Misleading Metrics

February 12, 2010

The media has been clamoring for it, and now the politicians are focusing on it.  Jobs, jobs, jobs.  Yikes, hold onto your wallets.  The gang(s) that can’t shoot straight are off on another hunting expedition.  One thing you can be sure of, they will miss the target again!!!!

The focus on “jobs, jobs, jobs” recalls memories of a similar focus on “body counts” during the Vietnam War.  McNamara and Johnson wanted body count statistics to validate their policies.  They got dubious body counts while they lost strategic focus on real results.   Misleading metrics missed the mark.

Now we have another administration looking towards body count statistics to validate their policies.  And once again, they’ll get the statistics, just not the results; jobs are created in congressional districts that don’t exist while various White House staffers claim wildly differing totals for jobs “retained or created”.  All the while the larger economic malaise continues.  Another case of misleading metrics.

Jobs are important, but all of us who are working jobs in the real economy know that jobs are the result of economic activity, not the end.   Job creation is such an appealing political rally cry (who can be against it), that no one is “telling the emperor(s) that this is a naked policy”.

Former Chairmen of the Federal Reserve Allen Greenspan said it politely when asked about the current Washington preoccupation with the creation of “jobs programs”.

“I think we have to start with the focus of economic activity.  In other words, jobs are created by having something to do, so you can’t put jobs before economic activity.  (Small business) are a big creator of jobs, but they won’t hire anyboday if they don’t have any business.”

So what’s Washington in the process of doing, passing a tax credit for employers that hire new employees.  There aren’t many businesses that are going to hire a new employee to get a tax credit.  New employees are hired when there’s economic activity and work to be done!!!!  Why is that so hard to understand?

At the recent Q & A that the President conducted with Senate Democrats, Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln expressed the fears of her constituents:

“They fear there’s no one in your administration that understands what it means to go to work on Monday and make a payroll on Friday.”

This isn’t a partisan issue, it’s an economic literacy issue.  There are only three ways to the create wealth that generates economic activity that results in real job creation; mine it, manufacture it or grow it.  If we want to rejuvenate the US economy and lower unemployment, we’ll never do it by re-distributing wealth or manipulating wealth.  We won’t do it by encouraging increased consumption of wealth.  We must create it. In a land blessed with great natural resources and more freedoms ever known to man, we used to be pretty good at doing that.

If our politicians, of both parties, want improve the economic environment that will lead to real job creation, it’s time to stop political posturing on phony job metrics and begin address real issues that will lead to economic prosperity.  While jobs creation legislation has grabbed all the Washington headlines this week, the following article appeared in the back pages of the Wall Street Journal.

“Obtaining the permits and approvals needed to build a mine in the U.S. takes an average of seven years, among the longest wait time in the world. So despite having vast underground stores of raw materials, the U.S. is one of the last places miners go to start a project.

At the proposed Kennecott Eagle nickel mine in Michigan’s sparsely populated Upper Peninsula, the wait is at seven years and growing. Global miner Rio Tinto says the project would fill a raw-material gap in the U.S. economy, but the company has yet to produce an ounce of nickel there.

Last month, a state agency issued a final order making state water, air and mine permits effective, but Rio still needs a federal water permit. And the company expects challenges from environmental groups.

Overall, the U.S. is tied with Papua Guinea for the longest approval process among the 25 top mining countries in the world, according to Behre Dolbear Group, an international mining and mineral advisory group. In Australia, a huge mining center, the process takes an average of one to two years.

The length of the mine-approval process means that the U.S., while having the reserves as well as the market appetite for metals and minerals, remains one of the top importers of the materials from Australia, Brazil, Canada and Africa.

“We are becoming more and more dependent on metal imports in the U.S.,” said Luke Popovich, spokesman for the National Mining Association, an industry group. Imports into the U.S. for selected metals—including gold, copper and zinc—rose 8.7% from 1998 to 2008, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.”

Let’s stop this current nonsense and get about implementing policies that will get our farmers growing, our manufacturers working and our miners exploring.


The Lessons of Vietnam: Some still need to learn them!!!!

December 2, 2009

From the President’s West Point address on our Afghanistan policy.

“First, there are those who suggest that Afghanistan is another Vietnam.  They argue that it cannot be stabilized, and we’re better off cutting our losses and rapidly withdrawing.  I believe this argument depends on a false reading of history.  Unlike Vietnam, we are joined by a broad coalition of 43 nations that recognizes the legitimacy of our action.  Unlike Vietnam, we are not facing a broad-based popular insurgency.  And most importantly, unlike Vietnam, the American people were viciously attacked from Afghanistan, and remain a target for those same extremists who are plotting along its border.  To abandon this area now — and to rely only on efforts against al Qaeda from a distance — would significantly hamper our ability to keep the pressure on al Qaeda, and create an unacceptable risk of additional attacks on our homeland and our allies.”

From the book, Allied Participation in Vietnam.

by Lieutenant General Stanley Robert Larsen and Brigadier General James Lawton Collins, Jr.


“More than forty nations provided assistance to the Republic of Vietnam in its struggle against North Vietnam. This aid ranged from economic and technical assistance to educational and humanitarian contributions. Hundreds of Free World civilians worked in Vietnam as doctors, teachers, and technical specialists. Eight nations also provided military assistance. The flags of these Free World countries-the United States, the Republic of Korea, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, the Republic of China, and Spain-flew alongside the colors of the Republic of Vietnam at the headquarters of the Free World Military Assistance Forces in Saigon. The military contributions of these nations included combat troops, army medical teams, and individual political warfare advisers. The degree of assistance and co-operation among the concerned Free World nations resulted from years of work and involvement. While many nations expressed sympathy for the plight of South Vietnam, aid did not always come easily, quickly, or to the extent desired. Many nations, beset by their own internal economic and political problems, could do little to help; others did nothing. The story of the efforts of the contributing nations and the efforts to enlist their aid is the subject of this monograph.”

In addition to American troops, between 1966 and 1970 there averaged over 50,000 allied combat troops in Vietnam each year.  One country alone, South Korea, had over 5,000 combat troops killed during the Vietnam War.


The Pacific President

November 18, 2009

“As America’s first Pacific president,” said President Obama in Tokyo, “I promise you that this Pacific nation will strengthen and sustain our leadership in this vitally important part of the world.”

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: “There was a second incident here which was I thought interesting — when the president declared himself the ‘first Pacific president.’ That’s because, presumably, he grew up and spent some of his childhood in Hawaii and in Indonesia, and his mom took him on a visit to Japan, although all he remembers of that, as he says, was the ice cream.

The first Pacific president? Well, Teddy Roosevelt, he built the Panama Canal in order to make the United States a Pacific power, and he did.

Howard Taft, his successor, was the governor of the Philippines. And John Kennedy and George Bush Sr. were in the Pacific theater in the second World War, and, in fact, spent sometime in the Pacific ocean itself — Bush after having been shot down from his airplane, and Kennedy after having his ship cut in half by a Japanese patrol boat. So, these people actually spent time in the Pacific. But in Obama’s mind, it doesn’t any way match the experience of the baby Jesus, excuse me, the baby Obama growing up on some Pacific island.

The narcissism of the man is rather unbounded. But you see, everything in Obama’s life makes him world historical.”


Jobs, Jobs, Jobs: The Wrong way, the Right way and Norway

November 10, 2009

A small item in the October 31st edition of The Economist caught my attention:

“Norway’s huge oil reserves had cushioned it against the effects of the severe global downturn”

It started me thinking, so I searched for more about Norway’s economy.  An old New York Times article reported:

“In the midst of the worst global downturn since the Depression, Norway’s economy grew last year by just under 3 percent. The government enjoys a budget surplus of 11 percent.  By comparison, the United States is expected to chalk up a fiscal deficit this year equal to 12.9 percent of its gross domestic product and push its total debt to $11 trillion, or 65 percent of the size of its economy.  Norway is a relatively small country with a largely homogeneous population of 4.6 million and the advantages of being a major oil exporter.

So the picture was becoming clearer, it was exploitation of its natural resources, namely off shore oil and gas exploration that accounted for Norway’s economic prosperity.  Surely there must be a heavy environmental price to be paid or the United States would be similarly exploiting its vast energy reserves.

So I next researched the Environmental News Service and came across the results of this 2008 Study by the World economic Forum:

“DAVOS, Switzerland, January 23, 2008 (ENS) – A ranking of 149 countries based on indicators of pollution control and natural resource management released today at the World Economic Forum puts the United States in 39th place, behind Ecuador and Albania.

The top four countries are all European, with Switzerland ranked first and Sweden, Norway and Finland in the next three slots.”

In December the White House will be hosting a conference on jobs and the economy to “talk about how we can work together to create jobs and get this economy moving again.”  That’s not an easy task, but it’s not a complicated one either.  Real job creation is dependent on wealth creation.  We can’t stimulate or consume our way to prosperity.

There are only three ways to create wealth; mine it, manufacture it or grow it.  If we want to rejuvenate the US economy and lower unemployment, we’ll never do it by re-distributing wealth or manipulating wealth.  We won’t do it by encouraging increased consumption of wealth.  We must create it. In a land blessed with great natural resources and more freedoms ever known to man, we used to be pretty good at doing that.

Don’t confuse wealth manipulation (Wall Street), wealth redistribution (Washington) or wealth consumption (easy credit) for wealth creation.  There is a role for Wall Street to facilitate the creation of wealth, a role for Washington to promote the general welfare and a need for reasonable financing to let individuals and corporations to pursue opportunities, but if we don’t rejuvenate our ability to create wealth, those roles will be diminished as other nations go about the important work of creating the wealth of nations (something that the United States used to be very good at).

We currently pay our farmers not to grow food, we limit exploration of natural resources and we hinder our manufacturing industries.  Changes those policies in a responsible manner and you will see an explosion of prosperity.  It won’t be easy, wealth creation is hard work.  But it’s a simple choice.  Create wealth and prosper, or manipulate, redistribute and consume our way to mediocrity.


The Commander in Chief’s Secrets

November 3, 2009

“The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, a former military commander there, has expressed deep concern to Washington about sending more U.S. troops, the Washington Post and The New York Times reported on Thursday.

The papers, quoting senior unnamed U.S. officials, said Ambassador Karl Eikenberry had sent classified cables in the past week expressing strong reservations about President Hamid Karzai‘s erratic behavior and corruption in his government.

The reports of Eikenberry’s dispatches come as President Barack Obama is considering boosting U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan, where Karzai was returned to power last week after a fraud-tainted election.”

What’s wrong with this story?  We are a nation at war and this was a classified cable!!!!!

Have we become so callous regarding leaks from Washington that a classified cable from an ambassador in a war zone to the Commander in Chief regarding a commitment of troops to a combat doesn’t spark any indignation?

Doesn’t anyone recall the efforts that the United States has historically gone to maintain classified communication in times of war, and to the even greater effort that we have gone to intercept and break the codes of our adversaries (think the Battle of Midway).

There’s only three junctures where a classified cable can become public; 1) where it originated, 2) while being transmitted or 3) where it is received.  If this was a “classified cable” and we are at war, something is wrong.  Either; 1) the Commander in Chief can’t trust his ambassador in a war zone, 2) we no longer have secure means to transmit classified information during a time of war, or 3) the Commander in Chief’s staff leaked the information for political purposes.

The Constitution assigns the president two roles: chief executive of the federal government and Commander in Chief of the armed forces. As Commander in Chief, the president has the authority to send troops into combat.  As chief executive, he enforces laws, treaties, and court rulings.

If Ambassador Eikenberry’s message wasn’t a classified cable, the Commander in Chief should inform us of that so we don’t have to conclude that our government can no longer keep secrets.  If it was a classified cable, it would be reassuring if the ambassador in the war zone was relieved of his duties or that resources where being put in place to insure that our government could safely transmit future classified messages in a time of war.

Otherwise, we’ll be left to conclude that classified information is being leaked from the White House for political purposes during a time of war.  So much for solemn  and thoughtful deliberations.