Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Response to NYT article on free trade.

I take issue with several points in Steven Landsberg’s New York Times op/ed piece on “what to expect when you are free trading”.

To start with “All economists know that when American jobs are outsourced, Americans as a group are net winners” is a flawed statement. I had to read this statement several times to understand what Mr. Landsberg meant to say, because the wording is very close to the ad absurdum claim that “when all American jobs are outsourced, Americans are net winners”. Oddly enough economic theory/history seems to indicate that the American economy functions best when as many people as possible are gainfully employed. Isn’t that part of the secret to the 1950s-60s golden age?

The true unfairness about outsourcing is that the worker that loses his/her job played by the rules, went to school, mastered a trade/learned the job skills they needed, in short the worker did everything right and still lost his/her job. It is not the worker’s fault that their job is outsourced, but they (and their families) bear a real and significant burden as a result. It seems a simple matter of fairness and compassion to think we might offer to help them learn new and valuable skills.

Landsberg goes on to note “the winners can more than afford to compensate the losers.” Now education is something that society values enough to provide free (and compulsory) primary and secondary education to children, and our economy requires a skilled workforce to compete internationally, so why is it wrong to offer “taxpayer-subsidized retraining programs” mid-career? In the same way that we may benefit from an outsourced job, don’t Americans also benefit from a highly skilled workforce?

Yet somehow Landsberg wants us to think it is churlish for the worker to seek government help with retraining—these are the workers that have had the rug pulled out from under them (often by the very same grossly overcompensated “winners” referred to earlier) due to no fault of their own. Isn’t it rather churlish of Landsberg to begrudge his down and out compatriots a chance to update and refresh their skills?

The example of the playground bully doesn’t fly because we all know (including the bully) that bullying is wrong. The American worker has done nothing wrong! Offering assistance to honest workers seeking new, valuable skills is not protectionism, it is what government ought to do.

“What do we owe those fellow citizens?” asks Landsberg. If the “winners” wish to continue winning in a democratic society beset with questions about the utility of “free” markets in which the majority are losing, then they better do more than chastise their fellow citizens. Offering workers whose jobs have been outsourced, a helping hand in the form of new training and skills seems like a true win-win.

EDIT: Since I am nearly certain my letter to the editor won't ever be printed, let alone read, I continue my practice of self publishing my letters to the editors. :)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Snagged an REInsider column

I was able to get a version of my National Solar incentive plan published in the REInsider column over at posted a draft version a few posts back) .

It's a nice thing to be able to get one's ideas out quickly, and to a wide audience with the internet. I'll be interested to see what comments result.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

NH round to Hillary and McCain

Interesting result tonight in New Hampshire: Hillary edged out Obama and McCain pushed ahead of Romney.

The polls and pundits were wrong (again?) and it now looks like the race might not even finish on super Tuesday (Feb 5). If last week's voting was hope over experience, it seems experience caught up this week. The old guard will not yield so easily. The good thing about this is that we all have extra time to examine the candidates and become good and comfortable with our eventual choice. I'm still optimistic that Obama can pull this out, but clearly this is not, and never was, a sure thing. (despite the pundits over-reaction last week )

I'd like to learn where the polls went wrong, but clearly the Clinton machine worked for Hillary in New Hampshire. There was (I'm fairly certain) record turn out, and I hope this bodes well for getting more Americans involved in the political process.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Big wins for Obama and Huckabee in Iowa

Congratulations Barak! Wow that was a BIG win for Obama and a clear statement that America wants CHANGE. Thank you Iowans for turning out to caucus in record numbers.

As a native Chicagoan, I've been quietly supporting Barak Obama. But mainly I've been astonished at how strong the Democratic field is (I'd gladly support any of the Democratic candidates for president--I just like Barak best) and how unappealing the Republican field is. I mean Huckabee is like-able and has a good sense of humor, but zooinks! is that and some bible thumping all it takes to trounce the Republican field?

With all the excitement over Obama's candidacy, the turnout really had to happen. It did: 235k+ Democratic caucus goers! After disappointment that the youth vote wasn't enough in 2004, it looks like this time just might be different.

For the sake of America, I truly hope that Obama can keep inspiring democrats, independents, first time voters, and apparently republicans too.

Edit 11:59pm just watched Obama's victory speech (listen to the full 14 minutes--it's worth it!)...that man's got a golden tongue.

As Ezra Klein puts it: But, very rarely, [politics is] experienced as a call to create something better, bigger, grander, and more just than the world we have. When that happens, as it did with Robert F. Kennedy, the inspired remember those moments for the rest of their lives.

The tens of thousands of new voters Obama brought to the polls tonight came because he wrapped them in that experience, because he let them touch politics as it could be, rather than merely as it is. And for that, he deserved to win. And he deserves our thanks. The politician who gets the most votes merits our congratulations. But the politician who enlarges our politics and empowers more Americans to step forward into the public square deserves our gratitude. And we, in turn, deserve to permit ourselves to feel inspired, if only for a night.