Delivering the Goods

The United States rose up from a handful of rebellious colonies to become the richest and most powerful nation in the world. Why? Because we led the world in production. For 200 years, America delivered the goods.

But, in the 1970’s, all that suddenly changed. For the first time in history, the U.S. started having trade deficits. That means our net consumption exceeded our net production. And, every single year since 1975, our nation has consistently consumed more than it produced. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that’s not sustainable.

The depressing truth is America is no longer a world leader in production. We are trailing the pack. We are now a debtor nation, and our biggest creditor is China. — What the hell happened? And how will we ever recover? And, the more disturbing question is, what will happen to America if we don’t?

If we ever want to restore America to its proper place in the world, the first thing we need to understand is why we no longer have a productive economy. It’s pretty simple, really. — Because we no longer produce. Why not? – If we take a good hard look at the nature of production, maybe we can figure that out. The three key elements of production are capital, labor, and raw materials.

First, you need capital for research and development. To develop a new product that meets a real need in the marketplace takes a lot of research. It may take many years to develop. Research and development is extremely expensive, and there’s no guarantee of success. There has to be an enormous potential return on investment to justify that kind of risk.

That kind of return on investment is what our current administration refers to as “excessive profits.” And they have this notion that “excessive profits” should be punitively taxed. When government puts a lid on the potential for return on investment, what happens? The investors take their capital and invest it someplace else, — someplace that welcomes production, and wants to build up their economy and provide employment for their population. (Unlike the United States, it would seem.)

The second thing you need for production is raw materials. No matter what you want to produce, you need some combination of raw materials to produce it, whether wood, paper, metal, glass, fiber, or petroleum products. All raw materials come from the earth; they don’t come out of the air, or some genius’ imagination, or the printing presses at the Federal Reserve. They all come out of the ground, either through timber, mining, or agriculture.

Here, in Southern Oregon, we live in one of the richest areas in the country, in terms of natural resources. We’re rich in timber. We’re rich in minerals. But, if this part of the country is so rich, why is it so poor? Why is unemployment so high? Because we’re not allowed to use the natural resources with which we’re abundantly blessed. Overregulation, and the endless environmental litigation it has spawned, has all but curtailed the timber and mining industries, — the very industries that provide raw materials for every sort of production on which our economy relies. And the overregulation doesn’t stop there. It’s hobbling the manufacturing industries, too.

The third thing required for production is labor. We’ve actually got a surplus of that. Look at our unemployment numbers, nationwide. Private sector jobs are steadily declining because our industries are stymied by excessive regulation and punitive taxation. So how does our government address that issue? It tries to replace the jobs lost due to declining production by creating new jobs in the public sector.

The trouble is those jobs do nothing to restore our national productivity. Public sector jobs and service jobs don’t create any new wealth. They just swirl money around in the economy. And, as that money swirls around, more and more of it leaks out to other countries, as we buy foreign-made products because we can’t or don’t produce enough at home.

As the real wealth leaks out of our economy, the Fed prints up more and more new money, which only dilutes the value of the money we already have in circulation, leading to higher and higher inflation. As long as we consume more than we produce, there is no way to add real value back into our economy, and our currency will continue to lose whatever value it has. We must restore production to have a sustainable economy.

This country was founded on the sacred principles of liberty and freedom. Not just individual freedom, but economic freedom. America became a world leader because America delivered the goods. That’s what it’s all about. That’s what it’s always been about. We have to stay solvent to preserve our liberty. If our economy fails, we’ll lose our freedom. Stifling production smothers the economy. And that’s what our government is doing.

Contact your Congressmen and Senators and tell them we want our economy back. Government can’t solve this problem. Government is the problem.


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Economics Lessons for Liberals: Minimum Wage

A year ago, the minimum wage went up from $5.15 to $5.85 per hour. Last week, it went up to $6.55. Next year, it will go up to $7.25. That’s more than a 40% increase in two years.

My friends on the left tell me that’s a good thing. What could possibly be bad about legislating raises for poor people? They’re absolutely incredulous that anybody could be against it. After all, it doesn’t come out of your pocket, so why should you begrudge it to others?

Economics for Liberals, Lesson #1. Profit is revenue minus expenses. If expenses go up, without a commensurate increase in revenue, profits go down. Profits are necessary to stay in business. In today’s economy, many businesses, particularly small businesses, are just hanging on. Small businesses hire a lot of minimum wage workers, because that’s all they can afford. They also generate less revenue than larger businesses, so they’re more sensitive to higher expenses. Smaller businesses are hit hardest by minimum wage hikes, and may find their profit margin squeezed so thin they can no longer sustain their business.

When we see a rash of local businesses closing their doors, my liberal friends always shake their heads and blame it on the encroachment of big chain stores. They prefer not to acknowledge the role that increased labor costs play in their favorite local businesses being unable to compete any longer. Yet they still defend every increase in minimum wage because they think it “helps poor people.” Meanwhile, as more local businesses go under, more minimum wage employees are left without jobs.

Economics for Liberals, Lesson #2. There are two only two ways to increase profits. Increase revenue or cut expenses. When faced with a significant increase in the cost of labor, a business has two options to recoup the immediate loss of profits. They can either lay people off or raise prices. Both have negative impacts on the economy. One causes unemployment and the other causes inflation.

Nobody likes to lay people off but, when labor costs go up by 40%, many employers are forced to cut their work force by up to 40% to offset the higher cost per employee. When an employee is given a raise based on merit, the expense is offset by the fact that their high productivity contributes to increased revenue. But, when legislation raises wages arbitrarily and unilaterally, there is no increase in revenue to offset the increased expense, so it’s an out and out loss to the business. Furthermore, a significant reduction in work force usually results in reduced revenue, so the small business is squeezed from both ends. First, they cut to the bone; then they raise prices to make up the difference.

In some businesses, cutting back on labor isn’t an option. For example, in agriculture, cutting back on labor would leave produce rotting in the fields. In such cases, the employer has no choice but to raise prices to offset the increased labor costs. Many basic materials, from which other products are made, are produced by low-skilled, low-wage workers. When the prices of those materials go up, due to increased labor costs, it drives up the prices of all the products that depend on them, directly or indirectly, creating a ripple effect of rising prices throughout the economy.

Economics for Liberals, Lesson #3. The real value of a dollar is its purchasing power. When prices go up, your purchasing power, and the value of every dollar you have, goes down. This is known as inflation. Rising labor costs aren’t the only cause of inflation, but even the most basic understanding of economics tells us they cannot help but fuel it. In the short term, the people at the bottom of the pay scale will have more buying power. But, as the ripple effect permeates the economy, everybody ends up having less. In an economy where inflation is already getting out of control, the last thing we need is to fuel it faster.

Raising the minimum wage results in higher prices, fewer jobs, and more businesses closing their doors. — But, if that’s true, why would our elected representatives continue to do it? They do it because most of their constituents have no understanding of economics, and more money always sounds good, so promising more money gets them more votes. And getting votes is more important than the economy.


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