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Don’t get me wrong.  I’m a Trump fanboyz and don’t deny it.  And I believe that a key element of his election to the Presidency was his bringing up the plight of millions of middle-class Americans who somewhat late in their careers have found that the job they endured for the sake of hearth and home was gone.  Not from their inability to hold it, but because the entire factory was closed down.  Worse, they had always assumed if they did lose their job they could find another one.  As one of my friends put it “I was looking for a job when I found this one.”.  Sadly, and increasingly, everywhere you looked the story was the same.  Plants weren’t hiring.  They were closing.  And the hundreds of workers put out on the street grew to thousands, and tens of thousands, and millions, and now tens of millions.

To add insult to injury, Barrack Hussein Obama actually touts in public the dramatic decrease in “unemployment” figures during his eight years.  How “out of it” can you possibly get?  Unemployment figures are based on the “unemployed” which is curiously defined as those receiving unemployment benefits – which typically only last a year.  After you go “off unemployment” – meaning your benefits ran out, you are assumed to NOT be looking for work – since you didn’t find any during the allotted benefit period.  This kind of circular politico-speak about real life issues is what has led to a very deep seated HATRED, not resentment but an actual hatred of government and politicians among many millions of Americans.  They despise it for precisely what it is.  Simpering preening elites who really have no idea what it is like to work at Briggs and Stratton.

Or more critically to no longer work at Briggs and Stratton.

Trump has championed these people, which is a curious case for a billionaire real estate developer.  But the language he has used was so much more real than the politico-speak that middle America responded to it.  He’s thundered about trade deals and global trade and companies exporting jobs and illegal immigrants taking jobs and has gone on and on about it quite at length.  It wasn’t so much that his analysis was so correct.  Or that anyone really thought he had a solution.  He was the only candidate willing to DISCUSS it and bring it up on the road.  Hillerary actually bragged about ending coal mining jobs, which are kind of hard to export since the coal is under our feet.  The juxtaposition of Trump vis a vis the hallucinatory cluelessness of the Clintons, basking in their new found wealth from selling access to the State Department, was tragicomic.  She was fretting away about global warming at a time when middle America was wondering if that might cut their winter heating bill.

Trump homed in on the central issue of the day.  And democrats assumed it was jobs.  It has always been “jobs”.  Every election is about the economy, stupid.  And every election is about “jobs”.  And they assumed the same was true here.

But it wasn’t.  This time it was about JOBS.  And the difference is that everyone is uneasily aware that the JOBS can’t be brought back with a stimulus bill.  And that JOBS as opposed to “jobs” had been forfeited by the millions while no one in Washington DC cared and indeed Obama and the Democrats were trumpeting about how much better things were than eight years ago.

But they weren’t better.  And even the most basic eighth grade educated back country worker at a small engine factory in Missouri not only knew they weren’t better, but were surprisingly well versed on WHY they weren’t better and even seem a bit resigned to it as an intractable problem caused by legitimate forces beyond their control.  They really have a pretty realistic vision of globalism and technology and don’t see any easy answers.  Which is curious because there aren’t any.

And everybody knows Trump doesn’t really have any either. But he was the first they had heard from in a long time who talked specifically about the REAL problems and seemed to care about what happened to them.

And since the election, Trump has on several occasions saved jobs.  He did it with Carrier and he seems to have done it with Ford and he will probably do it with Chevrolet – who really SHOULD fall into line since WE bailed them out to the tune of about $80 billion in public funds.

You can argue about his role and most of the media pundits, still wallowing in their purported intellectual elitism, go on and on about how appropriate it is for a President-elect to be browbeating individual companies into saving jobs.  But he is astounding in his awareness.  And Christmas day for 732 Carrier employee families was very different because of him.

The heart of this is that Presidents don’t DO anything.  But they can affect a lot of things.  He is providing both carrot and stick rather publicly.  He is offering to dramatically lower corporate income tax rates and dramatically reduce governmental regulation while at the same time blustering about 35% tariffs.

As to the latter, I don’t think he’ll ever have to.  And that is curiously because corporate America knows he CAN.  The media pundits think this requires some sort of Congressional approval.  It doesn’t.  Trump can just levy a tariff on anything he wants any time he wants at whim.  More on that in a bit.  The point is that by threatening a few companies who then publicly reverse their position and retain jobs, the message to other companies becomes clear.  No one can sink a billion dollars into a plant in Mexico and then find all the “savings” wiped out by a 35% or any percent tariff on their goods selling back into the U.S.  With 4.4% of the world’s population, the American public still represents 22% of all things purchased in the world.

And so we go to what the media now refers to as OPTICS.  I like the term. The PICTURE is of a President threatening an American Corporation with punishment if they export jobs.  The view from corporate America is that this crazy guy CAN do it and he just MIGHT actuall do it.  And that calculation has to go into every spreadsheet in the country when talking about manufacturing overseas.  The little girls on tv smirk that he can’t possibly do that to each company in the country – as if he would have to.  If he picked out three big evil looking examples and spanked their ass hard, with a concurrent dive swoon in their stock price, forced resignation of their CEO, et al, that would be the END of job exportation in America.  But the threat is SO real and so easy for him to effect that so far, he just can’t find any takers.  Anyone he merely TWEETS about immediately  pulls the fire alarm bell and publicly falls on their sword.

What they no, and the media apparently intends for you not to find out, is that he really can impose tariffs.  Indeed HE won’t even have to do that.  The U.S. Department of Commerce not only can, but already IS.  Curious story.  US Solar filed a complaint with the Department of Commerce regarding dumping of Chinese solar panels in the U.S. market.  After 15 minutes of due consideration, taking into account all of the unintended consequences they know nothing about, the department levied a 150% tariff on all Chinese SOLAR CELLS or panels made with Chinese SOLAR CELLS entering the U.S.

Why is that curious?  Well, it turns out that the US Solar panel manufacturers, claiming to be all made right here in Muraga Bah Gawd, were actually manufacturing solar cells overseas.  So it all gets a little tricky to go after China without not only hitting the U.S. Solar panel manufacturers, but bringing immediately to light their disingenuous use of the term Made in Muraga Bah Gawd.

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We have for some years sold a very lightweight flexible solar panel in our store at EVTV.  No, we are not really in the solar panel business but there is some interest for vehicle applications, boats most popularly.  But the panels need to be light in weight, flexible for mounting, and most importantly efficient as there is limited area on a car, truck, or boat for such things.  These are made in China but somehow they get the very nice solar cells from U.S. manufacturer SunSolar.  SunSolar is not only a U.S. manufacturer, but they will NOT sell you a solar panel at all at any price.  They have set up a curious network of “certified installers”.   There is nothing special about the installation.  They have correctly analyzed the market and realized that most installers suffer from an unusual inability to not only charge for installation, but also mark up the panels 300% as they would like.  If they do so, any clown with a browser can find the price they pay for the panels on the Internet.  So SunSolar does not reveal their pricing nor will they sell you a panel.  They will only sell them through the certified installers who can tell you whatever they like and you can’t shop it.  Muraga Bah Gawd.  What a kuntry.

We don’t actually care anything about that.  We are interested in the fact that these cells are 22% efficient.  And again we have a uniquely limited bit of real estate to work with on a boat.  Or a truck.  So we need efficiency.

I was disappointed to learn that we would have to drop the product because their was a 150% tariff on panels from China.  Well, sort of….  As I said, it turns out that there is a 150% tariff on the panels made with CELLS from China.  And our Chinese supplier doesn’t make this panel with CHINESE cells.  He makes them with SunPower’s cells.  And as it turns out, it gets those cells from the SunPower factory – which is of course in the Philippine Islands.  Which is not China….

So we recently imported more of these panels, and went through the process of documenting where the cells actually came from in order to get through customs in Cincinnati.  Which is why I know more about all this than I quite care to.

Trump is further correct in that trade is curiously one way and the “trade deals” have indeed been very bad for America and our trading partners not precisely fair in their trade dealings.

We needed to fabricate an axle stub to mate the Tesla Model S drive unit to our 1990 Volkswagen Vanagon Doppelkabine drive shafts.  We first turned to a U.S. machine shop in southern California to fabricate these and they told us it would be no problem, they did this stuff all the time, but it would take 3-4 weeks to make them.  We gave them samples of what we wanted the first week of November.  As of today, they still haven’t STARTED making them though they did make us some drawings, which we can’t make out because they are somehow produced in red on black background and are just a mess.  They don’t really work on Monday’s and Fridays and are often gone all week to a race or something so we are having a bit of difficulty even talking to them about it.  I’ve actually told Bill not to press them.  I want to see just how long this “order” takes to fill. They’re on the EVTV stopwatch right now and of course we are using a calendar to time their progress which now includes two YEAR numbers.

So we turned to a Chinese machine shop.  And of course, they immediately agreed to do it and in three weeks and immediately produced drawings from the photos and measurements I provided. But they missed a few things on the drawings and we had to go back and forth over it several times.  The Chinglish is more than the usual broken and so I was having a crisis in faith.  So we shipped them a Tesla stub axle, a Vanagon transmission shaft facing, and some other bits so they would have a “go by” for sizing.  It cost about $300 to ship these few bits but I considered it a good investment.  And besides, we would have ten sets made and perhaps those thinking of doing something similar with a VW IRS rear end would find them attractive. As it is a kind of blank plate with six tapped holes in it, it might even be useful for others wanting to transplant a Tesla Drive Unit into other types of cars.

The parts were seized by Chinese customs agents as being “used” transmission parts which are banned from import into China.  And no amount of reasoning that these were not being sold into China as used transmission parts, but were samples for dimensioning would wrest them free.  Of course if you pay an additional $200 to a Chinese customs broker……

And so it goes.  We can BUY freely from China in most cases.  But we can’t even send sample objects TO China.  Imagine if we actually were trying to sell transmission parts into China.  Trade with China is very much a one-way wormhole.  I can frankly buy things from China and get them SOONER, better, and less expensively than I can from a U.S. fabricator.  But I can’t even send them a lock of my hair to color match it (white as it turns out) going the other direction.  It just is not allowed.  Unless of course you pay off Ming Ching.

So I applaud Trumps sentiments.  And I think its great he has championed the cause of the middle American middle-aged worker.  His heart is in the right place.  And I think he can make a few salutory gestures and save a few jobs.  The media criticism of him is uninformed, unintelligent, and mockingly insincere.  They should of course be ashamed of themselves.  And little girls should not be allowed to play with microphones.  This has really reached the point of absurdity where everyone outside of New York City gets it and are laughing at them.

But in the end, none of it matters.  We have a serious problem with the entire concept of employment in America going forward, and ironically it is at a time of huge economic opportunity and wealth creation.  And Trumps approach really is too little, too late, and still missing the point.  It is a heroic and laudatory act of gravity defiance.  And while I applaud it, I really can’t approve it.  It is not going to address the problem.  My best hope is that in struggling with it and championing it he might DISCOVER the problem leading to some perhaps useful approaches to dealing with the consequences.  But there are no ready solutions to what is actually going on.

 

The heart of the issue is two inexorable forces that are not going to go away and no amount of legislation or rulemaking is going to make them go away.

  1. Technology
  2. Power Shopping

 

TECHNOLOGY.

I love technology.  It makes us stronger, faster, able to see further, communicate further and better, hear better, and be healthier.  As Martha Stewart says, it’s a good thing.  But it has taken on a life of its own.  The heart of this goes again to the very well intentioned, well meaning, bleeding heart heart of the libtard Alt-left.  They are going to PROTECT American workers.  And they are going to continue to protect them until bah gawd there AREN’T ANY LEFT.

I don’t know where the idea derived that it was ok to enslave American companies to do the governments work.  But along the way, U.S. employers have somehow become the tax collectors to gather income taxes, social security contributions, medicare and medicaid, unemployment insurance, and astoundingly, child support payments.  The cost to employers to comply with this has risen every year since Noah hired a laborer to assist with his boat.  And to ensure compliance, every year the government issues more regulations on how it is to be done, how it is to be deposited, and how it is to be documented and filed, always for the convenience of the government and with absolutely no regard to what it costs the companies to accomplish this.  The result is that employees of course cost far more than they receive.  But the hidden costs of accounting and transactions have become significant.

But then you have social engineering added to this.   Employee theft simply is no longer prosecuted in all 50 states.  But sexual harassment, age discrimination, race discrimination, religious discrimination, and virtually everything an employer might have in an interaction with an employee IS.  And it is not only prosecuted, but ANY employee can make ANY claim under these statutes, no matter how transparently untrue and fabricated, and the government will PAY ALL LEGAL COSTS associated with bringing this evil corporation to justice.  Of course the employer has to pay THEIR OWN legal defense. And implicit in this and with the full cooperation of government employees everywhere KNOWING this, it has become customary to settle such claims in the hundreds of thousands of dollars with EVERY PARTY IN THE ROOM KNOWING that there is absolutely no justification for ANY of it, rather than pay the exhorbitant costs of defending against an opponent with unlimited resources – actually YOUR resources.

And libtards PROUDLY point to this as their cause in protecting American workers from evil greedy employers.

What is the effect of this?  If offered a magic wand to do the same amount of work with less employees, what would you pay for the magic wand?  The answer of course is simple.  Whatever is asked.

In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s the advent of the personal computer allowed employees to do far more with far less.  I started a magazine, by myself, in my basement.  I did it on a PC using a new program at the time titled Ventura Publisher.  And I pursued publishing on the PC through every single feature and enhancement until we were designing on screen and sending the files over the Internet.  It seems quaint now in the telling.  At the time, it was world changing.  And I wound up with a publishing company of 22 employees doing about the same business as the company that acquired us did with 160.

But the die was cast.  If a little personal computer action could let 22 do the work of 160, what could more technology do?

Today you have companies like EXPEDIA.COM that have essentially eliminated MILLIONS of travel agent jobs across America.  Zillow.com will soon eliminate millions of real estate agents.  Online banking has eliminated MILLIONS of banking positions.  Understand this is not just factory workers.  It is white collar workers as well.  The day will soon come when MMMMAX HEADROOM really will eliminate Screechal Madcow from the screen.

Why should MSNBC pay tens of millions of dollars for talent if they could create realistic muh-muh-muh-MAX HEADROOM computer generated characters to do this work? Does Screechal imagine that her THOUGHTS are important to the corporation? Or the viewership? I would be tempted to introduce an ALL COMPUTER GENERATED 24×7 news channel. If it took off, its a career ender for Morning Blow and MicaMouse.

The death of American Manfacturing and its ability to compete on the world market may be a bit premature. As evidenced by Tesla in Fremont or in their Gigafactory, modern factories are being built. And indeed American manufacturing seems to be in resurgence. The difference is that they don’t employ nearly as many people. Technology has entered ever phase with on screen design, 3D additive printing prototyping, and of course highly mechanized assembly lines. Less workers. And less technology.

In the past few centuries, the pace of technology has increased but as an accepted rule, the new technology generally caused MORE jobs than they displaced. There were indeed less buggy whip makers but that caused more gas station attendants. The difference today is that the PURPOSE of technology has changed. Instead of technology to make life better generally, it is now focused and funded specifically TO eliminate jobs. Reduce the headcount. Because of the dramatic costs associated with human employees by the well intentioned efforts of an ever more power and every more beneficient worker friendly government, there are now NO LIMITS on what a company will pay for technology to eliminate workers.

And with that funding fueling the engine, there is no LIMIT to what technology can be developed to do so. The formula is really really simple. The object is not to grind out new products that consumers will use. Consumers are very hard to deal with. But if you can come up with any technology that can eliminate payroll positions, companies will find you and demand that you sell it to them. At any price. And you will become very very wealthy not from producing something, but for developing a technology – intellectual property, that you can then sell and walk away from. It is the American dream come true. And for many many entrepreneurs, it is becoming true.

POWER SHOPPING

Technology is actually the lesser of the two forces at play here – ergo our coverage of it first. The real heart of it falls under the rubric of “globalization” but the term is heroically opaque and even those bandying it about with abandon have little cognizance of its implications.
It is really about the ability to power shop. And it is a game EVERY single American plays hard all day every day.

Here’s a basic fact. Workers in middle America make $20 per hour. Workers in middle China make $20 per week. Get this or not at your peril. Things from China and Mexico are not a LITTLE cheaper. They are a LOT cheaper. An order of magnitude cheaper. Chinese companies don’t have Democrats protecting their workers and filing lawsuits. They don’t have federal regulations on anything approaching the scale we do here in America. If you can make $200 per month in China you are middle class.

AND they have the full bevy of technology that American companies can use. But they can pick and choose from it based on its cost, compared to very inexpensive human labor. How is this going to come out.

And ironically, AMERICANS have been the primary beneficiary of this.

In 1985 I was making $28,000 per year with two small kids and a wife not working in a small brick bungalow in St. John Missouri. And of all material things in the world, I wanted an oak roll top desk the most. I shopped HARD for one for over a year. They were $5000. You could buy a new one finished for about $5000. You could buy a 100 year-old antique – for about $5000. And you could buy an unfinished one and finish it yourself, for about $4500. It was just beyond my means.

About that time we DID buy my father a leather coat – full length. It was $750. I did not buy the desk. Just went without. Always wanted one.

Fifteen years later, in 2000, I bought a solid oak rolltop desk from Walmart for $750. It was easily as good or better than what I was looking at in 1985. I had to put it together. Which took about an hour and I was amazed at how well it was packaged and how everything fit together so perfectly.

You can buy the same coat today for $250 anywhere.

In 1999 I bought one of the first flat screen televisions from Phillips – a 36 inch plasma screen that cost $21,000. I saw a much much improved LCD version at Walmart last week for $148.

Along the way, by volume purchasing, Walmart sold all goods and particularly American made appliances for LESS at retail than the mom and pop shop appliance stores across the country could BUY them from the same manufacturer.
Millions of American small businesses were ERADICATED by this. Appliance stores. Lawn and garden stores. Electronic stores. TV stores. Computer stores. Segment by segment, Walmart simply ELIMINATED THEM. You could buy it at Walmart less expensively than these small companies could purchase them.

Ironically, today WalMart is on a crash program ,triggered by Obamacare of course (very well intentioned) to reduce THEIR payroll from the nation’s largest employer at 2.2 million down to a target of something over 200,000.

Walt Kelly’s comic strip character, the everyman opossum POGO was perhaps the sanest and wisest denizen of the swamp. I think Trump wants to drain the swamp. In a 1970 poster done for the first Earth Day, Pogo proclaimed that “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Pogo’s quip was a pun based on the famous quotation “We have met the enemy and they are ours” — a famous quote by American Navy Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry on September 10, 1813, after defeating a British naval squadron on Lake Erie

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Our propensity for thrift drives us to get the maximum value for our dollar. And it is a national pastime to “get yours for less.” I have a guy working on some of my aircraft today who reported going into J.C. Penny shopping for some undershirts. Just plain white t-shirts. He found a package of six for $48. But he trotted down to Walmart and found a Chinese make of very comparable quality for $14.50. You see, he might have been tempted to “buy American” if it were $48 and $46. Or $14.50 and $16.00. But who in their right mind would pay $48 for six white t-shirts no one is ever going to SEE when they are available for $14.50. Your savings…..$33.50?

And so it goes. At every level and every product. And if there is anywhere this ISN’T happening – that is an opportunity to MAKE it happen by offering a good from China that replaces one from the United States. We are a nation of shoppers. And we are good at it.

And so we have enjoyed a much IMPROVED standard of living since 1985 because so very many things are less expensive. The government has been all about this. Because there was an inflation kicker incorporated into Social Security payments based on the government calculated Consumer Price Index, in one of the most nefarious cases of governmental fraud of the elderly in human history, the United States government revised its formula to CALCULATE the CPI to exclude three interesting items. The “market basket” of things a typical “consumer” would consume was revised to NOT include anything FOOD RELATED, or ENERGY related, or HOUSING related. Any cost in any way involved in food, energy (transportation) or housing was EXCLUDED from the CPI. But of course manufactured goods, furniture, clothing, appliances were all included at a time when the price of all that is falling because it is all made in CHina. And so our elderly haven’t had a pay raise in 10 years while the cost of a chicken has gone from $1.89 to over $10. Put that in your soup.

But the bottom line is that American shoppers have demanded and been rewarded with much much lower costs for shoes, clothing, furniture, appliances, electronics, cell phones, lawn mowers, and consumer goods of ALL kinds. Not a LITTLE bit cheaper. But a LOT cheaper. Like $750 vs $5000. Like $14.50 vs $48. And we have ALL taken advantage of it and enjoyed it and even marveled at it. The good news is we can buy everything at MUCH lower cost. The bad news is we no longer have a job and can’t buy anything at all.

Technology is a Pandora’s box. You can’t put the Genie back in the box. And American’s are not going to suddenly get religion and voluntarily pay MORE for the same goods. Addressing this is an act of gravity defiance. And I suffer no illusions that Trumps concepts of Tariffs and tax cuts are going to solve any of this in any meaningful way. He will be popular by championing it and he may do a public good by focusing us on it. But solutions will remain unobtainium in any immediate sense.

So we have MILLIONS of American’s unemployed or working part time for minimum wage, and Apple Computer with $205 BILLION IN CASH stashed offshore. Google and Facebook and others literally amassing hundreds of billions of dollars in wealth. Where does this wind up? Civil war? Burning cities?

Charles Murray is one of the most cheerfully optimistic son of a bitches to ever host a garden party. A brilliant libertarian, I really just can’t listen to him very long.

“I ain’t no sharpshooter Gus. I mostly miss unless I have time to take careful aim….”

“Aye-God PeaEye – it’s depressing just to talk to you…”

Elon Musk has kind of come out of left field recently talking about a Guaranteed Minimum Income. Here is what he is talking about.

 

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The problem is not going away. And Trump can’t really solve it by himself. Given the gridlock in Washington and Shumer’s already public vow to obstruct anything and everything in the name of the Democratic Party, it is going to take something beyond Trump to get anything effective going. Lacking mass hangings in Washington DC as a prime time television event, I’m not precisely sure what will.

We currently have 116 million people employed by American companies and 106 million people employed by government. The former is shrinking rapidly and the latter is growing pretty well. The only alternative I see to us ALL working for the government is Mr. Murray’s guaranteed minimum income. In the 1960’s it was already forecast that in the world of tomorrow machines would take care of all of the work and people would really be at their leisure. What they didn’t address was the concept of leisure through poverty and starvation, which was always available anyway. We face a future where it is mandatory for a large segment of our population. I don’t think they are going to sit still for it.

For all the hand wringing snowflakes out there, diversity is the least of your looming problems. View Trump as a Trumpet. He is sounding an alarm and it is not a “sky is falling” global warming alarm. It is about something that threatens the future of your country and your standard of living and YOUR job is not safe either. These are very polite, very peaceful, very patriotic people across America’s heartland. But at some point they WILL feed themselves. And while you march in the streets and turn over police cars, these are the NRA guys who own ALL 300 million of the guns. You do NOT want their undivided attention. The police will not even attempt to stop them en masse and the Army won’t even fire at them.

So it may be that some version of Bernie Sanders platform is in order. I can see trading social security/medicare/medicaid/foodstamps for a guaranteed minimum income and a national health plan. Part of the shrinkage of unemployment came from a huge inrrease in the number of American’s on disability. THis has risen from 5.5 million to over 15 million during Barrack Hussein Obama’s reignas would be boy king of America. But anyone 50 years old and out of work has pretty much been forced to it just to get health care coverage. And that’s about 10 million people he didn’t have to include in his unemployment numbers. But surviving on $13,500 per year plus whatever cash work you can find on the side appears to be the default solution. Charles Murray simply proposes to formalize it.

Jack Rickard