRS should provide loans to first-time home buyers at no interest.  A million home buyers took advantage of this program, so that IRS computers are taking in monthly mortgage payments in addition to handling the usual business payroll tax deposits and trying to get the many refunds out to taxpayers.  The IRS is running seriously behind.  This is the normal problem of poor central planning that we have come to understand is central to big government.

But, government has also earned our cynicism.  Could it be that this is also a good excuse for getting refunds, which averaged $2,324 in 2007, back to taxpayers late?  During the period between now and August, the longer it takes for the IRS to refund excess tax payments, the easier it will be to avoid the consequences of having exceeded the debt limit.  The delays on many tax refunds are expected to be 4 months.  Four months from 18 April will be 18 August.  This is very convenient for our overspending government.  Is it possible the IRS and its tax-dodging leader, the Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, are taking advantage to the fullest of such excuses?  This would help to allow the administration to continue its free-spending ways unabated until August.

18 May 2011

Making ObamaCare a Power-Luster's Dream

As the 137 agencies and panels are set up and start issuing their many rulings on who will receive health care and who will not and at what cost, the total package of power manipulations of our lives by bureaucrats and politicians will become more clear.  But we have already seen states and certain health care operations acquire special treatment for political reasons in the maneuvers to get the votes to pass the unread, unconstitutional legislation in a most unseemly rush to exert the power of the Democrat Socialist Party.

Since that time, we have seen the Obama Department of Health and Human Services grant 1,372 waivers of a provision of ObamaCare.  These waivers are for one year of the medical expense limit requirements, which are higher than those many company or union health plans now offer.  They can be applied for annually through 2014.  These waivers have been granted to hundreds of union locals, despite the unions being the most vociferous of ObamaCare supporters when it was being considered in Congress.  Apparently many union locals changed their minds when they had a chance to actually read it afterward.  Or were the unions assured ahead of time that they would be granted such waivers as they wanted, seeing as how they were such munificent contributors to the election of the Democrat Socialists?  It is hard to know with this most open and transparent group of political operatives who were running the show in the 2010 Congress and the Obama gang.  Oh, did I say open and transparent?  Sorry that must have stuck in my mind from the election campaign that put these Democrat Socialists in control of our government and they thought of our lives.  I meant to say in this closed, deep-caved, murky regime of moles and voles.

These waivers now cover 3.1 million people.  The Daily Caller reports that:

Of the 204 new Obamacare waivers President Barack Obama’s administration approved in April, 38 are for fancy eateries, hip nightclubs and decadent hotels in House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s Northern California district.
That’s in addition to the 27 new waivers for health care or drug companies and the 31 new union waivers Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services approved.
Now there are 435 Congressional districts and each has about the same number of Americans in the district.  If 204 waivers were granted equally among these districts, the distribution should average 0.47 per district.  But, somehow, surely just a statistical anomaly, the district of Nancy Pelosi, the ObamaCare prime mover through the House of Representatives, just happened to get 38 waivers or 81 times her district's equal share of waivers.  God must be loading the dice when he sees that the good people of Pelosi's district are so willing to delegate powers to the federal government that they elected this good, god-favored woman to Congress.  But I, not being much of a god-fearer, must note that this is a severe injustice in a nation of sovereign, equal individuals with full rights to life, liberty, property, the ownership of their minds and bodies, and the pursuit of their personal happiness.  This is the hand of tyranny and it should be no more tolerated than when that hand was the actually lighter hand of King George III.  Under Democrat Socialist rule, there is no such thing as equal individual rights.  No, those are traded for status as either a crony to a powerful politician or the status of the Forgotten Man.  Most of us are forgotten.  I certainly am, unless I am on their enemies list.

One of the remarkable things about the companies getting waivers from Nancy Pelosi's district is that they were expensive, high-end restaurants, hotels, spas, night clubs, and car dealerships.  Apparently many other Congressional districts did not get so many waivers because they just do not have enough wealthy business establishments to compete with Pelosi's San Francisco crony mercantilism companies.  Unless maybe, just maybe, these businesses have special tutoring in how to take advantage of the overly complex and overly belligerent Washington power brokerage system that ordinary Americans will never figure out.  Of course, a call from the office of Nancy Pelosi to HHS head Kathleen Sebelius in her murky subterranean den probably does not hurt either.

17 May 2011

NLRB - From Unconstitutional to Wildly Unconstitutional

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has ordered that people with objections to its actions taken against Boeing be quiet and not voice those objections.  I am today asserting my constitutional right to think, to freedom of conscience, to freedom of speech, and to freedom of the press.  The letter of intimidation came from the General Counsel of the NLRB, Lafe Solomon, who is an Obama appointee.  Obama also stacked the NRLB with Craig Becker, the former associate general counsel for SEIU and the AFL-CIO, with a Congressional recess appointment.  Having delivered little to the unions with legislation in Congress, Obama is trying to deliver the goodies through Executive Branch agencies even if it means the public has to be intimidated out of exercising their right to freedom of speech.

The NLRB has no legitimate power under our Constitution to violate employee-employer contracts and it certainly does not have the right to declare that a company must maintain all of its production activities in one state just because that suits a particular union.  Yet, the NLRB has tried to force Boeing to build a third new production line for the 787 Dreamliner in Washington state, where it built its first production line.  Boeing has nearly finished a second production line in South Carolina and it only needs two production lines.  The International Association of Mechanics (IAM) and the union-owned NLRB are claiming that Boeing built the second production line in the right-to-work state of South Carolina in retaliation against the many strikes they have had in Washington state.  In reality, the second production line is being built at an ex-Vought site bought by Boeing.  The employees at the site were briefly members of the IAM, but decertified it as their representative when they decided that the IAM did not have their best interest at heart.  The IAM and the NLRB are retaliating against that facility in South Carolina as a result.

The NRLB is embarrassed by the weakness of its case.  Whenever the government has reason to be embarrassed and the public has or will likely catch on to that fact, the government either hides the facts and the data from the People or it tells them that they cannot talk about it.  Big government always has many reasons to be embarrassed, so censorship and secrecy have always been a consequence of a big and intrusive government.  After all, no one has ever heard of an effective central planner micromanaging the lives of hundreds of millions of complex and richly differentiated individuals.  It does not happen in the real world.

15 May 2011

Speculators are Good in a Free Market

When I was a sophomore at Brown University in 1966-1967, I sat in on the first semester economics course and then took a test to get credit for the course.  I then took the second semester as a regular course.  The course was taught by a Brown Ph.D. graduate student and in a lecture he made it clear that he did not like speculators and that he did not understand their essential role in a free market economy.  I explained it to him after class, making myself late for my next class.  To this day, few people understand the critical and good role that speculators perform.  They are presently being blamed by Obama, Bill O'Reilly, and many others for the increasing price of gasoline at the pump.

Obama claims that there is plenty of oil available and the price of gasoline should not be so high.  But, he says the mean, cold-hearted, selfish speculators are driving the cost of oil up and therefor the cost of gasoline is going up.  There are indeed times when speculators do drive the cost of oil up.  There are also times when they drive the cost down.  The total longer term average of their effect on the price of oil is probably a downward effect.  Let us consider why this is the case.

If you look at the market for a given product, you see the free market price of that product now fairly readily, if you have a free market.  What is harder to figure out is what the future price of that product will be.  Let us take the case of oil, since that is the present example of most interest.  Let us suppose even that Obama is right that there is enough oil now to meet the present demand for oil in the sense that the supply and the demand do not dictate a price increase.  Is it perhaps the case that speculators are driving the price up?  It may very well be the case.  Yes, even Obama can be partly right every now and then.  Even though he has no understanding of economics and business at all, he is sometimes partly right about something in some moment of time.  What he is most likely wrong about is his assessment that the rising price is entirely caused by speculators and that their contribution is bad.

The speculators are bidding up the price of oil because they think that we will before very long face a situation in which the supply of oil will not be enough to satisfy the future demand for it without the price going up more even than the speculators are bidding it up to now.  The speculator makes money only if he is right in his assessment of the future supply and the future demand.  If he is wrong, he will lose his shirt.

So, speculators have recently bid up the cost of oil by buying it.  Why might they do this?  First, the world economy has been in a severe recession with a slow recovery, so present demand is still suppressed.  Countries such as India, China, and Brazil have had rapidly growing economies in recent times, which may surge ahead as the world gets over the recession.  Many people in under-developed countries have been improving their standard of living and are using more energy.  World trade will grow and the transportation of goods will increase.  Meanwhile, OPEC has been limiting its production of oil.  The national oil companies that control the vast majority of the world's presently developed oil fields are very inefficient oil producers.  Will they be able and inclined to increase production by enough to keep prices near present levels as economies continue to recover from the recession?  There is also a loss of production of oil in Libya and some legitimate concern that the unrest in the Middle East may lead to other disruptions of oil production in other countries. 

Even the rather free market oil companies are not able to increase oil production by much, because many countries are closed off to them and because the U.S. will not allow them to develop new oil fields offshore or on any of the vast federal lands.  Even on private land, they are often prevented from oil field development by lawsuits.  At the moment, there are also some oil refineries being threatened by production problems by the flooding of the Mississippi River.  In addition, speculators are predicting the future value of the dollar.  Will it continue to drop as the Federal Reserve continues to print money?  Perhaps the speculators think oil production will not therefor increase enough as demand increases to keep prices at present levels or at those that speculators are bidding the price up to currently.  Perhaps they are betting -- almost surely correctly -- that the value of the dollar will continue to shrink.

Let us suppose that the speculators are thinking this way and they have bid up the price of oil.  When that future time comes and many people are desperate for oil and its products such as gasoline and plastics, the present production oil of that future time would be bid up to very high prices by consumers.  It is then that the speculators let the oil they have been holding back onto the market.  The supply of oil is then increased and the price is driven down.  The speculator makes a profit if he was right about the future direction and rates of supply and demand changes and the value of the dollar.  If we deny him his profit, he has no reason to take the risk of acting on his judgment to try to smooth out price fluctuations.  The speculator takes advantage of price fluctuations to make a profit.  But, his act to make a profit, provides more supply when supply is low or demand is high, so his action reduces the price fluctuations that would otherwise occur.

In an act of idiocy, Congress made it illegal to speculate on the price of onions.  As a result, the price of onions fluctuates much more than most agricultural products.  Its price fluctuations were used as an illustration of what happens when speculators are removed from a market by a recent John Stossel program on Fox Business News.  He also discussed oil and onion prices in a column.  The horrible onion price fluctuation history goes back to 1958.  Because of the ban on onion speculation, onion prices recently went up by 36%, worse than the price increases on oil.

The present price of oil is not up just due to speculators in any case.  Much of the rise is due to the declining value of the dollar.  Obama and the big spending government thugs want badly to distract us from this effect.  They also want to distract us from the effects that past oil field development restrictions have had on oil prices, because they wish to continue those restrictions.  The loss of a large part of the Libyan oil production also causes world prices on oil to be bid up for its present effect on supply and demand.  Some states, desperate for more tax revenue, have also increased the gasoline tax.  The continued requirements for ethanol in gasoline and the increase of mixes to 15% ethanol causes the price of gasoline to go up as well.  All of these problems are caused by governments and our government wants our attention to be on speculators, not on it.  In similar past times, the government has investigated the role of speculators about 30 times and they never find anything substantial in the investigations.  These hearings are dog and pony show distractions just as Senator Hatch complained this last week.

I made the claim that the average effect of oil speculation is probably one of decreasing the cost.  Why would this be the case?  When the price of oil is low, many oil producers will cut back their higher cost production wells.  For instance, there are oil pumps all over the U.S. that pump oil only a few hours a day or less, as oil slowly seeps into the pump area from porous rock.  Delivering this small quantity of oil to market can be a bit expensive and the maintenance of the pumps which work such a small fraction of the time is high.  They simply get shut down when the price of oil goes way down.  Minimum oil production costs and then refining costs for gasoline will set something of a floor for how low oil and gasoline prices can go.  On the up side, however, there are many critical uses of oil and gasoline that make it possible for the price to go very high when demand becomes very great and the supply becomes too little.  Many a driver will still pay for gasoline to drive to work.  Many an American would pay $8 a gallon if he had to.  Many would pay $10/gallon.  Sudden decreases in supply or of demand could result in huge upward price spikes.

Yes, these price increases will bring on increased production.  For enough money, OPEC will crank up their production somewhat.  Those hour a day pumps will surely be turned back on.  Political pressure on the U.S. government will force it to allow some new oil field development.  While some deep water offshore oil fields will take 10 years of development, there are shallow off-shore and land sources that can be developed much faster.  There are old depleted oil fields in which more expensive oil recovery measures can be justified and more oil can be squeezed from them.  Greater effort can be made in refineries to break down large oil molecules to squeeze out more gasoline.  Things can be done to bring down the high prices, but many of them take time to occur.  Over shorter periods, prices can spike upward badly.  These deleterious effects are mitigated by the much maligned speculators.  Speculators are our friends.  Governments, both the U.S. and the OPEC governments, are our enemy.

Senate Bill to Remove 200 Senate Confirmations Confirms Excessive Size of Government

Senate Bill 679 is a bipartisan effort to reduce the role of the Senate in confirming presidential appointments to Executive branch offices. It is called the Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act of 2011. The Senate has proven unable to keep up with its essential function as a check to the growth of Presidential power and has fallen badly behind on its vetting and confirmation responsibilities. Given the outrageous and cancerous growth of government, this is to be expected.

Under Kennedy the Senate had 286 positions to confirm. At the end of the Clinton presidency, the Senate had 914 positions to confirm.  It now has 1,409 appointments on which to exercise its overview function. It is clear, as S679 maintains, that the Senate cannot do a reasonable job of confirming 1,409 positions. So S679 wants to remove about 200 positions from those needing confirmation.

The Constitution allows the Congress to make a law to vest the appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, .... So the question here is whether the 200 Officers the S679 bill decides to let the President alone vest in office are inferior or not. I expect that most of them are inferior, but not necessarily in the sense of minor Offices.

I expect that Congress has passed laws previously vesting appointments solely with the President, to the courts, and to the Heads of Departments in numerous cases. After all, the Senate is only confirming about 1,409 employee positions in the federal government out of about 2,824,000 civilian positions and out of about 2,445,000 active military positions. [It is interesting that the government tells us how many people were employed in April 2011, but it can only tell us how many government employees there were in 2008 or 2009. Do they have some multiplying swarms of officers let loose upon the land and the People to hide?]

The expansion of government far beyond its constitutional scope and its exercise of powers not given to it by the Constitution is the cause of the Senate's inability to check on the wisdom of the presidential appointments. That growth has made it impossible for the government to rationally manage its operations. The President, the Senate, the House, and the Supreme Court are all overwhelmed with responsibilities that no mortal men can perform reasonably.

We have a massive failure of wisdom, which was wonderfully plentiful among the Framers of our Constitution. Such wisdom is sadly lacking in most of the politicians running our government today. Among the 200 positions S679 would end the Senate confirmation duty for there are surely many that are exercising powers not given them by the Constitution and which are therefore very critical offices very much in need of any checks they might be given. But, the Senate cannot do its job. The Senate should understand that this is a substantial reason why government should not be this huge and act to drastically cut its size. Instead, it wants to cut its responsibilities.

If we assume that all of the $3.4562 trillion spent in 2010 went through the hands of these 1,409 top appointees, they are in control of an average of $2.453 billion of taxpayer money. Maybe some of the 1,409 Senate confirmations influence the spending of much less of this money than the average, but it does seem a bad idea that someone controlling the spending of a substantial part of $1 billion has no vetting from Congress. Worse than the spending is the assumption of unconstitutional powers and the trampling of individual rights which these officers of the federal government are allowed to do, and do with little oversight even.  I seriously doubt that reducing the Senate's overview of 200 of these 1,409 positions will not result in much irrational spending and many additional unconstitutional acts by the Executive branch of the government.  Yet, at present, the Senate cannot focus properly on what may very well be the more important 1,209 positions.

This is an excellent case of the government causing a problem and then acting unwisely to fix the problem it has created.  It has grown too big due to taking on many powers not given to it by the Constitution and therefor powers that were reserved to the People or the States.  Because it has grown excessively and wantonly, it cannot fulfill its responsibility to check Presidential appointments to offices that wield great power, and in many instances, tyrannical power, over the People and the States.  So it responds with S679 to shirk its overview responsibility.  This confirms the generally dim view most Americans have of the Senate.

Government is all about the use of force. Because of this, it attracts people into its principal offices who love wielding force. In other words, it attracts bullies and thugs. Such people never willing give up power because it is the right thing to do. They only understand a superior force, which is still to be found in our ballot boxes, though not for much longer if we do not consistently use that power to force these thugs out of office. Unfortunately, the chief thug has a unbelievably high 42% approval rating. The thugs and con men are not doing too badly politically. 42% of the people conned can be a serious impediment to down-sizing our bubble government. It would be best to down-size it before it bursts, but this is going to be a closely run affair.

The following Senators are co-sponsors of S679:

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), Sen. Thomas Carper (D-Del.), Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Sen. John Reed (D-R.I.), Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).

There might be some excuse for any Senators on this list who are serious government down-sizers who wanted to clear their dockets for some serious cutting of spending and the bureaucracy.  Such a Senator might be able to eliminate 200 top positions easily and could then be justified in being in favor of S679.  I see no such Senator on this list, however.

11 May 2011

Sometimes it gets a little crazy in Africa

Zimbabwe issued the highest denomination currency ever and in 2009 it would not buy a bus ticket in its own capital.  These bills are no longer in use as currency in Zimbabwe.  Zimbabwe gave up on adding more zeroes to its currency before 2009 was over, but the bills are now worth something to currency collectors.  The bills are selling on the Internet for more than 15 times what they were worth in circulation.  They are now worth about $5 American as a collector's item.

Since the Democrats will not cut back on their spending and taxation will never provide them as much as they want to spend, I wonder when the American highest denomination bills will hit $100,000, then $1,000,000, then $10,000,000?  Look at the growth of our money supply since 2000 compared to its growth in prior times in the plot below:

The rate of expansion of the M2 money supply from 2000 to 2010 was at a rate of about $380 billion per year.  M2 was very nearly twice as large at the end of 2010 as it was in 2000.  As long as most of M2 is held abroad by people and countries who think the American dollar is reasonably sound, this may be less than totally catastrophic.  But, but, but, if those holding these dollars lose confidence in the dollar and start dumping it in panic, the jig is up.  We may then see that $100,000 bill, with a $1,000,000 bill fast on its heels.

08 May 2011

13.47% Unemployment with Glacially Slow Improvement

The so-called unemployment rate of 8.66%, without seasonal adjustment, or the 9.0% unemployment rate with seasonal adjustment, remains virtually meaningless.  As I do most months, I will calculate the number of missing jobs based on the percentage of Americans who wanted to work when jobs were plentiful and desirable in January 2000.  The result is that the real unemployment rate in April 2011 is 13.47%, which is down from March 2011 when it was 13.86%.  In January 2011, it was still worse at 14.59%.  We are presently missing 21,739,000 jobs.  This is 868,000 more missing jobs than in April of 2010.  Clearly, while the recent real unemployment rate is falling, it is doing so with glacial slowness and our jobs recession is still very much bearing down on us.

The graph of missing jobs going back to November 2009 is updated below:

We made progress to some degree in job creation because the U.S. manufacturing base is doing relatively well compared to the rest of the world.  We are very competitive.  Take a look at this chart from the JPMorgan Global PMI Report of 3 May in which values over 50 represent expansion:

As we see, U.S. manufacturing output dipped lower at the end of 2008 and the start of 2009 than that of China, the U.K., and the Eurozone, though not so deep as Japan.  Since then, U.S. manufacturing output has rebounded strongly, despite the federal government's best efforts to squeeze it dry with excessive regulations and taxes.  We now have the highest corporate taxes in the developed world.  Corporate taxes are particularly onerous as a double tax, since shareholders are taxed again on their dividends and any capital gains and prices of sold goods and services are raised to consumers.  Despite this, American manufacturers are making an heroic effort, which is much under-appreciated.  U.S. manufacturing output fell in April relative to March, but we are still beating the Eurozone, China, and Japan.  This is why manufacturing employment rose by 29,000 in April.  The drop in the manufacturing output in April may have been due to a lack of parts from Japan and sharp increases in many commodity prices in April.  Monetary tightening in China contributed to the downturn there.

The manufacturing employment index from the JPMorgan report is also interesting, with values greater than 50 indicating expansion again:

Manufacturing unemployment took a deeper dip in the U.S. than anywhere in this Great Socialist Recession, but since early 2010, U.S. manufacturers have beaten the Eurozone, China, and Japan in increasing manufacturing employment.  This has been done because U.S. manufacturers have been increasing the productivity per employee and increasing exports.  The manufacturing export index is shown below:

Note that the manufacturing export index for the U.S. did not dip as low as those for China, the Eurozone, and Japan at the worst of the recession and that we now and recently have been beating out the Eurozone by a hair and China and Japan more handily.  Some of this expansion, however, is driven by the lower value of the dollar.  Caterpillar Inc. is selling construction equipment abroad at record rates, especially excavators and underground mining trucks.  Heavy spending on infrastructure in Latin America and Asia is especially a factor in these sales.  About 90% of their large mining trucks are exported.  In the U.S., severe environmental regulations and constant lawsuits are crimping our mining operations despite strong demand for metals and materials.  Since the low point in employment in mining in October 2009, employment has increased by 107,000 jobs in mining.  Crown Equipment Corp. manufactures forklifts and is reporting strong sales abroad as well.

Construction spending is also increasing in the U.S.  It increased by 1.4% in March.  The increase in the private sector was higher at 2.2%.  Construction employment was unchanged in April, however.  It has been very flat since early 2010.  In April, retail trade employment increased by 57,000, professional and business services by 51,000, leisure and hospitality by 46,000, and health care by 37,000 jobs.  The information, financial, and transportation and warehousing industries remained unchanged in employment numbers.  Fortunately, the number employed in state and local governments decreased somewhat.

First quarter 2011 output per hour worked productivity was 1.3% higher than it had been in the first quarter of 2010, but this continued a trend since the first quarter of 2010 of smaller and smaller productivity gains.  Companies are struggling to increase productivity further with the already very lean workforces they have.

06 May 2011

Many of 49% of Americans are Slaves,

while 51% are wastrels responsible for massive government spending they pay no income tax to fund.  Yes, in 2009, the number of Americans not paying income taxes to the federal government became a 51% majority.  For them, it does not matter how wasteful government spending is, because it is not their money.  They can and do ask, "Why should I care what it costs, I do not pay for it."  Obama has succeeded in creating a majority of recipients of his redistributionist theft.  It gets worse, since some of those 49% who pay some income tax, actually do get more in government goodies than the amount they pay in taxes.

For instance, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 1,909,000 civilian federal employees in November 2008, excluding the postal employees.  With their generally high salaries and extremely good benefits, they can be said to mostly be receiving more in government payments than they are paying in taxes.  It is interesting to note that the Bureau of Labor Statistics provides data on total employment in April 2011, but only provides the number of federal employees as recently as November 2008.  Do you suppose they do not want the taxpayer to easily find out how bloated the federal bureaucracy truly is?  On top of this, I have seen numbers for January 2009 civilian federal employees without security clearances reported to be 2,748,978.  The CIA, NSA, and other complete federal agencies were left out of that 2.7 million number.  This number may include the postal employees.  Does the federal government have as much trouble keeping track of how many employees it has as it does of how much land, how many buildings, and how much equipment it has?  I would not be surprised.

Then there are also those many businessmen so cozy with the government who are collecting subsidies and who benefit from mandates, such as those to use ethanol, wind energy, solar energy, and partially electric cars.  There are also crony mercantilists benefiting from many regulations designed to bury their competition, especially that of small businesses, under a mountain of government requirements and paperwork.  These people are often called crony capitalists, but that is a contradiction of terms.  Crony mercantilists have been around as long as there have been governed nation-states, which long predates the day of the capitalists with their philosophy of open markets and freedom of choice.  Capitalism is the manifestation of the equal, sovereign individual right to associate with whom one wants for the purposes of one's choosing.

Just recently, every business in America doing any business with FDA-regulated companies or with FAA and DOD regulated aerospace companies has been hit with a blizzard of quality assurance paperwork and the pressure is mounting for every company to become International Standards Organization (ISO) certified at huge expense both initially and in an on-going way.  This is expensive for large companies and will be the death of many a small company.  The small company that always had to try harder to provide good service or quality products will now be killed in many cases in the name of increased quality.  Ha.  We will see what the monopoly of the few companies that can bear the expense of this extra-governmental regulation required by government agencies will provide in future quality!  Every lab will have calibrated equipment, but will pay no attention to correctly interpreting the data provide to obtain the real properties of the materials investigated.  There will be no quality in the end product analytical report, but every laboratory will be a quality lab because ISO says they are.  As Ayn Rand noted long ago, regulation by government sets up lowest common denominator requirements and no company thereafter has as much pressure as before to exceed those low requirements.  But, many a tired, old, and large company is very happy with such regulations, whether set by the government or by a one-world organization such as ISO.  ISO also serves the function of providing import protection to Europe primarily, but secondarily to the U.S., Canada, and Japan.

If you wonder why it is so hard to reduce the size of government or to reduce its out-of-control spending, this is why.  There are too few people paying taxes and many too many people getting payments, subsidies, and protection from effort.  The many have truly enslaved the productive and wealth-creating few.  But it is these few who create the jobs.  As our society has become most determined to enslave and whip these few, they have responded by laying off many of the employees they can no longer support and by refusing to hire more new employees even as they struggle to increase productivity while robbed of the capital with which to do it.