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gulliver's Journal
gulliver's Journal
February 4, 2012

Immigration is a great alternative to outsourcing, imo.

I'm in IT, and it seems to me like outsourcing changes everything. I'd much, much rather have foreign workers working and living in the U.S. than in their home countries. When they are here, they pay income and Social Security taxes. They buy houses. They buy goods and services. They build our GDP.

With a secure immigration path in this country, highly skilled tech workers will be able to demand higher pay, unlike those with L-1s and H-1Bs. We could eliminate those visas altogether. It might be more difficult to undermine the wages of citizens without those.

Business people are probably not wild about the effect of outsourcing either, by the way. Business processes outsource too. They go where the talent is, so maybe we should move the talent here.

America has this great thing going for it: It's America. We can take advantage of that.

January 26, 2012

Republicans constantly put down the business-worthiness of the country and their states.

Today I heard a Republican "leader" in Missouri (my home state) say the following on NPR:

“The courts have made Missouri the worst place in the nation to be sued if you’re an employer," Lager saidl "No employer is gonna move to a state or substantially grow in a state where their risk of being sued is greater than anywhere else in the nation.”


Why are we not sick of that? Why are Republicans being given a free pass to level insult after insult on the business-worthiness of our country and our home states? Has anyone stopped to think that it might be, oh, just a little bit counterproductive when the country and the states are desperate for jobs?

Picture a team of foreign business people visiting Missouri. They want to know whether they should locate a plant here. Then they turn on NPR and hear some dumb-ass Republican "leader" shooting off his mouth about how bad the state is.

Of course they do the same thing to America as a whole too. I don't know when the last time was that I heard a Republican say "You know, the United States is a great place to do business."

January 16, 2012

Why won't Republicans let people buy healthcare from the government?

Why won't Republicans let people buy healthcare from the government? It's my money! Why won't Republicans let me spend my money the way I want to spend it? I might be able to save a good chunk of cash by buying into a plan run by Medicare, for example. It is a lot more efficient with health care dollars than private insurers, and it has a lot of clout in keeping costs down. All that we would need is to make Medicare purchase-able. It's sitting right there.

If the Republicans would get out of the way, and stop interfering with my buying options, I could spend my money the way I want to and even save some of it.

January 11, 2012

This whole dynamic (H1-B, L-1, illegal immigration) could be changing.

Jobs now flow to where the people are, so maybe we want the people here instead of "there." I'm in IT, and I have been against H1-B and L-1 visas. But outsourcing changes the equation. Even H1-Bs and L-1s have to compete against outsourcing, for example.

A main reason H1-B, L-1, and "illegals" take less pay is that they are insecure in their citizenship path. If they were given a solid path to citizenship, the vast majority would take it. And they wouldn't be beholden to, let's say, "bargain hunters" who take advantage of their immigration status to shortchange them in wages. Somebody in IT who knows they can stay, easily change jobs, etc., is going to want more money.

Also, they would have to buy real estate, shop for goods, buy services, etc., right here in the good old USA. That's not to mention Social Security contributions, political power impacts, etc.

I don't know. It doesn't seem so obvious to me any more. I also understand from conversation with Indian IT workers that wages are on the rise in India as well--big time...so. The USA might be better off brain- and skill-draining our competitors. Bring all their good players over here.

January 2, 2012

Cantor belongs in showbiz.

I saw Cantor's 60 Minutes performance yesterday.

He's just got a great mix of central casting bad guy characteristics and behavior, although he would not be appropriate for a star-level bad guy role, at least not at first.

For instance, I don't think Cantor would be able to convincingly affect the mommy problems needed for a remake of Psycho. And he doesn't look intelligent, campy, or flamboyant enough to be a Bond villain. He's not masculine enough even to play the Ralph Fiennes character from Schindler's List or bad-seed-crazy-childish-looking enough to play the guy from Inglourious Basterds. Introverted, repressed sadism is not enough for a big screen villain.

Could Cantor star in a Tom Delay biopic? I don't think so. Prosthetics could make him look sufficiently inbred, but Cantor's rage seethes beneath the surface, unlike Delay's. Cantor acts more like a healthy, determined, angry rat than a rabid one.

Caligula? Not really. The megalomania and sadism might be in range for him, but I'm not seeing the sexuality or extroversion.

I think a Dexter villain is Cantor's best bet for an acting play. He would do it justice.

I'm not saying Cantor is really like any of these bad guys, of course. Playing an ass would be in his wheelhouse, because that is what he appears to be in real life. But he could also play a sadist effortlessly using the remaining range of expression he demonstrated in his 60 Minutes appearance. Cantor struck me as a guy who knows he has done wrong, revels in it, but doesn't want anyone to pin it on him in a way that prevents him from continuing to do it. He's a good foreman for the Tea Party Republicans, in other words. But I think he could make a modest living in regular showbiz too.

December 31, 2011

I think a job guarantee should be just that.

I strongly support the notion of a job guarantee. I am very heartened by your post to see that this concept exists in Economics. I have always found the notion intuitively obvious—so obvious in fact that I thought perhaps it was either taken for granted or rejected by a consensus of economists. (I come from a Computer Science and mathematics background primarily, with additional study in the natural sciences, philosophy, and psychology.) How could an entire field of study, Economics, miss something so obvious and so socially crucial right in its wheelhouse?

To your comments above, I don't think we really disagree very much. I agree that any solution needs to be simple and difficult to game. But in creating a job guarantee system, we need to make sure we don't make it "too simple." There are many reasons the government should support business revenue streams during downturns, imo. I will mention two.

First, employees gain tremendously if their employers don't lay them off at all. Their careers are preserved, not to mention their social ties and lifestyles. Further, if the government preserves an employing business, that business survives as a labor consumer for current and future employees. Simply hiring the unemployed after they have been laid off should be there as a last resort, of course, but keeping people in their jobs is almost certainly more efficient and far less destructive to their real and intangible wealth.

Second, of course, a company or corporation is a wealth repository that is far greater than the sum of its parts. The rescue of GM and Chrysler, for example, preserved not only employment, but tasks, know-how, teams, etc. Moreover, in the long run, the rescues preserved their surrounding communities. Even if there had been the political will to simply hire the workers who would have been displaced (no chance, thanks to the Republicans), there would be progressively less and less will over time. By preserving companies through transient downturns, we preserve an ingrained status quo. That is much easier than trying to preserve political will.

There are always going to be those who will game the system and try to cheat it. That is a great argument for regulations and one of the better arguments for prisons. Every system is replete with hazards, moral and otherwise. One of the reasons I am a Democrat is that our side does a far better job at recognizing those hazards.

I liked your link to the MMT blog entry. I was glad to see that job guarantee seems to have some respectability if not the dominance it deserves. I wonder what MMT has to say about the meaning of wealth, bubbles, and savings. Thanks for your posts!

December 30, 2011

Is the word "conservative" about to become a putdown?

The word "Republican" has gone out of vogue thanks to George W. Bush and the Great Recession. One needs look no further than the Tea Party to see a clear example of stout-hearted Republicans running away from their party name and performance. Nowadays, even the most Republican of Republicans knows to sidestep their party affiliation when in polite company. If nothing else, it lets them avoid being asked if they voted for Bush.

The word Republican is toast, but what about the talismanic, argument-settling, self-worth-asserting word "conservative" itself? Have its many unfortunate recent associations with crackpots, serial liars, and flabby, diamond-ring-twisting hegemons finally brought down the last safe right wing word? What will conservatism call itself now that the word conservative is starting to become short for "laughably deranged asshole" in popular culture?

There has been a perceptible change in the Zeitgeist. I can't say for sure when it occurred. Perhaps at some point the Tea Party took off its glasses and everyone saw it was just George W. Republican after all. Maybe enough people witnessed Rush Limbaugh twitching on video making fun of Alex P. Keaton's multiple sclerosis. Maybe a critical mass of media consumers noticed that recently Fox News has begun to morph into a culture-wide laughingstock. I don't know when it happened, but the writing is on the Facebook wall.

Saying "I'm conservative" these days doesn't mean what it did ten short years ago. The presumption of respectability formerly accorded the words has disintegrated. The good will has dwindled to a puddle. Thanks to the hard work of self-professed "conservatives" like George W. Bush, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, and (let's definitely not forget) Glenn Beck, saying "I'm conservative" today is a quick way to lose people. If the trend continues, it won't be long before calling someone a "conservative" will be a putdown.

December 17, 2011

Republican is Bush. Bush is Republican.

We need to remember that for the general election.

The last Republican President was George W. Bush, and look what happened.

Republican is Bush
Bush is Republican

We got a lemon from the Republican dealership.

Republican is Bush
Bush is Republican

Robbed the treasury. Bought an unnecessary war on credit.

Republican is Bush
Bush is Republican

Jobs disappeared overseas. Job creators created jobs all right. Overseas.

Republican is Bush
Bush is Republican

When the Wall Street burglars (Republicans) came to ransack the country, Bush and other Republicans opened the doors for them. And turned off the alarm switch. And then slept at that switch. Visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads.

Republican is Bush
Bush is Republican

Why are Republicans so angry?

Republican is Bush
Bush is Republican

When Republicans are the ones who got us where we are?

Republican is Bush
Bush is Republican

They don't look in the mirror. Because everyone else knows.

From the nose to the toes.

Republican is Bush
Bush is Republican

February 16, 2012

All-electronic money would save us from supporting things we oppose.

If we had all-electronic money we could give an electronic serial number to every "dollar unit." Then every single transaction could be forced through a government clearinghouse network by using digital signatures to prevent any other form of transfer. The clearinghouse could track the history of every single dollar.

It would be great, because you could ask for a report that would show if any of the dollars you spend end up funding abortions, or paying for criminal activity, or going to someone you don't like for whatever reason. Then you could simply refuse to spend your hard-earned dollars anywhere where those dollars might somehow end up going somewhere you don't like. I mean, if it's your money, you should have the right to know where it is being spent downstream from you.

You could even set preferences on your money so that it could never ever be spent again on anything you don't approve of. Think how great that would be for those religions whose holy books (apparently) specifically say not only what you can buy, but what the people you buy from can buy.

We should do this!

December 11, 2011

Why not a permanent "Job Security Agency?"

The WPA worked. The only problem was that it ended when unemployment dropped. Instead, it should have been left on warm standby.

I would love to see an agency that would ensure unemployment does not go above a set threshold level, say 7% (pick a number). When unemployment goes above that level, then the "Job Security Agency" would immediately activate government projects to lower unemployment. Projects would be activated and workers/contractors employed until the unemployment level dropped.

The agency would also be tasked with ensuring that high-employment-level businesses don't default catastrophically. I'm thinking of the automotive industry bail-outs here. They worked, and they should be made a permanent, automatic part of our bag of tricks. Note that this encourages business to employ people in this country. The bail-out insurance would not apply to out-sourcers.

If the unemployment level dropped below, say 6.5% (pick a number), then the agency would begin to wind down government projects and targeted industry support. During idle times, the agency could work to maintain a running list of potential projects based on existing government and industry goals.

Together with unemployment insurance for rapid, temporary response to economic faults, a job security agency would keep workers working and (just as importantly) keep employer businesses operating. Workers would not be without jobs, and as many as possible would continue their current jobs throughout the downturn.

The current unemployment-check-only approach doesn't do this. It wastes valuable skills by idling people, an incalculable loss of real wealth to the country. And it creates all kinds of discontinuity, social, and political distress. It is the government's job to promote the general welfare of the people and prevent these unnecessary harms.

The jobs security agency needs to be left running and monitoring the jobs situation at all times. When the trigger thresholds are reached, it should quite simply and automatically begin its work. Its operation should under no circumstances depend upon enacting or blocking legislation at the time of crisis. That way we won't get these hostage-taking, blackmail situations the Republicans have become so fond of.

How would it be paid for? An automatic, graduated surtax on the wealthiest in conjunction with responsible deficit spending.

Ok, fire away. Why wouldn't this be a good thing?

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