Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Historically illiterate.

With the nation’s unemployment rate hovering at 10 percent, the possibility of stemming job losses holds considerable appeal. So, in an argument likely to be repeated if unemployment persists at record high levels, some are pressing the Obama administration to offer protection for the nation’s glassworkers by raising existing tariffs on imported glass, particularly from China, as is happening on steel and tires.
Sweet L. Ron Hubbard on a solar-powered unicycle, people! Can you not even pronounce "Smoot-Hawley"?

I'll admit that watching idiots suffer is one of my favorite spectator sports, but not when they turn it into an audience participation activity. Those who do not know history are condemning me to repeat it.

(H/T to TJIC.)


karrde said...

I got lost at that "record high unemployment levels" bit.

How far back do their records go?

I seem to recall estimates that during that Great Depression, unemployment rates rarely went below 10%.

Anonymous said...

Record=>first time double digits since early '80s.

Shootin' Buddy

Anonymous said...

10% is U3, those drawing unemployment. It does not include the unemployed whose benefits have run out. Nor, the part-timers or those self-employed who lost their businesses and are not eligible for benefits. That all adds up to U6, which is near 20%.

Ah, yes, good ol' Smoot/Hawley. That idea quickly results in higher prices for everything, and less money with which to buy it. Protectionism is an attractive concept for those who think governments inherently have money--and other such myths.


fast richard said...

This kind of story routinely omits any reference to taxes, regulatory costs, or liability and other legal costs. If they mention anything about the cost structure of American business it is about wage differences. I'm not sure which industries would survive in the global economy without government imposed handicaps, but I think most industries would be in better shape than they are now.

Joanna said...

If it happened before New Kids on the Block, it wasn't real ... Sheesh.

B.S. philosopher said...

If I can be forgiven for quoting Marx, "History repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce."

John Stephens said...

"Those who do not know history are condemning me to repeat it."

If you did this stuff on TV, that would be the line people would be telling each other at the office the next day.

Michael said...

"Those who do not know history are condemning me to repeat it."

Tam, that is one of those quotes that you smack yourself for not thinking of first. You once again prove yourself to be genius.

Bram said...

They know history! The 30's are the good old days of giant government. I never mattered how bad the government destroyed the economy - the Dems kept on winning.

Matt G said...

The last thing we want, right now, is for China to call it its markers. We only think we had a credit crisis a year or so back. [shudder.]

NotClauswitz said...

Pretty soon Nazi wolfpacks will scour the Atlantic and the Japanese will attack Pearl Harbor again.

Rabbit said...

Matt, I think it's going to take a bigger tow truck than even the Chinese have when they come to repossess it.

If they do, it's going to drive over the curb and into the flower bed, leaving the yard in a mess.


Schmidt said...

I'm not saying that protectionism is a good thing. There's some evidence that it exacerbated the great depression.

Though, how can US steel workers or glass workers compete with those in China, where labour protection is zilch, hours are very long indeed, and no one gives a flying fuck about the enviroment. The playing field isn't level by any means.

Sure, it's possible to specialize in high end stuff..

Jenny said...

Nice quoteable Tams.
Such is the human condition, I fear.

And Schmidt - at the rate we're obseleting whole industries these days, I'd say the best answer is don't be a "steelworker" or "glassworker"

By which I don't mean "those trades are for losers" - I mean - "be a constantly learning human being whose identity isn't tied up in their trade... but rather in that they can learn a new trade as needed" Heck, my job is gonna be done by Indians or software in 10-20 years. It does inspire the hustle. :)

aczarnowski said...

Anyone... Anyone...

It did NOT work and the nation sank further into the Great Depression.

Ed Foster said...

The more the Chinese sell in the U.S., the more my company sells in China. Half of Continental's produce is aerospace, and China is half the world's buyer of airplanes and parts.

They have to get American dollars to buy American products, that's why it's called trade. Check the numbers. The U.S. exports 2.5 times as much dollar value as China each year (I'm including agricultural product).

With the real estate market a moribund bubble, the Chinese are looking to buy all the solid hardware they can while they still have some purchasing power.

Yada-yada is that they'll only copy it and sell it cheaper, but they haven't yet, and they've had almost 30 years to try. For the first time ever, they have intellectual property too, and they need it protected.

And, remember that China is Mexico writ large. Few Chinese can read more than 500 words, and are essentially 5th graders in manufacturing skills. Most of them simply can't make the transition to high tech.

What bothers me is the enormous quarterly increase in Chinese exports reported last week. They are selling below manufacturing cost, plus a brutal shipping cost, to keep the factories running and the workers from hanging party officials.

It's like keeping people busy on a sinking ship by having them bail water into the higher end so the ship settles on an even keel.

It maintains a certain symmetry that might fool the casual observer, but you can only paint a new, higher waterline a few times.

Then you run out of paint, or you run out of waterline.

Schmidt said...

be a constantly learning human being whose identity isn't tied up in their trade...

I'm not concerned with individuals, or myself.
However, would it be a good idea for the United States to rely on China, as far as supplies of strategic materials, such as steel are concerned?

Obsoleting industries? Dear woman, unless someone invents the vaunted matter compilers (or universal constructors, and some sort of machinery to provide feedstock for these.. whatever. Anyway, not likely before, say 2030), someone, somewhere, will have to mine ores, smelt them, to make steel, aluminum and so on.

@Ed Foster
Chinese can't make high tech? :D
Taiwan is China(culturally), and they have a solid reputation in consumer electronics. Sure, it's not US quality, but the stuff works.

Asian-americans in the USA(mostly Chinese, I believe) are better off than whiteys(the whole model minority thing). Less crime, better education, higher wages.
Sure, these are cream of the crop, the smartest ones who got away, but it's been tenatively established that Chinese(and other east Asians) seem to have a slightly higher IQ than Caucasians.

As to them being unoriginal, you should check how many science papers in the world or in the US are authored or co-authored by Chinese or Chinese-Americans.

Chinese gov't is a whole different kettle of fish though. Let's hope that when it comes crashing down, pro-democratic forces will come up on top.

There is still hope for Chinese. They may revolt and hang a lot of cadres from streetlights.

Americans, on the other hand, are so demoralised, that they let Wall Street get away with stuff so outrageous, that it beggars belief. Such as the bailout.. I mean, buying up to 700 billion dollars 'worth' of shit they made in reckless and fraudulent pursuit of profit(why were they called liar's loans, eh?), so the vaunted companies can continue blundering and fucking things up in pursuit of short-term profit?
The people who were supposed to oversee the whole thing were originally from the companies that stood to benefit from the bailout.

With the real estate market a moribund bubble, the Chinese are looking to buy all the solid hardware they can while they still have some purchasing power.

You mean, until the value of the dollars they hold in reserve hasn't been completely destroyed by Federal Reserve's money-printing policies that are necessary to ensure US can continue swimming in guns'n'butter.(one would have thought that Americans are fat enough to not need any more butter.. but what do I know?)

Jenny said...

Anyway, not likely before, say 2030

Twenty years is an eyeblink.
".... It is too early to say"

TJP said...

And the history continues. I seem to recall a family that was in the glass-making business at the beginning of a century, and in the banking business at the end. Something about imported products that changed their minds. I believe Roosevelt was the name.

Things change and always have. But the evolutionary baggage of white people includes a defect of vision where an apocalyptic mushroom cloud is hallucinated at the end of every line graph with a trend. Unfortunately, given the choice, the glass business would protect itself out of existence.

Will said...

with so much of the worlds ships sitting at anchor, the cost of shipping has dropped, well, like an anchor with the chain cut. There is a HUGE fleet swinging at anchor near Singapore?, I think. Those still operating are running at cost, or lower, it seems. At least 20-25% worldwide are idled.

Tam said...


"Chinese can't make high tech?"

He doesn't mean ethnic Chinese can't, he means that, despite the technological belt in the big cities, the vast bulk of mainland China is still barely in the industrial age.

A peasant fresh from back of beyond might paint action figures just fine, but he's not going to be running a CNC machine. Maybe his kid will.

Dirk said...

Want to create jobs, cut unemployment? Create tax breaks for companies that repatriate jobs they've offshored. Seems pretty simple and easy.

Matthew said...

"... that are necessary to ensure US can continue swimming in guns'n'butter.(one would have thought that Americans are fat enough to not need any more butter.. but what do I know?)"

Without sufficient butter, swimming in guns gets all pokey.

wv: wastoca - any car given to a Southie

Gewehr98 said...

Hey, I have a Leapers riflescope somewhere around here! (Ubiquitous "Chinese Glass" reference...)