The FBI is investigating bankrupt solar-panel maker Solyndra after the company secured more than $500 million in loan guarantees from the federal government. Glorified by President Obama as "the future" of clean energy and a "testament to American ingenuity and dynamism," Solyndra headquarters was raided by FBI agents on Thursday, as allegations were made that executives knowingly misled the government in an attempt to swindle $535 million in federal loan guarantees. FBI spokesman Peter Lee said the investigation commenced following a request by Energy Department inspector general Gregory Friedman, who alleged that the department’s clean-energy loan program lacks "transparency and accountability."
The investigation launched a week after the Silicon Valley solar company filed bankruptcy, which resulted in immediate layoffs for 1,100 workers. The company has gleaned raving reviews from the Obama administration, as the President branded the company as a poster child for clean energy: "Companies like Solyndra are leading the way toward a brighter and more prosperous future."
In his talk on Thursday to the Economic Club of Minneapolis, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke warned the Congressional Supercommittee not to cut government spending by too much, and that if the economy continues to slide into another recession, the Fed has tools to meet the challenge.
Speaking over the heads of his audience directly to the Supercommittee, Bernanke warned that “while prompt and decisive action to put the government’s finances on a sustainable trajectory is urgently needed, fiscal policymakers [i.e., you members of the Supercommittee] should not, as a consequence, disregard the fragility of the economic recovery.” In other words, it’s OK to do a little nibbling around the edges of government spending, but anything that would cut such spending seriously needs to be avoided altogether, at least until the economy gets back on its feet.
And that’s the problem. With the economy stalled, consumer spending slowing, factory production dropping, job growth at zero, 14 million Americans unemployed, jobless claims increasing, 42 million on food stamps, and consumer and investor confidence at its lowest levels in years, jumpstarting the economy is going to be a Herculean task even for the Fed.
Hundreds of protestors from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) breached the Port of Longview in Washington state, dumping grain, damaging railroad cars, and assaulting security guards. After tearing down the port’s gates early Thursday morning, 500 Longshoremen workers trashed the guard shack and held six port guards hostage.
The turmoil began Wednesday night when Longview’s first grain shipment arrived. Led by ILWU President Robert McEllrath, union demonstrators obstructed the shipment by blocking the tracks, which resulted in 19 arrests and a violation of a federal restraining order lodged against the union last week for death threats and physical assaults.
Ironically, the incident stemmed from a union shop hiring a contractor that staffs other union laborers, but the ILWU believes it should still have the right to work at the facility.
“I am sending this Congress a plan that you should pass right away. It’s called the American Jobs Act. There should be nothing controversial about this legislation,” President Barack Obama stated in his Thursday evening speech to a joint session of Congress. He then proceeded to propose modest tax cuts, significant spending increases, an unemployment insurance extension, Medicare and Medicaid reform, and tax loophole closures — all told, an estimated $447 billion in reduced revenue and increased outlays. It is difficult to fathom how such a plan could fail to be controversial.
Throughout his 33-minute speech Obama did his best to appear above the political fray, peppering his remarks with both conservative and liberal sentiments and chiding members of both parties for what he considered rigid adherence to ideology. At the outset he sounded like a Republican, offering a paean to the free market: “Ultimately, our recovery will be driven not by Washington, but by our businesses and our workers.” He proposed tax cuts and credits. He agreed that some spending is wasteful and some regulations are burdensome. He promised that his proposals would not add to the deficit. In the end, however, his spending proposals and — especially — his robust, spirited defense of big government left no doubt as to where his sympathies lay.
History is replete with the deeds of successful individuals. Some rose to prominence as the builders of businesses while others served as the leaders of some noteworthy organizations. Still more made their marks as philanthropists, or served their nations in patriotic or religious endeavors, or spent their time and energy to make their own communities better places to live. There are very few of course who, in a busy lifetime, do all of this. William J. Grede was one of those very few.
Born in 1897 and raised in Milwaukee, Bill Grede never considered any other place home. The product of strict but loving parents (his stepmother, whom his dad, Henry, married after his first wife died, was to Bill “the only mother I ever knew”), Bill went to work at his father’s carriage shop during summers when he was 14. He later worked at Uncle Art’s tire store. The experiences he gained at both taught him two very important lessons: 1) always provide quality products and service; and 2) there is profit to be made in integrity.
During Bill’s early years, the Milwaukee area was a hotbed of socialism.
China may soon be the largest economy in the world. It has always had those things required to be a giant on the world stage: very industrious people culturally inured to thrift, a large nation with diverse climatic conditions, and a huge population. As Dr. Thomas Sowell has pointed out in his brilliant studies of ethnic characteristics, throughout Asia the Chinese people have been the most financially successful.
Malaya and Indonesia, for example, are lands in which a large percentage of the income and wealth is in the hands of ethnic Chinese immigrants. Hong Kong, long before Britain left when its 99-year lease expired, had among the highest standards of living in the Eastern Hemisphere. Singapore, too, far outstrips most other lands in Southeast Asia.
Chinese-Americans have also proven very capable professionals and entrepreneurs, starting from the very bottom of the socio-economic scale — lacking not only English language skills and a phonetic script, but a background in the Judeo-Christian religious traditions, and with a distinctive appearance that make them easy to recognize.
Unbeknownst to most Americans listening to 2012 campaign rhetoric, what’s being pitched is “free-market socialism." An oxymoron? Not exactly. “Free-market socialism,” a version of “market socialism,” is so named because it does not involve planners, as most of us understand that word. It is, in essence, a kinder and gentler form of highly regulated enterprise that nevertheless steers a nation toward an entitlement society with an emphasis on government-supplied jobs under the guise of entrepreneurship and “open” markets.
Because “socialism,” per se, carries negative connotations for most Americans — most younger voters don’t know exactly what it means anyway — it’s fairly easy to deceive the public into believing a candidate stands for free-market principles, as in the Founders’ vision, and still accept a welfare state, complete with bailouts, federal control of production, and government-created jobs, using the private sector only as proxies (contract entities).
The term “free-market socialism” was first bandied about on American college campuses in the 1960s by political science professors capitalizing on leftist-generated student rebellions. Purportedly, it combined a functional system of entitlements with a highly regulated (and therefore “fair”) free-market.
The National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) assault on American manufacturing may soon be arrested. As readers of The New American are aware, in what some have called its “worst decision,” the NLRB unloaded its regulatory arsenal on American aircraft manufacturer Boeing, Inc. and nearly eliminated a thousand jobs -- American jobs -- in the process.
With the American economy mired in the contrived quicksand of the Federal Reserve’s boom/bust cycle, Boeing struck out and threw a rope of hope to thousands of American families by opening a new 787 Dreamliner assembly plant in South Carolina. For such an ambitious undertaking, the Chicago-based aerospace and defense company received nearly universal praise. One prominent exception: the federal government in the form of the NLRB.
Rather than praise Boeing’s bravery and good will, the NLRB filed a federal lawsuit. The federal agency bared its litigious teeth after being “taunted” by Boeing’s lauding of South Carolina’s industry-friendly “right to work” labor laws.
When one studies international economics, one will inevitably encounter the topic of “free trade.” As always, it is a good idea to start with a definition, to avoid any possible confusion. Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines the expression “free trade,” whose earliest recorded use in the English language dates back to 1606, as “trade based on the unrestricted international exchange of goods with tariffs used only as a source of revenue.” Nowadays, free trade has come to mean the conduct of international business without any governmental interference, such as tariffs, quotas, subsidies, etc. Such a policy allows prices to be the result of nothing but pure supply and demand, without any artificial distortions entering into the process.
The term “free trade” is often used these days in multinational agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), although such arrangements do not eliminate government involvement in trade but create multinational entities to regulate it.
Former Massachusetts Governor and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney unveiled his economic agenda Tuesday, beating President Barack Obama to the punch by two days. (Obama will present his jobs plan in a speech to a joint session of Congress Thursday evening.) Romney’s plan is, as former Labor Secretary Robert Reich put it, “unremarkable, to say the least.”
To his credit, Romney seems to grasp that the private sector, not government, is the source of American prosperity. In the summary of his agenda found on his website, Romney says that his plan “does not promise the immediate creation of some imaginary number of jobs, because government cannot create jobs — at least not productive ones that contribute to our long-term prosperity. It is economic growth, not government growth, that provides productive opportunities for American workers.” (This did not, however, stop Romney from claiming that his plan would create 11 million jobs during his first four years in office.)