American Elephants


The Federal Bureaucracy Hard At Work by The Elephant's Child

It’s a new record for improper payments dished out by federal agencies — an all time high of $125 billion in questionable payments after years of declines.

There were tax credits for families that didn’t qualify for tax credits, unemployment benefits for people who were employed, Medicare payments for treatments that might not have been necessary. This is  up by $19 billion over the previous year. The overpayments were spread across 22 federal agencies, though Medicare and Medicaid fraud and the Earned Income Tax Credit together accounted for more than $93 billion in improper payments.

I heard on the radio that we apparently have some of the world’s oldest people receiving Social Security benefits. Since they are apparently older than the oldest woman who was celebrated in the media at 117, it’s fairly safe to assume that they are illegal immigrants receiving benefits by stealing someone’s identity.



About that $15 Minimum Wage In Seattle by The Elephant's Child

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If all other factors remain equal, the higher the price of a good, the fewer people will demand it. That’s the Law of demand, a fundamental idea in economics. The idea refers to the minimum wage — the price of a worker, as well as the price of a pound of butter, or a bottle of shampoo.

President Barack Obama claimed that increasing the minimum wage would “grow the economy for everyone” by giving “businesses customers with more spending money.” Economics was clearly not a feature of that mysterious transcript.

There is a lot of confusion about just what a “minimum wage” is. It is the least amount of money that can be offered to a worker for their labor as decided by the government. It is illegal to pay anyone less for their labor. “But you can’t support a family on the minimum wage!” they cry. You are not supposed to. It’s a starting wage for beginners.

It’s for a first job. It’s for learning how to work. When young people have savvy parents that tell them about the basics, and how to dress and how to act when applying for a job, and some kids don’t. But there is so much to learn: arriving before your shift begins. Dressing appropriately with appropriate grooming. Learning how to wait on a customer, how to operate the cash register, how to keep your workplace immaculately clean. How to treat customers so they want to return, keeping the restrooms clean, picking  up, cleaning up, smiling at customers. That’s aside from learning how the establishment works. When they have learned successfully how to become a worker instead of a beginner, they will probably have had a raise (statistically most do within 6 months). And they have skills that they can take to another workplace. A new worker learns those skills from a manager or another worker who must devote their time to teaching. A new worker is a cost, rather than a benefit.

Seattle, a city of the left, has had some experience with the minimum wage. Sea-Tac, the district surrounding the Seattle-Tacoma International airport raised their minimum wage to $15 on January 1. 2014. Its a district of hotels, restaurants and bars and lots and lots of parking lots. The results were predictable. Leftists crowed that hardly any businesses shut down, and most people didn’t lose their jobs. What happened is that brand new workers didn’t get a job.

At the Clarion Hotel off International Boulevard, a sit-down restaurant has been shuttered, though it might soon be replaced by a less-labor-intensive cafe…

Other businesses have adjusted in ways that run the gamut from putting more work in the hands of managers, to instituting a small “living-wage surcharge” for a daily parking space near the airport.

The publisher of the Northwest Asian Weekly had a conversation with two hotel employees who have been affected:

“Are you happy with the $15 wage?” I asked the full-time cleaning lady.

“It sounds good, but it’s not good,” the woman said. “I lost my 401k, health insurance, paid holiday, and vacation,” she responded. “No more free food,” she added.

The hotel used to feed her. Now, she has to bring her own food. Also, no overtime, she said. She used to work extra hours and received overtime pay. “I have to pay for parking,” she said.

I then asked the part-time waitress, who was part of the catering staff.

“Yes, I’ve got $15 an hour, but all my tips are now much less,” she said. Before the new wage law was implemented, her hourly wage was $7. But her tips added to more than $15 an hour. Yes, she used to receive free food and parking. Now, she has to bring her own food and pay for parking.

When the law changes, businesses adjust in different ways. They no longer have the staff time to hire brand-new workers. Youth unemployment goes up.

Seattle voted for a $15 minimum wage, which took effect on January 1. Several restaurants have closed, and economists have made much of it, but a local blogger claims to have spoken to the owners of the closing businesses, and says they were closing anyway, and it has nothing to do with the minimum wage. That may or may not be true. We are only 2 months into this government-mandated wage floor, and there will be inevitable effects. Young people will find it harder to find that first job. Hours and benefits will be cut back. More computers, more robots.

The Panera Bread CEO supports raising the minimum wage — as long as it is applied equally to all. CEO Rob Shaich, a Democratic donor recently announced that he will be replacing cashiers with computers.

Companies like Costco and Walmart are supporting hikes in the national minimum wage, knowing that will adversely affect their smaller competitors.

McDonald’s had a 30% drop in quarterly profits last year, on a 5% drop in revenue. Unions have made McDonald’s a target of their campaign for a $15 minimum wage. Internationally they are experimenting with replacing cashiers with computers. But they are also under attack from the food police. Low income families don’t eat out as much in the current economy. The WSJ said: “As many contributors to these pages have warned, forcing businesses to pay people out of proportion to the profits they generate will provide those businesses with a greater incentive to replace employees with machines.”

The Minimum-Wage Stealth Tax on the Poor” Wall Street Journal. When a fast-food business is forced to raise pay, it also raises prices. Guess who gets hit worst by the increase.

“We Can Predict the Effects of Seattle’s $15 An Hour Minimum Wage” Forbes. We can get a good idea of what it is like before that wage comes in. And then we can go back when it’s fully implemented and see what the effects have been.

ADDENDUM: Here’s another take on Seattle Restaurants, from Seattle Magazine: Why Are So Many Seattle Restaurants Closing Lately?” Ouch! The reasons vary, but the restaurant business is never an easy one. Operational cost increases and failure to thrive. I apparently erred. The wage hike does not take effect till April 1.

The Washington Restaurant Association’s Anton says “It’s not a political problem, it’s a math problem.” A a common budget breakdown among sustaining Seattle restaurants so far has been the following: 36 percent of funds are devoted to labor, 30 percent to food costs and 30 percent go to everything else (all other operational costs).  The remaining 4 percent has been the profit margin, and as a result, in a $700,000 restaurant, he estimates that the average restauranteur in Seattle has been making $28,000 a year. If restaurant owners made no changes, the labor cost in quick service restaurants would rise to 42 percent and in full service restaurants to 47 percent. “Every operator I’m talking to is in panic mode trying to figure out what the new world will look like.”



Pack the Whole Agency Up And Send Them to China. Where They Might Do Some Good by The Elephant's Child

Barbecue-Summer-Outside-cooking-meatSometimes you just don’t know whether to just laugh at the Obama administration, or pity them. The Environmental Protection Agency has it eyes on pollution from backyard barbecues. The agency has announced that it will fund a University of California project to limit emissions resulting in grease drippings with a special tray to catch them, and a “catalytic” filtration system.

Damn fools aren’t content with banning our efficient and inexpensive incandescent lightbulbs, and messing up the lighting fixture market, ruining our shower heads, ditto toilets, washing machines, most appliances, and trying desperately to get control of everything in our houses — now they are going to take on our backyards. The kids’ wading pool is next.

The grant is only for $15,000, so we’ll see what they can do to all barbecues with that much.

The school is proposing two fixes to reduce emissions from barbecues. First, they want to cut back on grease flare-ups. The idea: “A slotted and corrugated tray is inserted immediately prior to meat flipping, and removed immediately after. This short contact time prevents the tray from over-heating and volatilizing the collected grease. This collected grease will then drip off into a collection tray and can be used at the pit master’s discretion.”

But, total capture isn’t “practical,” so a filter and fan are proposed for installation. “The secondary air filtration system is composed of a single pipe duct system which contains a specialized metal filter, a metal fan blade, a drive shaft, and an accompanying power system with either a motorized or manual method. This system can be powered by either an exterior electric motor with a chain-driven drive shaft, directly spinning the fan blade, or a hand-powered crank,” said the project write-up.

When they get down to particulate matter that might possibly be inhaled by barbecue pit masters, it’s time to shut the agency down. Or even better, lets loan the whole bunch to China, permanently. They need help.

We expect to limit the overall air pollution PM [particulate matter] emissions from barbecuing and to alleviate some of the acute health hazards that a barbecue pit master can experience from inhalation. The particulate matter present during cooking with and without the grease diverter and PM2.5 filters will be tested and compared to that of current data using a conventional propane barbecue using a fumehood chamber with detectors at CE-CERT. Personal exposure of PM2.5 will also be monitored throughout the experimentation period to determine the degree of acute exposure of particulates to the cook.



“A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words” by The Elephant's Child

RAMclr-031015-little-league-IBD-COLOR-FINAL147.gif.cmsEspecially in the hands of Michael Ramirez, political cartoonist extraordinaire, at Investors. Follow his work, he always has something important to say.



The Character of The President Is Being Exposed For All To See by The Elephant's Child

Goodness, we must have really irritated President Obama with that recent wave election. One might have hoped that it would lead to more cooperation, but he has proved that he has no ability, nor inclination,  to negotiate. It’s plainly his way or the highway. He ‘s gone full tyrant.

We have never before had a president who says essentially— the hell with the Constitution, I’m going to do exactly what I want. We’ve had advice handed down from our first president, and many subsequent presidents, but never one before that behaved like a petulant spoiled child.

What we need to understand is that for the present crop of progressives, the issue is never the issue. Our immigration system is not broken. It is not enforced. Obama wants poor, poorly educated peasants from Mexico and Central America because by giving them work permits and welfare benefits, food stamps, driver’s licenses and other goodies, they will be Democrat Party voters, and make America permanently Progressive and permanently socialist.

Regulating the internet as a public utility to protect users establishes government control over the web, who uses it, and what kind of speech will be allowed.

Threatening public officials if they don’t obey Obama’s illegal executive orders while they are questioned by Congress and the courts is reprehensible.

John Hinderaker, one of the attorneys at Powerline offers “A Modest Proposal For Amendments to the Constitution.” “Barack Obama’s scofflaw administration has revealed some ambiguities or omissions in our Constitution–loopholes, if you will–that should be closed via constitutional amendment, to eliminate the possibility that future administrations may also act lawlessly. I have in mind three amendments that should accomplish that purpose.”

Do read the whole thing, which explains the very brief amendments, and why we need each one. Just a matter of clarifying the wording so even ideologues can understand.

ADDENDUM: Forgive me. I have been stupid. John Hinderaker’s column at Powerline was a gentle reminder that Barack Obama was directly ignoring the Constitution he had sworn “to the best of his ability to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Mr. Hinderaker was simply offering the exact words of the Constitution as “amendments” that should fix the situations. It was a brilliant idea, and I fell for the joke, hook, line and sinker, without bothering to check his words against the exact wording of the Constitution, for I don’t have it all by heart. I am blushing with shame.

 



America Reinvents Automaking: Future Present by The Elephant's Child
February 24, 2015, 5:17 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Domestic Policy, Economy, Engineering, Politics, Taxes | Tags: , ,

I guess if you making cars for millionaires, you can buy a lot of robots with which to make them — but this process is pretty cool. The times they are a changing.  Henry Ford would be astonished to see how his ideas have developed.

Elon Musk’s Tesla is currently the No. 1 electric car maker — with vehicles ranging from $70,000 to $100,000 — and Google is working on George Jetson-like driverless cars. But neither is close to cornering the market on mass-affordable electric cars.

Elon Musk is the biggest parasite in the world. Tesla does not exist without tax payer money. The driverless car is a solution in search of a problem and it is far from being practical.

An interesting post from The Z Blog, on Apple, Google,Tesla and trends.

And here’s Bjorn Lomberg explaining why there are NO benefits whatsoever to electric cars.

It is time to stop our green worship of the electric car. It costs us a fortune, cuts little CO2 and surprisingly kills almost twice the number of people compared with regular gasoline cars.

Electric cars’ global-warming benefits are small. It is advertised as a zero-emissions car, but in reality it only shifts emissions to electricity production, with most coming from fossil fuels. As green venture capitalist Vinod Khosla likes to point out, “Electric cars are coal-powered cars.”



What Did Obama Mean By “Fundamentally Transform”? by The Elephant's Child

Obama lecturing

Most of us are apt to divide the world up into the good guys and the bad guys. Opposites.  Simplistic thinking, of course. No nuance. (when did that word slip into the daily vocabulary?) Winners and losers. Short and tall, rich and poor, hard-working and lazy, handsome and ugly, cruel and kind, smart and stupid. It helps us to understand those things we encounter in the world, we can modify our judgment later.

World War II was clear — Allies and Axis, and the Cold War — Communists and the Free World. Things began to get confused with the War in Vietnam. Protesters couldn’t decide who were the good guys and who were the bad guys. Jane Fonda has never been forgiven for her stupidity, but she was not alone among the far left. It was a confusing time, and when the Draft was ended, surprisingly so were the protests.

Questions today on the internet ask “Is Obama a Christian?” and “Is Obama a Muslim?” But those are the wrong questions. Obama has given every indication of signing up with the bad guys, the Axis, the Communists, and those who oppose our country. His dislike for the Israeli prime minister is obvious; his distaste for the United Kingdom is clear; his support for a deal with Iran; his support for the Muslim Brotherhood; for the deposed president of Egypt; inability to reach a status of forces agreement with Iraq; Benghazi; refusal to help the dissidents in Iran, and in Syria; and the silly outreach to Cuba; and the support for most anti-American governments in South America.

There is a pattern.  A pattern which is behind Rudy Giuliani’s asking if the president loves America. One would think that the media would be somewhat aware of the direction of the entire Obama administration, instead of dissolving in wrath when someone actually notices. (Or is that why the media boiled over —they’re beginning to notice?)

I think he is just doing exactly what he said he would do: attempt to “fundamentally transform the United States of America.” Everybody was so excited with the idea of the first black president, the mellow baritone voice, the moving phraseology “Yes We Can!,” “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for!,” that they didn’t really pay any attention to what he actually said that he wanted to do. I don’t think he is trying to destroy the country, he just wants to “fix” it.

We are paying the price for our inattention. And it’s up to us to find out exactly what he meant by “fundamentally transform.” It matters. It matters a lot.




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