Monday, January 23, 2017

Avoiding Squirrel Suet "Candy"

Discovered a small way to limit squirrel poaching.

I had been putting out Peanut Delight Suet because it has the highest protein content: 10% vs. 4% for the other types of suet. I figured more protein would be good for the birds.

Well, the squirrels think it is candy. So, I've switched to the other "flavors".  Instead of having to replace a suet cake every three or four days, they now last a week or two.

Slow learner here.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Thank you, President Obama! May the Lord Help President Trump.

In 2009 I started my blog tradition of thanking the outdoing president. Unfortunately, I didn't wish God's help for the incoming president (Obama). I'm remedying that now.

I noted at the time that there were clear failures in George W. Bush's presidency, but this was not a time to dwell on them. So, here goes for President Obama.

Thank you, President Obama, for an economy that is markedly better than when you took over. My investments are worth significantly more and I am economically much better off than on the day you were inaugurated.

Maybe due to lack of insight, I'm sorry I can't think of anything else that's significantly better, except the death rate of U.S. soldiers has decreased as well.

Thank you for being a good father and husband and setting a terrific example of that for the nation. And for publicly showing the struggle of quitting smoking and working at that.

Most importantly, thank you for serving your nation for eight years in the toughest job it has to offer.

For incoming President Trump, I pray that the Lord will lead you and that you will turn the nation to good values and good policies and, most important, a true humility before God and asking for His guidance and help. 

Here are links to good counsel about how Christians should pray for presidents whether they are good or bad: Russell Moore and John Piper.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Sarah Palin's PAC Practically Defunct

Sarah Palin has trashed her brand to the point that she is now taking in less than $10,000 per month for Sarah PAC.

In two months (October 1-19 and October 20-November 28) she raised only $17,241. In the same period she spent $72,536, including $8,942 on direct mailing costs which were unproductive. (Guess that's why I haven't received any fancy priority mailer requests for awhile.)

Then there's the $10,000 per month for Sarah PAC administrator, Timothy Crawford, the $9,000 per month to a consulting firm (there's only so much help they can give when you knee cap yourself) and $3,000 per month for part time clerical help. With only $99,000 of cash on hand, things don't look too good for the practical continuation of Sarah PAC.

As someone who is sorry they gave her and her PAC more than a couple thousand dollars, I'm not sorry to see it crashing. Though I am sorry to see Sarah Palin crashing. She had so much potential as well as a past track record in which she actually accomplished something.

But, she has not only become shrill, but now lies when changing her political position. Though, at least she doesn't scrub her past posts so you can't check her hypocrisy like Laura Ingraham does.

Unhappily Palin did just criticize Obama for pardoning the guy who made Julian Assange and Wikileaks big stuff. Palin apparently has no ability to see the hypocrisy of praising Assange who published Manning's top secret material that put "troops in danger". Stealing the secrets hurt no one. Publishing them did the damage. Palin has cracked mentally.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Automation: Hindrance or Help?

James Pethokoukis has a couple of interesting articles on the role of automation in maintaining our economy and current per capita wealth (let alone increasing them). 

First, he makes the point that a major drag on economic growth is lack of workers. In the past economic growth has come both from employment growth and higher productivity. He cites a McKinsey Global Institute study.
GDP growth was exceptionally brisk over the past half century, driven by the twin engines of employment growth and rising productivity. However, declining birthrates and the trend toward aging in many advanced and some emerging economies mean that peak employment will occur in most countries within 50 years. The workforce in Japan is already shrinking in size, and the total number of workers in China will start to decline within a decade. This expected decline in the share of working-age population will place the onus for future economic growth far more heavily on productivity gains. (emphasis added)
Take one of those legs away by lack of employment growth because of no population growth and it's going to be hard to walk, let alone run.

But automation can give employment growth without rising population and could at least keep GDP per capita stable.
Our analysis of the automation adoption scenarios suggests that automation could help bridge the projected growth gap caused by a deficit of full-time equivalents worldwide. Automation alone will not be sufficient to achieve long-term target growth across the world, given the decline in the working-age population and the need for high productivity to achieve that target. Especially in fast-growing countries, other measures to boost productivity will be needed. However, notably, the productivity gains from automation could suffice to at least maintain today’s GDP per capita.
The McKinsey Global Institute study rates robots on a level with the steam engine in increasing productivity.
For example, between 1850 and 1910, the steam engine has been estimated to have enabled productivity growth of 0.3 percent per annum. Analyses of the introduction of robots in manufacturing and IT estimate that they have accounted for annual productivity increases of 0.4 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively.
Second, the big question is what to do with displaced workers who have medium or low skills that don't fit into the new economic format.

Though less than 5% of jobs can be 100% automated, 60% of jobs can have 30% of what they do automated.

The knee jerk reaction is to protect workers by hindering automation. But, that will neither protect jobs long term or help economic growth. Imagine the U.S. with all farming still being done on small family farms without automation. First, we couldn't compete with other nations. Second, even if we could, the cost of food would be in the range of four times higher than it is now. We would be spending 40% of our income on food rather than the current 10%. And with a lot less choice.

from The Atlantic
from NPR
The NPR piece points out that even with the automation of the 1960's, we are spending a little more than half as much as our grandparents spent on food. That's probably due to free trade policies as well as increased automation and more productive seeds, cultivation methods and animal husbandry in the last 55 years.

So, what to do? There's no magic bullet. Encouraging people to have more children won't work. And we have had too many problems with raising the workforce via immigration because most of those who come are low skilled.

That leaves trying to train a workforce that is more productive or can fill in the gaps where automation isn't feasible. That would mean better retraining of current workers and proactively encouraging young people to prepare for an increasingly mechanized work force.

Easier said than done. But, this seems to be the only option when the work force population is stagnant or decreasing and increasing productivity is the only workable tool to maintaining or increasing per capita wealth.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Here's a Funny Idea: How Mexico Can Defeat Trump

Answer: Buy Twitter for $12 billion and shut it down. Heh.

How Obama Has Influenced Trump

Then there is Obama the campaigner in chief. Who did lots of campaign-type events filled with crowd adulation during his presidency including his farewell address. Trump seems to be one upping him with his pre-inauguration "thank you" tour. Maybe there will not only be tons of campaigning events during the Trump presidency, but a farewell address tour too.

I wonder if President Trump will make himself a commander-in-chief badge like President Obama did.

Any Conservatives Still Out There Against Deficit Spending?

I just talked to a conservative friend yesterday who is all for the federal government "upgrading our infrastructure". She mentioned that she hoped it would be funded by taking money from other federal spending sources. Of course, that won't happen. It will be just another trillion dollars added to the national debt, and the debt ceiling will be raised enthusiastically by Republicans. We didn't get into the federal intrusion on state and local responsibilities, but Rush Limbaugh also is now not against big federal deficit spending or federal intrusion on state and local functions. Hey, it could be as politically productive as Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. And political power is all we're interested in, right?

Since, oh, 1968 I've been against deficit spending except in war time (and maybe for the Louisiana Purchase) and against federal encroachment on state and local responsibilities like education, healthcare, and state and local projects. I haven't changed my position in 48 years, but some of my conservative friends are changing theirs because Republicans are now in charge of federal spending and our economy needs help. It's the old "throw money at a problem" in order to fix it.

Sorry, but local districts, Portland, Multnomah County, the state of Oregon should be responsible for the upkeep of local, city, county and state property in Oregon like roads, bridges, local airports and ports, public schools, public hospitals. There is a place for federal infrastructure in interstate projects, defense projects, post office, and on federally owned property.
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States . . . To establish Post Offices and post Roads . . . To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years; To provide and maintain a Navy . . . To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of Particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards and other needful Buildings . . . . (U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 8)
But state and local projects and properties should remain state and local responsibilities. Federal money usually corrupts those local processes. "Free" money tends to do that.

Here's a U.S. debt chart for 1940 to 2025:

Jim Pethoukouis adds:
Still, Kraemer added, the incoming Trump administration’s current policy direction suggests bigger deficits, a larger debt, and an even higher debt-GDP ratio. And although more fiscal stimulus might boost growth for a bit, he likened that approach to igniting a “straw fire” that flames up and burns out quickly. He considers the US economy more or less at potential. So smart policy would focus on boosting the capacity for faster growth through deep reform rather than stimulus.
By the way, the most recent Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimate finds Trump’s taxing and spending promises would increase the debt by $5.3 trillion to 105% over the next decade as a share of GDP vs. 77% currently. A lot of that comes from the Trump tax plan. Congressional Republicans, though, are promising tax reform will be revenue neutral. And Trump has promised a balanced budget sooner rather than later.
I'm for "deep reform" and against infrastructure "stimulus" which did not work for Franklin Roosevelt or Barack Obama.