Can I put you on? 2

By Tom Quiner

What do Elton John and Barack Obama have in common?

A song.

Today is the 41st anniversary of Mr. John’s first live album titled 11.17.70.  It was recorded on November 17th, 1970, in the A & R Studios in New York and was broadcast live on radio.

This album was one of my first exposures to Mr. John’s music, and I was quite taken with it. I’m a piano player. Most of the rock music of the mid and late 60s was driven by the electric guitar. I like rock music that is driven by the piano. I like it even better when accompanied by strong melody.

That’s what Elton delivered then and now: pop rock music with infectious melodies and great piano accompaniment.

Listening to some of the tracks from 11.17.70 today, I couldn’t help but think of President Obama as I reacquainted  myself with the song, “Can I put you on?” which I’ve  linked above.

Mr. John sings Bernie Taupin’s lyrics which features this relevant refrain:

“Can I put you on, people can I put you on
Tell you that I love you people
Sing a salesman’s song and put you on.”

Mr. Obama puts us on when he talks about jobs. Take the Korean Free Trade Agreement. The Bush administration initiated, negotiated and finalized this job creator for America in 2007. It required final confirmation from the new President and new Congress.

They sat on it in 2008 as unemployment went up.

They sat on it in 2009 as unemployment went up.

They sat on it in 2010 as unemployment continue to hover above nine percent.

Finally, after three years of economic stagnation, the president and his party finally passed the thing in December. But while we dawdled, Europe swooped in and cut their own agreement with South Korea at America’s expense.

This president claims he’s all about creating jobs. As Elton would say, “Can I put you on?”

The same thing happened with the Columbia Free Trade Agreement, another job creator for America. President Bush and his team had the agreement all set to go in 2007. The Obama/Reid team sat on it as American stagnated, until just a few weeks ago.

Why all the delays? The unions got involved and wanted the agreements to be less free.

This president claims he’s all about creating jobs. As Elton would say, “Can I put you on?”

Some of the best jobs in America are energy jobs. And yet the president has blocked offshore drilling for oil even as Mexico, Russia, Cuba, and Canada move into to scoop up the oil in fields adjacent to ours.

The president has put the Keystone XL pipeline on hold until after the election, which puts on hold the 20,000 jobs economists say would be created by building this pipeline from Canada to Texas. So what is Canada going to do in the meantime? Prime Minister Harper says they’ll send the energy to Asia instead.

This president is only interested in creating jobs for public employee unions (who received billions from the Obama stimulus package) and green energy companies like Solyndra who take our money, spread it among Obama campaign contributors, and then go broke.

In the meantime, Asia, Russia, Cuba, Canada, Mexico, and everyone else is snatching up our jobs while the president plays liberal politics.

This president is about creating jobs?

“Can I put you on?”





Good work on free trade 1

By John Quiner

President Obama and U.S. trade representatives settled outstanding issues regarding the Korean Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) with South Korea. The trade deal is expected to increase annual exports of American goods by up to $11 billion and support at least 70,000 American jobs.

KORUS FTA was proposed during the Bush administration in 2007, and is now ready to be sent to Congress. Advocates of the agreement seek lowered Korean import tariffs, which they say will help reduce the U.S. trade deficit, and create jobs for America. Various roadblocks have staggered the agreement’s progress.

Free trade agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement generally stipulate lower tariffs on imports to the respective countries involved. The main goal of the agreement is to lower tariffs, which would in turn help reduce the United States’ trade deficit.

The idea is that because Korea has a growing $1 trillion economy, ratification of the KORUS FTA would stimulate economic growth in a wide range of industries including the pork and auto industry. According the to The Foreign Agriculture Service website, the U.S. provides about 30 percent of Korean agricultural imports, which would increase significantly if Congress ratifies it.

Advocates of the KORUS FTA say that it would be a good implementation for the U.S. because it would reinforce South Korea’s position as a strategic ally for the U.S. in the Pacific Northeast.

The biggest trade barrier that stands right now is the existence of tariffs on U.S. imports, as is the case with most U.S. trade countries that don’t have a trade agreement. According to the Iowa Pork Producers website, Korea is currently the sixth largest pork export market in the world, and Japan has the largest pork market. The Iowa Pork producers also say that South Korea could jump to the number one slot for pork exports if the agreement gets ratified.

According to Foreign Agriculture Service website, failure to ratify the agreement would mean a significant loss of market share to U.S. competitors who have implemented FTAs with Korea. The list includes the European Union, Chile and India. Korea is also negotiating new agreements with New Zealand, Canada, China and Australia.

Up until this point, the public question had been: What is the big holdup? David Spooner, the former Assistant Secretary of Commerce of the Import Administration, helped negotiate the trade during the Bush administration. He said that there were three sectors that were against the agreement, and holding it up.  The textile industry was opposed to the agreement for fear of competition from China. According to Spooner, the main concern was that Chinese textile producers would try to export products to Korea and pass them off as American.

The second sector that was holding out against the agreement was the auto industry. Until the outlines of the agreement were changed this week, South Korea had tougher emissions standards making it more difficult for American car producers to export cars to Korea. The United States exported 7,663 automobiles to South Korea in 2009 while it imported 476,857 from automakers there, according to U.S. Commerce Department figures. If the agreement were to pass, the auto industry would have had a hard time profiting. Ford Motor Company had been leading the opposition to the agreement, but is now satisfied with the revisions.  Alan Mulally, CEO of the Ford Motor Company said Friday that Ford deeply appreciates the tireless efforts of the Obama administration and Congress to improve this agreement and open the Korean auto market.

The third sector that was holding up the agreement, according to Spooner, was the beef industry. President Lee Myung-bak’s decision in April 2008 to allow imports of all cuts of beef and beef products caused a lot of protest from South Koreans. This happened in response to the 2003 Mad Cow Syndrome scare. It currently stands that South Korea will not allow U.S. beef imports older than 30 months to enter the country because of the mad cow scare.  On Monday, Obama said he recognized it would be tough for Lee to fully open the Korean market to U.S. beef exports, given the scare over mad cow disease several years ago. The beef industry is still opposed to the agreement, because there have not been significant changes made.

The biggest aspect of the KORUS FTA that appeals to Iowans concerns the pork industry. In a time where the national unemployment rate is hovering above nine percent, everyone is concerned about creating jobs. According to Department of Commerce figures, every billion-dollar increase in U.S. exports creates 20,000 jobs. If the agreement were to be passed, 90 percent of U.S. pork exports to Korea will become duty free by 2014. This means that the current tariff rates of 22.5 and 25 percent will be reduced to zero.

According to the official government trade website, this agreement will benefit Iowa in many ways. They say that Iowa exported an average of $139 million in goods to Korea between 2007 and 2009, which will increase significantly.  The website also says that exports of manufactured goods support an estimated 138,000 jobs in Iowa, which will also increase if the agreement is ratified.

[TOM QUINER’S NOTE: Quiner’s Diner is frequently critical of the President. We commend him for getting this job-creating bill ready for ratification. Although we would have liked to have gotten it implemented sooner, the treaty offers some improvements over the version written by President Bush’s negotiators. Thanks to John Quiner for his reporting on this issue.]

How to boost America’s economy now Reply

By Tom Quiner

Time to get America's economy back on track!

This Labor Day, 2010, our economy is hurting.  Everything the President and his party has tried has failed.

Unemployment is way up.  Economic growth is stagnant. Net job creation doesn’t exist.  The stock market is going nowhere fast.

The underlying premise of the President is that only government can get the economy back on track.  I would suggest that, if anything, the federal government has made things worse in many (but not all) respects.

Here are some concrete suggestions on how to get America back on track:

1. Renew the Bush tax cuts.  The last thing we need now is a tax increase on America’s most productive Americans. In addition, we need to reduce the uncertainty that is paralyzing economic decision-making.  Renew the tax cuts and get out of the way!

2. Sign the Korea-Free Trade Agreement.  Senator Grassley has been a huge advocate of this agreement.  The Bush administration got the agreement negotiated, the Obama administration essentially has killed it.  And yet the upside to the agreement is enormous.

Did you know Korea is the sixth largest export market for pork?  Japan is number one.  But according to the Iowa Pork Producer’s website, pork exports to Korea could surpass Japan’s once the treaty is fully implemented.  Even more, they project the agreement would give our pork producers an increase of $10 per hog marketed.

3. Allow individuals and families to shop for health insurance products across state lines.  This is one of the few products where interstate commerce is prohibited. Increased competition would generate more choice and lower prices for consumers.

4. Along that line, provide a refundable tax credit – $2,300 for individuals and $5,700 for families – to purchase coverage in any State, and keep it with them if they move or change jobs.  This is a key component of the Republican’s “Roadmap for America’s future” as authored by Wisconsin Congressman, Paul Ryan.

5. Rescind the requirement for Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) on Federal construction projects.  As former Administrator for the General Services Administration, Lurita Doan, said:

[PLAs] “punish non-union, small construction businesses and often prevents them from bidding or performing federal construction work in their communities.”

6. Suspend the Minimum Wage (MW) until the national unemployment rate falls below 7 percent.  As discussed in previous posts, the minimum wage punishes workers with low skills.  It takes a devastating toll on teens, especially black teen aged males. The MW forces employers to pay some workers more than they’re worth, which suppresses employment.  Lack of job opportunity drives some of these young men into gangs.

The minimum wage affects the nation’s economy in other ways.  For example, it has encouraged illegal immigration.  Employers who had jobs that weren’t worth the minimum wage filled those positions with illegals who were willing to work for what the job was really worth.  By suspending the MW, we discourage illegal immigration.

Is more big government really the answer? Reply

By Tom Quiner

The stock market crashed in October of 1929.  At the time of the crash, the unemployment rate was about 5 percent.  Two months later, it had moved up to nine percent, but dropped back down to 6.3 percent by June of the following year.

File:US Unemployment 1890-2009.gif

Unemployment never hit double digits at anytime the first year after the stock market crashed. And then the rate began to go up, and up, and away.

Obviously the stock market crash didn’t cause double-digit unemployment rates that were to come.  So what was the catalyst?  Government action.

First the Congress imposed high tariffs on imported goods in an attempt to save jobs.  Within a half a year, unemployment had reached double digits.  Then the Roosevelt administration began spending money on jobs programs.  Rather than reducing unemployment, it had the opposite effect.  Government intervention created a decade-long depression with tragic levels of joblessness.  Unemployment exceeded 20 percent alone for nearly two years.

The Roosevelt model failed.  This is the model the Obama administration is using.

The stock market crashed again in 1987.  However, the decades that followed were characterized by prosperity and high employment.  The difference?  Government restraint.  With a conservative President at the helm, the government didn’t intervene as it had 58 years earlier.

Is big government the answer or the problem?

Well, what about this monstrous oil spill in the Gulf?  The screams are loud from the political Left for more government regulation.  But before we pile more knee-jerk regulations on the energy industry, let us consider a recent AP story on May 16th, 2010.

They reported that the Minerals Management Service (MMS), the fed’s agency in charge of inspecting oil rigs to ensure safety, didn’t enforce their own policies, and worse, tried to cover it up. Here’s what AP said:

“Earlier AP investigations have shown that the doomed rig was allowed to operate without safety documentation required by MMS regulations for the exact disaster scenario that occurred; that the cutoff valve which failed has repeatedly broken down at other wells in the years since regulators weakened testing requirements, and that regulation is so lax that some key safety aspects on rigs are decided almost entirely by the companies doing the work.”

We had regulations in place.  The government was lax in enforcing them.  Is more big government really the solution?

Well, what about immigration?  We need the federal government to police against illegal immigration and enforce our borders.  Right?

This is a legitimate role of the federal government.  But they’re not getting the job done.  Even worse, they’re politicizing this critical issue, according to Arizona Senator, Jon Kyl.  Here is what Kyl alleges the President said to him:  “The problem is, if we secure the border, then you all won’t have any reason to support comprehensive immigration reform.”

I do believe there are honorable positions on both sides of the immigration debate.  But to hijack law enforcement for political leverage is unconscionable.  Regardless of what you think of Arizona’s new immigration law, you can understand their motivation when the big federal government is either unable or unwilling to do its constitutional duty.

Let us recap.

When it comes to the economy and job creation, big government has made things worse.

When it comes to their regulatory function, they have failed us repeatedly.

When it comes to protecting our borders, they are failing us.

Our government is bigger than ever.  Is more big government really the answer?