Posts tagged ‘General Motors’

Administrative Bloat

Benjamin Ginsberg is discussing administrative bloat in academia:

Carlson confirms this sad tale by reporting that increases in administrative staffing drove a 28 percent expansion of the higher education work force from 2000 to 2012.  This period, of course, includes several years of severe recession when colleges saw their revenues decline and many found themselves forced to make hard choices about spending.  The character of these choices is evident from the data reported by Carlson.  Colleges reined in spending on instruction and faculty salaries, hired more part-time adjunct faculty and fewer full-time professors and, yet, found the money to employ more and more administrators and staffers.

Administrative bloat is a problem in every organization.  It would be nice to think that organizations can stay right-sized at all times, but the reality is that they bloat in good times, and have to have layoffs to trim the fat in bad times.

The difference between high and low-performing organizations, though, is often where they make their cuts.  It appears from this example that academia is protecting its administration staff at the expense of its front-line value delivery staff (ie the faculty).  This is a hallmark of failing organizations, and we find a lot of this behavior in public agencies.  For example, several years ago when Arizona State Parks had to have  a big layoff, they barely touched their enormous headquarters staff and laid off mostly field customer service and maintenance staff. (At the time, Arizona State Parks and my company, both of whom run public parks, served about the same number of visitors.  ASP had over 100 HQ staff, I had 1.5).

This tendency to protect administrative staff over value-delivery staff is not unique to public institutions - General Motors did the same thing for years in the 70's and 80's.  But it is more prevalent in the public realm because of lack of competition.  In the private world, companies that engage in such behaviors are eventually swept away (except if you are GM and get bailed out at every turn).  Public agencies persist on and on and on and never go away, no matter how much they screw up.  When was the last time you ever heard of even the smallest public agency getting shut down?

I would love to see more on the psychology of this tendency to protect administrative over line staff.   My presumption has always been that 1) those in charge of the layoffs know the administrative staff personally, and so it is harder to lay them off and 2) Administrative staff tend to offload work from the executives, so they have more immediate value to the executives running the layoffs.

New Outrage from the Corporate State

This is just nuts.

Across the United States more than 2,700 companies are collecting state income taxes from hundreds of thousands of workers – and are keeping the money with the states’ approval, says an eye-opening report published on Thursday.

The report from Good Jobs First, a nonprofit taxpayer watchdog organization funded by Ford, Surdna and other major foundations, identifies 16 states that let companies divert some or all of the state income taxes deducted from workers’ paychecks. None of the states requires notifying the workers, whose withholdings are treated as taxes they paid.

General Electric, Goldman Sachs, Procter & Gamble, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors and AMC Theatres enjoy deals to keep state taxes deducted from their workers’ paychecks, the report shows. Foreign companies also enjoy such arrangements, including Electrolux, Nissan, Toyota and a host of Canadian, Japanese and European banks, Good Jobs First says.

Why do state governments do this? Public records show that large companies often pay little or no state income tax in states where they have large operations, as this column has documented. Some companies get discounts on property, sales and other taxes. So how to provide even more subsidies without writing a check? Simple. Let corporations keep the state income taxes deducted from their workers’ paychecks for up to 25 years.

Kentucky, where I have operated for over 10 years, seems to be the originator of this silliness.  I have always wondered why there is not an equal protection issue with such subsidies given to a chosen few companies but not to others.

I wrote years ago about such relocation subsidies being a prisoners dilemma game:

I hope you can see the parallel to subsidizing business relocations (replace prisoner with "governor" and confess with "subsidize").  In a libertarian world where politicians all just say no to subsidizing businesses, then businesses would end up reasonably evenly distributed across the country (due to labor markets, distribution requirements, etc.) and taxpayers would not be paying any subsidies.  However, because politicians fear that their community will lose if they don’t play the subsidy game like everyone else (the equivalent of staying silent while your partner is ratting you out in prison) what we end up with is still having businesses reasonably evenly distributed across the country, but with massive subsidies in place.

To see this clearer, lets take the example of Major League Baseball (MLB).  We all know that cities and states have been massively subsidizing new baseball stadiums for billionaire team owners.  Lets for a minute say this never happened – that somehow, the mayors of the 50 largest cities got together in 1960 and made a no-stadium-subsidy pledge.  First, would MLB still exist?  Sure!  Teams like the Giants have proven that baseball can work financially in a private park, and baseball thrived for years with private parks.  OK, would baseball be in the same cities?  Well, without subsidies, baseball would be in the largest cities, like New York and LA and Chicago, which is exactly where they are now.  The odd city here or there might be different, e.g. Tampa Bay might never have gotten a team, but that would in retrospect have been a good thing.

The net effect in baseball is the same as it is in every other industry:  Relocation subsidies, when everyone is playing the game, do nothing to substantially affect the location of jobs and businesses, but rather just transfer taxpayer money to business owners and workers.

Perils of Populism

One of the perils of being a populist, as John McCain is finding out, is that the public is allowed to change its mind, but politicians who attempt to follow them end up looking bad.

the four-term senator says he was misled by then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. McCain said the pair assured him that the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program would focus on what was seen as the cause of the financial crisis, the housing meltdown.

"Obviously, that didn't happen," McCain said in a meeting Thursday with The [Arizona] Republic's Editorial Board, recounting his decision-making during the critical initial days of the fiscal crisis. "They decided to stabilize the Wall Street institutions, bail out (insurance giant) AIG, bail out Chrysler, bail out General Motors.... What they figured was that if they stabilized Wall Street - I guess it was trickle-down economics - that therefore Main Street would be fine."

I am not sure this is much of a defense.  Even without McCain's access to such financial luminaries, I and many others predicted at the time the $700 billion slush fund would be used as, well, as slush fund to bail out the politically well-connected.  I must admit I didn't see the GM/UAW bailout coming, but its not wildly surprising in retrospect.

Unfortunately for all of us, McCain's competition in the next election, JD Hayworth, is even less appealing.

Conflict of Interest?

I don't know any of the facts of the Toyota recall, so I don't know how pressing the sudden acceleration problems are.  But I found it an interesting conflict of interest that the recall was pressed on Toyota by their competitor:

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told WGN Radio in Chicago that the government pressed the company to stop building vehicles linked to the massive recall. LaHood said "the reason Toyota decided to do the recall and to stop manufacturing was because we asked them to."

The US Government, of course, owns a controlling interest of Toyota competitor GM.  One GM dealer had this comment

"Every dog has its day," said Jerry Seiner, who has a group of General Motors and dealers of other brands around Salt Lake City. "Maybe they'll take a second look at us instead of Toyota. . . . When Toyota stumbles, it's our opportunity."

Explain the Difference

Is there any difference between Hugo Chavez and Barack Obama in terms of how they approach the auto industry?  "Make the kind of cars I thing you should, or the government will take you over."

Mr. Chavez said his socialist government is going to apply strict quotas regarding the number and types of vehicles auto makers can produce. The president also ordered his trade minister, Eduardo Saman, to inspect the Toyota plant, saying it may not be making enough "rustic vehicles," a style of all-terrain vehicle that is much-needed in Venezuela's countryside, where they are often converted into minibuses.

"They'll have to fulfill [the quotas], and if not, they can get out," Mr. Chavez said during a televised address. "We'll bring in another company."

He said if the inspection shows Toyota isn't producing what he thinks it should and isn't transferring technology, the government may consider taking over its plant and have a Chinese company operate it. "We'll take it, we'll expropriate it, we'll pay them what it's worth and immediately call on the Chinese," Mr. Chavez said. Chinese companies, he said, are willing to make vehicles made for the countryside.

It seems like Venezuelan workers want the same deal Obama gave the UAW:

Venezuela's auto sector is in tatters amid recurring labor problems that have led to a lack of productivity. Analysts say many auto workers hope their company is nationalized so they can become de facto government workers and enjoy the extra job security that comes with that status.

By the way, this seems like a suckers play -- please put more valuable stuff in your store window so when we break in there is more to steal:

Mr. Chavez said late Wednesday the Japanese auto maker needs to transfer more new technologies and manufacturing methods from headquarters to its local unit in Venezuela.

While Mr. Chavez directed most of his criticism at Toyota, he said other auto assemblers, including Fiat SpA and General Motors, are also guilty of not sharing technology from abroad with their Venezuelan units.

The left often seems to imply that the US government is too eager to shed blood to protect American industry overseas, but in point of fact American industry has had to live with the reality for decades that foreign governments often steal billions of dollars in American-owned assets with barely a peep being heard from the US government.  For example, there is really no such thing as a Saudi or Libyan or Venezuelan or even Mexican oil industry - those are just assets paid for and built by private Western concerns and then stolen by local governments.

Incentives and Conspiracies

I am sort of the anti-conspiracy theorist.  I have written a number of times that events people sometimes explain as orchestrated conspiracies often can be explained just as well by assuming that people with similar preferences and similar information and similar incentives will respond to these incentives in similar ways.

I think the great herd-think around climate alarmism is a good example, and the Bishop Hill blog brings us a specific illustration from the comment section of Watts Up With That.  A commenter observed that it was pretty hard to believe that thousands of scientists could be participating in a conspiracy.  Another commenter wrote back:

Actually not so hard.

Personal anecdote:
Last spring when I was shopping around for a new source of funding, after having my funding slashed to zero 15 days after going public with a finding about natural climate variations, I kept running into funding application instructions of the following variety:

Successful candidates will:
1) Demonstrate AGW [ed:  Anthropogenic Global Warming]
2) Demonstrate the catastrophic consequences of AGW.
3) Explore policy implications stemming from 1 & 2.

Follow the money "” perhaps a conspiracy is unnecessary where a carrot will suffice.

If only alarmist results are funded, then it should not be surprising that only alarmist studies are produced.

By the way, it is probably incorrect to think of climate science really being driven by 2500 scientists.  Here is an analogy:  Strategy at General Motors is in some sense driven by thousands of workers - salesmen who know the market, channel managers who know their distribution partners, planners who watch econometric trends, manufacturers who know what can and can't be done with costs, engineers who see what the next technological opportunities, etc. -- you get the idea.

But realistically, there are probably 20-25 people who are really setting and driving and communicating the corporate strategy for GM.  And those 20-25 people will likely say to the public that their strategy is supported by all those 200,000 workers.  But in fact there are thousands, maybe even a majority, that would say that they don't support the strategy and don't think that strategy is consistent with their bit of knowlege.

I think climate science works roughly the same way.  The same 20-25 people are lead authors on the IPCC, write key reports, contribute to Al Gore's movie, get quoted in the NY Times, run the Realclimate web site, and, of course, feature prominently in the CRU emails.  And while these 25 may claim thousands of scientists support their conclusions based on the mere fact that these other scientists contributed to an IPCC report that had these conclusions, many of these scientists, when actually asked, will disagree.

Here is one thing that is never mentioned -- most of the scientists outside of climate science who have gone on the record somewhere as supporting catastrophic man-made global warming theory, if you really talked to them, would say they made their statement in support of science, not global warming theory.  Most of these folks really haven't dug into the details, but the problem was presented to them as one of science vs. anti-science.  They are told by their peers and the media that AGW skeptics are all fundamentalist super right-wing anti-science evolution deniers who think the Earth is 4000 years old.

By saying they support AGW, these scientists are really trying to make the statement that they support science.  The bitter irony is that they are doing the opposite, enabling those in the core of the climate community who are trying to duck criticism and replication by demanding unquestioning respect for their authority.  The fact is that nearly every time one of these outsider scientists - a physicist or a geologist or a statistician, say - digs into the science, they are appalled at what they find and how bad the science behind catastrophic AGW theory really is.

More Steps Towards a European Style Corporate State

In Europe, economies are run by a troika of politicians, leaders of large corporations, and major unions.  These groups run the economy to their benefit and against entrepeneurs, nwe competitors, foreign competition, low-skilled workers, upstart competitors, and (most of all) consumers.   Q&O discovered someone on the HuffPo of all places starting to see what is going on:

When I heard the word "corporatist" a couple of years ago, I laughed. I thought what a funny, made up, liberal word. I fancy myself a die-hard capitalist, so it seemed vaguely anti-business, so I was put off by it.

Well, as it turns out, it's a great word. It perfectly describes a great majority of our politicians and the infrastructure set up to support the current corporations in the country. It is not just inaccurate to call these people and these corporations capitalists; it is in fact the exact opposite of what they are.

Capitalists believe in choice, free markets and competition. Corporatists believe in the opposite. They don't want any competition at all. They want to eliminate the competition using their power, their entrenched position and usually the politicians they've purchased. They want to capture the system and use it only for their benefit.

This applies to workers as well as employers -- just replace capitalists with "free workers" and corporatists with "unions" in the above paragraph.  This helps to explain why Obama is not actually pro-labor, but pro-union.  Via TJIC:

Workers in Barack Obama's new economic order fall into two categories "” those who are worthy of the president's energies, and those who aren't. You may be surprised to learn where you rank.

Obama doesn't weigh the value of workers based on their paychecks, what they do or whether they slip their feet into wingtips or steel-toed boots in the morning. His sole interest is in whether they have a union card in their wallet.

If they do, the president is in their corner, working hard to make sure they don't get the short end of any stick. But if they are among the 88 percent of American workers who don't belong to a union? Ask Delphi's salaried employees what Obama thinks of them.

As part of Delphi's restructuring in bankruptcy court, the Troy-based auto parts maker dumped its pension plan onto the federal Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp.

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That usually means a continued pension check, but one that is much smaller. And for Delphi's salaried workers, that's what they can expect.

Delphi's union-represented workers, however, will dodge that bullet. The Obama administration swooped in and, in an extraordinary deal, is forcing General Motors to make the 46,000 union workers and retirees whole. GM used to own Delphi, and relies on the supplier for much of its parts.

"The U.S. government is taking care of a select group of people and tossing the rest of us under the bus," Peter Beiter, a retired financial manager for a Delphi plant in Rochester, N.Y., told the New York Times.

And it's doing so with the tax dollars of those like Beiter who aren't in the favored class of workers. GM is operating with more than $50 billion in government bailout money.

That gives Obama the freedom to force GM to subsidize the pensions of union workers it has no legal obligation to, and who are employed by an entirely different company.

If you want to see where we are going, read this (and this) about the National Industrial Recovery Act, which FDR modelled after Mussolin-style fascism, whose economic system he greatly admired.

Another Fear-Mongering Claim Proved to be Total BS

The scare story, from November 2008:

Advocates for the nation's automakers are warning that the collapse of the Big Three - or even just General Motors - could set off a catastrophic chain reaction in the economy, eliminating up to 3 million jobs and depriving governments of more than $150 billion in tax revenue.

Industry supporters are offering such grim predictions as Congress weighs whether to bail out the nation's largest automakers, which are struggling to survive the steepest economic slide in decades.

Even if just GM collapsed, the failure could bring down the other two companies - and even the U.S. operations of foreign automakers - as parts suppliers run out of money and shut down"¦.

Automakers say bankruptcy protection is not an option because people would be reluctant to make long-term car and truck purchases from companies that might not last the life of their vehicles.

I called BS on this at the time.  Turns out it was yet another made-up scare story to justify government coercion and more unthinking expenditure of taxpayer dollars:

One of the biggest fears of a GM bankruptcy filing -- a collapse of revenue -- appears to not be as prominent an issue as originally thought.

Car buyers appear undaunted by GM's bankruptcy, assuaging one of the auto maker's biggest fears heading into Chapter 11. Early signs point to stable demand for GM cars and trucks since the company filed for Chapter 11.

Mr. Henderson said June retail sales are tracking higher than May. "June sales are moving along just fine," Mr. Henderson told reporters at a summit in Detroit. Sales to rental and other fleets are down from last month, he said. "We're very gratified for the support of dealers and customers that we've received through this."

My Fervent Hope

That I never get my business in a situation where I have to spend $45,000 just to lay off a worker.

General Motors is offering buyouts to virtually all of its remaining hourly workers, becoming the latest automaker to try to cut labor costs by giving nervous workers an incentive to leave the company.

The move follows a similar move by Chrysler LLC, which made an offer to its hourly workers on Monday.

The GM (GM, Fortune 500) offer, which takes effect Friday, is less lucrative than the deal proposed by Chrysler, or even offers that GM has made to its hourly staff in the past. The automaker will give most of its 62,000 U.S. hourly workers $20,000, as well as a voucher good towards the purchase of a GM car worth $25,000.

In the past, GM offered between $45,000 to $62,500 to workers to retire early, and $140,000 to employees who left the company and agreed to give up post-retirement health care coverage. Those offers were all cash.

Seriously, is this driven by GM contracts, or is this just GM's choice as an alternative to firing everyone?  There are cases when it makes sense for a company to go through the added expense of worker buyouts vs. layoffs.   The buyouts avoid the bad press of a layoff, they help maintain the company's reputation in the remaining workforce and community, and may not be a bad investment for a company temporarily on hard times that knows good times, and the need to hire more quality employees, are just around the corner.

But seriously, do automakers really have anything to lose at this point to lose?  And if the main reason for buyouts over layoffs is reputational, is this really what we want our tax money funding, the maintenance of the good name of GM management?

A Bit More Hope Than I Thought

GM, as reported by Reason's Hit and Run, has actually already had something of a breakthrough in labor costs, at least for new employees:

The current veteran UAW member at GM today has an average base wage of $28.12 an hour, but the cost of benefits, including pension and future retiree health care costs, nearly triples the cost to GM to $78.21, according to the Center for Automotive Research.

By comparison, new hires will be paid between $14 and $16.23 an hour. And even as they start to accumulate raises tied to seniority, the far less lucrative benefit package will limit GM's cost for those employees to $25.65 an hour.

So this puts GM in the position of shoving experienced employees out the door as fast as they can, to make way for lower cost employees hired under this new deal.  Apparently GM also has more flexibility to manage costs in a downturn.  Good news, assuming they can accelerate a 20 year demographic transition to about 6 months, avoid giving away too much to these newer workers when times are good again, and arrest market share declines with better cars. Oh, and I presume the UAW has not abandoned seniority, which means that in recession-driven layoffs over the next year, GM must being by laying off these much cheaper younger workers.  Layoffs will actually mix their labor cost upwards.

I still don't want to bail them out.  Like numerous other industries, from steel to airlines, there is no reason GM shouldn't have to pass through Chapter 11 on the road to recovery.  However, the argument that GM is turning a corner if we just give them a little help seems to be persuasive with many folks around me, so much so I am tempted to buy some GM stock as a way to go long on my prediction of the creeping corporate state.

Update: On the other hand, this is a sign that GM may be scraping the bottom of the barrel for cash:

Cash-strapped General Motors Corp. said Monday it will delay reimbursing its dealers for rebates and other sales incentives, an indication that the company is starting to have cash-flow problems....Erich Merkle, lead auto analyst at the consulting firm Crowe Horwath LLP, said GM wouldn't delay payments if it had enough cash.

In the third quarter of this year, GM's operations burned through $7.5 billion in cash, offset somewhat by asset sales and financing activities.  But this is really a pre-recession burn rate.  What will the burn rate be over the next 6 months?  There is an argument to be made that $25 billion is not going to last even a year, particularly given the dynamic that layoffs will hit mostly the lower-cost workers, and a Democratic Congress and Administration that is handing over the money may well restrict GM's freedom of movement on layoffs anyway.  I can see the Obama administration now -- don't lay them off, lets put them all in a factory making green energy, uh, stuff.

"I don't even think they've got 60 days," Merkle said. "Their cash position is probably getting pretty weak right now, and it's cutting into those minimum reserves that they need on hand."

The Bailout Playbook

Step 1:  Really, really screw up your industry beyond all hope of repair, while paying yourself a nice salary to do so

Step 2:  Claim to the world that your industry is unique and different, and failure of your company and/or industry will cause a chain reaction that will bring down the whole economy and cost the country many multiples of the bailout price tag

Advocates for the nation's automakers are warning that the collapse of the Big Three - or even just General Motors - could set off a catastrophic chain reaction in the economy, eliminating up to 3 million jobs and depriving governments of more than $150 billion in tax revenue.

Step 2 is obviously pulled off easier if either a) representatives from your industry run the Treasury department or b) the new President owes your unions big time for his recent victory in a critical state.  For those of you just trying to keep you small business afloat, don't try this at home.  No bailout will ever be forthcoming if you don't have the power to move electoral votes, but you should expect to pay for other people's bailouts.

Postscript: This is funny:

Automakers say bankruptcy protection is not an option because people would be reluctant to make long-term car and truck purchases from companies that might not last the life of their vehicles.

I think if people still buy tickets on airlines that are operating out of chapter 11 (an item that has zero value if the company folds) then people will still buy cars.  This is so totally lame it is tremendously irritating.

Republicans to Receive Bailout from Congress

Congressional Democrats announced today that they had agreed to a bailout plan for Republicans after last week's devastating election results.  While exact details are unavailable, sources tell us that the Republicans will be given 4 seats in the Senate and 15 in the House.  Nancy Pelosi said in a statement today: "We've established pretty clearly over the last several months that failed strategies and management should not necessarily have to result in losses in market share, particularly for well-connected Washington insiders."

Asked for comment, Democratic strategist James Carville was giddy.  "This is brilliant.  It really doesn't give up anything of substance to the Republicans.  But it will sap the energy from the Republican Party for making any substantial changes, and make it more likely they will continue the failed strategies that led to this most recent loss.  After their recent failures, the Republicans were on the verge of being forced to reinvent their whole organization.  This bailout should reduce the likelihood of that substantially."

When asked if bailouts of AIG, General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, and Bear Stearns wouldn't similarly reduce the urgency to change failed approaches, Carville answered "no comment."

So Wrong, I Almost Wish It Would Pass

Sometimes a proposed law is so wrong and so destructive, but so typical of a certain philosophical bent, that I almost wish it would pass, if for no reason than to have an Atlas Shrugged-type object example of disastrous results.  Such is the case for a California ballot initiative that has qualified for the signature-gathering stage.  The initiative, in part:  (full text linked here)

  • Imposes one-time tax of at least 55% on property
    exceeding $20 million of a California resident or held in California by
    nonresident.  [note that this is an asset tax, not an income tax]
  • Imposes one-time tax (between 36.5% - 54.3%) on income exceeding $10 million when resident dies or leaves California.
  • Imposes
    additional 17.5% tax on total incomes of taxpayers with income
    exceeding $150,000 if single, $250,000 if married; 35% if incomes
    exceed $350,000 if single, $500,000 if married.
  • The proceeds of this money will be used to:
    • To
      purchase 30% to 51% of the outstanding shares of stock in ExxonMobil,
      Chevron, General Motors, Ford, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, and
      Citigroup, in order to ensure California has an uninterrupted source of
      energy and financial capital.
    • To drain and restore the Hetch Hetchy Valley to it's condition at the beginning of the 20th century.
    • Use
      any Surplus funds to combat Global Warming, make infrastructure repairs
      and improvements, and to research alternative energy sources.

Beyond the unbelievably Marxist confiscation going on here, it begs the question of just what supply of energy and financial capital that California is not getting today that this will somehow ensure.  The implication seems to be that ExxonMobil, GM, and Citigroup are too fair-minded, selling their wares too even-handedly, and that California would prefer their attention tilted towards California.

Of course this initiative is profoundly immoral, so I can't do anything but deride it, but it would make for a spectacular object lesson (though one would have thought the Soviet Union's experience to be sufficient to this task, but apparently not).  I am sure GM's troubles would be greatly helped by replacing its board of directors with the California State Legislature  (the only American organization running a bigger deficit than GM) and replacing Citigroup's credit analysists with California social services beauracrats.  I would kind of like to see this in the same way I would love to see what happens if I threw a crate of flourescent tubes off a 10th-floor roof  -- I would never actualy do it, because it would be unsafe and destructive, but I can still dream about how compelling the disaster would be.

Postscript: One could probably label this the Arizona and Nevada economic stimulation act and probably not be far off the mark.

The Ethanol Follies Continue

Remind me to not cry any tears next time GM complains about government regulation:

In an audacious move Sunday, General
Motors demanded that the federal government step in and create a
national ethanol fuel station infrastructure at the same time the
company announced that it has invested in Coskata, a cellulosic ethanol
startup company.

 

Coming on
the heels of federal legislation that set national mandates for ethanol
production, GM's strategy amounts to federal guarantees for its
investment in the ethanol industry.

 

"We
need to grow E85 (ethanol) stations," said GM CEO Rick Wagoner at a
Detroit Auto Show news conference. "It is time for the U.S. government
to do it through regulation."

The article goes on to document the strong rent-seeking history of Coskata.

One small bit of good news is that the media seems to finally be catching on to the ethanol subsidy farce.


It's great that our politicians have discovered the need for new energy
technologies. But it appears that Washington is determined to put its
money"”our money"”on the wrong horse. Right now, researchers are studying
a host of energy solutions, including hydrogen, high-mileage diesel,
plug-in hybrids, radical reductions in vehicle weight and cellulosic
ethanol (made from cornstalks, switchgrass or other nonfood crops). It
is far too soon to say which of these holds the most promise. But,
instead of promoting experimentation and competition to find the best
solutions, politicians seem ready to declare ethanol the winner. As a
result, our nation could wind up with the worst of both worlds: an
"alternative" energy that is enormously expensive yet barely saves a
gallon of oil.

Oops

Bummer:

General Motors Corp. (NYSE: GM) today announced it will record a net
noncash charge of $39 billion for the third quarter of 2007 related to
establishing a valuation allowance against its deferred tax assets
(DTAs) in the U.S., Canada and Germany.

Not everyday you can restate your balance sheet by $39 billion.  Apparently, if you lose money long enough, then FASB rules assume that there is a good chance you may never use your tax-loss carry-forwards, so they have to be written down.

Trade Imbalance

Don Boudreaux responds to UAW President Ron Gettelfinger's complaint that the US has a trade imbalance in autos with South Korea:

Well, duh - that's an
inevitable consequence of specialization...

General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler each have huge trade imbalances --
to be precise, huge and growing trade deficits -- with their workers:
these companies buy far more from their workers than their workers buy
from them.  Perhaps auto makers should hire workers only on the
condition that the trade in each case is "balanced": each and every
worker must agree to spend his or her entire salary on products made by
the auto maker.  For example, a G.M. worker whose total compensation in
2007 is $60,000 must spend $60,000 on G.M. products in 2007.  Any
worker who fails to do so will be fired because of the resulting
imbalance.

Update:  Sorry, forgot the link.  Added it.

They Don't Want a Solution

Via Jane Galt:

The environmental movement has so far utterly failed to develop a
coherent approach to replacing carbon producing power sources. Wind and
solar are not such a coherent response without a massive breakthrough
in battery technology, because variable sources are inadequate to
provide base-load power. Also, they too have negative externalities:
wind kills birds and destroys views, and many solar panels are loaded
with gallium arsenide, a highly toxic substance that is apparently
rather tricky to dispose of.

All this wouldn't be so bothersome if the environmental movement
merely failed to provide realistic alternatives, but in fact, many
environmentalists actively move to block new wind installations (I'm
looking at you, Robert jr.) and nuclear power plants, spread hysteria
over nuclear waste, and otherwise actively work against the cause they
are trying to advance. As such, it is perfectly legitimate to demand
why they are blocking the only things that have any realistic chance of
replacing carbon-emitting power plants.

The answer, in my opinion, is that too many environmentalists flunk
basic and economic knowlege, which is why so many people believe it is
practical to replace a coal-fired turbine that pumps out 1,000
megawatts with a solar installation that will, in peak sun conditions,
produce about 1 kilowatt per 150 feet of space, twelve hours a day; or
wind farms, which average less than 1 megawatt per turbine in prime
spots. In addition, the core of the environmental movement are people
with a whole host of linked views about things like capitalism,
consumer culture, and so forth; they find solutions that support,
rather than changing, the existing system much less emotionally
interesting than radical conservation strategies. Unfortunately, the
latter are a thoroughgoing political failure, but the environmental
movement has strenuously resisted adjusting to this reality. (Some
leaders have, God bless them). As long as this attitude persists, the
environmental movement is blocking change that could and should happen;
it is perfectly legitimate, nay necessary, to tax them on this.

She only sortof answers her own question at the end.  The real answer is that many who currently lead the environmental movement don't want a technological fix that sustains economic growth without CO2 emissions.  The whole point of latching onto, and exaggerating, the theory of anthropomorphic global warming is to find a big new club to bash capitalism and wealth.  Just watch this segment of Penn & Teller's Bullshit! where film of environmental movements is shown.  All the rhetoric is not anti-polluter, it's anti-corprorate and anti-capitalism.  Many leading environmentalists want nothing less than to shut down the global economy, and if that means taking down every poor person in the world just to get at Exxon and General Motors, they are willing to do so.