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[Commentary] © 2003 Philip Hyde, The Timesizing Wire™, Box 622 Cambridge MA 02143 USA (617) 623-8080

Makework Stories, November 2003, + Dec.1


11/29-12/01/2003  4 makework situations, totaling 200 new 'jobs' + unspecified, cited in Wall Street Journal (WSJ) &/or New York Times (NYT) -

  1. 12/01   British greet US Navy rustbuckets with a volley of venom - How desperate is Hartlepool [England] for jobs? Not this desperate, some residents say, by Lizette Alvarez, NYT, A4.
    ...American companies lack the capacity to scrap all [130 obsolete] ships by the [2006] deadline, at least not at an affordable price, so the Maritime Administration...contracted the work to foreign companies....
    The first two ships...contain 61 tons of asbestos built into their engine rooms and 34.1 tons of solid polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB's) in wiring and gaskets. In their liquid form, PCBs are suspected of causing cancer. ...98% of the ships can be recycled and 2% must be disposed of as toxic waste.
    ...The job, Able UK officials argue, will not only create temporary work for 200 people but is one of the smallest and simplest it has ever undertaken. ...It specialized in dismantling huge oil rigs and power stations...each power station is about the size of 5 to 10 of those ships....

  2. 12/01   [1] Why Americans must keep spending - [2] Households perceive an endless stream of needs - [3] and besides, the economy depends on it - [4] Spending because they must, [5] households bolster the economy - [6] Forecasters expect more wages from job growth will provide new cash, by Louis Uchitelle, NYT, C1 & C14.
    ["Job growth" in the context of unprecedented automation and robotization followed by ongoing mergers, downsizing and bankruptcies? How good can these "forecasters" be if they can't even see what's happening now? The slightly desperate tone of the first clause "Americans must keep spending" is correct because the third clause "the economy depends on it" is true, and not because the second clause "households perceive an endless stream of needs" is true - some do and some, as in the simplicity/frugality movement, don't. And even if it is true, it doesn't matter, because if households don't have the money, they can't spend it, whether or not their perceived stream of "needs" is "endless" or finite. And clause 4 "spending because they must" ignores the issue of whether or not they can and the growing number of households that can't keep spending at the same levels because they don't have the same levels of earnings. Once again, contemporary mainstream economists and analysts, like reporter-turned-analyst Uchitelle, have focused exclusively on an interesting but peripheral aspect of the economy... In all four cases, we find a tacit consent to preserve what we are going to dub The Precious Blindspot - the one taboo that no "capitalist" or even low-key happy-go-lucky general "economist" must ever ever talk about, or apparently even think about - namely, the disastrously dysfunctional misallocation of money, both flowing money (income) and standing/still money (wealth) - dare we whisper that most impolite and unspeakable word, maldistribution or use an equally unfashionable phrase, failure of sharing? Oh you can acceptably focus on the unactionable bottom of the problem, as generations of heiresses volunteering in the "settlement houses" did, and endlessly, futilely bewail "poverty," everso fashionably, condescendingly doling out charity when the whim o'ertakes you. But don't even think about focusing on the actionable top of the problem - super-excess income and wealth. Or you'll be branded a commie or worse. But sooner or later we're going to have to face this gigantic and growing imbalance on the actionable end of the problem, because there is now such a vastly tight concentration of necessarily sluggish spending power in the top brackets that it is actually suctioning the markets away from its own desired choice of productive investment targets. Thus there are no fundamentals any more - all the fundamentals for virtually all company stocks are bad - b-e-c-a-u-s-e there may be trickle-down but there is a furious default rushing, gushing UP of money into the top brackets. So, trickle-down but rushgush-up. The mechanism of this is a general and heightening labor surplus alias a general and deepening employment scarcity. And the mechanism of that is essentially the Industrial Revolution and it's current manifestations, the Computer Revolution, the Cybernetics Revolution, the Robotics Revolution, the Information Revolution and the Internet and Dot-Com Revolutions. Not that technology itself is to blame. O God, no, we can't say that or we'll be immediately dismissed as horrible Luddites. But it's CEOs' (and business schools') standard response to technology that is to blame - a response of downsizing (instead of timesizing) or to put it another, less-'stifling' way, a response of micro-economic, company-level downsizing without any macro-economic, nation-level timesizing in place to prevent the downsizing from incrementing and cumulating beyond a certain threshold (or series of increasingly hard-to-reverse thresholdS) that give us a degree of production than overwhelms even our large capacity to consume. The futility of trying to base an economic recovery on downsizing is dealt with in this weekend's article by Steve Roach - see 11/29-12/01/2003 #6. The concentration of money should be a worry to mainstream economists because of their own neo-classical Marginal Revolution in the 1870s and 80s, which bandied about phrases like "the marginal efficiency of (concentrated) capital" or even "the marginal utility of wealth." But hey, because it coincided with The Precious Blindspot, it simply got dropped and nobody 'mainstream' talks about it. So, the chain of mechanisms: technology is responded to by downsizing, despite the dogma the downsizing eventually cumulates faster than the upsizing and hiring can keep up with and an officially (and professionally) ignored and/or denied labor surplus develops - this is where the common sneer about those gulls who are stupid enough to believe in the Lump of Labor(-demand!) Fallacy comes in, the labor surplus disempowers employees relative to employers thus stagnating or actually depressing wages so the vast multitudes of middle- and lower-income-bracket consumers (we're carefully avoiding here the taboo language of "class" as in "middle- and working-class") gradually and imperceptibly become starved for spending power regardless of their "perceived needs," the leftover money defaults upward in ever-increasing (till the crash) volumes to the growing but still relatively teenytiny population in the top income brackets who are already spending all they wish or have time for and are just scanning scanning scanning for huge sustainable investments to pour all this vast lucre into, but there are fewer and fewer of such huge investments that are sustainable because..."the concentration of income is so astronomically vast and tight that it actually suctions the spending power dba the markets away from any productivity in which it is investing or could invest - ergo what we have called The Black Hole Economy, and what is unveiled soon thereafter as The Great Depression II.]
    ...The support for recent spending - the household cash generated through mortgage refinancings and tax cuts - is disappearing, and a new source of cash, from many new jobs and many new paychecks, is not yet a reality.
    [And is likely to become a weaker and weaker reality, or less and less likely to become a reality at all.]
    But do not worry, various experts say.
    [Alfred E. Newman Economics: "What, me, worry?!" Or the T-shirt-slogan economics of "Don't worry, be happy!"]
    Consumers will keep spending anyway, going deeper into debt to do so if they must.
    [As if credit is infinite - "credit" meaning "the gullibility of the top income and wealth brackets."]
    They [consumers] have too many needs, some that were luxuries only yesterday. A second car and childcare, for example, are now necessities for millions of households with two earners commuting to jobs....
    [Three comments:
    1. This is vintage Chesterton Flaw - focusing on the delivery of people's "share" of the good things instead of on the definition of "share" itself and meanwhile the reality that some people will want and tend with increasing velocity to get more - much much much much e.g. Bill Gates' $100,000,000,000 more than their share. Timesizing identifies and prioritizes the dimensions of sharing (employment & skills, income & skills, wealth &..., credit..., credibility, celebrity...power...) and then defines "share" in each as a range, not a point - we get more flexibility by equalizing on a range, not a point - an obvious and simple but earthshakingly important innovation. The top of the range is defined by the bottom and the bottom is defined by regular referendum of the participating/affected population. For example, overtime and the top (length) of the workweek is defined by "undertime" (unemployment) and the bottom of the workweek, via a referendum is some such form as, "Any adult who has averaged less than (X)___ working hours per week for over the last (Y)___ weeks is 'un(der)employed' and should increment the unemployment rate, and any unemployment rate above (Z)___% is unacceptable and should trigger a countering adjustment in the standard maximum workweek length. (And any adjustment faster than...blah blah blah, see our Timesizing, Not Downsizing.)"
    2. As mentioned above, their infinite "too many needs" is irrelevant because of their finite spending power or finite credit. Uchitelle's misfocus on needs alone is very very common and widespread, but here we are again in the Land of the Blind, standing beside the parade as the naked emperor passes by in his "new clothes."
    3. Note the creeping commoditization of everything - here it's family life and raising your children. Damn if we haven't commoditized that, and part of it is this tres avant-garde complaint that we've heard from feminists over the last few decades that women's household work is undervalued and belittled. Oops, part of that "household work" was childcare, and guess what, now that women have abandoned the role of housekeeper, childcare has to be delivered over to strangers and paid for. Is this really progress?]
    ...This spending truly matters. Consumers are purchasing roughly $7.6 trillion a year in goods and services. Their outlays represent about 2/3 of the nation's economic activity, so when people slow their buying, the growth of the economy also slows. But that seldom happens anymore.
    [Stay tuned.]
    Look back to 1947, a total of 227 quarters.
    [Why'd he stop there?? The major situation similar to today is prewar = the Great Depression, 1929-41. Oh, the clue to why he stopped there is in an article on the next page, "Consumer dominance hits a 54-year high," by Floyd Norris, 12/01/2003 NYT, C2:   2003-54= 1949, close enough. The point is probably that after the failure of consumer-spending dominance got us into the Great Depression in 1929, military-spending dominance carried the economy out of the Depression in 1942, and lasted a 2-4 years after the War, i.e., up to 1947 or 1949. Bush Jr. has been trying to get the economic magic of war going again, as commentators are just beginning to mention (see "Why peace won't come," op ed by sociologist? James Carroll, 12/09/2003 Boston Globe, A23), but the magic of war depends on the withdrawal of the millions of excess workhours flooding the domestic job market and allowing the national income to concentrate and de-activate instead of centrifuging and activating it, and the efficiencies of modern war are just not doing the same grisly job as World War II at withdrawing those excess megahours.]
    In only 20 of these 3-month periods did a drop or weakness in consumer spending curb economic growth growth [defined so loosely that even decay is counted as "growth"] or weaken an expansion [defined in terms of "growth" and therefore subject to the same blinding whitening], and most of that occurred in the early decades [before economists got the can-never-go-down definitions and data-collection procedures worked out]. Only 3 times in the last two decades has consumer spending faltered enough to damage the economy - twice during the 1990-91 recession and once as the [currently spun] slow recovery got under way. That drag disappeared in the 2001 recession, the first since the 1940s in which consumer spending rose enough to [stop] the contraction instead of [spurring] it.
    ...So even if more jobs and more paychecks fail to materialize, the typical household will keep up its spending \contends\ Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard Law School professor and co-author of "The Two-Income Trap" (Basic Books, 2003). She argues that the optional portion of consumer spending has become relatively small.
    [This relates to Dahlberg's distinction between urgently demanded and casually demanded goods and services ("Jobs, Machines and Capitalism," 1932).]
    ...People will [keep up their spending] by going into debt, or deeper into debt, to acquire what they view as essentials.
    [Guess the main moral/New Learning in this article is that the pundits themselves are getting uncomfortable with the idea of infinite spending and are hedging it with the idea of infinite borrowing and credit. See also the article 2 pages on, "The pain of coping when a job is snatched away - Families learn to live on refinancings, food stamps and credit cards," by Jill Fraser, 12/01/2003 NYT, C3. But this is what always ends a bubble, oops, "boom" - venture capitalists finally woke up to the fact that the markets just weren't there for Internet and dot-com technology on anything like the volumes they needed for profits or even capital-maintenance, so they quit investing - in effect, borrowing - and kaboom, the Internet/dot-com bubble burst. Pundits are trying to maintain their happytalk by wiggling their stupid belief in infinity over from spending to borrowing, and borrowing is no more infinite than spending.]
    Such consumption will help sustain the economy in the coming presidential election year, although painfully for many households.
    [Oh so maybe this is the whole point. Keep happytalking thru Nov/2004 so we re-elect Bush for another four years of accelerating socioeconomic deterioration and he and his neo-con artists can rip off the little that we have left and finish us off. But this article is missing what comes after the Sustaining Painfully period (e.g., unemployment benefits), where we would place forced part-time and forced early retirement and forced postponed or returned-from retirement and forced self-'employment' regardless of clients or lack thereof - what comes after that is temporary welfare, permanent disability or workers' comp, homelessness, prison and/or suicide. But there's hope -]
    "It is hard to construct a happy story for 2004 unless we consistently create a signficant number of jobs, which we have not done yet," said Mark Zandt, chief economist at Economy.com, a research and consulting firm.
    [And there's no chance of that. Why? -]
    The happy story will materialize once the strengthening economy is consistently generating 300,000 jobs a month, said Jared Bernstein, senior labor economist at the Economic Policy Institute. So far, job creation, while finally rising, has not reached half that level....
    Real disposable personal income - that is, after-tax income - has risen by 3.2% over the past year, but that resulted almost entirely from mortgage refinancings and taxcuts, the Commerce Dept. reported. The wage portion has been stagnant for nearly three years. "Nonlabor sources have been the sole driver of real disposable income," Mr. Bernstein said....
    [I.e., unsustainable sources have been the sole driver of real disposable income, and "unsustainable sources" includes credit and borrowing. Later in the article, erstwhile timesizer Juliet Schor is mentioned (thanks for pointing that out to colleague Terry Crystal) and at first we thought it might be a timesizing article, but alas, it's in reference to Juliet's second non-timesizing book, The Overspent American, reminding us once again how tough it is to keep "on issue" when the issue is the all-pervasive time dimension, as in worktime. And just a reminder - we're never going to sell shorter worktime to TPTB (the powers that be) on the basis of "spending less" because the times when worksharing via shorter worktime per person gains the most traction are crises of under-consumption and under-spending, not crises of over-consumption and overspending. That's why Phil Hyde thinks the poverty-spreading consumption-killing concentration of national income in the top brackets will force workweek reduction sooner than ecology-killing high levels of consumption (as per Anders Hayden's "Sharing the Work, Sparing the Planet"), though once you get bidirectional flexibility into your concept of "full-time workweek" instead of just upward flexibility where workweeks get longer and longer, then you do, as a matter of course, get the ability to toss the Gospel of Consumption and ease up on the environment.]

  3. 12/01   Amid dying towns of rural Plains, one makes a stand...a last stand for new jobs and people, by Timothy Egan, NYT, front page & A18.
    ...Superior, Neb...on the Republican River [really! now there's an omen for you]..\..in a farm-based county, has sought new jobs, with little luck. [photo caption]
    ...From the Dakotas to the Texas Panhandle, the rural Great Plains has been losing people for 70 years, a slow demographic collapse.... "Will this be the last generation to inhabit the rural Great Plains?" asked Jon Bailey of the Center for Rural Affairs, a n NP research group in Walthill, Neb. Few people in Nebraska, which has 7 of the nation's 12 poorest counties, scoff at the question.
    ...Signs of despair and breakdown...have come to the rural Plains. With its population down to the 2,000 level that is often considered the threshold for a functioning regional center, Superior NB, the anchor of Nuckolls County, has vowed it will not catch the death chill of nearby Hardy NB, [which lost its school, and]..\..when death comes to a small town, the school is usually the last thing to go.... "Thirty years ago...there were 10 highschools in the area," said Bill Blauvelt...the owner and publisher \of\ the weekly newspaper, The Superior Express.... "Now there are only three...."
    But the town's struggle to stay alive shows how even with the best of civic intentions, it is difficult to fight forces that have humbled much of rural America.
    [BBG (blinding glimpse of the obvious): makeword can palliate, it can postpone, but it cannot reverse huge natural market trends. Better a system of flexible "sharework" like timesizing, that can surf and gradualize and humanize the trends much better, by keeping the money at the grassroots and instantaneously allocating it to the market hotspots, the natural incidence of overtime, and make the entire private sector responsible for its own "negligible", "just a one-time" again and again, cumulating, downsizings.]
    People here taxed themselves [literally!] to create an economic development fund.
    [Makework #2.] ...And so they wait - for jobs, for business, for a future.... The governor has praised Superior as a model for all of dying rural Nebraska. But if they can't make it here, people say, they can't make it anywhere on the prairie.
    ..\..Hundreds of counties have followed Superior's path, and their industrial parks and new buildings sit empty. In nearly 70% of the counties on the Plains, there are fewer people now than there were in 1950. Population continued to plunge in the 1990s and has fallen even faster since the 2000 census.
    [Sounds like a mini version of what's been happening in China since the closing of the big state-owned enterprises.]
    ...Most everwhere \except\ counties close to cities or near Interstate highways...about 1/6 of the landmass of the U.S. - populations are at modern lows and the wage gaps with cities are at record highs.... Mr. Bailey...said, "Even the parents are [advising] the kids to [bail] out...."
    The state and federal governments continue to put money into Superior NB and other diminishing towns, trying to stem a demographic force that can seem like a pull of gravity.
    [Sounds like the Canadian government's costly efforts to mount a population presence across the vast Canadian North.]
    ...Provided good jobs and a middle class...Nuckolls County \once had\ They are all gone. The factories are empty: too remote and not profitable enough, the owners said. The stores are dead: unable to compete after customers moved out and discount chains - like Wal-Mart, 60 miles away, off the Interstate in Hastings - moved in....
    [So Wal-Mart is functioning as a sort of dumb parasite that kills its host = the "Wal-Martization of America."]
    Mr. Blauvelt...has no children and doubts he could find a buyer for [his weekly] paper. "I don't have plans," [he] said. "This is the problem for many rural businesses - there is no plan for the next generation. And that's the problem with Superior now, we've lost the movers and shakers, the support structure of a middle class that makes things happen."
    Like most of the rural Great Plains, [in] Nuckolls County... ...Over the last 50 years,
    Two forces common to rural America have [devastated] Superior, Neb.
    1. ...The collapse of the family farm and the subsequent rise of agribusiness.
      [Ah, excuse us, but shouldn't this read, "The rise of agribusiness and the resulting collapse of the family farm"?]
        100 years ago, more than 30% of American workers earned their income from a farm. Now it is little more than 1%.
      [Whoa, there's an area in the concentration of wealth that we hadn't thought of!]
      The big farms are getting richer, fattened by federal subsidies [makework #1 revisited] and the small farms are disappearing.
      The U.S. grows more food now than it did 50 years ago, on about 25% less acreage, and with a fraction of the [diversity and sustainability! and] workers it once used.
    2. ...The Wal-Mart effect. The day a Wal-Mart comes into a midsize town, Mr. Blauvelt said, the town newspaper loses about 40% of its advertising revenue. But at least the paper has a fighting chance to stay in business. For local stores, it is no contest.
      [We repeat, Wal-Mart is functioning as a sort of dumb parasite that kills its host. This is the underlying meaning of the "Wal-Martization of America" - the Chesterton Pan-Utopian Trap = the failure to define and respect sustainable sharing, is killing America. Just as Wal-Mart wants it ALL, or in their terms, "only wants their share" - without limit or definition - so individual Americans feel the same way, and that's like a Monopoly game that comes to an definite end, not like a natural system that continues indefinitely, gradually getting stronger.]
      A recent University of Nebraska study found that in 52 rural counties in the state, the locally based share of the retail pie fell by 50% over the last 20 years. The stores that do survive sell basics: gas, quick-pickup groceries, coffee. Or they find a niche, selling local crafts, say, or wine....
    [You get the picture. We can't face the last (unexpected) full-page.]

  4. 11/29   Afghanistan: U.S. says poppy crop doubled in year, Reuters via NYT, A6.
    Poppy acreage...nearly doubled from 2002 to 2003 [from 76,900 in 2002 to 152,000 in 2003,] a level 36 times higher than in the last year of rule by the Taliban [4,210 acres in 2001], White House figures show. ...Poppies [are] used to make heroine and morphine....
    [Guess the U.S. "War on Drugs" just means that nobody but the CIA can have the concession.]

11/27/2003  3-in-1 cases of mega makework, totaling 22,600 "jobs" saved or generated, cited in Wall Street Journal (WSJ) &/or New York Times (NYT) - 11/25/2003  1 case of mongo makework, cited in Wall Street Journal (WSJ) &/or New York Times (NYT) - 11/22-24/2003  2 cases of makework, cited in Wall Street Journal (WSJ) &/or New York Times (NYT) &/or Boston Globe (BG) -
  1. 11/24   The Medicare model for health care - Growing support for less wasteful way to insure all Americans' health, op ed by Sr. Fellow Loretta McLaughlin of Harvard AIDS Institute, BG, A11.
    ...But how can it be that every citizen could have far more extensive healthcare coverage at no higher cost than what is now paid? With no loss in quality? And one could choose his own doctors, nurses, clinics, hospitals, prescription suppliers?
    Essentially, here's how: Recapture billions of dollars now spent unwisely for administrative activities that don't much as deliver an aspirin. Cut the expense of creating, selling, administering, and monitoring - the endless revamping - of healthcare plans.
    Each one of 1,900 or so health insurance companies in the U.S. works out separate and varying plans for a multitude of businesses to whom the insurer sells a contract for their employees. That translates into hundreds of thousands of plans for millions of subscribers; each plan with differing rules and regulations as to which healthcare service is covered - and with or without deductibles, co-payments, or ceilings of various amounts.... Where the U.S. departs from other countries in controlling costs is in fostering diversity of coverage (cafeteria-style options for lots or little coverage), bolstering companies with complex executive hierarchies and competitive sales practices. Thus, administrative costs for private health insurance companies range from about 12% to as high as 30%.
    The contrast with Medicare is stark. A single plan with a single payer that went into full effect within six months of its passage, Medicare's administrative costs are but 3% a year. Because it set rules for quality, it raised the standard of care, enabling growth and improvement of facilities..\..
    According to the Physicians Working Group, we [now] spend $1.66 trillion a year for our total health expenditures. Unlike other advanced nations that have a basic plan and a central payment mechanism, our system is massively complicated. We spend at least $399.4 billion a year on needless "paperwork." That much "saved" money [on a Medicare model] would completely pay for universal heathcare plus prescription drugs, dental care, and long-term care....

  2. 11/22   Army is planning for 100,000 G.I.'s in Iraq till 2006 - Concern about stability [Iraq's or ours with already high unemployment?!] - But high officer [anon.] warns of strain to sustain levels beyond that point [damn!], NYT, front page.

11/21/2003  4 cases of makework, totaling 1,000 new "jobs" plus unspecified, cited in Wall Street Journal (WSJ) &/or New York Times (NYT) -
  1. Intel sees improving outlook; AMD plans plant in Germany, by Clark & Fuscaldo, WSJ, B4.
    ...Advanced Micro Devices Inc. [AMD - not to be confused with 'WMDs'] said it will build a $2.4B manufacturing plant...which will begin operation in 2006..\..near its [existing] factory in Dresden, Germany.... AMD selected Dresden, where it expects to create 1,000 jobs, partly because of about $1.5B in financial assistance.... That includes $500m in grants and allowances from the federal and local government, $320m in equity funding from the German state of Saxony and private investors, and $700m in loans, with 80% of those backed by government guarantees.
    ...The state of New York offered attractive incentives, but the proximity to AMD's [existing] plant in Dresden was an overwhelming advantage....
    [Pa-thet-ick! Once humanity quits straining to counter all the worksaving technology with fixed-workweek makework and just switches to worksharing with self-adjusting workweeks, we can LOSE the bulk of our costly and inefficient governments - and deficits and taxes - all awastin' on charity for the rich, who are already spending all they care to.]

  2. Congress may defy Bush, pointer summary (to A7), WSJ, front page.
    ...on overtime pay rules, as it is doing with TV ownership caps, but forest-thinning will be in the catchall spending bill....
    [Makework for lumber companies at taxpayer expense on ecologically questionable grounds. And speaking of media ownership caps, note the good news -]
    Congress appears set to reverse F.C.C., NYT, C4.
    [AND the bad news -]
    Making a mockery of media concentration rules, NYT, C1.
    [wherein we learn that loopholes and tricky categorization of TV and radio stations etc. has allowed some markets, like Wichita Falls, Tex., to be monopolized by one owner anyway.]

  3. New Mexico: In a different sort of hot water, by Mindy Sink, NYT, A24.
    Some criminals with substance abuse problems may do time in a sauna if the Correction Dept. can finance a pilot program, Second Chance.... The theory behind the sauna is that some drugs, including cocaine and heroin, stay in fatty tissues and have to be cleansed out.
    [And we haven't even talked about vortexes and crystals yet.]
    ..\..It originated in Mexico, where drug problems are rampant in prisons....
    [How sweet - from olde Mexico to New Mexico.]
    Officials plan to seek an $800,000 federal grant to pay for group and family therapy, educational workshops, vitamin supplements and detoxifying time in saunas....

  4. The incredible bloated money bill, editorial, NYT, A30.
    The Republican-led Congress is wallowing toward a garishly spectacular finale: a $284 billion omnibus spending bill, a haphazardly stitched hulk that fives a bad name to the usual legislative metaphors about sausage-making, and bauble-laden Xmas Trees. This bill, rigged as a take-it-or-leave-it voting prod for lawmakers antsy to get home, begins by combining 5 expensive measures that deserve separate votes because they are vital for financing much of the governmetn next year. But the real political goal is to festoon this appropriations wad with an incongruous mix of resurrected controversies, hometown pork and hot-button proposals....
    [Meanwhile, baq in I-raq -]
    When soldiers go without paychecks, the editorial RIGHT below, NYT, A30.

11/20/2003  3 cases of makework cited in Wall Street Journal (WSJ) &/or New York Times (NYT) &/or Boston Globe (BG) -
  1. Reserve and guard ordered to alert more troops for Iraq, by Schmitt & Shanker, NYT, A14.
    ...an additional 15,000....
    ["You breed 'em, we bag 'em." (body-bag 'em, that is! - and if we bag enough, we'll relieve the peacetime labor glut and wage depression, centrifuge and dynamize wealth, and recreate the famed 'wartime prosperity'!)]

  2. White House ordered to review mining rules, AP via BG, A2 (//WSJ, A1), flagged by colleague Kate.
    The Interior Dept. is not requiring companies to pay fair market value for the use of public lands and resources, according to a federal judge who ordered the Bush administration to revisit its mining rules. Regulating the mining of minerals such as gold, silver, and copper, the Dept. operated "under the erroneous assumption that it did not need to attempt[why just attempt?! obtain it or NO DEAL!] to obtain fair market value for operations on unclaimed land," US District Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. said in an opinion Tuesday.

  3. Bill to create Office of Nanotechnology, by Barnaby Feder, NYT, C4.
    Congress is about to send pResident Bush a bill creating the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office and authorizing the appropriation of $3.7B over the 4 years starting next Oct. for nanotech R&D.
    [Congressmen shouting, "See, we're relevant! we're relevant! We're up with the latest buzzwords!" And who's behind this big boondoggle?]
    ...The legislation...converts an investment initiative originally established by Pres. Clinton into a continuing arm of the government. It requires the office to undergo triennial performance reviews by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences....
    [Hooboy, has the National Academy of Sciences ever got their hooks into us taxpayers - they're forcing us to subsidize developments that are already happening anyway.]

11/19/2003  1 case of makework cited in Wall Street Journal (WSJ) &/or New York Times (NYT) - 11/18/2003  3 cases of makework cited in Wall Street Journal (WSJ) &/or New York Times (NYT) -
  1. Congress set to work, pointer blurb (to A2), WSJ, front page.
    ...on a $700B-plus omnibus spending bill that is a magnet for special-interest provisions, as well as 16 separate veto threats by Bush....
    [But what's money to this administration or this Congress? Page 4 tells us, "U.S. budget deficit widened in October to $69.55 billion," WSJ, A4, compared to a surplus[?!] of $26.31B in September - is someone fiddling with these figures or what! - and a $54.07B deficit a year earlier. Here's the target energy article's headline -]
    Energy bill is laden with tax breaks, WSJ, A2.
    [related editorial -]
    The Grassley Rainforest Act, editorial, WSJ, A20.
    [See also below 11/12/2003.]
    We'll say this for the energy bill that is about to come to a final vote in Congress: It's certainly comprehensive. It may not have all that much to do with energy any more, but it does give something to every last elected Representative.
    [most of whom are supposedly small-government 'Republicans'.]
    What began three years ago as a serious White House study of America's growing energy needs has emerged as one of the great logrolling exercises in recent Congressional history - which is saying something. The GOP leadership has greased more wheels than a Nascar pit crew. Perhaps the rest of us will see more energy supplies as a result, but we're sure going to pay for the privilege.
    [Not if 'we' keep the taxcuts.]
    Yes, there are a few good policy advances.... But that's the least Congress could do..\..in a 1,700-page monstrosity....
    [Followup -]
    Size of proposed tax breaks in energy bill startles experts, 11/19/2003 NYT, A14.

  2. It's your money - Someone finally puts a price tag on the IMF, editorial, WSJ, A20.
    You might think that the very first thing the American taxpayer has the righit to expect from a financial institution dedicated to maintaining monetary cooperation and the international balance of payments would be some honest bookkeeping. Especially when Uncle Sam is its largest contributor.
    Think again.
    Forget about looking for the answer in the U.S. budget. America's contribution to the IMF is an off-budget item. And Congress has long preferred to pretend that the billions of dollars in loans that the U.S. makes to the Fund cost the U.S. taxpayer, as Treasury Secy Robert Rubin put it in 1998, "not one dime." Naturally, this line of thinking is just fine with the IMF, which is happy to avoid the closer scrutiny that would be sure to follow if Congress ever admitted tht its U.S. funding is not cost-free.
    Though such logic (not to mention such arithmetic) was always suspect, a new study shows just how flawed it really is. The U.S. contribution to the IMF, says Adam Lerrick of the Gailliot Center at Carnegie Mellon University, has cost the U.S. an average of $1.5B a yeara since 1991. This year these costs will reach $1.9B.
    [ie: in round figures, $2,000,000,000.]
    It sure would be nice if Congress noticed....

  3. Hydrogen cars will cost billions, pointer blurb (to A17), WSJ, front page.
    ...to get on the road, and the auto and energy industries want taxpayer help to foot the bill.
    [Only after CEO pay comes down to 1950 multiples. Target article's headline -]
    Industries seek fuel-cell funding, WSJ, A17.

11/17/2003  1 case of makework with 24,143 new "jobs" cited in Wall Street Journal (WSJ) &/or New York Times (NYT) - 11/14/2003  1 huge case of makework with 24,143 new "jobs" cited in Boston Globe - 11/13/2003  3 cases of makework with unspecified new "jobs" cited in Wall Street Journal (WSJ) &/or New York Times (NYT) -
  1. The questions about Halliburton, letter to editor by Chris Gilbert of Berkeley CA, NYT, A30.
    ...A possibly false Halliburton story regarding the awarding of contracts for Iraqi reconstruction...is so believable because government officials from the top (Dick Cheney) on down do not seem to want to take the steps necessary to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest....
    ["If it walks like a duck, if it quacks like a duck...."]

  2. Tentative Medicare pact offers [some] drug benefits to elderly - Some Democrats fear a deal could threaten the Medicare system, by Robert Pear, NYT, A18.
    ...Republicans said they had secured the tentative deal by scaling back their demands for direct competition between private health plans and the traditional Medicare program, which serves more than 85% of the 40m beneficiaries.... But the Democrats' main strategist on healthcare issues, Sen. Edward ['Ted'] Kennedy of Massachusetts, rejected the package, especially a proposal to lure private health plans into Medicare with billions of dollars in new federal subsidies....
    [Gee, it's sure nice to see Teddy fighting pork for a change - eastern Massachusetts is still playing bumpercars around his wacky & beyond-costly Big Dig. Wanna learn how to do it right? Look at Toronto. You don't put something underground that you're going to have to repeatedly widen unless you're really desperate for 'job' creation and higher taxes.]
    The makework rolls on, all unnecessary when replaced by 'sharework' = systemically sharing the vanishing work, alias worksharing, for example, via the Timesizing design.]

  3. Japan's government, pointer summary (to A14), WSJ, front page.
    ...is considering injecting public funds into Askikaga in what would be the second bank bailout this year.
    [First was $18B for Resona Holdings in July - see 8/19/2003.]

11/12/2003  1 case of makework cited in Wall Street Journal (WSJ) &/or New York Times (NYT) - 11/08-10/2003  4 cases of makework cited in Wall Street Journal (WSJ) &/or New York Times (NYT) -
  1. 11/10   U.S. authorities plan, pointer summary (to A3), WSJ, front page.
    ...to select as few as three prime contractors by Feb. 1 to handle as much as $15 billion of new public-works projects in Iraq....
    [So according to today's lost-their-minds "Republican" neo-cons, it's not OK to have big government and taxpayer-busting makework in America, but it's just fine to have US big government and US taxpayer-busting makework in OTHER COUNTRIES. The main article -]
    Few companies may lead Iraq work - Hundreds of subcontractors could get rebuilding jobs; Foreign bids to be weighed, by Neil King Jr., WSJ, A3.
    [So Bush and his team of neo-con artists think the American taxpayer is made out of money and infinitely billable, if not today, then tomorrow; if not tomorrow, then our children; if not our children, then our grandchildren. Bush "Soak the Taxpayer" for 2004!]

  2. [Of course, they make another exception in their crusade against Big Government for their pals in Big Agribusiness -]
    11/10   Welfare reform for farmers, editorial, NYT, A22.
    A great rift is opening in America's once-impregnable farm lobby. It is a gap between Sen. Charles Grassley, the chairman of the Finance Committee and an Iowa farmer, has long been unable to impose new limits [such as] an amendment to the Dept. of Agriculture's annual funding legislation last week that would set a new cap on the overall amount farmers can obtain in federal subsidies. Many Southern senators were eager to avoid the issue....

  3. [then there's the truly pathetic state- and city-level makework competition - at taxpayer expense -]
    11/10   States pay for jobs, but it doesn't always pay off - Spending tax dollars in a bidding war for a shrunken pool of jobs, by Louis Uchitelle, NYT, front page.
    [Ya mean, there are more dumb states besides Massachusetts, which gave tax breaks to Raytheon to keep jobs in Massachusetts and they still cut jobs and moved them out of state, and which gave tax breaks to Fidelity Investments and they still cut jobs and moved them out of state?]
    INDIANAPOLIS - A huge light-gray building rises...on the far side of the runways at Indianapolis International Airport.... But the parking lots are empty and inside, the 12 elaborately equipped hangar bays are silent and dark. It's as if the owner...had suddenly walked away, leaving everything in place.
    That's [exactly] what happened. United Airlines got $320m in taxpayer money to build...the most technologically advanced aircraft maintenance center in America. But six months ago, the company walked away, leaving the city and state governments out all that money, and no new tenant in sight....
    Yet the city and state are stepping up subsidies to other companies that offer, as United once did, to bring high-paying jobs and sophisticated operations to Indiana.
    [Not realizing that jobs and sophisticated technology are mutually exclusive under an economic and management theory that downsizes, instead of timesizing, in response to technology.]
    Many municipal and state governments are doing the same, escalating a bidding war for a shrunken pool of jobs in America despite the worst squeeze in years on their budgets.
    [A "shrunken pool of jobs"? There it is again, yet another rebuttal to mainstream economists' out-of-touch sneer at the fixed Lump of Labor-Demand "Fallacy." It wouldn't be so problematic if it was "fixed" but it's actually shrinking.]
    Their hope is that the new employees at the subsidized companies will give back their incomes to the community in tax payments and spending, more than justifying the subsidies....
    [What would you say, some 70-80% of government budgets today are makework, given subsidies, enterprize zones, block grants, industrial policy, patronage, and pork? Maybe even 80-90%? All eventually unsustainable and unnecessary in the light of a robust alternative, timesizing.]

  4. [and here's another one -]
    11/08   Mining again in a Montana town that's fallen on hard times - A city plagued by job losses and festering toxic waste, by Jim Robbins, NYT, A8.
    BUTTE, Mont. - ...This month, the last of more than 350 workers is expected to be on board at the Continental Pit mine, which is being brought back on line by...Montana Resources Inc. with the help of a $2m loan from the state....

11/06/2003  1 extended-makework case cited in Wall Street Journal (WSJ) &/or New York Times (NYT) - 11/05/2003  1 makework case cited in Wall Street Journal (WSJ) &/or New York Times (NYT) - 11/04/2003  1 huge makework case clinched - cited in Wall Street Journal (WSJ) &/or New York Times (NYT) - 11/01/2003  2 makework cases - cited in Wall Street Journal (WSJ) &/or New York Times (NYT) -
  1. Calls to jihad [holy war] are said to lure hundreds of militants to Iraq - Officials see flow from Europe and the Mideast, NYT, front page.
    [Lots of continuing friction to keep the famed War Solution to Unemployment chugging along, instead of just flexibly sharing the vanishing employment on more and more aggregate levels. The latest on the evolution of Congress' response -]
    Occupation - Congressional unit analyzes military costs in Iraq, by Richard Oppel, NYT, A6.
    [That could keep them spinning their wheels indefinitely.]
    ...With 130,000 troops now in Iraq, the Pentagon says the occupation has been costing about $4B a month....
    [Ergo, $1 billion a week, $18,000 a minute.]

  2. [and for sheer makework luxury, ya gotta hand it to B.U. -]
    Boston U. pays its new president just to go away ... to walk away from job, by Sara Rimer, NYT, front page.
    BOSTON, Mass. - Just one day before he was to take over as the trustees' unanimous choice to lead Boston University [BU], Daniel S. Goldin, the former NASA administrator, agreed to walk away from the presidency of the nation's 4th-largest private university for a reported payment of $1.8 million.
    [Talk about 'golden parachute'!]
    ..."It's the worst example of university management in the history of higher education," said Alan Wolfe, a professor of political science at Boston College [separate university in suburb of Weston, Mass.].
    ..\..And what was the role of John Silber, the chancellor and former president who has run BU with a tight hand [or jaw, or fist] for more than three decades and who was Mr. Goldin's biggest backer, at least until two weeks ago? Neither responded to requests for comment....
    [Silber is a little guy with one arm and a big Napoleon complex, which has made him function as BU's giant remora. Or maybe Silber's the shark and BU's the remora. Whatever. There's no getting rid of Silber, and apparently this was one of Goldin's conditions on accepting the job - his most necessary and intelligent one.]
    The trustees had heard reports that Mr. Goldin had hired a psychiatrist to evaluate Dr. Silber, apparently in an effort to sideline him.
    [Imaginative! We love this guy!]
    Other people close to the board paint a far different picture, focusing on Dr. Silber's reluctance to reliquish authority and the wishes of some trustees to protect longstanding business relationships that they have with the university....
    [In short, inablity to let go and plain old corruption.]
    Mr. Goldin...was not the first person to lose favor [in midstream]. The previous president, Jon Westling, was ousted last year after the trustees said he was not up to the fund-raising requirements of the post. Dr. Silber, who had taken the title of chancellor, then resumed the president's duties....
    [Basically, Silber just wants a flashy puppet to raise money for his corrupt little "non-profit" fiefdom. Way back around 1980, when Silber's treatment of BU staff was evoking unionization all over the place, including among the faculty, Phil Hyde, on the staff at BUSON (BU School of Nursing - which Silber later dissolved as insufficiently profitable or sexy), joined in the staff vote to join a union known to us only as "District 69," and one of the slogans in the unionization campaign was "Dump the Stump," refering to Silber's amputated arm, the stump of which he always made sure protruded from his suitjacket on that side, presumably to rattle people, giving new meaning to "If ya got it, flaunt it!"]

For earlier makework stories, click on the desired date -

  • Sep-Oct/2003.
  • Jan-Aug/2003.
  • 2002.
  • 2001 & earlier.

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