Friday, March 25, 2011

William Cronon's Partisan Bloviation

William Cronon is a history professor at the University of Wisconsin who has publicly involved himself in the controversy concerning Wisconsin public employee bargaining. He wrote an op ed for The New York Times and started a blog that, in short order, received more than 500,000 hits. Soon after Cronon's first blog post, Stephan Thompson of the Wisconsin GOP sent the University of Wisconsin an e-mail, and I have verified the e-mail's authenticity. The e-mail requests, "copies of all emails into and out of Prof. William Cronon’s state email account from January 1, 2011 to present which reference any of the following terms: Republican, Scott Walker, recall, collective bargaining, AFSCME, WEAC, rally, union, Alberta Darling, Randy Hopper, Dan Kapanke, Rob Cowles, Scott Fitzgerald, Sheila Harsdorf, Luther Olsen, Glenn Grothman, Mary Lazich, Jeff Fitzgerald, Marty Beil, or Mary Bell."

The Wisconsin GOP's request was made under the Wisconsin open records law. Professor Cronon asserts, correctly in my view, that the Wisconsin GOP's request was intended as political retaliation. Cronon also claims that the GOP's aim was to silence Cronon, but I do not agree with the second claim. Political retaliation is part of the political process and it has not slowed political debate yet.

If there has been silencing at the University of Wisconsin, it is Cronon's and his partisan allies' silencing of Republicans. The ratio of Democrats to Republicans at universities around the country is six to one, and at a left wing-biased place like the University of Wisconsin I'll bet the bias is more extreme. The bias comes about because leftists exclude anyone who does not agree with their ideology, an ideology which has repeatedly failed and whose advocacy shears university social science departments of any claim of providing science rather than ideology. In other words, Cronon's left-wing allies have silenced Republicans within the University of Wisconsin and now object to Republicans' debating them from without.

Cronon has chosen to involve himself in the political process . He states that he has been careful to separate his personal e-mails from his university computer, and makes the spurious argument that communications with students constitute records under the Buckley Law (perhaps Cronon has not heard of redaction). Cronon had already made his views public, and any GOP attempt to silence him would be irrational and counter-productive to the GOP's aims. Rather, as a public official with a partisan affiliation Cronon has entered the political fray. He ought to expect that he be treated as a political player subject to the same tactics to which Cronon and his allies would subject GOP-affiliated officials. Even in his self-serving bloviation about the GOP's request Cronon cannot refrain from partisan rhetoric. He writes:

"My most important observation is that I find it simply outrageous that the Wisconsin Republican Party would seek to employ the state’s Open Records Law for the nakedly political purpose of trying to embarrass, harass, or silence a university professor (and a citizen) who has asked legitimate questions and identified potentially legitimate criticisms concerning the influence of a national organization on state legislative activity. I’m offended by this not just because it’s yet another abuse of law and procedure that has seemingly become standard operating procedure for the state’s Republican Party under Governor Walker, but because it’s such an obvious assault on academic freedom at a great research university that helped invent the concept of academic freedom way back in 1894."

Rather than silence Cronon, the Wisconsin GOP seems to be aiming to obtain information that would be consistent with a long standing pattern around the country: the nation's university professors often use tax exempt and public resources meant for education for partisan advocacy. Outrageously, Cronon claims that his partisan activities ought to receive special consideration and be exempt from Wisconsin's open records law. He claims that college professors ought to be publicly funded, that their partisan advocacy ought to be treated to special protection, and that their partisan opponents be prevented from asking whether professors are illegally using public money to participate in partisan advocacy.

My sincere hope is that Cronon's hypocritical bloviation will not deter the Wisconsin GOP. Perhaps Cronon would like to see repeal of the Wisconsin Open Records law, or better yet, a provision that it ought to apply to Democrats but not Republicans, which is his ultimate message, undoubtedly based on value-free social science.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Like Obama, Romney Reports to Goldman Sachs

The most significant economic event of the past 20 years was the Bush-Obama Wall Street bailout. In 2008 I noticed that Wall Street contributions were flowing 2-1 to Obama, and the 2008-2009 bailout was the reason. Today, the Wall Street Journal informs us that Romney is securing commitments from bundlers, or big fundraisers, and that Romney is meeting with 100 Wall Street donors at the Harvard Club today. During the past three years the Fed may have provided Wall Street and the global banking system with dollar reserves and subsidies, along with the TARP and other bailouts, that amount to $100,000 per American or more.

One thing is for sure, if you vote for Romney or Obama you know what you are going to get. You are going to be on the hook for plenty of subsidies to the super-rich. If you vote for either one, hope you enjoy paying donations to Lloyd Blankenfein and his organization of welfare mothers on Wall and Broad.

The Federal Reseve Bank Has Driven Innovation to China

I recently subscribed to Gerald Celente's Trends Journal. In the winter issue Celente makes the following point:

Innovation, once the province of the developed West, and especially the USA, is now too “Made in China.” In 2009, the Chinese processed some 600,000 patents, compared to 480,000 in the US. China plans to raise that figure to one million by 2015 and double the number of its patent examiners to 9,000, while currently in the US there are only 6,300 such examiners.

The reason innovation is now made in China is monetary. Under a market-driven monetary regime, as existed prior to 1913, if excessive numbers of manufacturing jobs were to move to China, its currency, the yuan, would rise in price. This would cause demand for Chinese goods to slow. Manufacturing would stop moving there, and move back. But the Federal Reserve Bank has not allowed that to happen. Because the dollar serves as the reserve currency around the world, the Fed has been given carte blanche to inflate the money supply without short-term consequence. This has fueled the federal deficit, consumer debt and real estate and stock speculation on Wall Street. The dollar remains firm despite the Fed's profligate monetary policy because the Chinese and other central banks hold treasury bonds as reserves. It seems cheap to manufacturers to move to China.

Thus, by voting for the Democrats and Republicans, Americans have voted to disemploy themselves. They have voted for politicians who have empowered the Fed to inflate while holding the dollar at excessive levels. Consumers have benefited, but when those consumers put on a hard hat or a white collar they have been harmed. Younger Americans have been increasingly harmed. The post-war generation consumed at the expense of boomers' jobs, and boomers consumed at the expense of gen-x's and gen-y's jobs. One of the offshoots of unlimited monetary expansion has been the expansion of government education programs, which churn out ever greater numbers of unemployed graduates who lack skills necessary to compete.

One of the offshoots of de-industrializing America is loss of innovation. Creativity results from familiarity with processes. Most advances are made by engineers and laborers familiar with specific production processes and problems who attempt to build on the status quo with respect to a particular process. Innovation is particularistic, it is not theoretical. Einstein's science, while broad, imaginative and impressive, has done little for important innovation. Tesla, who lacked theoretical breadth, had an enormous impact on human standards of living. Innovation does not generally come from theory. It comes from creative thinking about specific practice. So if practical activity moves to China, then innovation will move to China as well.

The loss of manufacturing, therefore, has graver implications than loss of jobs. It implies the loss of America's future as the Chinese replace the Americans as the world's innovators. How long will it be after that until the Chinese grow weary of holding treasury bonds that steadily decline in value? The final step in America's turning itself into a Third World nation will occur when the Chinese and other nations sell, and the dollar crashes. Then consumers will find prices increasing just as producers they have been able to find only low-wage retail jobs.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Another Progressive President Will Be a Failure by Another Name

Many on the left are disappointed by Barack Obama's presidential performance.  Socialist Bernie Sanders now calls for a "progressive" candidate to compete with Obama from within the Democratic Party.  But it wasn't so long ago that all the progressives were chanting "change" and goosestepping behind their Fuhrer. Sanders and his fellow progressives do not know where the term progressive comes from or why Obama certainly is a Progressive, like it or not. They do know that his health care plan is a ludicrous bust, a sop to the insurance industry, that Obama has never seen an oil company whom he did not dream of subsidizing, and that his foreign policy is confused.  But they cannot figure out why Obama has failed them.

The truth is that Progressivism has repeatedly failed because the American economy is too big and too complex to manage from the center, and the heart of Progressivism from the beginning has been the idea that the economy must be managed from the center. It has nothing else to offer beside that tired, stale, failed idea. So there is little about it that's progressive in ordinary English.

Progressivism was a Republican ideology, created by the founders of The New Republic Magazine, among others, and led politically by Theodore Roosevelt.  Although historians claim that there is a distinction between Progressivism and the New Deal (and today's progressivism), in fact there is none.  Theodore Roosevelt enunciated most of the New Deal and the Great Society programs in his speeches. The first national health care bill was proposed right after World War I.

Progressivism has failed because special interest groups manipulate the democratic process. The costliness of information and the complexity of law make it difficult to pass fair laws that do not favor special interest groups.  Thus, the advocates of "progressivism" grievously erred with respect to Obama, whom they did not understand--all those Obama stickers on the bumpers of the progressives in Woodstock, NY. Progressives will continue to err with respect to any candidate whom they scrape up.  Let's look at their recent history: Lyndon Banes Johnson, the worst president in history; Jimmy Carter; Barack Obama, the fourth worst.

The Wall Street-friendly legacy media and the Democratic Party's left can complain about the failure of Obama's progressivism; the inability of his big government, tax-and-spend approach to function; his grasping for power; his attack on the states; his incompetence with respect to foreign affairs; his continuation of the wars that the progressives loved to hate under Bush; and his massive bailout of Wall Street.  Under Obama, more money has been printed and handed to financial institutions than under all the other presidents in American history combined. The subsidies to the super-rich amount to as much as $100,000 per American when all the printed money is accounted for.

But support for banks was always part and parcel of Progressivism. The Federal Reserve Bank, which prints the money, was conceptualized and made constitutional in the first decade of the 20th century. It was put into law by President Woodrow Wilson, the Progressive whom Theodore Roosevelt helped gain office when he ran for president on the Progressive Party line against William Howard Taft.