Tuesday, June 9, 2009

$300,000 per Job Purportedly Saved by Stimulus

President Obama recently boasted that his stimulus plan has "saved or created nearly 150,000 jobs."

This is a flagrantly unverifiable claim. Concrete data compiled by the Department of Labor tells us how many jobs have been lost or created, but there is no apparatus we can use to report that a job was almost lost—much less who receives the credit for saving it.

Nobody seemed to notice until former Bush deputy press secretary Tony Fratto began screaming bloody murder to the Wall Street Journal: "We would never have used a formula like 'save or create.' To begin with, the number is pure fiction—the administration has no way to measure how many jobs are actually being 'saved.' And if we had tried to use something this flimsy, the press would never have let us get away with it."

But the media has let the Obama administration get away with it, with a few exceptions.

The Associated Press reported that Obama's figure "is so murky it can never be verified." The L.A. Times reported Obama advisor David Axelrod's claim that the stimulus "has produced hundreds of thousands of jobs." The administration clearly needs to get its imaginary numbers straight.

However, let's give President Obama the benefit of the doubt, and assume that the stimulus has saved 150,000 jobs. The government reports that it has spent $43.7 billion in stimulus funds as of May 29. That means that the administration has spent nearly $300,000 for ever job purportedly saved. ($291,333, to be precise. It's easy—just divide 43.7 billion by 150,000.)

I don't know what those 150,000 men and women are doing, but unless they're curing cancer, building a better iPhone, or doing something else to drastically improve the quality of American life, I'm going to posit that their jobs are not worth $300,000 a piece of our money.

Think that's a waste of money? Just wait until the government spends the remaining $740 billion!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

American Capitalism Gone with a Whimper

There can be little doubt that socialism is replacing capitalism at an alarming rate in the United States. Just look at the facts:
  • De facto government ownership of large segments of the economy;
  • Direct government intervention in private business models and compensation plans;
  • Increased transfer payments from "the rich" to "the poor;"
  • Arbitrarily favoring labor unions over the legal rights of bond holders during bankruptcy proceedings;
  • Imminent regulation of every activity in the country involving CO2 emissions; and
  • Probable government rationing of health care (nothing is "free").
The seduction of socialism has grown so strong that even the Russians (you know, the former Soviet Union?) are chastising us for abandoning our free market system.

This shouldn't be too surprising since the Russians (alongside the still-Communist Chinese) are in large part better capitalists than we are. They adopted a very low flat tax that led to explosive economic growth following its enactment.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin—a former KGB operative—recently warned the United States that "excessive intervention in economic activity" would be a costly mistake:

In the 20th century, the Soviet Union made the state's [economic] role absolute. In the long run, this made the Soviet economy totally uncompetitive. This lesson cost us dearly. I am sure nobody wants to see it repeated.

Nor should we turn a blind eye to the fact that the spirit of free enterprise, including the principle of personal responsibility of businesspeople, investors and shareholders for their decisions, is being eroded in the last few months. There is no reason to believe that we can achieve better results by shifting responsibility onto the state.

And one more point: anti-crisis measures should not escalate into financial populism and a refusal to implement responsible macroeconomic policies. The unjustified swelling of the budgetary deficit and the accumulation of public debts are just as destructive as adventurous stock-jobbing.

Unfortunately, the United States seems intent on disregarding the lessons learned from Russia, favoring a command-and-control economy over free markets.

Well, Russian newspaper Pravda recently published a pre-mortem obituary of American capitalism. The author criticized the United States for berating the lack of rule of law in Russia while repeating the mistakes of Russian socialism. The most chilling prediction: "The proud American will go down into his slavery with out a fight, beating his chest and proclaiming to the world, how free he really is."

A Communist takeover of the United States is not imminent, but the fact that we are even progressing toward that side of the spectrum is frightening. Just how far we travel down the path of prioritizing the state ahead of the individual depends upon how soon the American people snap out of their trance and end this insanity.