Mensches and the American Way

Often I write about how we are pieces of a movement that enriches the world.  It’s the ‘Merican way.  If you do your genealogy, you know that.  Many Americans have enriched the world through medical research, industrial research and computer research among other ways.  What do I mean?

Well, ours is the country large enough and free enough to conduct a medical business that has money left over, a surplus, with which to invent new medicines and machines that will help people get well.  Other countries have medical systems that are dominated by government.  Their government has taken away all incentives to produce new medicines and machines.  They rely on the United States.  When the US becomes like them, its incentives will evaporate.

My own background is in industry.  I cannot tell you because I do not remember how many of my inventions and methods were used to manufacture devices in a less costly manner so that poor people could afford them.  Most of these devices were useful in removing dirt and germs, so people lived better.   And they had jobs they could depend on.

Of course, the computer industry revitalized our economy in the 1980’s.  Not only did we get a useful product, the computer, but also we got a lot of jobs for people.  Wealth was created.  We were free enough to evolve an entirely new industry the rest of the world did not have.  So we all have benefited .

Who was the guy that invented the computer hard drive?  I don’t know.  But I know he was a piece of the pattern that produced fast, long-lasting computer machines.  And that is about all we can hope for—to be a piece of the pattern.  Just as our forefathers and mothers were part of the pattern, adding a nip here and a tuck there in the human quilt, voting for the kind of place they wanted their children to grow up in.

Yesterday, I got word that my brother-in-law died.  He had been a professor of some arcane subject in the mechanical engineering school of a large state university.  Using his knowledge he developed tomorrow’s inventors.   He also came up with some pretty good ideas, himself.  But he had another attribute.  He was a mensch.

Ordinarily, I do not like to use foreign words when I write.  I love the English language (which is about 59% Latin).  But we don’t have the word for everything.  A mensch, if you don’t know, is Yiddish for

“Someone to admire and emulate, someone of noble character. The key to being “a real mensch” is nothing less than character, rectitude, dignity, a sense of what is right, responsible, decorous.”

(I found this definition on an interesting blog:   http://blog.guykawasaki.com/2006/02/how_to_be_a_men.html#ixzz0nNsQo1TS)

It was wonderful to have such a man in the family:  quiet, unassuming and brilliant.  He wasn’t a mensch because he was a professor.  He was a mensch because of  his life pattern of conduct.  The fact that he was interested in genealogy, the fact that he was a very good pianist and the fact that he was a fine Christian person had nothing to do with his mensch-ness.  That was because he chose to live a certain way and he stuck with it.

His name was David Shippy, PhD.  He was called professor but his real occupation was to contribute to society and his country in a positive way for as long as he could.   In that occupation he was successful.  His two children are contributors as well.  An attitude like Dave’s is contagious.  We’ll probably never know how large his contribution was, but you can bet it was big and red and fit extremely well in the fabric of  our social well-being.  And it will last for a long time.  But you have to stand back to see it.  The whole thing has been growing for over two hundred and thirty years.

Franklin and Barack

There are a few accurate historians who noticed that Franklin D. Roosevelt brought with him the seeds of the Nation’s economic destruction in 1932. That is, businessmen and investors distrusted him, and rightly so. He had decidedly socialist leanings in a time of world socialism. Thus, his policies continued the breadth and depth of the Great Depression. This is because capital investment is a huge factor in an economy. Since people who could be investors, weren’t investing. The economy suffered.

The Englishman Lord Keynes, on whom FDR depended for economics advice, recognized the need for investment and told FDR that since the private sector would not invest, the Federal Government should do the investing. It was an admission that people with capital did not trust the new president.

Once again we are faced with electing a man with decidedly socialistic tendencies—Barack Obama. He is a lawyer and seems not overly astute at economic matters. He is probably not a historian, so we may well be doomed to repeat the mistakes of the 1930’s. That is, people with capital will not invest and the Federal Government will invest in their places. A bloated, unmanageable Government will become even more so.

Am I wrong about this? Perhaps. But I noticed that recently, when the polls showed a decreasing gap between the popularity of the two presidential candidates, the stock market rose almost 900 points.

Probably, private investors are a little better at history and at economics than Mr. Obama.

No Financial Bailout

Today the House failed to get behind a proposed rescue bill for the financial industry. Some call it a bail-out. Banks have failed. They probably would have failed anyway. At any rate I am hearing that the American people do not want the House Bill. A significant number of Democrats and Republicans would not vote for the Bill. There is probably little disagreement over the inept handling by the Speaker of the House.

What is plan B? Well, the problem seems to be not that the financial markets need seven hundred billion dollars. The problem seems to be uncertainty, or risk. Therefore, if the government can alleviate the risk, the financial markets can rest easy and the proposed disaster can be avoided.

But perhaps that is not what the House majority wants. After all, they proposed a bill and immediately larded it with billions in earmarks. If they were serious, they would have proposed a clean bill with no money in it for Acorn, the suspect political organizers.

But back to risk, which is the underlying problem. If the government were to offer a bill that would alleviate risk, the problem would suddenly become manageable. How to do this? Several people have already proposed such a bill: offer to insure or back the bad mortgages. Some mortgages would have to be declared dead, but many other would not and in any case the financial markets could continue to operate.

Yes, the government might come out ahead with its insurance program as it did with other large programs of offering to backup the finances of a company or a country. It is an idea that the American people might find less offensive.

But, it is a political year in which one party or the other must be seen to save the day, and screw the American people. Those who voted against the House bill today may well turn out to be heroes.

Did you happen to think that today’s bailout bill might have been tossed out by the Supreme Court? After all, it puts too much power in the hands of an unelected official. There is nothing Constitutional about that bill.

PACs Upon US

Having just returned from the gas pump where I paid about $4.00 a gallon for gasoline, I began to think about the various PACs, Political Action Committees that are responsible for such high prices. I thought of three PACS right away:

Pompous Asses in Congress who will not let us drill for our own oil.

Previous Administration Clods who said, “Why drill in Alaska? It will take ten years to see any result, anyway.” Those ten years and more have arrived.

Preventers of Atomic Construction. We need to be like the French in one way: we need to generate our electricity with Atomic Energy.

We may be sure that there are Arab interests who, with their own PACs financed by our dollars, are actively working against any members of Congress who want the US to drill for its own oil.

Arabian PACs and the ones mentioned above are working against Paying American Citizens.

Hillary Clinton & Hugo Chavez

Hillary and Hugo have more in common than their initials and choice of careers. They both want to steal the profits of successful companies. Hillary said recently that she would take Exxon’s profits and use them for programs of her own devising. This is very hard to find on the Internet news sources because the Left finds her statement embarrassing. But she said it, and she meant it. Hugo the dictator just does it.

It is important to remember a few things about profits:

Profits are not Hillary’s to take. Income does not belong to the government.

Hillary’s proposed theft (a wrong) is not justified by the use she would put the funds (ends do not justify means).

Exxon’s profits occurred in spite of falling oil prices, indicating an adept management, not dishonesty of some kind.

Profit is not a dirty word in a capitalistic society—only to the Left.

Many “little guys” depend on the profits of Exxon and other companies for their incomes.

Profits of successful companies are already taxed twice.

If the price of success is governmental seizure, then expect a slower economy and less tax revenues. People react to governmental pressure.

Hillary’s reactionary purpose runs counter to a free society; it tells us a great deal about the real character of the woman and her Socialistic biases.

Screwing the Stockholder/Citizen

It was about 1955 that a wonderful British movie was released in America.  It was called, I’m All Right, Jack and its star was an unknown actor named Peter Sellers.  He went on to great fame from this first movie.

The story was about a factory in England that was not doing well.  Its owner had given up. He was retiring and moving to a nudist colony on the beaches, somewhere.  As he left, he had his nephew, a bright and enterprising industrial engineer, try to modernize the business.

It turned out that everyone in the business had his fingers in the revenue stream—that is what the “I’m all right, Jack” expression means (I’ve been taken care of).  So from the humblest hourly employee to the union steward to the managers, everyone was quite comfortable.  And they all fought the young man as he tried to make the business profitable.  No one would admit what he was doing, though.

By the end of the movie, the enterprising young industrial engineer had given up and also retired to the nudist colony to join his uncle.  The corrupt business was a metaphor for British industry and its moribund economy of the times.

As a long-time employee of General Electric with three years on its corporate staff, I have seen the same “I’m all right Jack” attitude in various G.E. operations.  And in quiet moments spent alone with people in other companies I have found the story to be similar in their experiences.

Why isn’t it all right to be “All Right, Jack”?  It is because there is a group left out of each population of comfortable people—the stockholders.  The people who are “All Right” are systematically screwing the stockholders!  There is no one in the business who is looking out for its owners.

Extreme examples are General Motors and Ford, whose management slowly gave away their business to labor unions.  Employee benefits are so huge that these companies cannot compete with manufacturers from outside the U.S.

Screwing the stockholder has become a standard practice in America.  And the practice did not stop with industry.  It went on to Congress, where the American public has become the stockholders with Congress as managers and professional bureaucrats as  hourly workers.  Slowly but steadily Congress and its helpers are screwing us stockholders (citizens).  And there is no one who is looking out for us.  Certainly it is not the media.  The media “is all right, Jack.”

Show-Biz Congress and Wages

Congresspeople seem overly worried about the “little man” these days. They want him to have a raise in wages. But they don’t want to pay for the raise. They want you and me to pay for the raise, as usual. So Congressmen will soon vote to raise the federal minimum wage. It is a perfect solution to a non-problem. It will not cost them anything, it will attract votes because of their compassion, and the raise will do no good at all. In fact, it may harm some of the “little people,” but it will look good and that is all that counts. It is simply a matter of putting on a good show; after all Congresspeople are in show-biz of a sort all the time.

Economics is a study of supply and demand. Economists know that when the price of something rises, people will use less of it. Raise the price of labor and fewer laborers will be employed. But more people will leave school to fill those higher-priced jobs.

The real reason for raising the federal minimum wage is that it pleases labor unions. And labor unions provide a great deal of money and other support for politicians in whom they are well pleased. Labor unions use the minimum wage to boost their demands for more money for the people they represent.

In the United States for the past 200 years there has been a steady increase in wages. Was this increase due to pressure from labor unions or people in Congress establishing minimum wages? Certainly not. The increase in wages has been due to a shortage in laborers in this country. That is why the United States is a country of immigrants!

There has been a steady pressure to bring in people from other countries to fill the demand for workers, because private individuals have created millions of jobs. Government wastes, private individuals create.

It is simple economics again—if the demand for something grows, the price you pay for it will rise. Labor is no exception.

Some say people in Congress are aware of the demand curve. I say they are too busy putting on a good act and too ignorant of economics to be aware of the most simple economic facts. They are better at dropping their pants than they are at dropping the price of something. They are better at posing and being “shocked and surprised” than they are at actually doing something useful.

Congress will no doubt pass an increase in the federal minimum wage very soon. And they will feel good, despite the damage they will have caused. But Congresspeople won’t know the difference and they will congratulate each other as if they did.

And we pay these people, the ruling class, huge sums of money to wander around blindly and do really dumb things!

The Citi-Bank Saga Continues

In my last post to this blog I reported on the UPS (Brown) situation that compounded my Citibank ATM card problems.

Citibank arbitrarily shut off my ATM card and shut me out of computer access to my bank account.  I have heard that I was only one out of many more that this happened to .  When I told Citibank that the new card they sent my was lost in the bowels of UPS somewhere, and in spite of what was reported I did not receive it or sign for it.  So they sent another one to my local branch bank.

My local branch told me the card had arrived, so I went see them and pick up the card.  I was told that the card was ready to go and already had my pin number included.

But when the teller at the ban tried to activate the card, it would not work.  She had a bad cold and coughed a lot and was not feeling well.  After many attempts, she had me call Citibank on the bank’s phone.  They had a direct line to Calcutta.  Either that or the guy on the other end of the line was doing a perfect imitation of the actor Ben Kingsley in the movie, Ghandi.

Ghandi could not activate my card, either.  He worked and worked on it some 10,000 miles away, interrupting the process to talk to his supervisor a couple of times and then pronounced the job as completed.  He wished me a nice day and ended the conversation.  I asked the teller to test his handiwork.  She could not get the card to work.

The teller and I spent some five minutes on my replacement card.  This required many applications of her finger to a pad that was checking her fingerprint.  That check was unreliable as well.  But she finally pronounced the job as done.  I went outside the bank to its ATM window and fearfully placed the card in its slot.

It worked!  Despite all UPS and Citibank could do, I actually possessed an ATM card that worked.

Then I had to go home and call a special telephone number that would gain me access to my bank account via the Internet.  It was back to India again, only this time with a female Ben Kingsley who had a high voice and spoke very fast.  Ms Ghandi and I were able, after a long time to break the code so that I could access my own bank account.

All was in order with my finances.   And I am developing some fluency with Hindi.

What Can Brown Do to You Today?

Last week, Citibank suddenly tied up my ATM card and didn’t let me know.  So I went into the closest bank and inquired about it.  They talked to supervisors and finally told me I would have to call my branch bank in Arcadia.  So I called them on an 800 number,  probably in Calcutta.  There they switched me off to a supervisor.  She told me my card was somehow involved in a fraud.  A friend later told me that he saw in the newspaper and on TV that Citibank had screwed up a lot of accounts with a stupid move and that I was one of the losers.  I don’t know, yet.

I tried to get into my bank account on the Internet but they had blocked that, too.  So I didn’t know how much money I was missing, if any.

Citibank offered to send out a card by UPS and that I should be at home all day to get it on Friday.  Nothing happened on Friday so I called them the following Monday.  They said their records showed UPS delivered the card and that I had signed for it.  I said FRAUD and they better get on it.

Citibank offered to get a card to my local bank on Wednesday.  But it would have another number.  I said fine and then called UPS (good ole Brown).  The guy I talked to had an attitude.  He said in his arrogant way that their records showed the card was delivered somewhere on Thursday, not Friday, and picked back up that evening. It looked to him that it had been delivered to the wrong house.  He added that the driver had put my name on the delivery slip. He did not know where the card was but at least it had the right address on it.  He told me to tell Citibank to put a tracer on it.

I knew that the card was dead and that no one had tried to activate it.  So I told the Brown guy what I was going to do–I was not going to tell Citibank and I was going to write about them in my latest blog on the Internet.  And that he could do the tracing himself, if he wanted to.  He ordered me to have a nice day.

Should we beware the military-industrial complex?  No, the banking-shipping complex.

The saga continues.

Bonds between China and the U.S.

Recently I heard someone on radio say that the Chinese are financing America’s debt and that we were in trouble if they suddenly quit doing it.  The idea was that a parent was going to “cut us off” without a cent.  But the Chinese are not doing us a favor as a fond parent might.  They are making an investment in the most business-like sense.  It pays for them to invest in America’s bonds.

When a person says China is financing our debt, he is really saying that the Chinese bought a great deal of the bonds issued by the American government.  The Chinese made an investment.  If they “suddenly quit” financing our debt, how will they do it?  One of two ways, maybe a bit of both.  1), China will sell some existing bonds, and 2), China will hold other bonds to maturity but will not buy more when those bonds mature.

In the first case, the Chinese will sell their bonds to someone else, just as they would any other investment.  They are unwilling to take a loss–they made the investment in America for safety and a likely return on their investment.  If they dump a lot of bonds at once they face a drop in the price of those bonds.  Also, when they sell their bonds they will have to invest in some other government’s bonds.  Lots luck to them.

America, with all its Chinese-owned bonds suddenly dumped on the market, will see lower priced bonds which means a higher interest rate in the future.  However, there will be little immediate impact.  Someone will buy the bonds and America will not be involved in the transaction.

In the second case (when China suddenly stops financing America’s debt) as Chinese-owned bonds mature China will buy no more of them.  It will invest somewhere else.  Again, lots of luck.  China will buy another nation’s bonds, out-bidding someone else and that other person or nation will buy America’s bonds.

In order to sell a new issue of bonds, America may have to raise interest rates.  In the today’s world, which seems to be awash in capital, the rise in interest rates will not be pleasant but will not be overwhelmingly large, either.

So do economists quake at the thought of China suddenly refusing to “finance America’s debt”?  None that I know of, for the reasons given.  And, if they are old enough they recall a time twenty years ago when people were afraid that Japan would suddenly refuse to finance America’s debt.  Today’s pronouncement about our debt has a familiar sound and when decoded, it means “go back to school and take an economics class.”