Monday, June 22, 2009

Odds and Ends and Back Bends

OK people, little league is finished for the summer. A lot has happened in the world and even in our little corner since my last post. I will touch on the high lites as I see them and then you can commence to your disagreements.

Iran in turmoil: In a way, I can see how the president would like to stay out of this mess. He argues that Iran will turn our meddling into a call for regime change and bolster hard liners. I get that. But, for me, the stakes are much higher. Let's face it, none of the three candidates are saints. One may not be much better than the other. However, peaceful demonstrations cannot be thwarted. All people have the right to disagree with their government. This is even more true in a country where the government is totalitarian and ran by a religious figure, not the president. The U.S. should call for a new election that has oversight from a neutral entity. It would be more than a gesture. We would gain much respect from the young, freedom loving generation that is speaking out over there.

FDA takes on cigarettes: I saw this one coming like a change up at the ballpark. This power grab will pave the road to government oversight of everything we do. Couple this with socialized medicine and you have the recipe for big brother telling you what you can eat, what you can do and what you can drive. They know what is best, right?

Kentucky Senate says no to slots: You can't legislate morality, but you can save an industry that is in desperate need of a level playing field. This news is great for Southern Indiana and terrible for Louisville and the state of Kentucky. Why do most folks go to the track anyway? For the fresh air of course. Kentucky Republicans get another one wrong and Indiana comes out smelling like the roses on the first Saturday in May.

Friday, June 12, 2009

A Czar is Born...

The administration of Barack Obama has announced the hiring of a "Pay Czar" to oversee the salaries of companies that took bailout money. I had not heard of this position before now and I decided to take a look at the "Czars of Obama." The term czar is an antiquated word that has been bestowed on various contributors through the years, but never like what is happening now. Washington has seen its share of Drug Czars and even the occasional Compliance Czar. Well hang on tight beltway, this list is long and growing. Where shall we start?

Pay Czar: Kenneth Feinberg

Urban Affairs Czar: Adolfo Carrion, Jr.

Drug Czar: Gil Kerlikowske

Stimulus Accountability Czar: Earl Devaney

New TARP Czar: Herb Allison

Infotech Czar: Vivek Kundra

Terrorism Czar: John Brennan

Health Reform Czar: Nancy-Ann DeParle

Nuclear Non-proliferation Czar: Gary Samore

Faith-based Czar: Joshua DuBois

Stimulus Accountability Czar: Earl Devaney

And the funniest one of all...

Guantanamo Closure Czar: Daniel Fried.

Did I leave anyone out? Anyone else want a well paid, cushy job? This scenario reminds me of a nursery rhyme that told a story about all the king's horses and and the kings men...but this time, America is the egg.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Is GM the New Amtrak?

In the world of bailouts and high priced subsidies, the government takeover of America's largest automaker is really no surprise. Most economists put the taxpayer's stake somewhere in the 60 to 70% range. GM announced today the sale of Saturn to Penske Automotive for less than $200 million and the sale of Hummer to a Chinese company for an undisclosed amount. The initial amount of GM's bailout was $25 billion. It has grown since then and the company may need as much as another $50 billion to make a go of it. That Saturn deal looks like chump change now.

This week, GM's vice president blamed a lot of their misery on "Legacy" costs. That is the term used for retiree pensions and health care. I am not a big union man, but the UAW is not the major factor in this scenario. You see, all three of the American based car companies have these costs. Some just prepared for them better than others. If you hire a person, agree to pay them a certain amount, agree to pay them a pension and health care, then you can't claim that a cost of doing business that you knew about from day one is your downfall. GM was way too fat and lazy.

Now we shall all see what will become of this rusty ole giant. I see years and years of subsidizing a company that can't turn a profit, like Amtrak, and the government forcing it to make products that won't sell. Add to that the crazy fuel mileage standards and ethanol quotas that play in the market and you have a recipe for disaster. I read today in the June issue of National Geographic that "The corn used to make a 25 gallon tank of ethanol would feed one person for a year." Really? GM's answer is the Volt. The Volt is a plug in electric car that will have an MSRP of $40,000, a range of 40 miles and a replacement cost of batteries at a reported $6000 each. You think that car is going to save this company? No chance. I will be putting my money on Ford because of their foresight and management style. I am sure General Motors will be around for a long time, but it will likely be propped up with your money and the CEO will in Washington D.C.