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$250,000 per Job? Only a little bit too expensive. - Howard Tayler
Ramblings of a Happy Cartoonist
$250,000 per Job? Only a little bit too expensive.
If you've been following the news, there are lots of people screaming about how incredibly expensive the stimulus package was, and how it didn't create enough jobs for the money spent.

I'm not a fan of stimulus, nor big government, but I do know how to do math like a capitalist. An employee costs a lot more than just salary, and I haven't seen much reporting in this vein.

Let's say you've been given stimulus money to hire somebody. GREAT! Do you start writing them paychecks immediately? No. You find work for them to do. Let's go on to say that the employee is (as many of them are reported to have been) a construction worker. How much is it going to cost to put that person to work? Well... you have to have land on which they can put a building, materials to put up the building with, and tools for them to use. Some of this you might already have, but with stimulus money you're going to go buy MORE of it so you can grow your business and (here's another form of the word) STIMULATE the economy as a result.

Pulling numbers out of my butt: if twenty guys can build a subdivision of 40 homes in a year, and the homes cost $120,000 each to build, you've spent just short of five million dollars creating 20 jobs, at a cost of $240,000 per job.

You also created forty homes (in a depressed real-estate market that is saturated with defaults, foreclosures, and short sales, but I digress...)

Also, somebody out there sold you a whole mess of lumber, nails, concrete, PVC, etc.

Sure, if all we wanted to do was feed people tax money we could do it much more efficiently by just dumping the entire stimulus package into the existing welfare system. But that doesn't stimulate the economy, and it provides incentives for the wrong sort of behavior.

Again, let me say that I'm not a fan of the stimulus package, not as implemented, and not in principle. But the math I use as a good capitalist who wants to be able to create jobs tells me that the critics of the stimulus package are being very loudly dishonest in their criticism.

(Note: If you gave me $240,000 and told me to create as many jobs as I could, I would hire a writer, two line-artists, and a colorist and create graphic novels out the wazoo. If the books sold well, I'd be able to keep my employees. If not, well... they worked for a year, and we all had a good time with taxpayer money. DO NOT SEND ME TAX DOLLARS IT WILL ONLY END IN TEARS.)
43 comments or Leave a comment
unspeakablevorn From: unspeakablevorn Date: November 1st, 2009 05:30 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, the lumber, nails, concrete, etc, guys had work too.
sonictail From: sonictail Date: November 1st, 2009 05:36 am (UTC) (Link)
We had a personal stimulus package here and it appears to have worked (just run "1 AUD to USD" through google to see) and things are getting better.

It's not surprising that the implementation is off and I agree, it's not a bad idea. You just need to choose the right areas. And who could choose?

It's a sticky wicket to be sure ;)
anshackles From: anshackles Date: November 1st, 2009 07:46 am (UTC) (Link)
When they announced the first such package here in the UK, the sum being mentioned was about GBP1000 per person, roughly speaking. This was to be given to the banks, I think, to stimulate the banker's bonuses economy with, by lending more cash.

My comment at the time was "why don't they just give every single person in the country 1000 quid?". This too would stimulate the economy: those in need would spend it on stuff they needed. Those with jobs would likely spend it on extra presents or a holiday or something, the prudent would put it in the bank to add to their savings, some people would go out and binge on 1000 quids-worth of booze and smokes, and ALL of these activities, in varied ways, would stimulate the economy, plus, everyone would have felt good and felt that for once the government was actually giving them something, rather than the other way 'round.

Instead, of course, they dumped money in some fashion into the banks who are already widely mistrusted for paying themselves fat bonuses while the rest of us struggle. I've seen no evidence to speak of on how well it worked, but I know they expanded the scheme.
From: petronivs Date: November 1st, 2009 09:19 am (UTC) (Link)
GW Bush tried that here, with his tax cuts. Unfortunately, it wasn't that well received. Therefore, Obama evidently one-upped him by giving money solely to The People The Government Likes.
johnridley From: johnridley Date: November 1st, 2009 12:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
Tax cuts don't directly help the people who really need help the most, because they're not paying taxes in the first place. I have family members who never saw a dime, and years later are still destitute and barely able to feed themselves.
From: galadrion Date: November 1st, 2009 12:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
However, tax cuts are also the only honest way the government has of reducing its burden on the economy - any other form of government "largess" is simply taking money from one citizen-subject in order to give it to another... and incidentally keep a hefty chunk of it for the government's own purposes.

It has been said - and proven - many, many times before: government does not create wealth. It can only redistribute it. And it can't even do that efficiently.
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From: galadrion Date: November 1st, 2009 05:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
The government is not creating the wealth which the road represents; it is redirecting it - by taking the wealth represented by taxes. (The same can be said of the private company, although it usually isn't using taxes to finance the project.) Governments do not create wealth. That is not their function. Nor should it be.
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randallsquared From: randallsquared Date: November 1st, 2009 07:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
Surely you're not seriously suggesting that we can tell for certain whether a particular road represents net wealth (after accounting for where that money would otherwise have gone)? Was the "Bridge to nowhere" a net creation of wealth? Probably not. Interstate 95? Probably so.

However, it does seems like a sound principle that if you have to take money by force to fund something, it's probably not worth the investment. If it was worth it, people would be volunteering their money for the return it would give.
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howardtayler From: howardtayler Date: November 1st, 2009 07:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
Roads don't create wealth, no. They enable wealth, but they don't create it.

The tech from the moon landing didn't create wealth, either. It was pure research, which was then turned into wealth by private enterprise.

Pure research and infrastructure are great things for government to invest in, and are good expenditures of stimulus, but they don't create wealth. They redistribute income, and in some cases enable private enterprise to create wealth.
randallsquared From: randallsquared Date: November 1st, 2009 08:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
"So you're saying all the tech that came from the moon landing and the rest of the space program was useless [...]"

No, I wasn't saying that, and since I pretty explicitly said so with respect to roads, I guess I'm being trolled. :)

About the space program specifically, though, I would say that there's a good argument to be made that going to the moon was far less useful than the wealth that was used to fund it. Greg Burch, among others, has suggested that the technologically natural time to go to the moon (absent nuclear pulse engines, which I blame Kennedy for killing) might have been fifty years later. In the meantime, the government monopolization of space and the active discouragement of private space activities by NASA up through the 1990s very likely mean that we're behind where we'd otherwise be now.

All of this is suspect, of course, because we don't get to run controlled experiments on history.
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randallsquared From: randallsquared Date: November 1st, 2009 08:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
Orion was indeed what I was talking about. It's basically the only way to have a major off-world presence with 1960s-era technology. Chemical rockets just won't cut it when you need to lift 100K people a year. :)

Anyway, I'm not sure anyone here would say that "government can't create wealth". Personally, all I'm saying is that government *doesn't* create net wealth, in the vast majority of situations. Most government activity is either wealth destruction or rent-seeking.
anshackles From: anshackles Date: November 2nd, 2009 08:59 am (UTC) (Link)
you need the space elevator. Which is getting nearer, they can now produce a material strong enough, all they need now is to produce about a million tons of it.

that or a catapult - use ground based launchers, probably on a maglev track, to acquire most of the escape velocity.
From: samholden Date: November 3rd, 2009 06:53 pm (UTC) (Link)

that's just not true

Tax cuts don't reduce the government's burden on the economy when they fund the difference with borrowings. I'd go as far to say they increase the burden on the economy, because borrowing money has far fewer voter consequences in the short term.

Sure tax cuts coupled with spending cuts, but when is the last time that happened?
uplinktruck From: uplinktruck Date: November 1st, 2009 07:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
What Galadrion said.
anshackles From: anshackles Date: November 2nd, 2009 09:07 am (UTC) (Link)
tax cuts are not the same thing. I pay almost no income-type tax, my income is too low. I do pay a lot of direct tax (VAT, or purchase tax, fuel duty, TAX on the fuel duty which is a right con). Cutting those kind of taxes would benefit me, but "they" hate that, costs them too much income. The road fuel duty in this country is currently around 45p (about 70c I should think) per liter, plus 15% purchase tax, so iut bit more than 51p per liter - your gallons in the US are what, about 3.8l? that means that the tax take on road fuel here is something around $3 per us gallon.
unixronin From: unixronin Date: November 1st, 2009 04:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
Exactly the same here. Most of the banks just took the money and sat on it, with the intention of having a nest-egg of capital set aside to put them in a good position after the recession was over.

It's my considered opinion that even if the government HAD still given the money to the banks, there should have been a condition attached: "We are giving you $30 billion. You WILL write off $30 billion worth of bad mortgages, prioritized by need, and declare them paid in full." Bunch of foreclosures eliminated, bunch of families that don't end up homeless, lots of consumer income freed up that will actually go into the economy, pile of red ink off the banks' books ... win win win win. After all, it was taxpayer money in the first place anyway.

(And oh, what's this? You decided that a second mortgage on a fourth vacation home owned by one of your directors needed to be written off more urgently than a family of six in Los Alamos who have no work and are facing homelessness? ...You're going to jail.)
kazriko From: kazriko Date: November 3rd, 2009 10:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
And what would have happened if they didn't set that money aside?

Hyperinflation. By giving that money to the banks they nearly doubled the monetary supply in the system. The idea behind it isn't that we get the whole thing going again, it's that we prop the banks up until everything starts recovering again on its own, then they pay that money back to the government and the fed removes it from the economy again.

If all of that bailout money actually made it into the economy and the velocity of money was back to normal, we'd be totally screwed. It'd be worse than the Carter years.

In a perfect system, I'd say let the banks fail. Unfortunately the reason they have all of those bad loans is because of government regulations stemming from the carter years, and updated in the clinton years, basically forcing banks to take these bad loans in the name of fair housing for all. I'm still tempted to say let them fail.
unixronin From: unixronin Date: November 3rd, 2009 11:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
If the banks are supposed to just sit on the money, not doing anything with it, then give it back when the economy recovers, what was the point — in terms of helping the economy — of giving it to them?

What they were supposed to do was lend it out and put it into the economy. What they ARE doing with it is hoarding it — when they're not trying to give it back to the government because they don't like the conditions that were attached to it after the fact.

Yes, the bad loans were forced on them in the first place. And in the first place, they hated them, because they didn't know what they could do with them. But then they invented new kinds of financial derivatives that could make bad loans look like good loans, on paper. And then they invented credit default swaps that looked even better on paper. And suddenly they couldn't get enough of them. They went from giving loans to people with poor credit, to giving loans to people with no assets and no income, because the profit they stood to make from the derivatives outweighed the bad loans ... and besides, if the borrower defaulted, they'd foreclose and get the house anyway, so that part wasn't their problem.

And then the whole house of cards fell down, and they realized that in their greed, they'd forgotten to ever consider what would happen if not one or two, or a few dozen, but hundreds of thousands of borrowers all defaulted.


It was things like the community housing act that opened the door to trouble, but it was their own greed that invited it in and rolled out the red carpet for it. I say let them fail. Bailing them out only teaches the next generation of bankers that even engineering the near-complete collapse of the entire economy has no negative consequences of any significance.
kazriko From: kazriko Date: November 3rd, 2009 11:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
Those that are trying to give it back often had no choice in the matter. They were herded into a room and told they WOULD take the money, or else, because if only a few banks took it then it would look bad for those banks, if all banks took it then it wouldn't look so bad for any one bank.

As I said, without that money, a handful of the banks would have gone belly up, all of those jobs would disappear, and many people relying on those banks would be hurt, and rippled through the economy. Or at least that's how Secretary Paulson sold it.

I don't buy that. The financial institutions that collapsed went into bankruptcy and the parts that were still working were bought up by stronger institutions and everything kept going fine. But we're not arguing about what would have happened, we're talking about the theory behind which they lent the money to the banks.

They stated publicly that they wanted them to lend it out, but in reality that's the last thing they want to do. Ultimately, only about a 20% increase in the monetary supply happened because of this out of the 100% increase in the monetary supply that would have happened if they loaned all of it out. The Fed is playing a dangerous game right now thinking that they can bootstrap the economy without plunging into full out hyperinflation by pulling that money back when the economy is ready to recover, using only indicators that lag by a long time period. I think they're making the wrong bet and our economy will collapse because of their foolishness. Straight into the arms of a "benevolent" tyrant, most likely. Cloward-Piven here we come.
unixronin From: unixronin Date: November 4th, 2009 12:05 am (UTC) (Link)
The Fed is playing a dangerous game right now thinking that they can bootstrap the economy without plunging into full out hyperinflation by pulling that money back when the economy is ready to recover, using only indicators that lag by a long time period. I think they're making the wrong bet and our economy will collapse because of their foolishness.
Can't argue with you there. I see little evidence that Capitol Hill even really grasps the magnitude of the problem, and I most definitely don't trust them not to screw it up even further in their blundering attempts to make sure their best friends all come out smelling of roses ... wait, was that my out-loud voice? I meant, to say, "best efforts to fix the problem."
kazriko From: kazriko Date: November 4th, 2009 12:06 am (UTC) (Link)
*ahem* Goldman Sachs *cough*
unixronin From: unixronin Date: November 1st, 2009 04:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
...And lots and lots of really shiny BLAM! ;)
From: betsumei Date: November 5th, 2009 11:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
Tears of joy from fans who'd really like to get their hands on those books?
klingonguy From: klingonguy Date: November 1st, 2009 10:23 pm (UTC) (Link)

Damn. So much for funding the Amazing Conroy graphic novel...
raithnor From: raithnor Date: November 2nd, 2009 11:09 am (UTC) (Link)
People seem to forget that about 40% of the stimulus was tax cuts.

The best the stimulus could do is prevent things from snowballing into a bigger mess, as it is there are signs that it wasn't enough to put the brakes on completely. We're still losing jobs just not as quickly.

What really needs to happen is the creation of new growing market here in America. Something sustainable that leads to real growth, not something tied to the perceived value of something like houses. Part of the problem is with a global economy a companies financial well-being can have very little to do with America's well-being.

The truly maddening maddening is the principle actors for causing this mess in the first place seem bent on making sure it's business as usual.

When 5 companies have the potential to completely destroy the US economy, there is something seriously wrong with the system. Letting unfettered "market forces" work is like playing Russian Roulette.

We need to get the economy on an upward cycle, and when that's beginning to happen taxes will have to be raised. That's really going to be te only way to pay the deficit down. However, politics being what it is it would be political suicide.

We really need to create an environment where a company would have an easier time creating jobs, instead of always being something to raise profit margins. Reforming Healthcare and Education would go a long way. For a small-to-mid sized company, let alone the self-employed, health care is prohibitively expensive. Education has a different set of problems, there's a disturbing lack of innovation at the lower levels, also there are quality problem because a school district is reliant on the local tax base and state educational funding. So you have this patchwork of school which can limit job mobility.

Bottom line, what we have right now isn't working. I'd rather back people who can see there's a problem and try to fix it, than to just say "Well, the market will eventually fix everything."
From: samholden Date: November 3rd, 2009 07:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
The actors that caused this in the first place are Bush and Greenspan. And surprise surprise Bush and Bernanke, and Obama and Bernanke are doing the exact same thing.

The problem with kicking the recession down the road a bit is that each time you do it the recession down the road will be of larger magnitude and the next kick won't go as far.

This recession is really just the 2001-2003 recession that was kicked down the road via stimulus. And it looks like we kicked this one further down the road too, of course that just means we are in for a whopper in a few years time (way less than the 7 or so years we kicked the can last time).

Bush almost got away with kicking the can into the next president's term, Obama won't even get it into his next term (if he gets one).
raithnor From: raithnor Date: November 3rd, 2009 09:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
The problem with just "letting the recession happen" is fallout of letting the economy go down the toilet. Sure, we could have chosen not to spend any money, but we would have had twice the unemployment we had now. More people out of work meants more mortgage defaults and less people buying anything which feedsback on itself.

It didn't help that Bush and the Fed kept interest rates as low as they did, it was artifical and it was going to blow back into their face, which it did.

It also didn't help that the bubble didn't create anything of lasting value. Sure we have a bunch of houses, but no one is going to sell them at a loss, you'll eventually have blighted properties that will need to be demolished. At least when the tech bubble burst we had the Internet.
kazriko From: kazriko Date: November 3rd, 2009 10:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
If they had let all of the recessions from 1910 forward happen, then the current recession would be nothing but a blip. It's grown so large because we kept stomping down all the recessions symptoms and sweeping the problem under the rug so that the whole thing gets dirtier, crustier, and even worse the next time around. Bush as well as Clinton, Nixon, Carter, etc have all been kicking the can down the road and making it that much worse.

It's like the wildfires. If they would just control them near homes and let them burn, then it would renew the whole system and eliminate the dead wood. Instead they put them out and that just keeps accumulating and making an even bigger fire next time until we just don't have the resources to put it out and it eats EVERYTHING.

Recessions are the periodic small forest fires that renew the forest and eliminate the dying and dead companies to make room for new ones.
raithnor From: raithnor Date: November 4th, 2009 06:29 am (UTC) (Link)
The problem is that we've created a system where enough wealth and influence cn preserving companies that should have collapsed.

That's when when I hear most politician talk about "fair competition" and "small business" I treat it as the sick joke that it is. It's not about "fair competiton" it's about preserving monopolies, near-monopolies, and cartels which provide the bulk of election campaign funds.

The problem is concentration of wealth, the failure of a signle company or even 2 or 3 companies should not nearly cause the entire system to crash.

I can't buy the notion of "The free market can fix everything", not when we had 8 years where there was no interest in oversight. Not when the end result created a situation where the government had to intervene or risk another depression.

At this point I'd like to take a rusty saw to these companies and sell the pieces. If they can make it work, great. If they don't, it doesn't threaten the whole economy.
kazriko From: kazriko Date: November 4th, 2009 09:37 am (UTC) (Link)
The sick joke is that we haven't had "fair competition" or "no interest in oversight" in a long time. When people say that the free market has failed, and somehow mistake the regulation ridden cesspool of political corruption and crony-ism that is a stock market as a free market. It's nothing of the sort. The problem right now is that we have too large of a government overseeing things and that leads to power being concentrated into the hands of an easily corruptible few. It's the large government that enables the monopolies by putting the power of force behind the largest of large corporations who can write whatever legislation suits them and not the small corporations and small businesses.

Real business and free markets do not happen on wall street. Wall street, the NYSE, and NASDAQ are the game the political and financial elites play to concentrate money and power in their own hands. The bailouts of these huge companies like Goldman Sachs by former alumni of theirs in the government is a perfect example.

This is both sides, Republican and Democrat.

An example of how bipartisan the corruption is, is the fannie mae coverups the democrats were doing in 2003-4. The republicans were going after these government sponsored entities for corruption and making bad loans, but the democrats like maxine waters covered for them, saying there was nothing wrong. You obviously know examples of republican corruption, given that you're ranting about how you don't care for the free market.

I find it amusing that you say "Cartels which provide the bulk of election campaign funds" yet you want to concentrate more power with the bureaucrats and politicians regulating these cartels and getting these election campaign funds. That won't give you a more fair market, it will just give you more regulations geared towards keeping those cartels in power.
raithnor From: raithnor Date: November 4th, 2009 04:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
I want private money-for-influence out of government, period. Elections should not be about who can get the most advertising money.

2003-2004 Democrats were largely irrelevant, the GOP had the house, senate, and the presidency The GOP has better party discipline if they wanted to do something they could have done it. Look at the health care debate now, the argument isn't Democrat or Republican, it's between the Democratic Conservatives and Liberals plus the odd wildcards of Lieberman and Snowe.

Here's the problem: What do you replace Government with? What's to keep people getting run roughshod over by those who can amass the most money. We have a population of 350+ million people, how do you make government small when you have to create a legal system that enforces a standard of civilization? That's why I can't trust the argument of "Small Government Fixes Everything", the best you can hope for is "Government that tries to be functional and serves the interest of the public". Getting rid of organizations like the FDA, the CDC, the EPA would make things worse, not better.

We're going around in circles, If cronyism, makes government regulation toothless and moot, then we basically have an unregulated system that allow large businesses to make government regulation pointless.

The problem is the "Bailouts" are tantamount to Extortion. "Give our company billions of dollars, or we'll crash your economy through our destruction." So you have a situation of "Head they win, Tails you lose", they have no incentive to not keep flipping that coin.

It's like towns that build their economy around one large business. That business can make the town dance to their tune, or they simply pack up and leave for another town. The workers become jobless and the surrounding economy in ruins.
kazriko From: kazriko Date: November 4th, 2009 06:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
That's the problem, the republicans are just like the democrats. Quit making this about one party or the other, it's BOTH of them. Of course they're not going to make progress breaking the corruption when a large chunk of their party is just as corrupt as a large chunk of the other party.

The main key is to find a way to make it so all trade is done with mutual fully informed consent of both parties, and that both parties benefit. Regulations are completely ineffective at doing this for the most part as they are more just shuffling the deck chairs in a way that helps their friends and hurts their friend's enemies. The small number of people in government that "tries to be functional and serve the interest of the public" are incapable of overcoming this and often. Often, the corrupt people in government spin it so that their corrupt crony-supporting decisions seem like things that are in the public interest and oh so warm and cuddly and those that "try to be functional" blindly follow them.

The other problem is that most government regulations are the enablers of big business. Gigantic business isn't a natural state, large entities like that get so top heavy and inefficient that they cannot stand on their own against a more efficient, more nimble competitor. That is... Unless the more nimble competitors are bogged down with regulations designed by the gigantic businesses. Government regulations tend to hurt smaller businesses more than bigger ones partly because of the compliance costs not being linear to the size of business. This law requires one full time person to stay in compliance with, but may only scale up to 3-4 people for a huge business. For a small company, that one person is 1/20th of their workforce. for a huge company, that is 5/100000th of their workforce. They disproportionately hurt smaller companies and help the larger ones compete.

For an example, look at Cars. Cars aren't rocket science, making one is well within the realm of what a modest sized business could do. The problem of course is that making a car that meets with hundreds of thousands of pages of regulations is not something a small business could do. We should have a couple dozen car companies, but instead we have 3 failing giants collapsing under their own weight of inefficiency, and 1 small car company (Tesla) that those giants are doing their best to squash through regulation.

I would argue that companies like the FDA might hurt the public safety more than it helps. The same for many of the financial regulatory agencies. By putting the government stamp of approval on things, it gives people a false sense of security that this is a good investment and takes the impulse to research and make sure it's good off of them. Thus, when the government regulators don't do their job, the people who would have otherwise looked into it themselves are getting hurt. We used to be a nation where everyone researched their own choices before making them. Now we rely on big brother government to do the research for us. It's not a good state of affairs.
raithnor From: raithnor Date: November 4th, 2009 08:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
I blame the Republicans more for the current state of affairs since they have had control for longer periods of time. I realize the Democrats have their problems but I'm willing to give them a fair chance at reforming the system because they want to try.

As for car regulations, things like seat belts, air bag, and designing cars not to explode on impact is generally a good idea. When a company can make a decision to create an unsafe product because it cost less to pay court settlements than to fix the product, there's a serious problem.

The health care insurance industry is largely the same way, between choosing to increase profits and helping people they choose to increase profits.

We seem to agree on the notion of "companies should not be allowed to get big" and that's good. However you run into the counter-arguments of "Well that kind of thinking is Marxist/Socialist/What have you.", by business people who feel the only rules in business are "there are no rules".

"The legitimate object of government, is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done, but can not do, at all, or can not, so well do, for themselves -- in their separate, and individual capacities." -Abraham Lincoln

There's too much information out there, people don't have the time to make sure every factory isn't dumping toxins in rivers, which toothpaste contain mercury or lead, which car doesn't explode on a 20 MPH impact, which drug will cause a heart attacks while trying to lower cholesterol. You can't expect people to do that and still be able to hold down a job. What you should expect is to have people interested enough in their government to make sure it's working for the public interest not someone who's paying them off.
kazriko From: kazriko Date: November 4th, 2009 09:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
You really can't expect that after having the Democrats having the most power for most of the last 100 years, followed by 6 years of the republicans having most of the power, that the entire thing is the fault of the Republicans. They're both at fault, and both equally corrupt. The way the current administration is cozying up to some of the hugest of large corporations, Goldman Sachs, General Electric, Google, Microsoft, IBM... doesn't bode well for them actually doing anything at all about corruption.

The whole argument is silly anyway. This tendency towards large, overarching government is mostly bipartisan. It's only a subset of both parties that even pay lip service to small government principles. Teddy Roosevelt was a big government republican, woodrow wilson was a big government democrat, Hoover was a big government republican, Franklin roosevelt was a big government democrat, and so on and so forth. All of them were big government progressives in one way or another. It's just the direction they wanted the big government to grow in that differed. The big government crowd has pretty much owned the two party system for over a hundred years.

The health insurance industry profits are actually pretty tiny compared to many of the industries that are currently popular with the administration... There's more to this, but I'm not in the mood to debate health care right now.

There's also more to the independent consumer agencies like Consumer Reports policing these things rather than governments, but that's also a debate for another time.

The other thing is about regulations concerning cars... Making a car that doesn't explode on impact is one thing, but they tend to start micromanaging how much tolerance this piece can have, and how many inches this piece must be mounted below this line, and how much distance this piece can be from that piece... They're regulating tiny details instead of trying for the overarching goal of safety. Because of this kind of thinking, we're stuck with mostly the same shape and general layout of cars for the most part, because doing anything unusual is inordinately expensive to convince the regulators to allow. The same thing for the FAA. Canard wing aircraft have been proven time and time again to be safer and easier to fly, yet the FAA makes any commercial canard wing craft jump through so many hoops that they become unprofitable because their regulations are designed around traditional forward wing designs. This is what killed the Beechcraft Starship.

If they instead would focus on testing things for their performance rather than adherence to micromanaging regulations, then we would probably see a drastic change from the traditional shapes of many objects we use. The current car regulations even go so far as to regulate the serial data protocol used on the wires going between parts of the car! That sort of thing utterly stifles innovation.

There is a limited subset of things that the government can and should do that people can't do for themselves, but those things could be done with a government of less than 5% of GDP, and no income tax. http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/us_20th_century_chart.html

On your last line, "What you should expect is to have people interested enough in their government to make sure it's working for the public interest not someone who's paying them off." I agree. People need to be deeply involved in making sure their government isn't corrupt, and I think this change is happening... Slowly, but it is happening.
rurounifalcon From: rurounifalcon Date: November 2nd, 2009 02:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
Taylor, it doesn't help that what Washington claims is not that they've created jobs, they claim that they kept the jobless rates from getting worse. 'Cause last I checked unemployment hasn't stopped going up yet. Further, they've got no solid evidence that the stimulus worked, and many economists claiming that long-run it'll make things worse, plus there's the FACT that the "stimulus bill" was in fact nothing more than a big pork-barrel spending bill oriented towards the special interest groups that support the President and his party.

I'm starting to think we need two major Constitutional amendments here. The first would be some form of balanced budget amendment. The second would force Congress to only deal with one topic per bill, and so prevent all these damnable riders and add-ons to major bills that either spend money or sneak in legislation that one group wants but would never past muster otherwise (the recent expansion of Federal hate crime laws via the Defense Spending Bill comes to mind).
kazriko From: kazriko Date: November 3rd, 2009 10:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's Tayler. ;)

Also, have you seen what they're sneaking into the medical bill? Regulations on everything from Vending machines to Firearms. It's the holy grail of progressive thought made into law.
unixronin From: unixronin Date: November 4th, 2009 12:14 am (UTC) (Link)
I'd add one more requirement to that second: Write the bills in plain English, dammit. Require all bills before Congress to be written in language that you do not have to be a lawyer to understand, so that the voters who elected you have a fair chance of understanding what you're voting for as their "representative".

I could also find arguments in favor of an amendment that empowers the voters of the states to recall their senators and congressmen from office if they act against the interest of the voters. "You voted for WHAT?!? ...You are SO fired."
kazriko From: kazriko Date: November 4th, 2009 09:39 am (UTC) (Link)
The downside to using plain language is the ease at which it can be interpreted in a way that wasn't intended. The same is true of the legalese used in bills. They claim it's one way and that they'll never use it the other, but 10-20 years down the road when everyone has forgotten the debate, they start using in the other way...
unixronin From: unixronin Date: November 4th, 2009 12:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
Exactly. Whether it's legalese or plain English, "a word means what they want it to mean, nothing more and nothing less." At least if it's in plain English that's comprehensible to non-lawyers, you don't have to be a lawyer to catch them at it.
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