Saturday Reads Around The Internets - Why Are Taxpayer Funded Infrastructure Projects Going to China?

Welcome to the weekly roundup of great articles, facts and figures. These are the weekly finds that made our eyes pop.


Obama Gives Corporations Free U.S. Labor

As we alluded to, there are many pieces of Obama's jobs plan that plain won't work and worse. Naked Capitalism adds commentary on the work for free while on unemployment benefits agenda item in the bill:

The Times piece focuses on a Georgia “tryout” program in which workers still on unemployment get to work for free for prospective employers for a maximum of 24 weeks. The employer is under no obligation to hire anyone. Needless to say, this program is more than a tad skewed in favor of companies. But it costs no money and creates the impression the government is Doing Something. So since no one in DC wants the government to spend more money, particularly on little people, this gimmick is perfect fit with the “let them eat cake” zeitgeist.


Populist for a Day

We noticed Obama got a spine for a second, but alas, it was just a second. The piece Populist for a Day outlines the great blink. Did you know now Medicare and social security are back on the dismantling table again, all under the guise of deficit reduction?

It only took 24 hours for President Blinker to re-shuffle the pack.

A day later, the New York Times lead, after Boehner has emphasized that meeting the deficit-reduction target should come largely from overhauling benefit programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security:

“President Obama will unveil a plan on Monday that uses entitlement cuts, tax increases and war savings to reduce the federal deficit by more than $3 trillion over the next 10 years, administration officials said.”

Suddenly we have “entitlement cuts” leading the charge.


WTO as Big Bad Bully

Thank God for Public Citizen monitoring bad trade deals. In WTO is the big kid on the seesaw, we have some facts on how often the WTO rules against the United States, and how:

The recent WTO attacks on U.S. consumer and environmental policies have revived discussion of whether current trade agreements leave enough space for countries to regulate in the public interest.

Those who think not can cite to the fact that the WTO rules against challenged policies 90 percent of the time.


ABC News Asks Why Public Infrastructure Jobs Are Going to the Chinese?

It doesn't get more outrageous than this. Infrastructure jobs are going to Chinese companies and they are importing Chinese workers. ABC news has been running a series, Made in America and this week they exposed U.S. taxpayer money going straight out of the country. The Alliance for American Manufacturing hightlighted the ABC news segment:

As ABC News reporter Chris Cuomo explains, U.S. firms don't face a level playing field. Chinese companies are state-owned. That's why Buy America laws were passed, to give U.S. firms a chance. We need to enforce these laws.


Solyndra, Green Jobs & China

Trade Reform points out the debacle, or loss of half a billion in taxpayer dollars has more to do with Chinese mercantilism than corruption:

The real story is China’s mercantilism. House and Senate committees should look at that issue. Too bad that addressing foreign mercantilism causes a painful cognitive-dissonance explosion in the heads of free trade utopians.
Solyndra was collateral damage in a trade war with China

… Beginning in early 2009, the Obama administration’s use of stimulus money under the Department of Energy’s loan guarantee program went not just to help out a handful of businesses, but to jump-start a market. Funds doled out under the stimulus have gone, or are going to, a portfolio of renewables. The complete list of 32 “section 1705″ (stimulus-funded) loan guarantees, available on the DOE website, is more than half solar — it includes four solar manufacturing companies (including Solyndra) and 15 solar generation plants, along with assorted wind, geothermal, and biofuel businesses.


Count on Dean Baker

Economist Dean Baker is always busy calling out the fiction spewed in the major press. This time he blasts the New York Times and notes China could fix their inflation problem by simply allowing the Yuan to float. Got that one right.

While the article implies that the slowdown makes it less likely that China would raise the value of its currency, which would increase its imports from the rest of the world and reduce its exports, a rise in the value of the yuan would be an obvious way to achieve the desired slowdown. In other words, as an alternative to the measures taken by China's central bank to reduce lending, the bank could simply raise the value of its currency against the dollar and other major currencies. This route would also have the advantage of directly reducing the inflation rate by making the goods China imports from the rest of the world cheaper.


Quantifying Age Discrimination

There is a new Congressional Research Service Study out which shows what we all know, anyone over the age of 50 and in many occupations, 35, is subject to harsh age discrimination. The Huffington Post:

Older workers are less likely to lose their jobs than younger workers, but once they do, they're more than twice as likely to be out of work for 99 weeks or longer.



Age discrimination

the statistics only break out the older employed and unemployed. 55-64 employed 21,874,000 unemployed 1,630,000

If we lowered the retirement age (even just temporarily) how many jobs would that free up for younger people to move into?

If we lowered the retirement age (even just temporarily) how many people would that take off unemployment compensation?

There is no statistical survey to answer this question, but I think it needs to be looked into.

You must have Javascript enabled to use this form.

you just personified age discrimination

Congratulation, you just personified age discrimination. What do you think these people are going to live on if they are denied work by claiming they should "retire" to "make room for younger workers"? Hmmm???? How are they going to eat, live? Or do you think there is some magic happy place, similar to dogs being euthanized where older people go to?

You must have Javascript enabled to use this form.

What About Voluntary Early Retirement?

Teachers and other public employees get offered early retirement all the time.

I think there'd be people who would volunteer to stop working earlier. I don't know how many. People still working who are over 65 could be offered a financial incentive if they retired. But would most of the people who took $$$ be those who were going to call it quits in a year or two anyway?

These are slippery questions. Another factor would be what would happen to those who changed their minds or couldn't make it financially.

You must have Javascript enabled to use this form.

most people over 50 have zero for retirement

That's the point, no one planned for their careers to end right when they expected to be stuffing up their retirement accounts. That's the majority. Even worse, people now need to work til they die, i.e. 80 years old because they don't have anything for retirement.

The people who could retire early are few and also the idea that somehow age should be a reason to deny someone a job, be they 22 or 65 is a huge problem, by discrimination.

You must have Javascript enabled to use this form.

Dennis Kucinich introduced in 111th Congress

In 2009, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D - Ohio) introduced legislation to lower the minimum Social Security retirement age to 60 from 62, to be paid for out of the stimulus package. People who said they would otherwise have wanted to take advantage of the Kucinich bill, if enacted, objected that they could not consider it because MediCare doesn't kick in until age 65. Intent of Kucinich's proposal was to create jobs for younger people in the work force -- it was specifically a jobs proposal in response to the recession, so lowering of the minimum retirement age would not necessarily have been permanent, with implications for the trust fund.

At that time, of course, Kucinich was actively promoting the Conyers-Kucinich single-payer medical insurance legislation. (Kucinich was opposed to the 'ObamaCare' bill to the extent of being the one Democrat to oppose it in the vote when it went to the Senate, although he ultimately threw in the towel and announced that he would vote for it in its final version, no doubt with substantial misgiving.)

BTW: About Dennis not being a viable Democratic candidate for president, everyone can relax -- he has recently announced that he is going to run in the district that reapportionment has left him, to the west of Cleveland, where he is a resident.

You must have Javascript enabled to use this form.

ADEA and full employment, NLRB and EEOC

Even though I am theoretically opposed to public employee unions (at least as to striking) and also would prefer to see vigorous anti-trust against unions as well as against corporations, what we need in the real world today is a return to much stronger labor organization laws, supporting stronger democratic (rather than corporate) models for unions. I would like to see strengthening of the NLRB, and I think that unions can and have been the means whereby anti-discrimination in employment can best be implemented in politico-economic conditions currently and back into the 1990s.

People forget that aging workers were formerly protected by trade union traditions and negotiated contracts -- but much of that was done away with in the name not only of deregulation but also of equal opportunity. Thus, inherent conflicts within the developmental EEOC system of preferences were exposed back in the 1970s and 1980s, with consequences for electoral politics.

I am pretty much opposed to the current thrust of anti-discrimination policy through what are essentially reactionary and inefficient preference systems. Failure of the EEOC system is exposed in the fact that compliance with the ADEA (Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967) is a bad joke -- and has been for years now.

The first problem is that you cannot establish equal opportunity in employment without a full employment policy. Without full employment, all you can get is equal opportunity to be unemployed. That is, the right to starve is spread around without regard for race, creed or color. How wonderful! frown

The second problem is that a system that made sense in the 1964 Civil Rights Act (considered in light of the history of the Fourteenth Amendment and subsequent events, although I do not want to get into Brown v. Board issues here) has been extended beyond all reason by way of making an absurd principle out of inequality in pursuit of strict equality.

The reality today is that the overwhelming majority of the labor force is part of one or another 'protected minority'. It's all gotten out of proportion: a small minority remain without theoretical 'minority rights'. Of course, the system is a failure. You cannot establish equality on the foundation of 'some are more equal than others'!

This imbalance, created by attempting an impossible balancing act through systemic  judicial intervention, is similar to the way that states like California started out to print ballots in Spanish, considering that the first legal language in California was Spanish, which is recognized in California courts. So that made sense. But, over time, a principle has arisen leading to California ballots being printed in about 20 languages.

Rather than acknowledge the historic uniqueness of Spanish, California has created an absurd principle that even one person who would like to vote and cannot read English requires a complete translation of the ballot, all the ballot measures and explanations and arguments thereof and thereto. The whole thing makes a mockery of the Civil Rights Act, seen in historical context.

So while I would like to see labor relations law greatly beefed up, I think that EEOC and related systems of preferences set up in pursuit of anti-discrimination in employment and government contracting are absurd, basically unconstitutional and economically inefficient. (There is substantial case law that even veterans preferences in public employment are unconstitutional, although that line of precedent is almost completely forgotten today.)

Power of EEOCs (state and federal) to attempt world-saving miracles has been reduced by the courts in recent years, and I would be content to let much of that stand. On the other hand, I would never support undercutting rights of plaintiffs, including class-action standing, or limiting contract-law rights of plaintiffs and their attorneys to proceed on a contingency basis.

You must have Javascript enabled to use this form.

Speaking of Retirement and Statistics

Has anybody ever run the numbers on the cost of immigrants' retirement? We always hear how much they contribute to Social Security but not how much they'll take out when they retire.

A couple of things come to my mind:

1. Legalizing illegals. It will happen, eventually. [The question in my mind is will we just legalize OR will we legalize and do what's necessary to minimize future illegal immigration and family-based immigration. Examples: No more automatic birthright citizenship, no more sponsoring parents-brothers-sisters]

Many illegal works may have paid something into Social Security, but many work for cash and did not. So many will only contribute to Social Security for 10-20 years.

2. I also expect many newly legal immigrants will continue to get much if not most or even all their income under the table.

I expect lots will end up getting SSI Because their income will be below poverty level, they'll be on food stamps, Medicaid, housing subsidies, etc. too -- the whole range of available government benefits to the the max.

3. Lots of legal immigrants are low income folks. How much more do they cost US during retirement, vs. cost of native born Americans who retire?

Let's say we have 30 million Americans born overseas and 30 million native born Americans reaching age 65 between 2045-2070. Wouldn't the 30 million born overseas cost the government far more than the native born?

You must have Javascript enabled to use this form.

Problems and solutions

About sponsoring parents-brothers-sisters, the thing there is that all that comes under the cap, doesn't it? Currently, I think it is still 1,000,000 persons per year.

Any country that is serious about full employment reduces their cap to zero during periods of endemic unemployment. People have to wait, or they can come in on visas that specifically do not allow employment. The basic question isn't immigration -- it's whether the Congress and the People recognize need for a full employment policy, or not.

About under-the-table employment (the underground economy) resulting in people receiving benefits through food stamps, Medicaid, 'Section 8', etc. -- that's certainly true not only for illegals but also for USA citizens who like the 'dead presidents' in their younger years. If we had a rational social safety net system, well-administered to prevent scamming through fake identities and the like, plus full employment and zero tax on incomes up to $100,000 ($200,000 couples), an adequate minimum wage, and a rational single-payer medical care system -- probably best based on a dedicated sales tax (that would replace all the other sales taxes rather than add to them, so a general tax reform is indicated here) -- there'd be no need for any programs requiring that applicants establish minimal 'need'.

In the Netherlands, they pay very high taxes at progressive rates, but every citizen is entitled to every benefit from medical care to higher education and whatever other programs they may have, without discrimination as to differential 'need'. People I know in Holland love that system, and they even tell me that it works better for small businesses than does the US system. (Medical care, for example, isn't based on insurance required to be purchased from private insurers by employers.)

The US system of requiring that you establish your 'need' first is based on the false premise that all programs established for the general welfare are stop-gap things, set in place to patch up around the edges of what is supposedly a perfect system. The theory is that 'our' system is so perfect that there is no systemic need to establish publicly supported higher education, medical care or rational allocation of residential housing. The rationale is that since people are imperfect, they falter sometimes and need a little hand out. But 'our' system of corporatist capitalism, within this wonderful WTO world, is perfect and 'normally' never requires anything like publicly supported higher education, medical care, etc..

Of course, in reality, 'our' system is inefficient, unfair and basically prone to abuse and scamming. Also, it resembles a political patronage  approach in its implementation, rather than a truly democratic 'every citizen is entitled' approach.

I don't know the answer to the question about differential costs of retirement. Statistical analysis would be very problematic, if the database exists. I do know that people come here, following family members, and immediately go on SSI either by reason of age or of disability. That means also that they immediately receive the 100%-tax-supported version of Medicaid (distinguished from MediCare which is operated separately). Another not uncommon practice has been for multi-national individuals (and their surviving spouses) to double dip from US Social Security and, at the same time, from the German or Canadian equivalents. This latter practice may have been reduced by appropriate legislation in recent years, I'm not sure.

About non-documented (illegal) workers not paying into Social Security, what often happens in agriculture is that one worker (the honcho) will collect a paycheck for himself and several illegals -- he builds up a handsome retirement income (maximum SS pay bracket) while the others get nothing, although they probably try at some point to receive something, SSI or whatever, or they just return to their home country to beg. In other words, many illegal workers pay in, but that doesn't mean that they are credited with their payments. In some cases, of course, workers use some other SS account (some number that went with a set of IDs purchased on Avarado in L.A. for maybe $100) and pay into someone else's retirement even though there is only a random connection between the worker and the person who ultimately benefits.

What I advocate about illegal employment is that we approach it more from the point of view of employment law than immigration law. Yes, I support E-Verify, but I have much more than that in mind!

For example, let's say a parcel of agricultural land in the San Joaquin Valley is operated by a management company which hires out the planting, cultivation and harvest to subcontractors, including labor contractors, who hire illegals preferentially over legal residents or citizens. This happens all the time, but who gets busted? Probably nobody, but if somebody does get busted it's the workers and, possibly, the labor contractors. The workers are replaced by other illegals, working for the same but 'legally' reorganized labor contractor outfit. So that continues on and on.

To me, that is the quintessential case that justifies seizure of the land under RICO. In fact, this approach has been tried by one assistant county attorney in a rural county in Idaho, but it just hasn't caught on ... wonder why? wink

Same thing with that meat-packing plant that was busted in 2008 in Iowa, (where there also happened to be, in operation, a very big methamphetamine lab). There wasn't a single US citizen working in the whole place, from the bottom up to the top management. Nobody knew anything about the meth operation, but here's the interesting part ... the plant wasn't subject to RICO confiscation.

If the US government would start seriously applying RICO in cases of repeat violators of employment law, large-scale illegal employment would quickly disappear.

The hell of it is that the employers who really want to hire and comply with all labor and employment laws are essentially discriminated against by way of competition from employers whose policy is, in fact, to hire powerless persons who are in the country illegally, avoiding every form of labor regulation and taxation -- whatever scamming that may require.

IMO, the solutions are at hand, and many enforcement people know that, but their hands are tied by political forces allied with global capital and supportive of the globalist plan to destroy communities everywhere in pursuit of short-term profits (that is, politicians and party apparatchiks in the pockets of corporations). We need to return to a full employment policy, including implications for immigration and international trade, but otherwise we don't need legislation ('immigration reform')  so much as we need to enforce the laws that are already on the books.

You must have Javascript enabled to use this form.


you're not supposed to talk about the costs of illegal immigration. ;)

I'll do a post on the "foreign born" from Census data soon. There is a totalization agreement with Mexico where the requirements to obtain social security benefits are less than U.S. citizens. Totalization agreements are treaties that count work of foreigners and exchange benefits. Of course Americans get the shaft, I know I worked abroad and couldn't get a lost penny attributed.

I think the evidence in LA at least is clearly illegals are receiving social services benefits already. 60% of LA is on social services and the illegal population is very high.

Don't quote me on those numbers, I'm recalling from memory of some research, but it was so overwhelming.

but more to the point, with 14 million officially looking for work and construction unemployment is around 20%, why isn't making sure these jobs go to U.S. citizens instead going on?

Seriously, the first thought is to kick older workers under the bus and no mention of the 8 million illegals who are part of the workforce, never mind the NIVs?

You must have Javascript enabled to use this form.

Legal Immigration Is a Huge Problem Too

Over the past year I've been seeing more and more that it really is the numbers -- it doesn't matter whether who they are, when you are taking in the huge numbers we are, year after year, we burden ourselves greatly and unnecessarily.

The relatively few really gifted people, the migrant farm workers, are a small percentage of the whole pie. The rest, let's face it, are so much addition competitors for jobs that Americans have done, can do and want to do for a living wage and without fear that they'll lose their job to a foreigner worker here or overseas.

If we take in 1 million permanent legal immigrants a year, in 20 years that's how many more people that we wouldn't have had otherwise?

Conservatively speaking, I'm figuring

20 million immigrants
40 million offspring
10 million foreign spouses
70 million more Americans to take care of, first generation
How about second, third, four generation, plus remember, every year, another 1 million plus given green cards and work visas. Also because it complicates things and I'm hoping we'll end it, there's extended family immigration of parents-sisters-brothers.

I wonder how much we pay for Medicaid/Medicare for sponsored parents who never worked here a day here? Whatever it is today, it will be far higher in the years to come.

For a lot of people, legal immigration is automatically OK. And that's a great danger, because the sheer number admitted is unsustainable.

When the new UK government saw how much immigration had increased under Blair/Brown, they automatically said, oh no, we can't do this. We're going to go from hundreds of thousands a year to tens of thousands. That's the kind of thinking that should be going on here.

You must have Javascript enabled to use this form.

immigration and labor markets

Right, this is something the "Open borders" people have been told a bill of goods. Immigration, or anything that overall affects labor supply can negatively impact native (people already here), wages and jobs.

It's true, basic law of supply demand show it's true, but that's all things static, i.e. the economy is not at full-employment, high demand, expanding rapidly.

If you want to get into unsustainable, population generally is unsustainable. No one is allowed to mention reality that increased population is using up the globe's resources, increases global warming, crowding and on and on.

You must have Javascript enabled to use this form.

10,000,000,000 or bust!

Unsustainable population growth is still more of a global problem than a national problem.


World-USA population graph (Google public domain)

Image from World Bank, World Development Indicators,

via Google Public Data Explorer


However, the global impacts the national, especially when USA progressively opens ourselves to such impacts through brain-dead acceptance of WTO doctrine.

For example, USDA researcher recently spoke to California Department of Agriculture at UC Davis, saying that California agriculture needs to get over all the organic small farm ideas because the only way that increasing world population can be fed is through heavy reliance on corporate farming, including expanded 'free' trade 'agreements', use of imported labor, untested GMO crops, increased reliance on petrochemical fertilizers -- anything and everything that is contrary to the principles of sustainable organic farming.

What was the database for this apparently official doctrine? It seems to have reduced to this: we can project about 8 Billion to 10 Billion souls on the planet earth by 2050.

When I objected to my informant (who had been present at the event in Davis) that I did not believe the projection, his response was to presume that I was advocating for 'pro-choice' politics. (My informant is strongly opposed to legalization of abortion.) In fact, I did not have pro-life vs. pro-choice political (or ethical) issues in mind at all.

To me, it was like looking at 695 lab rats packed like sardines into a cage that encompasses a limited foraging area, where I see rats already cannibalizing, and when somebody says there will foreseeably and sustainably be 1,000 rats in there, thanks to that growth media in the foraging area is going to receive increased fertilization ... I am skeptical of the projection. I would be especially skeptical of that whole thing with the rats if it would be supposed to apply to world population projections.

Maybe my skepticism means I am cold-hearted or just don't understand that I am one of the lab rats ... I don't know. I do know that I am a big fan of information free of polemics, despite that this concept of information or data is contrary to all 'postmodernist metaphysics' (fancy term for apologists for FAUX approach to news). I also know that I remain skeptical of the 8-10 Billion world population projection -- much more skeptical of it than I am about global warming, on which I keep a reasonably open mind. Or, for another analogy, I am as skeptical of the 10,000,000,000 population projection for 2050 as I am of the projection that gold will hit its $10,000 'target' value sometime in 2012 (or at any time in the foreseeable future).

No one is allowed to mention reality that increased population is using up the globe's resources, increases global warming, crowding and on and on. -- Robert Oak

"No one is allowed to mention reality" ... but groupthink doublethink Newspeak party-line fantasy is officially encouraged.

Here's a chart showing the diversity of projections that are actually being made by UN researchers/analysts --

World population growth graph (from Google 'World population')World population history and projections per 2004 UN projections

(from Wikipedia article 'World population')

Graph shows years 1800 to 2100

Black at left shows years when population was more of an estimate, continuing into Blue showing population based on more accurate data

Red, amber and green show three projections



BTW: 'Open Borders' is an ideal that we can all accept as such. As a policy recommendation, it's ridiculous. Until about 10 years ago, I used to come across pseudo-libertarians spouting that nonsense. I would ask them if their town, their neighborhood, their street or road, their parcel, their front-yard, their porch, their living room .... is that where the open border stops? I made some enemies that way, really. They just stopped talking to me. It's risky when you challenge people to think. Daniel Willingham (Why Don't Students Like School?) has it right -- thinking is work, takes energy, and people will do almost anything to avoid it!


You must have Javascript enabled to use this form.

Gifted farm workers

"The relatively few really gifted people, the migrant farm workers, are a small percentage of the whole pie." -- Jersey

I understand that those are intended as two separate categories, but in truth some farm workers are exceptionally gifted. I mean gifted at agricultural work. That's true. There's a degree of experience and judgment required in all agricultural work.

This is true of almost any kind of labor ... I sometimes wonder what is meant by 'unskilled labor' ... I think that's either an oxymoron or it can easily be automated (and probably already has). This truth underlies the reality that you cannot recreate a workforce overnight that has been systematically destroyed over years.

In the early 1970s, I witnessed large corporate farms running off legal ('Californio' US citizens), experienced and willing, in favor of hiring blatantly illegal workers, in order to accomplish what can only be described as illegal exploitation.

Remember when local kids came in for the various harvests? Do you realize that the university quarter system, starting in October, was all about college students needed to work the harvest and processing?

Cesar Chavez was opposed to illegal immigration when he saw that it was being used to break the UFW union.

So, yes, at this point in time, US farmers have no choice but to rely on 'migrant' labor (some of it pretty settled in and permanent) ... but that isn't because there can never be a workforce of US citizens who are capable of doing, and willing to do, agricultural work!

You must have Javascript enabled to use this form.