Category Archives: Blogs

American Worker

In most American cities, the once prosperous middle class has been decimated. In major cities like San Francisco and New York, where living costs are high and lower-wage service jobs dominate a large portion of the economy, the rich thrive and the working poor live off government programs. The middle class is too poor to afford the living costs and too rich to qualify for government subsidies.

The Fixes

The easy fix to the problem of the disappearing middle class is to subsidize people who are above the poverty line. The very hard fix is to increase the availability of higher-paying trade jobs, reform the current misguided education system so it produces workers that are able to fill those jobs, and re-think collective bargaining as we know it today.

Most major cities employ the easy fix, while the federal government is attempting to implement a version of the hard fix. This version, however, relies heavily on mercantilism, focusing on tariffs and other methods of discouraging U.S. imports. Worker skills and challenges posed by today’s globalization-influenced and automation-prone economy are not being addressed as forcefully as trade.

An American Factory

American Factory is a Netflix film by Higher Ground Productions, a partnership between former President Barack Obama, his wife Michelle Obama and Netflix. The 2019 original documentary describes the early days in 2016 of an automotive glass production facility owned by the Chinese company Fuyao Glass located on the site of a shuttered GM plant in Moraine, Ohio.  Film directors Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert filmed the company’s workers and managers for three years, and released American Factory in August 2019.

Residents of Moraine were jubilant at again having jobs available and a thriving town. But reality soon set in. The company brought in Chinese personnel to train and work along-side the local recruits. Pay stayed lower than at the GM former plant. Tasks often proved dangerous.

Union agitation soon followed, in spite of company warnings from the start that this was to be a non-union shop. A 2017 attempt to unionize failed. Several workers were fired.
Whether the company’s talk of automation was prompted by the unionization attempt or was in the plan all along is difficult to say.

The Changing Workplace

The American middle class, once the backbone of the U.S. economy, boasted strongly-unionized assembly workers. American families drove Ford, GM, Chrysler, and AMC automobiles as they enjoyed rising post-WWII prosperity.

But this period was an anomaly, even if wishful thinking sought to enshrine it as an indication of intrinsic American superiority: by the ’70s and ’80s, what was true all along finally became practicable. Markets opened, information began flowing, capital aggregated, and most of all people in other parts of the world proved that they were willing and able to do the work that Americans firmly believed only we could do.  The Obama Film American Factory Backfires, aier.org, August 26, 2019.

By the 1980s The European Common Market succeeded in cementing the fact that globalization was the new way of doing things. So, American leaders and workers alike convinced themselves that the gods of Competitive Advantage had allocated to us in perpetuity the technological niche. We could be OK with Toyota taking over our automobile market because we could make Cray Supercomputers.

However, we neglected a crucial challenge: Things seldom remain static.

A New Reality for Chinese Companies

China, for example, went from being a supplier of our kids’ plastic toys, to a supplier of technology equipment parts, to the manufacturer of the Sunway TaihuLight – the machine that beat the U.S. Cray Supercomputer in 2016. In 2018, China had 206 out of the top 500 fastest supercomputers in the world, while the U.S. had 124.

China’s leaders went from wearing stodgy Mao jackets to wearing dapper business suits. Their negotiating style changed to match their business attires.  China developed a moneyed class engaged in business and trade. Efforts to deal with rural poverty are on their way.

Needless to say, with the rise of a moneyed class, comes a rise in general living standards, and with that comes a rise in the cost and complexity of doing business.

China’s evolving life style brings us back to Fuyao Glass. According to some observers, Chinese companies are locating manufacturing facilities externally because of China’s rising labor costs, taxes, and regulations!  Among those companies is Fuyao Glass.

The American Worker

American Factory presents a picture of what the American marketplace looks like today:  a significant number of American workers employed by U.S.-based foreign companies and facing the turmoil that comes from cultural clashes. The film’s message, however, is open to interpretation.

Workers at Fuyao have filed lawsuits against the company for a variety of reasons,  including allegedly illegally punishing workers for trying to unionize. Meanwhile, Fuyao has not been shy in expressing dissatisfaction with the habits of American workers.  The threat of automation lurks in the background, as the company’s chairman, Cao Dewang, seeks what he euphemistically calls a future in technology.

The wearying and expensive battle of wills is not productive or conducive to worker satisfaction. However, is it avoidable? Would the scenario be any different if this glass company were owned and managed by Americans? Today marks the third day of a nation-wide workers’ strike against General Motors.  So, maybe the American worker faces a deeper challenge than Chinese employers.

An Unintended Wake Up Call

The status quo no longer works in today’s rapidly changing globalized automation-prone world. Would it be better to move on to another model?

One idea might be to return to training skilled production workers, which stopped when the college-loan industry figured it would be profitable to promote the paper-shuffling industry, thereby helping to kill American manufacturing in the U.S. The production of goods by American companies located in foreign countries does no good to the American worker.

Another idea, which goes in tandem with the first, is to promote college as a place you go because you want to be there, can handle a high-level level of purely mental work, and cannot be distracted by constant political agitation. Highly trained technicians can help the U.S. keep up with a modern world not at all lacking in first-class universities offering outstanding technical education.

American Factory succeeds as a wake-up call. However, that wake-up call might not be the one intended by the film’s producers. American Factory perhaps serves as a reminder how American workers have been deceived by their legislators, used by their modern-day unions, and left unprepared to compete in today’s market place.

American Factory ribbon cutting
American Factory:  Fuyao Glass ribbon cutting in Moraine, Ohio

The Blurred Line Between Order & Chaos

Chaos - CopyA good article by Nathan Kreider posted on Being Libertarian says the “line between order and chaos is not as clear as many assume.” The Just Vote No Blog recommends that article as means of dispelling a misconception on the nature of order and chaos.

Excerpt:

It is true, the laws by government can enforce order. But at the same time, there are many examples (continuously pointed out by libertarians) that certain laws can disrupt an already existing order, producing chaos. And when law becomes excessive, creating a needlessly bureaucratic mess, this is far more chaotic than a system with fewer, simpler laws.

Truer words were never spoken.  Read More of Nathan Kreider’s article.

Remembering September 11

ribbonIt’s good to remember and honor innocent lives lost in tragic events. On September 11, 2001, 2976 men, women, and children from all walks of life died at the hand of 19 suicide hijackers in New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

It is not good to say their death were not unique, since innocent civilians are routinely massacred during times of conflict. It is not good to dismiss this tragedy as the work of some hidden nefarious entity.

It is best to honor these lost lives by reflecting on the utter uselessness and evil of endless conflict and war.

Our reflection on this calamity should include the events the attack on these lives unleashed. It should include our assessment is the “post-9/11” world leaders created, and citizens demanded in the name of “security.”

A measure of conflict is unavoidable in any group, be it parents and children or the family of nations. However, any group regardless of size, location, ethnicity or religion could reflect on the uselessness of oppression, thirst for power, and myopic battles.

May the souls lost on September 11 be resting in peace. May we the living work towards an end to conflicts that inevitably result in slaughter of the innocent.

John Bolton is Gone: Why Was He Ever Chosen?

BoltonOn September 10, 2019, President Donald Trump accepted the resignation of John Bolton, the National Security Advisor he chose in April of 2018.

Bolton is the quintessential foreign policy hawk, who believes forceful action — what some call regime change — should be the preferred option in dealing with nations the U.S.  perceives as threats.

The question could enter people’s mind as to why a President who saw himself as an accomplished deal maker and campaigned on the promise of ending U.S. endless wars would choose an advisor like Bolton. Perhaps the answer is that John Bolton’s purported aim is the same as Donald Trump’s: advocate for American interests.

But, unfortunately, no matter how sincere is Bolton’s aim, Trump must have finally faced the fact that the devil is in the details, and Bolton’s strategy has never included deal making or ending war in the maintenance of regime change.

As noted in a comprehensive article in The Atlantic, in his memoir Surrender is Not an Option John Bolton expresses contempt for what he views as soft foreign policy.

State careerists are schooled in accommodation and compromise with foreigners, rather than aggressive advocacy of U.S. interests, which might inconveniently disrupt the serenity of diplomatic exchanges, not to mention dinner parties and receptions.

The problem that Trump possibly had to face in Bolton’s case is that in government, just as in business, something either works as advertised or it does not. True, the bigger the entity, the more freely it can paper over discrepancies between what is said and what is done.

However, the failures of regime changes are becoming simply too obvious to hide: Guatemala, Chile, Iran, Zaire, Afghanistan, Iraq.  The autocrats that took over these nations after the U.S. intervened left them no better than before intervention.

There is a saying, “War is the health of the state.” Hawks like John Bolton probably sincerely believe that. However, Thomas Jefferson might have had a better idea,

Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations – entangling alliances with none.  Thomas Jefferson, Inaugural Address.

Climate Change: View from the other side

The Just Vote No Blog View

“Climate change” and “Climate denial” are charged phrases that often elicit strong responses. The Just Vote No Blog has often noted that the subject of climate has grown beyond common sense efforts like installing scrubbers on smokestacks, investing in useful transit systems, or driving reasonably-sized gas-saving private automobiles. Today the subject serves to implement the cause of “social justice and equity.” The Just Vote No Blog has encouraged honest appraisal of the costs and benefits of such a cause.

The View From the Other Side

In all fairness to social justice warriors who truly believe that climate change constitutes an existential threat that requires globally-implemented mandates, the JVN Blog asked the permission of a fellow activist to post some heartfelt beautifully expressed responses he wrote during an email discussion on climate change.

Primarily, he visualizes need for transformation in our social institutions that will bring about renewal of collective action based on trust. He sees a culture of individualism that since the 1960s rose in tandem with mistrust of social institutions, thus spawning impediments to the kind of collective action that fighting climate change requires.

Here are Steve J.’s thoughts, posted without editing and with the respect that is due to honestly differing views.

In response to a question why research is limited to rise in CO2:

“The reason why ‘changes caused by other than CO2’ have not been studied is an excellent question. One explanation for alternative climate change theories not being funded is that they are opposed by a vast conspiracy that includes the government, the scientific community, and their funding sources. The other reason may be that in the last 30 years alternative theories to the greenhouse effect have been examined by scientists in multiple disciplines and dismissed as less plausible. What are we to believe?”

“There is considerable evidence that counter arguments to James Hansen’s 1988 theory and subsequent scientific research are funded by the fossil fuel industry. While I don’t dismiss the possibility that the scientific consensus is wrong and is the result of an extremely broad conspiracy, there is substantial evidence that there has been a profit-driven PR campaign to oppose the scientific consensus, leaving us with unanswered questions like yours. Here’s one example, Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America, by business reporter Christopher Leonard: ‘A new book reveals that Charles Koch, along with his brother David, played an earlier and more central role in climate-change denial than was previously understood.’ Reported in The New Yorker by Jane Mayer (the author of Dark Money), August 13, 2019.”

Continue reading Climate Change: View from the other side

Looking for Free Education: Watch Hardfire TV

Hardfire TV 2

This is an interesting find, scholarly discussions on economics in lay-person’s language.  There are over 150 episodes on YouTube of Hardfire: Libertarian Issues in Focus, produced by Cameron Weber, PhD economics.

Dr. Weber is generally pleasantly soft spoken, which is a plus in today’s strident public dialogue. As the title of the show suggests, issues are discussed from a libertarian (versus collective or socialist) perspective.

Why is the Just Vote No Blog recommending this show? 

As a nation, we are in need of the basic education that allows us to competently fill out a resume, keep a financially sound household budget, point to where a country is located on a map, and assess the economic feasibility of what is proposed at the ballot box.  Some point to home schooling, charter schools, and on-line courses as a way for students to improve their chances of competing favorably in an increasingly complex job market.  Others point to free or low-cost life-long learning as a way for everybody to stay informed.

The trick is not only to find free or low cost instruction, but to avoid the echo-chamber trap of learning only what often agenda-driven groups prescribe.  One way to avoid this trap is to explore different sources of information.  It is good to listen to what Robert Reich (professor of public policy at U.C. Berkeley and partial to Keynesian economics) has to say, but counter that with what Thomas Sowell (Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and partial to Chicago School economics) says.

Cameron Weber’s show represents instruction that is freely available as well as libertarian (free market) economics which today is less widespread than the liberal central planning.

An Example of a Hardfire Episode

On the segment of August 2, 2019, Dr. Weber discusses what at first glance borders on the heretical – Adam Smith, father of free market capitalism, called for non-market government intervention!  However, as Cameron Weber explains, this apparent contradiction is the result of Adam Smith’s discussion of two separate situations.

One situation describes economic relationships between individuals.  For example, you sell widgets and I know you for being an honest and knowledgeable maker of widgets, so I decide to buy widgets from you.  In this situation, the free market is the best judge of who are the most successful widget makers.  Adam Smith discussed this theme in one of his two principal books, The Theory of Modern Sentiment (1759).

The other situation regards not individuals but nations, thus the title of Smith’s other principal work, The Wealth of Nations.  Now, the free market must take second place to national wealth and security.  Any benefit that might accrue to individuals comes as a result of government-determined policies on manufacturing and trade that aim to make nations wealthy and secure.  Such policies according to Smith must include exceptions to the free market that protect 1) products used in national defense, and 2) infant industries.

From a libertarian viewpoint, the questions would be 1) are we really talking about national defense or imperialism, 2) do industry protections ever end once implemented, and 3) where does the line of protectionism end.

Sprinkled throughout this segment are explanations of mercantilism, social scores, analytic egalitarianism, and other interesting terms.

The Just Vote No Blog hopes you will enjoy this show and also watch a variety of points of views on economics, so much of it free of change on YouTube.

Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body & mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.  Thomas Jefferson

Observing the Great Blackout of 2003

ottawablackout014.jpg

Photo:  The Atlantic, August 13, 2018

August 14, 2019 marks the 16th anniversary of the Northeastern Blackout of 2003. On that day, over 50 million people in the Northeastern United States and in parts of the Midwest and Canada found themselves without any electric power. Fears of another 9/11 immediately surfaced, especially in New York City.  However, the culprits were over-loaded power lines that brushed against some overgrown trees on northern Ohio.

Alarm software failed to prompt human controllers into action, power was not re-routed among affected regions, resulting in a massive blackout that for some residents lasted three days.

Although sadly there were some deaths and injuries attributed to the blackout, thankfully residents met the challenge with civility and good will, thus avoiding greater harm to people and property.

Why Should We Remember the Great Blackout of 2003

Disasters like the Northeastern Blackout, as well as tragic events such as the 2018 Camp and Paradise wildfires in California, should be reminders of the need for private citizens and legislators to pay attention to the nation’s infrastructure.

Overloaded power lines, overgrown trees adjacent to power lines, neglected equipment, and outdated or poorly deployed software are major causes of blackouts, as well as wildfires. Blaming climate change and pouring tax money into green deals won’t help. Blaming power utilities or clamoring for government-owned suppliers won’t help. Using tragedies to advance agendas won’t help.

Even when there is specific legislation purporting to address power grid challenges, such legislation is often questionable, wasteful or both. The recent return to the U.S. Senate of Senator Angus King’s (I-Maine) proposal to replace digital power nodes with analog ones could serve as example. The Senator’s argument for proposing (in 2017, 2018 and now in 2019) a return to analog power systems is that the U.S. needs to protect its power grid from a cyber attack such as the one Ukraine suffered in 2015. True, no way to digitally attack what is not digital. However, with analog systems, there is no way to deal with massive and immediate movement of power when that is necessary to prevent or curtail regional overloads.

We Need To Focus on Infrastructure Not On Tweets

We have become a nation of Tweets. Why are we Tweeting about some legislator’s racial profile instead of his responsibility to keep his state free of crime and rats? Why are we Tweeting about Pacific Gas & Electric’s profit “greed” instead demanding that inspection crews follow up on aging or neglected equipment? Our infrastructure is crumbling before our eyes, including some of our power systems, but we focus on agenda-driven and/or distracting tactics instead.

Take Action of August 14, 2019

The Just Vote No Blog suggests observance on August 14 of the great Northeastern Blackout of 2003.  This would be a good day for everybody to contact their legislators and suggest they stop squabbling and start working on the increasing demands on our power grids.