Mike Kueber's Blog

December 30, 2014

Does the Silicon Valley need affirmative action?

Filed under: Business,Law/justice — Mike Kueber @ 1:23 pm
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USA Today is known for superficial reporting and splashy graphics, but today the paper contained an article that seems more suited for the NY Times or Washington Post. In an article titled, “Few minorities in non-tech jobs in Silicon Valley, USA TODAY finds,” the newspaper did extensive research to determine that African-Americans and Hispanics are underrepresented at three dominant companies in the Silicon Valley – Google, Facebook, and Yahoo – and that this underrepresentation extends not only to technical white-collar jobs, but also to non-technical white-collar jobs.  The article indicated that concomitant over-representation inured to the benefit of whites and Asian-Americans, but failed to provide separate statistics for those two groups, apparently considering them to be a single behemoth for purposes of this article. The article also suggested that women were being shortchanged, but provided no statistics to support this.

After providing statistics, the article quoted several affirmative-action proponents, starting with Jesse Jackson. One of the proponents admitted that their objective was “the dismantling of this myth of meritocracy” and “Ultimately, changing these numbers will be critical to the continued success of the American tech sector, which in turn helps power the national economy.”

All of this suggests the catchphrase made popular in the Lost in Space TV show in 1965 – “That does not compute.” The affirmative action proponents are suggesting that three of the most successful companies in America (and the world) need to fundamentally change so that they better reflect the more bureaucratic, underperforming sectors of the economy. It also calls to mind two comments made by two conservative icons from the 80s:

  • Margaret Thatcher – Socialists are happy until they run out of other people’s money to spend.
  • Ronald Reagan – If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.

February 14, 2011

President Obama speaks to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Filed under: Economics,Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 5:10 am
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On February 7, 2011, President Obama made a major speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in an attempt to persuade American companies to stop sitting on their sacks of money and to start hiring more employees. 

  • Now is the time to invest in America. Today, American companies have nearly $2 trillion sitting on their balance sheets. I know that many of you have told me that you are waiting for demand to rise before you get off the sidelines and expand, and that with millions of Americans out of work, demand has risen more slowly than any of us would like.  But many of your own economists and salespeople are now forecasting a healthy increase in demand. So I want to encourage you to get in the game. And part of the bipartisan tax deal we negotiated, businesses can immediately expense 100 percent of their capital investments. As you all know, it’s investments made now that will pay off as the economy rebounds. And as you hire, you know that more Americans working means more sales, greater demand, and higher profits for your companies. We can create a virtuous cycle.

I guess Obama’s argument is not entirely unreasonable.  After all, it is legendary that Henry Ford paid his workers more than the going rate so that they would be able to afford the new Ford automobiles.  Nevertheless, Obama clearly is the wrong person to make the argument because of his conflict of interests – i.e., virtually all pundits have noted that Obama’s re-election prospects hinge entirely on America’s unemployment rate at the time of the 2012 election – sub-8% and he has a chance; over 8% and he is a one-term president.  Clearly, Obama is more interested in company hiring than company profits, whereas companies are more interested in profits than hiring.  Thus, Obama has no credibility on this issue. 

As a believer in capitalism, I think it is counter-productive for Obama to be pressuring companies that are already satisfying their responsibility – making money – to assume a responsibility that is not theirs – creating jobs.  As Jay Leno joked, only government has a tradition of hiring more people than it needs.  America certainly doesn’t need private businesses doing that too.  Whereas Obama seems to believe “if business moves, tax it.  If it keeps moving, regulate it.  And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”

December 3, 2010

A pox on both your houses

Filed under: Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 11:09 pm
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There are reports that the Republicans and Democrats are moving toward a Great Compromise on taxes for the rich and benefits for the unemployed.  Unfortunately, it sounds like the same old two-step song – i.e., (a) Republicans prevent the Democrats from raising taxes on the rich, and (b) Democrats prevent Republicans from reducing benefits for the unemployed.  Sound familiar?  It’s been that way since Reagan started cutting taxes without cutting spending.  It’s fiscal insanity and has us fiscal conservatives screaming “a pox on both your houses.”

I hold us Republicans more responsible than the Democrats for this debacle because we run on a platform of fiscal responsibility, whereas everyone knows the Democrats only give lip service to balancing the budget.  The same principle applies to family values.  The Democratic Party asserts that conservatives don’t have a monopoly on family values, but everyone knows that the Republican Party is a stronger defender of them.  But with our reputation comes responsibility to “walk the walk.”  If we don’t, we will be rightfully exposed as hypocrites.

September 1, 2010

A preliminary evaluation of Bush-43

George W. Bush has always been my type of man.  He is openly proud of his Texas heritage and is a bit of a Philistine regarding high-brow culture.  He loves following sports and staying in shape.  His highly successful terms as governor of Texas solidified my belief that he had the right stuff.  Imagine my surprise when one a my best friends, an Austin lawyer who is studying for his Masters in History at UT, told me early in Bush’s second term as president that many historians considered Bush to be the worst president ever. 

As it turned out, my friend made his comments at the high point of Bush’s presidency.  At that time, I was able to argue that, although the mission in Iraq was not quite accomplished, the American Misery Index (unemployment rate plus inflation rate) was at historic lows.  But it was all downhill from there.  The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan deteriorated and the economy imploded.  Now it is generally accepted that the Bush presidency was an abject failure.  I disagree. 

I concede that Bush assumed the presidency at the time of peace and prosperity.  Through no fault of his, peace ended on 9/11.  Obama and the Democrats argue that 9/11 may have thrust America into war in Afghanistan, but the war in Iraq was a war of choice.  That may be true, by American’s ultimately ratified that choice by reelecting Bush to a 2nd term.  I think country-western singer Darryl Worley in the song “Have Your Forgotten” best explained why America went to war against Iraq:

They took all the footage off my T.V.
Said it’s too disturbing for you and me
It’ll just breed anger that’s what the experts say
If it was up to me I’d show it everyday
Some say this country’s just out looking for a fight
Well, after 9/11 man I’d have to say that’s right 

Regardless of the rationale for waging war against Iraq, Bush has been severely criticized for his handling of the war after Saddam was defeated.  Everyone agrees now that more troops were needed, but Bush showed that he wasn’t “stuck on stupid” and eventually his surge proved to be what was needed to successfully conclude the war.  By comparison, Senator Obama was the most vocal opponent of this strategy.

Bush successfully managed America’s economy during most of his presidency.  As I noted, the Misery Index was at historic lows.  And it is not surprising that a conservative would reduce taxes when government was running a surplus.  My biggest complaint against Bush is that he didn’t require Americans to pay for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  He may have thought that cutting taxes would increase revenues, but he was wrong, and I think that is the most critical mistake that most Republicans are making today.  Reducing taxes stimulate the economy and in some situations may actually increase revenue, but as a general practice, a government has to increase taxes to increase revenue.  As Henry Butler said in Economic Analysis for Lawyers, “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.”

Bush’s first post-presidency book – called Decision Points – is due in the next few weeks, and I’m looking forward to explanations for his actions.  All great leaders have common sense and good judgment, and I expect to see a lot of that.  But there is an argument that leaders don’t make a difference.  According to George Friedman in The Next 100 Years:

Geopolitics and economics both assume that the players are rational, at least in the sense of knowing their own short-term self-interest.  As rational actors, reality provides them with limited choices….  I am not suggesting that political leaders are geniuses, scholars, or even gentlemen and ladies.  Simply, political leaders know how to be leaders or they wouldn’t have emerged as such.  It is the delight of all societies to belittle their political leaders, and leaders surely do make mistakes.  But the mistakes they make, when carefully examined, are rarely stupid.  Most likely, mistakes are forced on them by circumstances….  Geopolitics therefore does not take individual leaders very seriously, any more than economics takes the individual businessman too seriously.  Both are players who know how to manage a process but are not free to break the very rigid rules of their professions.”  

I think Friedman’s theory is supported by comparing the actions of Bush, a moderate conservative, and his successor, Barack Obama, an extreme liberal.  Although Bush was broadly attacked for his actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama has deviated only slightly from the course set out by Bush, including the maintenance of Guantanamo.  Although Bush was broadly attacked for his bank and car bailout, Obama has maintained that course with an extravagant stimulus.  Although Bush was attacked for his tax cuts, Obama is currently leaning toward extending the cuts.  Bush enacted No Child Left Behind and Obama is continuing essentially the same program.  Bush unsuccessfully proposed comprehensive immigration reform, and Obama appears to be in complete agreement with Bush’s proposal but has been too timid to actively pursue it.  Probably the only significant difference between Bush-43 and Obama has been ObamaCare, and there are indications that that may cost Obama a second term.

I suggest that a major component in judging the success of a president is whether he is re-elected.  In my time, Bush-43, Clinton, Reagan, Nixon, and Eisenhower were reelected; Bush-41, Carter, Ford, and Johnson were not.  Obama’s reelection is certainly in doubt.  The ultimate successor is Reagan because he was the only two-term president in my time to have his party’s heir prevail in the next election.