Quote

People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it. Welcome to From On High.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

On That 'Shrinking Middle Class'

For those who have bought into Senator-elect Jim Webb's class warfare act and believe the middle class in this country to be disappearing, new statistics recently released blow his argument out of the water:

The Wages of Growth
The Wall Street Journal

The latest reports on wages and income have been rolling in, and with them we can discount one more canard about the current economic expansion--namely, that wages are stagnant and workers are doing far more poorly than they did in that second Age of Pericles known as the 1990s.

Over the past year, the real average wage for non-supervisory employees has risen 2.8%. That equates to about a $1,200 increase in purchasing power for the typical household this year. Last year, real median household income was also up 1.1% after inflation. This rise in take-home pay helps to explain how Americans have had the disposable income this Christmas shopping season to pay $600 for PlayStation 3 computer games and $150 for the Kid-Tough Digital Camera for three-year-olds. (link)

Facts of course have never gotten in the way of Jim Webb's fanciful (he is a novelist after all) view of the America he knows so little about. So expect him to continue his rant about the rich.

But as it turns out, we're doing quite well. Let the good times continue to roll.

On Tariffs

I consider myself to be as much a capitalist as the best of them, except where one particular topic is concerned. That has to do with targeted tariffs on imported goods. Whereas the concept is anathema to most modern-day economists, I consider it to be good strategy if dealt with carefully, considering the circumstances we have made for ourselves.

Two important facts to consider:

1) Chinese manufacturers pay no American corporate taxes.

2) The American corporate income tax rate is currently higher than the average global corporate tax rate. (It should come as no surprise that booming economies like that of Hong Kong at 17.5%, Singapore at 20%, and Ireland at 12.5% have rates far below that of the USA at 35%).

These facts alone, considering the exorbitant tax rates our corporations pay to the feds, to the states, to local governments, make for a seriously imbalanced playing field. Tariffs, if applied carefully (i.e., if they are targeted) balance that field.

The Wall Street Journal this morning takes the healthier approach to the problem. They just want the rate reduced:
The Wages of Growth
To lift worker incomes, cut the corporate tax rate.

We certainly agree with those who'd like to do more to lift worker paychecks, so ...

... slash the corporate income tax. A recent study for the American Enterprise Institute by economists Kevin Hassett and Aparna Mathur examined 72 nations over 22 years and found that "wages are significantly responsive to corporate taxation." In today's global economy, capital migrates across national borders away from high-tax nations to places where tax systems are less punitive. Workers suffer when capital flees, and job and wage growth slow.

Many political leaders have adapted to this reality, which is why the average corporate tax rate across the globe has fallen over the past 25 years to an average of about 30% from 50%. The AEI study finds that, if the U.S. were to cut its 35% corporate tax to the OECD average of 30%, American manufacturing workers would gain nearly a 10% pay raise dividend within five years, which is the equivalent of roughly a $3,500 a year pay boost. (link) [my emphasis]
In lieu of a sudden change of heart and gain of brain cells on the part of the Democrats who now control our government, which would necessarily reduce the egregious income tax rate burden on America's corporations, I support the alternative - that we level the playing field by setting and maintaining tariffs on goods imported by low-tax countries.

This is, after all, still the world's marketplace.

On Those Demonic Voting Machines

The following article originally appeared in the Roanoke Times on Thursday, November 16, 2006
Is that your final vote?
By Jerry Fuhrman

Now I had heard and read a good deal about Democrats around the country being alarmed by the potential for chaos and mischief on Election Day as a result of our having decided to take their advice in 2000 and drop the butterfly ballot method of voting and switch to electronic voting machines. It's an odd thing, though, that I haven't heard a single whine since Election Day. Curious indeed.

Anyway, I showed up at the polls in Bland on Nov. 7 (make that poll; the metropolis of Bland has only one voting place, next to the IGA and across from the abandoned car repair shop) to do my civic duty, with list of candidates and issues in hand so as to not inadvertently vote for a candidate I hadn't intended to and regret it the rest of my life. (I think I accidentally voted for Bill Clinton in 1996; I blame myself for his failed presidency.)

When I entered the place, I encountered six people, several of whom were working the room, making sure I wasn't an illegal immigrant, and two elderly voters, one in each of the two booths. Appearing to be short in stature, I could just see tufts of snow-white hair jutting over the top of the partitions.

It took both of them, it seemed, an inordinately long time to cast their ballots, but I just accepted it as being a situation where these older folks were trying to deal with a new technology and needed to navigate carefully through it. In any case, the two finished about the same time and left, both with looks of frustration on their faces.

So it became my turn to vote. I walked around to the front of the booth, approached the machine and touched the blank screen to activate it. It immediately lit up. As it happened, there were two pages to be dealt with, the first having to do with the major issues and races involving Allen/Webb, Boucher/Carrico (I live in the 9th Congressional District), and two of the three Constitutional amendments.

After voting quickly for George Allen by touching my index finger to his name, I moved on to the congressional race. That portion of the ballot looked something like this, as best I can recall:
.
RICK BOUCHER -- DEMOCRAT
BILL CARRICO -- REPUBLICAN

I pressed CARRICO. The screen immediately changed and the following message appeared:

ARE YOU SURE?
YES. NO.

I pushed YES. The screen went dark for a brief moment and then this came up:

YOU REALIZE OF COURSE THAT RICK BOUCHER IS THE MUCH-LOVED INCUMBENT?
YES. NO.

.
Somewhat startled, I hit NO. Then this flashed onto the screen:
.
YOU REALIZE THAT RICK BOUCHER HAS CREATED 41,000 NEW JOBS IN SOUTHWEST VIRGINIA?
YES. NO.

Feeling a bit of exasperation setting in, I firmly pressed NO. Another message immediately appeared:
.
HEY. THE MAN HAS BUILT INDUSTRIAL PARKS IN NEARLY EVERY COUNTY IN SOUTHWEST VIRGINIA. HAVE YOU TAKEN THAT INTO ACCOUNT?
YES. NO.

After letting out a growl, and peering over the top of the booth to see if I was being watched, I put my fist to NO. The machine reacted with a shudder and with this:
.
YOU ARE AWARE THAT RICK MARRIED RECENTLY? HE WILL SOON HAVE ADDITIONAL MOUTHS TO FEED.
YES. NO.

I was by now incredulous and, at the same time, enraged. With teeth clenched, I clawed the surface of the voting machine, raking my fingernails across the screen. I then stabbed NO. The CRT went black. A pause ...
.
I KNOW WHAT YOU DID THAT NIGHT IN CLEVELAND BACK IN 1994.
.
I rocked backward, nearly losing my balance. I stared in disbelief. A swirl of disjointed thoughts and surreal images flashed through my mind. That night. The Crazy Horse. Booze. Lots of booze. Wild merrymaking. Feelings of fear and vulnerability came over me. I stood and gazed into the abyss.
.
DON'T MAKE ME TELL PAULA.

So Rick Boucher beat Bill Carrico, handily, in the general election on Nov. 7. By a whopping 35 points as it turned out. And my marriage is safe. I think.

As for those electronic voting machines, my message to you is this:
.
BE AFRAID. BE VERY AFRAID.

Black Gold

This is impressive news that will have a positive impact on prospects here in Southwest Virginia:
Coal power boon
By H. Sterling Burnett, The Washinghton Times


The United States will need more electric power in the coming years -- lots more -- and coal will be critical to meeting those power needs.

While coal is the lowest-cost source of reliable power, it is also a secure energy source. The U.S. contains more than a quarter of the world's recoverable reserves, equaling a 250-year supply at current consumption. As a result, coal-fired power plants generate 52 percent of U.S. electricity. Coal power's low cost, reliability and security are why more than 150 new coal-fired power plants are being built or proposed across the U.S. (link)
For those of you who still believe coal to be polluting the planet, there's this: "Fortunately for air quality, modern coal-fired power plants emit 90 percent less air pollution than previous generations and less carbon dioxide (CO2) per kilowatt produced."

Get those surface mines going. There's wealth in them there hills.