Saturday, January 3, 2009

Virus Destroys Economic Centers of Brain

Is there a better explanation for the ongoing economic insanity?

The outbreak has reached epidemic proportions, hobbling the thinking powers of those in the steel business as well. Apparently they are equally lacking in economic wisdom and self-respect, two notable symptoms.
Executives add[] their voices to pleas for a huge public investment program — up to $1 trillion over two years — intended to lift demand for steel to build highways, bridges, electric power grids, schools, hospitals, water treatment plants and rapid transit.

“What we are asking,” said Daniel R. DiMicco, chairman and chief executive of the Nucor Corporation, a giant steel maker, "is that our government deal with the worst economic slowdown in our lifetime through a recovery program that has in every provision a ‘buy America’ clause."
That's not quite as bad as asking for a direct bailout. At least the steel companies are willing to provide something for the money. But his wish is first-cousin to a tariff and the manager of a steel business should know better by now. And, that, after "[t]he third quarter was one of the best in U.S. Steel’s history," according to a spokesman for U.S. Steel.

Charles Schwab and Henry Clay Frick, two early titans of the steel business, never asked anything of government except to protect their property from vandalism and to keep the peace. Too many of today's businessmen have no such constraints of conscience nor much understanding of Constitutional constraints on what government should do.

Those at the top of the payscale aren't the only ones infected, either. One recently laid-off 48-year old woman who has worked on the line for years is concerned about her future after being laid off. Given her income it's hard to be too sympathetic, though.
On layoff, she is collecting $20 an hour, which is 80 percent of her base pay of $25.12 an hour. That base pay, rather than rising significantly, is fattened by incentive bonuses tied to amounts of steel produced and to profits. It had been averaging an additional $7 an hour — money now gone until the mill reopens.
Shades of the automakers... Do all these people have the same labor contract negotiators? Would that I could get paid $20 an hour for doing no work, or 80% of my regular income. I'd seriously consider not working. Perhaps that's partly why the company finds it so hard to stay above water during economic downturns.

In the meantime, we don't need to be too anxious about Ms. Loepker. She'll be fairly comfortable, since she "lives by herself in a four-bedroom home she bought in nearby Belleville, three blocks from a married sister." If things get truly tight, maybe she can rent out some rooms. Too bad the steel companies don't have that option.

If the Feds want to do something good for the country, maybe they could throw a little R & D money toward someone who could come up with a vaccine. But then, if it came from them, it might just spread the disease further.

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