American Elephants

Government Workers Make 78 Percent More Than Their Counterparts In The Private Sector by The Elephant's Child


Annoyance or Last Straw? The federal government employs 2.1 million civilian workers in an uncountable (new ones pop up all the time) number of agencies or offices  across the nation. “This federal workforce imposes a substantial burden on American taxpayers.” says the CATO Institute. “In 2015 wages and benefits for executive branch civilian workers will cost more than $260 billion,”

Since the 1990s, federal workers have enjoyed faster compensation growth than private-sector workers. In 2014 federal workers earned 78 percent more, on average, than private-sector workers. Federal workers earned 43 percent more, on average, than state and local government workers. The federal government has become an elite island of secure and high-paid employment, separated from the ocean of average Americans competing in the economy.
After the “Worst recession since the Great Depression” as Obama always claims for his excuse, after more than six years of economic “recovery,” the middle class is worse off than at the end of the Great Recession in 2009. The number of working age people not in the workforce is over 92,000,000.

In 2014 federal civilian workers had an average wage of $84,153, according the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). By comparison, the average wage for the nation’s 111 million private-sector workers was $56,350. …

The BEA data can be broken down by industry. Among 21 major sectors that span the U.S. economy, the federal government has the fourth highest paid workers after only utilities, mining, and management of companies.6 Federal compensation is higher, on average, than compensation in the information industry, finance and insurance, and professional and scientific industries.
The federal government has the fourth highest paid workers after only utilities, mining, and company management. Federal compensation is higher on average than compensation in the information industry, finance and insurance, and professional and scientific industries.
Rising federal compensation stems from legislated increases in general pay, increases in locality pay, expansions in benefits, and growth in the number of high-paid jobs as bureaucracies become more top-heavy. Compensation growth is also fueled by routine adjustments that move federal workers into higher salary brackets regardless of performance, and by federal jobs that are redefined upward into higher pay ranges.
The little dip in the blue line of rising federal wages is the recent partial pay freeze. The chart above includes benefits such as health care and pensions, which makes the advantage over private sector workers even larger. The level of compensation does not represent the nation’s highest skilled workers, but the security of working for the government. (The quit rate for the federal government is ¼ of the rate for the private sector. Security and generous benefits.)

The benefits package is overly generous. Jobs should be privatized wherever possible. It is the nature of a bureaucracy to grow. Congress has shoved way too much of the task of lawmaking off to federal agencies — easy example: the sloppy designation of the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act (congressmen weren’t sure what they meant so they left it to the EPA and other agencies to figure it out, This has resulted in a power grab perhaps unrivaled in the history of bureaucracies.) And there is SEIU, the Service Employees International Union. If you can manage the time, do read the whole thing. It should affect your vote.

The Dirty Secrets of Organic Food by The Elephant's Child

Organic-Produce-in-Grocery-Store-PhotoThe cleverest words devised by marketing experts can be found in greatest abundance in your friendly neighborhood grocery store. In the supermarket world, shelf space is a coveted commodity, and producers are desperately trying to retain and grow the amount of shelf space they are allowed. Just stop and think for a moment of the cereal aisle, and how many different brands of cereal are there.

What can you hook a kid on? Chocolate dinosaurs? or will mom go for ‘natural’ or ‘organic’? The words chosen matter in sales success. There’s ‘natural’ which has an enticing ring, until you compare it to ‘unnatural’ which immediately shows how meaningless it is. You have GMO Free, Gluten Free, Whole Grain, Heart Healthy and a whole raft of other enticements promising more health, strength and happiness. They are mostly marketing ploys, but none is so prevalent as “Organic.”

In most stores a whole section is set aside for organic foods, but what does that mean for the customer? Better health, better nutrition? No.

Passionate advocates of organic farming and foods resemble members of a religious cult, one founded on a “back to Nature” mentality. They are not so fundamentalist, however, that they do not make concessions to reality. For example, organic standards arbitrarily define which pesticides are acceptable, but allow “deviations” if based on “need.” Synthetic chemical pesticides are generally prohibited, although there is a lengthy list of exceptions in the Organic Foods Production Act, while most “natural” ones are permitted (and the application of pathogen-laden animal excreta as fertilizer is allowed). The decisions are made in a murky process that combines agronomy, lobbying, and fundamentalism. …

Ironically, the designation “organic” is itself a synthetic construct of activists and bureaucrats that makes little sense. That brings us to another anomaly: Organic agriculture is based on agreed, allowed sets of principles and techniques, but it has little to do with the ultimate quality or composition of the final products. For example, if prohibited chemical pesticides or forbidden pollen from genetically engineered plants wafts onto and “contaminates” an organic field, guess what? The farmer gets a mulligan: He does not lose his organic certification.

Organic foods arrived on a fear of “chemicals,” (scare quotes) which pops up now and then. Organic pesticides pose the same health risks as non-organic ones do, and there is the added risk of pathogen-laden animal excreta — manure. Organic foods have never been shown to be healthier or to have any environmental benefit.

Moreover, a study published in 2012 in the Annals of Internal Medicine by researchers at Stanford University’s Center for Health Policy aggregated and analyzed data from 237 studies to determine whether organic foods are safer or healthier than non-organic foods. They concluded that fruits and vegetables that met the criteria for “organic” were on average no more nutritious than their far cheaper conventional counterparts, nor were those foods less likely to be contaminated by pathogenic bacteria like E. coli or Salmonella.

Organic farms typically have smaller yields than conventional farms. In those examples when the conventional and organic systems are most comparable, the organic yield is 34% less. The dirty little secret ia  that organic agriculture is kept afloat by massive subsidies and bolstered by  a whole range of USDA programs, misleading advertising, and marketing that dishonestly disparages the competition.

There are new commercials on radio, advertising bed sheets that are less expensive because of the absence of a brick and mortar store, and softer, better because the cotton is grown with manure rather than an ordinary nitrogen-based fertilizer. And that makes sense because?  Because millions of Americans have been led to believe that “organic” means better for you. It isn’t. Costs about 30% more though.


The Sierra Club Embarrasses Itself! by The Elephant's Child

There was a time when the Sierra Club was a positive environmental club, doing what they could to protect the Sierra Nevada mountains and encourage the millions of people who wanted to use the mountains for recreation and exploration to think environmentally. We had friends who took pack trips with the club, exploring during the day and at nightfall the pack horses would appear with food and a set up camp. Great summer vacation.

The Sierra Club turned radical green some years ago, and now is just another crony-capitalist bunch, throwing their weight behind leftist programs like opposition to coal, opposition to the Keystone pipeline, and ill-informed scare-mongering to raise money to ‘stop’ global warming, and whatever is fashionable on the green agenda at the moment. There are enormous amounts of money involved.

Sierra Club President Aaron Mair in this hearing demonstrates the position perfectly. The science has been decided, there can be no debate since we are right because 97% of all science says we’re right, so just shut up and don’t question our superior wisdom.

The 97% “consensus” study, Cook et al. (2013) has been thoroughly refuted in scholarly peer-reviewed journals, by major news media, public policy organizations and think tanks, highly credentialed scientists and extensively in the climate blogosphere. The shoddy methodology of Cook’s study has been shown to be so fatally flawed that well known climate scientists have publicly spoken out against it.

There is no such thing as “consensus” in Science. That means everybody agrees. Even if 99% of all scientists agree that something is so, a lonely scientist working in his garage can prove them all wrong. Science is what is proved over and over by observation, not what flawed computer models predict.

Until the panic about the coming catastrophe of rising seas and a steadily warming planet appeared in the press, climate science was a rather dusty corner in most universities. When the climate became scary, and advantageous for congress to do something, grants (significantly big ones) became readily available for anyone who could write a good grant proposal demonstrating how their interest in tree rings could contribute to solving the problems of the drastic warming of a small percentage of a degree, if the granter just gave then enough money for an enlarged department, new equipment, and a few new assistants.

Don’t forget, Climate Change is now a $1.5 trillion industry!

Liberals Are Not Open to An Exchange of Ideas. They want You to Shut Up! by The Elephant's Child

obama-angry-pete-souza-640x480Bret Stephens tackled much the same subject today at the Wall Street Journal in a column titled “President’ Mumbo Jumbo’

David Petraeus testified last month to the Senate Armed Services Committee on U.S. policy in the Middle East. Regarding Syria, the former general and CIA director urged a credible threat to destroy Bashar Assad’s air force if it continues to bomb its own people. He also recommended “the establishment of enclaves in Syria protected by coalition air power, where a moderate Sunni force could be supported and where additional forces could be trained, internally displaced persons could find refuge, and the Syrian opposition could organize.”

But Barack Obama does not agree. At his Friday press conference, the president described such views as “mumbo-jumbo,” “half-baked ideas,” “as-if” solutions, a willful effort to “downplay the challenges involved in the situation.” He says the critics have no answers to the questions of “what exactly would you do and how would you fund it and how would you sustain it.”

America’s greatest living general might as well have been testifying to his shower drain for all the difference his views are going to make in this administration.

Over at Reason magazine, late last month, David Harsanyi wrote that “Liberals are Done Debating” — and it’s true. They are  not interested in an exchange of ideas, they want you to shut up. They will call you names like psychopath and sociopathic, bought off by big oil, or big food. Conservatives hate workers, bet against America, want to destroy democracy,  have no empathy for the destitute, favor inequality injustice and the “rape culture”. What they will not do is discuss the issues, The one thing that you cannot possibly have is a legitimate difference of opinion.

What strikes me as particularly interesting is the claims of vast empathy for the downtrodden, keen to decrease inequality, want to punish those responsible for the “rape crisis” (of course it’s real) and the usual — you don’t care about women.

But when it comes to actual empathy for real people, our troops will suffer under extreme rules of engagement, lest they inadvertently injure someone, and someone can be blamed. The Left kept a meticulous body count of deaths in Afghanistan — see what horrors Bush has committed— but Obama’s deadline for America’s exit and restrictive rules of engagement had a body count twice as large, and it was never mentioned in the compliant press.

Our Ambassador and his aide and two brave former Seals died while pleading for security and help, and it was shrugged off with a “At this point what difference does it make?” and to keep up the illusion of the insulting video, the poor video maker was jailed for months so he couldn’t talk to newsmen.

A shooting in Oregon is denigrated as a personal insult to President Obama, and he has himself photographed looking exasperated at a computer screen, and the photo promptly released to the press. See how exasperated I am? And he ordered the press to write about changing the gun laws.

So, naturally, he is going to Oregon to make another pitch for gun control. His most recent one went a little sour when he made a big deal of Australia’s gun confiscation, and Australia promptly had a shooting there. He will go to Oregon and sympathize and argue for support for his upcoming executive order to confiscate all guns, if he can only figure out how to get around the Second Amendment with an executive order.

Barack Obama Does Not Learn From Experience. by The Elephant's Child

Obama angry 3Herbert E. Meyer, writing at Ricochet:

In science, when you conduct an experiment to test a theory and get a result you didn’t expect, you learn from the experience and re-think your theory. But what do you do in politics, when you implement a policy you were certain would succeed but which fails miserably? We’re about to find out.

For seven years now, President Obama has been conducting what may well be one of history’s greatest political experiments. His revolutionary theory — which this Copernicus-from-Chicago articulates with such supreme confidence that he’s persuaded American voters to elect him twice to the presidency — is that the world would be a safer, less violent place if the United States played a smaller role on the global stage. At the core of this theory lies his hypothesis that American military power is more the problem than the solution; that our over-reliance on guns rather than brains had de-stabilized key parts of the world, such as the Mideast, that would otherwise have been more peaceful and prosperous.

It’s quite clear that this is what Obama believes, as does a large number of academic professors, and yes, that is what they are teaching our children. Many have moved on into the administration.

Progressives do not share our understanding of society’s problems, nor  our differences about how to deal with them. Progressives have contempt for America’s past and disdain for America’s social contract. Progressives draw their inspiration from an imaginary future where so-called “social justice” prevails. They believe that human beings are naturally cooperative and sharing, honest and moral, but are corrupted by social institutions that encourage greed and prejudice, and socialism will bring about that imagined future where “social justice” prevails.

Conservatives, on the other hand believe that man is flawed, and the root cause of most social evils, and if social institutions are corrupt, it is because human beings create and run them. Because man is barbarous, we need laws and the discipline of morality to civilize the people. That’s why the founders created a system of checks and balances to control the majority’s natural instinct to tyrannize the weak and outnumbered, and why they set limits to government.

There is no indication whatsoever that Obama has learned from his disastrous mistakes, or that he even understands that they were mistakes. Obama yanked our troops out of Iraq, and gave birth to ISIS, who has been rampaging across the Middle East, attempting a forcile return to the seventh century.  The last Americans will soon be drawn out of Afghanistan, in opposition to the generals on the ground, as the Taliban are ready to take over. Russia has sent its warplanes to bomb the insurgents in Syria that we supported, while Obama expects them to deal with ISIS. Ukraine is fighting for its life, China is building military bases all over the Pacific, and waging cyber-warfare on the United States while Obama is quite sure he has made an agreement with China that they will stop doing that. There is no indication that he will learn from experience or change his policy. Early on, Richard Epstein, who knew Obama at University of Chicago, said that once Obama has made up his mind, it is set in concrete. He will not change it. Herb Meyer adds:

Human nature doesn’t change. Politics will always be a rough game, and power will always be an aphrodisiac to those who play it. But so long as politicians need our votes to get elected, the ultimate power lies with us. If we citizens will give our support, and our votes, to only those candidates who will think and act more like scientists, over time we can change the culture of politics itself. That would be a huge leap forward not only for our country, but for humanity.

Plastic Bags Are a Great Modern Invention! by The Elephant's Child

bags2 As long as I’m on a roll, let’s address the plastic bag problem. Actually, there is no plastic bag problem, but a problem with aggressive Greens. I’ve written about plastic bags way too often. Just enter “plastic bags” in the search bar over Bob Hope’s head in the sidebar. You can learn how this all came about, the dangers of cloth bags, the cost-benefit effect, and all about City Councils’ overbearing regulations.

Seattle, always sensitive to ‘sustainability’ problems or sensitivity among their residents, essentially bans paper and plastic bags. They will charge you if you don’t bring your own cloth bag. Which may be fine and dandy for  a single person living in a small apartment just a few blocks from the grocery store.

I don’t particularly enjoy grocery shopping — it’s just another task, so I try to go no more than once a week. I load up something over 20 plastic bags. I’m supposed to buy 30 cloth bags and wash them (necessary for safety) between each use? I have ranted far too many times, but Katherine Mangu-Ward writing in Reason magazine says:

Plastic bags for retail purchases are banned or taxed in more than 200 municipalities and a dozen countries, from San Francisco to South Africa, Bellingham to Bangladesh. Each region serves up its own custom blend of alarmist rhetoric; coastal areas blame the wispy totes for everything from asphyxiated sea turtles to melting glaciers, while inland banners decry the bags’ role in urban landscape pollution and thoughtless consumerism.

But a closer look at the facts and figures reveals shaky science and the uncritical repetition of improbable statistics tossed about to shore up the case for a mostly aesthetic, symbolic act of conservation.

Her article is thorough and well done, and worth your time. She has traced the plastic bag back to it’s beginnings, and covers the dangers inherent in cloth bags, though I’m not sure she emphasizes them enough. But finally, she admits to cultural and economic pressures, and uses cloth bags herself.

I remain defiant and unreformed. The objections to modern plastic bags are ill informed, the dangers of unwashed cloth bags too severe, and besides I have two cats and I need plastic bags for the kitty litter, and the other noxious things that turn up around my house in the woods.

I’m also getting really tired of the ‘public service announcements’ that are designed to make me hew to the green agenda, and whatever new idea the EPA has this week.

Clever Economist Tricks And The Urge To Control Everything by The Elephant's Child

The Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing seemed like a good idea at the time. Cheap interest rates would let businesses borrow and grow and hire.The Wall Street Journal says household and nonprofit net worth climbed to $85.7 trillion

Economists had hoped that rising worth in U.S. households could induce — through what are known as wealth effects — enough spending and confidence to bring about a more robust economic recovery. That logic helped underpin the Fed’s decisions to hols interest rates near zero for nearly the past seven years, and to engage in repeated rounds of asset purchases, known as quantitative easing.

But while the value of U.S. assets has shot upward in recent years—stocks have reached new highs and home values have regained much of what was lost in the housing bubble’s collapse—economic growth has been sluggish, and many households have seen little of this wealth flow into their paychecks.

The American Interest says ‘Low Interest Rates Mask the Effects of Job-Killing Policies.’ “While the Fed’s quantitative easing has not led to the consumer price inflation that many feared, it has led to asset price inflation. Job growth, not asset  price inflation, is the best way to promote economic growth.”

To grow the economy, cheap interest rates are not going to work as well as reforms that make business formation and job creation more attractive. Yet Democrats these days have ever-lengthening lists of job-killing policies they want to enact, from tighter environmental regulations to dramatic minimum wage increases (especially in cities where unemployment is high) to tax increases. Paradoxically, that leaves liberals cheerleading for Fed policies that increase inequality and concentrate wealth because only ultra low rates (or truly massive deficits, which can’t be rammed through a GOP Congress) can mask the effect of left-wing microeconomic policies on the economy as a whole.

The Pizza shop owners have been ordered to list all the ingredients in each pizza with the calorie count, because people are too fat. They have also been ordered to comply with the newly raised federal minimum wage, because no one can raise a family on the minimum wage. And just how do they pay for all that?

Hospitals have been ordered to computerize every examining room so they can be centrally programmed to store all the patient’s information so it can be shifted between hospitals and the government to reduce the cost of health care.¹ A tax has been levied on every piece of medical equipment from the examination table to the mammogram machine to the disposable gloves, and the sterile swabs. That is also expected to reduce the cost of health care.

That’s just two tiny examples of the wrongheadedness of Democrats and their economists. Noble intent + stupid idea does not equal an improving economy, and yet here we sit after 7 very long years.

They are so intent on control and more closely directing all economic activity in the interest of greater “fairness” that we have reached a point where the Federal Reserve seems to be terrified at the possibility of what might happen if they raised interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point.

¹ This has largely been done, at great expense. Hospitals and clinics cannot talk to each other nor to the federal government. Each was separately programmed and they cannot communicate. However, just as was warned, medical identities and records are being stolen, and recovering from such a theft can cost as much as $15,000.


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