Archive | June, 2005

Protectionism

29 Jun

WNY Progress Report had Jack Davis on yesterday. Jack Davis is a hero in WNY because he owns a local factory that’s still operating, and he treats his employees well. That’s unique in this day and age, and he is to be commended for it.

As everyone knows, he’s a big proponent of Lou Dobbs’ wet dream; withdrawal from NAFTA & the WTO and any other free-trade agreement to which the US is a signatory. Davis would return to the old system of bilateral “fair” trade agreements, and impose tariffs on just about all imports.

I called in and (politely) disagreed with him.

I’m no WTO scholar or expert, but it’s my understanding that the WTO is not just a multilateral trade agreement, but that it prescribes specific member-nation conduct. When a member-nation behaves improperly and a complaint is made, the WTO will investigate and adjudicate the complaint. Businesses like insurance companies do this on a regular basis – they agree that if a dispute arises, they’ll arbitrate the dispute rather than spend thousands of dollars on lawyers prosecuting a federal case out of it.

Davis’ answer was that we always lose in the WTO. (is that true? always?)

I then suggested that tariffs haven’t always been great – although Smoot-Hawley was passed after the stock market crashed in 1929, most economists agree that it hastened and worsened the great depression. I also argued that NAFTA and CAFTA have positive effects, too. Central America is a political and economic basket case, with a few exceptions. If the poorer countries in Central America have an easier time getting their products to the US market, that will help lift up those people and those countries. I was then countered with the sweatshop argument – but a later caller made my point for me: until recently the EU (fka EC / EEC) was nothing more than a free trade zone. Prospective members have to meet certain economic, budget & political requirements for membership. That was an expression of political will and policy by the founding members, and there’s no reason something similar could have occurred with any other trade agreement. That comes down to political will and courage: negotiate fair labor practices into the agreement, if that’s a concern.

In any event, Davis started in on the Japanese. But Japan has been in a recession since 1991 – their economy is stagnant & hardly growing at all. They had a good bubble going in the 1980s that popped around 1990, and they still haven’t fully recovered. Davis complained that Japanese cars became very popular in the 1980s. And then I made what I think is the key point:

In the 80s, Detroit’s product sucked. It was the decade of the K-Car. Japanese cars sold well because Japanese cars were made well & designed well. They tended to run better and longer than Detroit’s stuff. Davis couldn’t argue with that, so he made something up. He said that Detroit can’t compete with Japanese workers who are paid less than Americans and have no environmental regulations. That one I’ll have to look up, but that doesn’t seem right to me at all. Japan in 1988 is not China in 2005.

Davis then extolled the virtues of the 1860s, when we had bilateral trade agreements with trading partners. Yeah. And it took over a week to get across the ocean then, whereas you can now fly anywhere in the world from anywhere in the world in 20 hours or less. You simply cannot compare a pre-industrial agrarian clipper-ship economy to our post-industrial service FedEx 767 economy.

My point is that if you believe in capitalism and the way it works in our country, then you believe it can work across boundaries, too. Given the choice, people will compare products’ price and quality. The US can compete on the global market even with our supposedly too-strict environmental and labor regulations, and our higher wages. Even against the Chinese. But we have to make a product that people want to buy. That means we have to trump their price advantage with better quality. From a lot of the stuff I’ve seen with a “made in China” label, that’s not a very high bar.

I’m not talking about China purposely dumping products here; selling them in our market for less than they cost to make. That should be addressed through the WTO’s adjudicatory process and appropriate sanctions imposed.

Davis repeated a mantra: you can’t get China to agree to do something they don’t want to do. Like float their currency, or institute environmental regulations.

Sure you can. We get countries to do stuff they don’t want to do every single day. It’s called negotiating an agreement. Make it worth China’s while to do stuff.

For instance: Germany pays its autoworkers more than US autoworkers are paid, and they get more benefits and vacation time. Yet BMW and Daimler-Chrysler and Volkswagen are thriving.

It’s a new world out there. The industrial revolution is over. While I’m opposed to sweatshops, and they should be shut down, I can’t go along with the idea that we just withdraw from the world marketplace and impose tariffs on all imports.

Because every other country in the world would impose tariffs on our exports. A lot of good that’d do.

There are, I’m sure, better ways for New York to Save American Jobs than to revert to the 1860s way of doing business. Lowering taxes would seem to me to be a start.

Finally, I’m somewhat bummed that Davis started his own minor party over this: but only because I disagree with the existence of minor parties in New York altogether.

Choculicious

28 Jun

From WB49 News at 10:

An exclusive WB 49 news investigation found that Salvatore Campobello is back on the county’s payroll.

Campobello is County Executive Joel Giambra’s brother in-law. He was laid off in march, but re-hired 2 months later in the county’s parks department. Campobello is a recreation instructor and making $27,300 per year. The Giambra administration confirms the hire but says the position is funded by the City of Buffalo through a merger agreement. Erie County Legislature Majority Leader Lynn Marinelli is looking into the hire, and may even request the county personnel director appear before the legislature.

HRH Joel I strikes again!

Come. On.

28 Jun

How hard is it to run a restaurant properly?

After all that waiting, after all the hype & hoopla, could it be that the owners of Shanghai Red’s are just running it into the ground?

If not, then they quite obviously need to whip their staff into shape, but fast.

Maybe they can get this guy to do it.

Heads-up

28 Jun

From comments:

Hey folks.. Tune in to Discovery Channel if you can on Wed, June 29th.. Discovery Channel is showing Urban Explorers which will feature Buffalo and it’s history in the show.. and it also includes music produced by Buffalo’s very own (ME).

Urban Explorers Buffalo – June 29th at 5:00PM On Discovery Channel

Music for the show produced by ElaCid Studios Buffalo

Cars

28 Jun

Courtesy of Autoblog:

With Explorer sales dropping 25% and Expedition sales down 21%, Ford has backed away from their previously announced goal of $7 billion in pretax profit for 2006. What’s interesting is that while GM has maintained that their SUV sales are sagging because they’re at the end of a model cycle (with the implication that the upcoming GMT900s will be the cure-all solution), Ford flat-out admits that fuel prices are the problem. According to Ford VP Steve Lyons, “With gas at $1.80 per gallon, like it was a little over a year ago, we’d have a very different picture here at Ford.”

The SUV craze is over. Ford has also helped itself with the hot new Mustang, and the upcoming Fusion will be a hit, too. GM is a step behind all the time (See Chevy HHR):
Chevy HHR

Maybe with the Saturn Sky:

Saturn Sky

and Aura,

Saturn Aura Concept
Saturn Aura Concept interior

it’ll be a step ahead again. Or at least will have caught up.

WNY Progress Report

28 Jun

On today’s show : Jack Davis, founder of the Save American Jobs Party to discuss free trade and the economic future of our country. Davis is most certainly on the front lines of the free trade debate and it should prove to be an excellent show so check out the show today at 4 PM on WHLD 1270 AM and be sure to call at 855-6848 to join in on the conversation.

And actually, I disagree with Davis on many of his points (not all). It should be interesting indeed.

Busy, Busy Busy

28 Jun

Work, work, work on a lovely 100 degree humid day.

To those who pine for warmer climes and freer times in places like Orlando, Atlanta and Charlotte:

Just take a step outside.

And everyone thank God for Syracuse’s own Willis Haviland Carrier.

Some Buffalo Subway Stuff

27 Jun

Example
Showing how cool I am, I have done some googling of the Buffalo Subway (the obvious choice in superior transportation) and have come accross some pretty cool stuff

So here is my mystery picture…

Example

What is this mysterious car doing in allleged modern Buffalo?

This is a picture taken in that red building behind the HSBC that holds all the metros. But this is not a car of the metro we have grown to know and love, it is one of the cars bought for the never built Lackawanna extension of the rail. It was sold to the Brooklyn Trolley Museum since then

http://subway.buffalonet.org/
If you love Buffalo, and love to synically laugh at it’s failed projects almost as much, you must read this guy’s site on the NFTA MetroRail

…i could rant about this failure of a project and what could make it better…but its pointless so just enjoy it like you enjoy the Main Place Mall.

For Photo Buffs (No pun intended)

27 Jun

http://www.buffalohistoryworks.com/photograph

If you like looking at old pictures of Buffalo…you need to peep this site. Pretty amazing pictures.

Example

Example

Example

There are a bunch…some of the ones I really liked were too big to put in…there is one of the 900 block of Broadway from 1961…wow-it’s amazing to see how far our city really did fall in a generation.

Mandatory Health Insurance

27 Jun

Craig posted about this last week: Mass. Governor Mitt Romney proposed a novel way to ensure universal health care: mandatory health insurance. The Boston Herald updates us:

Romney’s plan doesn’t go that far, relying instead on pressuring individuals to buy state-subsidized insurance from private insurers – or risk the consequence of having tax refunds and wages garnished to pay for health services.

Liberals, such as Sen. Ted Kennedy, have lightly applauded Romney’s proposal.

But the plan is dividing conservatives about how far government should go toward mandating and paying for people’s health care. The split comes down to a free-market purity vs. a sort-of-free-market pragmatism.

An aghast Cato Institute, a free-market and libertarian national think tank, is now butting heads with another conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation, which helped craft Romney’s proposal.

At least it’s being discussed.