Tag Archives: Economics

State Street Hypocrites

The Wall Street Journal recently reported in one of those typical feel-good-right-side-of-history stories, written almost always by its female reporters, that financial firm State Street, based in, where else, Boston, is insisting that companies it does business with put more women on those company’s boards and that it would vote against board members who were insufficiently enthusiastic with such causes.

It’s giving companies a year to comply. Or else, I guess.

The CEO of State Street Global Advisors, one Ronald O’Hanley, not a woman, said, oddly,“If someone could convince us that the absence of diversity or gender diversity is not a problem, we’re leaving that open. Will they? I doubt it.”

So, Ronnie, would that little bit of business philosophy include State Street Global Advisors own “Leadership Team”? It’s a regular Boys Club — 23 men to 5 women. It’s parent company, State Street, features 62 men and 18 women in its “Leadership Team.”

Perhaps some of those chaps will be leaving and be replaced by someone with her sex organs on the inside? (An odd way to measure qualifications for employment in a financial company.)

No?

Hhhhmmmmm, the classic liberal behavior, do as I say not as I do; AKA hypocrisy.

What’s changing, increasingly, is that the liberals that have take over so much of American business are willing to employ those businesses as weapons against other Americans. They are also abandoning their fiduciary duties in service of liberalism, fascism and socialism.

But back to that March 7 story. It deploys the usual weepy statistics about the lack of women on boards and how those companies with women do so much better than the small handful that don’t have any; or at least they did several years ago when the “study” conducted by State Street (surprise!) said so.

The story has one last kiss — a picture of a Dega-esque statue that State Street planned to place in front of the famous Wall Street bulls statue. I gather she’s supposed to face them like that lone Chinese man faced the tanks in Tiananmen Square. Subtlety isn’t exactly a liberal specialty.

Historical accuracy isn’t one either. But then history doesn’t serve as history for history’s sake or to be learned from in the eyes of the liberal but rather slaved to the propaganda mission and if it has to be plasticized and recast into different forms as if it were Play-Doh, then so be it; it served its purpose.

The Uncompetitivifying of America

Yeah, that’s right, I just invented a completely unwieldy word.

In my day job as a trade journalist I get a lot of press releases from companies. Most are perfectly functional, doing their job in one degree of effectiveness or another (though lately I’d say the average marketing/PR apparatchik is becoming increasingly incompetent but that’s another rant). However, lately I’ve been getting more and more press releases that sound like parodies from The Onion.

But they aren’t parodies. They are real and reflect and increasing insanity creeping into American businesses.

It’s no secret that most large corporations are riven with liberals in the corporate suite. And liberals hire only other liberals.

Some liberals are actually pretty good at business but that number is finite. Most liberals are clueless when it comes to business and economics. Of course that doesn’t prevent them at all from being hired.

Instead of making their company more competitive or more efficient or expanding its products or services lines, these liberals distract a company from its business mission. They send the business expending resources in nongermane missions.

Witness the explosion in “diversity” operations at major corporations. Vice President for Diversity is an actual job at most large companies these days. And they are proud of it. They buy big ads to highlight it. This person will have a small army of assistants and a growing budget though the office is actually a drag on the bottom line. It exists simply to provide employment to liberals and infiltrate liberalism into the company. The company no longer responds to the business environment but responds to political concerns; and those will be of a liberal flavor.

A related posting is the Vice President of Sustainability or some such rot. The job is wholly a sop to environmental pressure groups and the office is a warehouse for antibusiness activists using the company to fund their activities and its own demise.

The diversity and sustainability mafias have developed extensive support systems in the form of conferences, interlocking relationships and alliances with pressure groups, government agencies, media and academics.

A new entrant is the “Social Responsibility” officer. This is spreading but still mainly resides at only the largest corporations and trendy tech-oriented companies.

The people who fill these jobs often seem to be qualified to do nothing else and/or they are the children of well-known politicians, celebrities or some other connected person. They can be the useless or lazy children/trust fund babies of wealthy financiers. Many of them also have fancy degrees from schools. There are degrees in these things, believe it or not.

Companies can be spending tens of thousands, and ultimately millions, of dollars on these wasteful, nonproductive endeavors. Disturbingly, a lot of companies don’t mind these shenanigans since large ones can fund these nefarious activities while smaller competitors can be hamstrung (similar to why Corporate America often doesn’t mind increased regulations and higher minimum wage laws).

These are not the only parasitical organisms sucking the life out of America’s business life.

Here’s another angle. Recently I received a press announcement from a small company that specializes in making aluminum and plastic cases, nylon bags for shipping/carrying equipment. They also have a small specialty line of portable lighting equipment. The announcement concerned the appointment of a Vice President for Worldwide Sustainability and Safety. Worldwide Sustainability and Safety? Seriously?

He had a long career in the field and was, if anything, overqualified for what is a small company that doesn’t really handle anything near the dangerous items he was familiar with. It’s not as if this company is into mining, chemical, refining, raw materials, heavy industry, etc. It would probably be best described as “light manufacturing,” yet here was a new hire, probably at six figures. It looked like hiring Bill Belichick to coach a junior high football team. Okay, maybe not quite that extreme, but still, here’s a small company hiring an expensive part to do a small mission. That costs money. Do you buy a Ferrari to go to the grocery store?

Some of this nonsense is also motivated by governmental agencies increasing their demands on America’s businessmen. We’ve heard tales of how Sarbanes/Oxley, Dodd/Frank and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have caused businesses to hire many more workers to fill out forms or abandon areas of work because they don’t want to deal with the trouble anymore. None of these things help our bottom lines.

Is this what we want?

I’ll explore this more later.

Fascism in Their Hearts

For those who think the economic policies of the Democratic party are communist, I’d disagree.

Turning the means of production over to the workers isn’t exactly what the Democrats want since it would dry up their funding and largesse for individual members. In other words most would like to continue to live in the style to which they’ve become accustomed. If you’ve eliminated private industry, including the uberlucrative financial industry, all those Democrats fielding enormous contributions and living in the well-heeled neighborhoods and counties of the United States will have to move lower-rent digs.

You can’t lobby for a private industry that no longer exists. You can’t have much of an NGO/nonprofit group attacking private industry if the private industry no longer exists; supplanted by a governmental department made up of your former cronies, allies and school chums.

There’s also the consideration that if “the workers” are controlling the “means of production,” that would place control over to them rather than a governmental agency (or squealing progessive mobs).

No, what the Democrats yearn for is fascism. Yes, fascism is a socialism but in it much private industry survives, so long as it cooperates with its government masters. In fascism, all economic actors become creatures of the government, even unions.

Remember the phrase popular among Democrats in the 1980s and 1990s — “Industrial Policy”? Government choosing winning industries and the players in those industries. Keep the government happy and you keep your government funding. Disagree with the government and you become an enemy of the state. That’s purebred fascism.

In Nazi Germany, the Nazi government created the Deutsch Arbeitsfront – DAF – German Labor Front – an overseeing worker agency, similar but more powerful than our Dept. of Labor. The DAF controlled the hiring and firing of workers, their compensation, insurance, workplace conditions.

Does that sound familiar? The Democrats constantly pitch increased government control of the hiring and firing policies of private businesses. Obamacare controls “health insurance” for all, whether they are officially part of it or not (it also has regulations for life insurance policies taken out by businesses for individual workers). OSHA, the EPA have long had their claws in workplace conditions. And, of course, compensation is the holy grail — minimum wage laws, the constant bellowing about gender pay differences, “inequality” and CEO pay tells you that the Democrats dream of a day when government will dictate pay scales.

The results of fascist economics are a trail of failure. Nazi Germany, Francoist Spain, Peronism and its fellow Latin American “corporatist’ siblings, all have been failures. That is what the Democrats have in store for us.

Repeal Withholding

One of the many ways that our federal and state governments rob citizens is through “withholding.” That’s where the governments make their claims on your salary before you get your salary. The government thinks it has a prior right to your hard-earned living before you get it.

This nefarious practice was initiated in World War II (it had also been used in the northern states during the Civil War/War Between the States to forcefully fund that unpopular war).

Ironically, the Dept. of Treasury acknowledges the Machiavellian intent behind the practice: “This greatly eased the collection of the tax for both the taxpayer and the Bureau of Internal Revenue. However, it also greatly reduced the taxpayer’s awareness of the amount of tax being collected, i.e. it reduced the transparency of the tax, which made it easier to raise taxes in the future.”

I think that taxpayers should feel and understand the amount of money they are handing over to the government. And then ask themselves, “Am I getting my money’s worth?”

The government knows what the answer to that question is.

What if you had to write that big check in April? What if you had to make sure you saved enough money to write that whopper? Wouldn’t you prefer a better accounting of your money? Wouldn’t you begin to think that maybe the government could trim some of its projects and largesse (after all, you had to cut back to make the payment)? Does it really need to declare another 100,000 acres of Utah as a “National Monument”? Does it really need to guarantee a “loan” to Boeing so it can sell some jets to a European airline? Does it really need to give a grant to some academic so he can study the sex life of a toad? Does it really need thousands of six-figured employees aimlessly wandering the halls of Washington? And the list goes on.

Does it really need to spend $3.2 trillion every year, while collecting maybe $2.5 trillion?

What’s been lost is that it’s not the government’s money, especially it’s not it’s money until it is due in taxes. I live in Virginia. It has a particularly galling practice for people who have a freelance or side income. It demands that you estimate what you will make in the next year and pay taxes ahead of time on that income. If you don’t make as much as you expected you have to ask the government for some of your money back at the end of the year. And if you make too much more they might actually penalize you for not being Kreskin and knowing how much you might make. They think they have first dibs on your future income. But in their minds they think they are being kind by letting you prepay in quarterly installments.

We shouldn’t have to ask the government to let us have an allowance — taken from what is our money to begin with.

Defenders of the government believe that the money belongs to the government first and that we should be happy that it lets us keep as much as we get. That is tyranny.

It should be the other way around. One of the best weapons to get governments to live within their means and maybe even start shrinking the federal Leviathan back to its Constitutional role would be to repeal the practice of withholding and let us decide what we do with our money. The government is supposed to be our creature, not we its creature.

Whither the $1,000 Bill?

Why aren’t there any $1,000 bills in circulation? I wondered that recently as I’ve become a fan of Pres. Grover Cleveland and he’s on the $1,000 bill so I thought it would be fun to have a $1,000 bill to frame.

But there aren’t any at the bank. And though there are a few around in private collections, they cost a lot more than $1,000.

It turns out that in 1969 Pres. Nixon issued an executive order to remove them, and any remaining “high-denomination” bills (i.e. $500 and above), from circulation in an attempt to “curb” crime. Whether one can consider that order a success I know not. We still seem to have crime…

However, the $1,000 bill remains legal tender (though you’d be a fool to use it for $1,000 – see above).

Increasingly I am against laws that exist for nothing more than to make it easier for police to do their job or pretend to do their job — all the while making the lives of law-abiding citizens more difficult (see gun control).

Thousand dollar bills weren’t harming anyone in of themselves (no moreso than the existence of money itself). The United States used to circulate $500, $1,000, $5,000 and $10,000 bills, but no more. Gold Certificates of $100, $1,000, $10,000 and $100,000 were eliminated in the 1930s courtesy of Roosevelt’s gold seizure. Free the gold! I say.

I think that $1,000 bills (along with $500 and maybe $5,000 and $10,000) should be brought back. I bet if they offered to put a politically correct chick on one of those suddenly a lot more of our liberal cultural superiors would be for it!

But seriously, I think making the economy more cash-based would help revive our increasingly sclerotic economy. Cash gives a visceral sense of value to money. I think that’s been lost. The creditization of the economy has spurred inflation as people become detached from the value of money. Don’t even get me started on “quantitative easing.”

Think about it. When you go to the store with only cash, you tend to watch your spending. You have to watch your spending lest you try to buy more than you have cash for. But with that magic credit card, suddenly that impulse item — a coconut crème pie! — is within reach! Suddenly a treat, something to be saved for, becomes, for all practical purposes, an everyday item. I do this all the time myself. Cash makes people spend wisely (usually).

When money is just a bunch of blips, bright numbers on a screen, or something to be handled later, it loses some of its value.

Don’t get me wrong — credit is a wonderful thing. And checks and credit cards are vital tools for survival and even thriving in the modern world (really, who would want to push a wheelbarrow of cash to a house settlement?). But they’ve done some harm by pushing cash out of many transactions. We’ve lost a sense of value with them. I feel we need to bring that value back so we can understand that things just aren’t “free” because we don’t see their immediate cost (this could lead into a long disquisition on our ‘entitlement” mentality but I’ll save that for another day).

Oh, yes, I am becoming a hard money person. I shall return to this subject.

Beware of Greek Canaries Bearing Gifts in Coal Mines

I was mildly amused hearing on the news a Greek woman in Athens after the Greeks had rejected on compromising with their debt creditors. She said something along the line of “We have voted ‘No’ to their demands. Now they will listen to our demands!”

The Greeks seem to be saying, “How dare they ask for repayment, Don’t they know how special we are?”

You can’t get much more arrogant or economically illiterate than that. Sadly, there are many more like her across the planet, including plenty of Americans. Perhaps even a majority, looking at King Barry’s vote totals.

I’m aware of the old saw about how in reality heavy debtors really are in control of the debt debate. It’s along the same line that masochists are really in charge in BDSM. And there is some truth in that.

However, it looks like the Europeans, actually the Germans, are prepping for the worst, a Greek collapse, and therefore do not plan to compromise. Sometimes you have to cut the alcoholic off. The Greeks will have to pay the piper (or at least not kick him in lieu of payment and claim the piper should have been honored to play for them).

Some people have tried to get the Germans out of their Scrooge McDuck mentality by claiming that half of Germany’s debt after World War II was forgiven.

Apparently these people think there was a world war recently and Greece was bombed to smithereens and those members of its previous government responsible are in prison or planted six feet under.

Why do people make such absurd arguments for not paying one’s debts?

No one forced the Greeks to max out their national credit card and ask for an increase in its limit, year after year. No one forced Greece to overregulate the economy, overpay an overstaffed civil bureaucracy, overpromise retirees and instigate socialist policies for decades. Greece has been run for decades as liberals would have the United States run. It is the Democratic economic platform writ small — high taxes, powerful government unions, increasing government control over everything, regulated and inflexible labor and commerce markets, etc. In a sense — making everyone dependent upon the government for daily survival; an open discouragement of old-fashioned independence and self-sufficiency.

(Nota bene — the Republicans are not wholly innocent in this.)

Except, in the long run, it doesn’t work. Greece just got there earlier because it is smaller and less flexible; and it can’t print the world’s currency franca.

Dear Leader and his supporters freely talk about “forgiving” the tens of billions (or is it hundreds of billions?) in rapidly mounting student debt (while also encouraging more such spending on student ‘loans’ or even making them unaccountable ‘grants’). It’s nice of them to forgive that which is not theirs to forgive. And that’s exactly their angle — grab the political glory and enduring fealty of youth while sticking the bill to those of us who scrimped, saved and paid our taxes. Remember, these very same people pushed out most of the private student loan lending a couple of years ago because the private lenders actually expected to be paid back. But in King Barry’s eyes, along with the smug graduates, education is an “investment” that you just can’t put a value on… How convenient (and expensive).

We saw a very similar pattern with the “housing bubble.” The federal government aggressively pushed banks to make loans to the uncreditworthy so they could “share the American dream.” Banks that balked at such nonsense found the government’s boot on their neck. So the banks ultimately went along, some eagerly looking for a silver lining. Attempts to reform this bottle of nitro glycerine that was being juggled were choked off by (mostly) Democrats, often under the accusation of racism. Paging Barney Frank, Chris Dodd, et al.

When the uncreditworthy lived up to their name and reputation, the bubble burst (aided amply by house flipping dominoes and collateralized debt obligation shenanigans). In an instant, the federal government performed the most perfect 180-degree pirouette in history and laid the whole blame on the banking industry. It then used reeling markets as an excuse to semi-nationalize parts of the banking industry (‘too big to fail’) and to formulate regulations that left other parts enthralled to Washington. Dumbfounded bankers didn’t know what to say as they were rounded up for the cattle cars, figuratively.

It helped that a surprisingly large number bankers, especially at the largest banks, are major donors to the Democratic Party — and don’t mind working hand in glove with the government. Some saw this as an opportunity. It can be easier to placate a few bureaucrats and politicians than shareholders and consumers.

(One of the left’s and the media’s greatest crimes has been to convince so many people that all businessmen, especially bankers, are top-hatted Republican bully-boys.)

And it was wash, rinse, repeat with “The Stimulus.” Admittedly, that inane Keynesian wet dream was conceived in the last days of the Bush administration but The One’s flying monkeys larded it up with even more nonsensical “green” projects and turned loans into “grants” so the pretense of ever paying back the original money no longer weighed on anyone’s mind (as if it ever did). Many of the projects were helmed by Democratic Party contributors while other chunks of money went to party stalwarts such as public employee union members. Eight hundred billion dollars down the drain, never to be seen again, and so many politicians shrug their shoulders, and some demand even more spending (we can fill that rat hole if we stuff enough taxpayer dollars down it!).

I don’t want to sound like a gold bug but the age of fiat currencies may be coming to an end. When money loses its value it will be a Hobbesian world.

There are far too many people who seem to think they are entitled to spend other people’s money and then demand more. To top it off, the original loaners will be cast as the villain if they don’t hand over more money. That’s rich. Sadly, that’s the way many who should know better see it. I’m pretty sure Paul Krugman, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, the New York Times, etc., see it that way.