Okay, Let’s Talk About Jobs

Well, as I mentioned in my last post Bank of America is planning to lay-off thirty thousand employees over the next couple of years. This news was announced with stunning irony, on the same day that President Obama sent his recently announced “American Jobs Act” to Congress. So, the talk in politics is all about jobs. What can Congress, or the President really do to create jobs in this country? The answer is. . . not much.

All the talk is about the record of job creation a person has. Rick Perry is touting the economic success “he’s had” in Texas. Mitt Romney is taking shots at him about it, and all the Republicans are blaming President Obama for the economy. John Boehner gave a speech today in Detroit basically outlining the fact that congressional Republicans aren’t going to work with the President. Unless, of course, he does whatever they want. Their ideas are the same tired ideas they’ve had for years, but I will deal with that later.

There is an idea that is more broad and it needs addressed. The American public has a huge misconception about the role of government in the economy. We talk about a President’s record of creating job, but the truth is that president’s don’t create jobs. Unless, they require the government to hire more people. George W. Bush, for example, created the job of Secretary of Homeland Security. President’s can only provide incentives, like tax credits and tax cuts, for employers to hire more people, but that won’t work.

Take a look at it this way. I’m CEO of the Worldwide Widget Corporation, J. Pierpont Finch. We sell two million widgets a year that are produced in two factories employing 100 people. The accountants come to me and say if we build a new factory and hire 50 more people, we’ll get a tax credit. What would you do? If your smart you’d go to the sales team and ask, “If we build a new factory how many more widgets can we sell?” If they say there is no more demand for widgets, you would be crazy to spend the money on a factory and employees that you don’t need. You would be throwing money away. Yes, the government is going to reimburse you for some of it but then your stuck with a factory that is a drain on your profit.

Now, if the sales team comes to you and says, “If we build a factory and hire some people we can sell one million more widgets and our profit will grow 50%.” What would you do? You’d build the factory, and I bet you would do it even if you weren’t getting a tax credit. You’d build it because it is good for Worldwide Widgets.

The President and Congress have no actual role in that decision. Only one thing does, and that is demand. The economy isn’t a physical thing. It is the compilation of all of the uncountable transactions that take place between people and business every day. The mood of the masses drives the economy. President Bush issued rebate checks to American taxpayers. If you filed a tax return you got a $600 check if you were a single person and a $1200 check if you filed jointly. That could stimulate the economy, but only if people spend that money. If the public puts it in their savings for another day, it doesn’t do anything until that other day.

That means that people are the economy. We make it succeed or fail, grow or retract. Capitalism is built on people spending money. That’s why consumer confidence is so important. If we believe the economy is going well and we can afford to spend money, then things will be okay. Christina Stein wrote an interesting article about this at the Kansas Free Press.

I’ve said before that the best way to stimulate the economy would be to eliminate taxes on the poorest people. Poor people are unique in that they are the only group of people who spend every dollar they have. The middle-class, and the wealthy don’t do that. They can afford to have a savings or a retirement account. If you give poor people more of their paycheck, a lot of money will immediately be returned into the economy.

The real truth about the economy is that it hinges on the behavior of people. Presidents don’t control that. Congress doesn’t control that. If you vote on the state of things now, you are voting for the wrong reasons. We need to be voting for the person who is thinking about the future. We need to look at a candidates vision, intellect, and drive. We need to take our eyes off of today and think about tomorrow, and pick the right person to lead us there.


Bank of America Talks Layoffs. I Talk Hot Dogs.

What do Bank of America, and a guy known as “The Chili Man” have in common?

They both call beautiful Charlotte, North Carolina home. Why do I know this? Well, I’m a frequent listener of NPR. Especially, “All Things Considered,” “Car Talk,” and when it works out, “Marketplace.” Today happened to be a day when I listened to “Marketplace,” and I heard this story. If you read a little of it you will find that reporter Amy Scott talks to Charlotte resident and businessman,

Charlotte hot dog man, Vic Werany

Vic Werany. Vic is the aforementioned “Chili Man.” Here’s my thing. He sells hot dogs. Yes, I know that we often put chili on a hot dog. I a huge proponent of doing so. The chili dog is one of my favorite foods, but the “Chili Man” should sell chili. At best, Vic is the “Chili Dog Man.” Little things like that bother me.

Here’s a couple more that nobody ever talks about. Hot dogs are sometimes referred to as “frankfurters” or “wieners,” and nobody complains? These terms mean something. First of all, they’re all sausages really, but a frankfurter and a wiener would be different. Frankfurters are based on the sausages of Frankfurt, and wieners on the sausages of Vienna. So explain to me how Oscar Meyer sells “franks” and “wieners” that are both hot dogs, and don’t get me started on Vienna sausages!

In reality much can be learned by reading the hot dog entry on Wikipedia. It turns out that these terms do not mean what they originally meant. Not really all that surprising. We, Americans, have a way of changing the definition of things to suit our own needs. Anyway, you should take some time to learn about a classic American grilling food, and no it’s not “barbecue”. I’m from Kansas City. If you misuse that holy word I will have a lengthy discussion with you about “barbecue.”

Oh yeah, the story also mentions that Bank of America is going to lay-off 30,000 people over the next couple of years. You didn’t expect me to talk about that, did you?


A Debate, A Speech, And Oh, My God, I Forgot Claude Rains

The past couple of days have been eventful in the world of politics. There was a Republican debate, a presidential address to Congress, and shortly thereafter we kicked off the NFL regular season. I’m not sure what it says about this country that the President had to schedule his speech around a football game to make sure people watched, but that’s what happened. Scheduling aside, there is much to talk about.

First, the debate. I didn’t watch it. I have read the highlights. I probably should have watched because it is the first one Texas Governor Rick Perry has participated in, but I wasn’t that interested. Mostly, I didn’t care because the Republican party is not going to nominate anyone that I would consider voting for.  Michele Bachmann claimed she would get the price of gas down to $2 a gallon. I thought that was interesting. I’m sure her reasoning is that if we open the whole country up to drilling we’ll find enough oil. In reality that is nonsense. The price of gas is largely dependent on the price of oil and we will never find enough to compete with the national oil companies of countries like Saudi Arabia. I thought the small exchange between Mitt Romney and Rick Perry about job creation was funny. Perry pointed out the Micheal Dukakis had a better job creation record than Romney did as Governor of Massachusetts. Romney shot back that former Texas governors Ann Richards and George W. Bush had a better record than Perry. Personally, I believe that shows that governors don’t have a whole lot of power over job creation.

Jon Huntsman would be interesting candidate, but I don’t think he has a chance. He might not be a bad choice for VP. He is a seasoned diplomat, and the eventual nominee is almost certain to lack foreign policy experience. Why won’t they have that experience? The answer is simple. Rick Perry is going to be the nominee. I don’t have a doubt about it. He really is the best candidate that the Republicans can put forward. He’s got all the conservative bona fides. He’s got all the folksy appeal. He’s George W. Bush on steroids. Unlike Bush he’s a real Texan. He went to Texas A&M (though his grades weren’t that great.) With the economy stagnating and job creation basically non-existent, he has all the ammunition to take down President Obama. Obama’s problem is simple. His argument is more complicated. Perry can tout his record of job creation in Texas. On the surface this record looks good, but if you look deeper you find that most of those jobs are low-paying and don’t have benefits like health insurance. Obama’s problem will be that most people don’t look deeper.  On NPR’s “All Things Considered”, a Democratic strategist from Texas called Rick Perry, “the best, most talented politician to come out of Texas since LBJ.” If that’s true this election should be something to watch. Which brings us to the President’s speech.

Frankly, I didn’t think it was one of his best. I don’t believe it was particularly well-written. He told Congress to, “pass this bill,” far too often. From a policy standpoint, however, I think he is doing the right thing. His proposals will help everyday Americans. The middle class that doesn’t get talked about nearly often enough will benefit from the bill. The extension of the payroll tax cut, and unemployment benefits are good ideas. The fact that it won’t add to the deficit (which the president pointed out more than once) should make it palatable to Republicans. The President pointed out that the proposals in the bill have been supported by both Republicans and Democrats in the past. That, along with the fact that it won’t add to the deficit, should make it harder for Republicans to oppose it as another “government spending binge.” I firmly believe that the President has the best interests of the American people in mind. Yes, he has a political incentive as well. Job creation and a growing economy will help his reelection effort, but I think in this case he really wants to improve things for the people. We will see what Congress thinks.

Finally, I made a horrible omission. In my last post I recommended the film “Casablanca.” I talked about how the movie contained anything you could want. I talked about the amazing screenplay, and I talked about the stellar performances of all the cast members. To my dismay, I failed to mention Claude Rains. Claude Rains, in the role of “Louie” is absolutely one of the best parts in the movie. He even delivers the unforgettable line, “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!” So, I must apologize for my error, and once again recommend that you see “Casablanca” It is one of the best films ever made.

5 Film Recommendations

List posts seem to be popular around the blogging community and I’ve done a couple. Today I’ve decided to step outside the world of politics.  Summer is coming to a close and there is no better time for a movie night. If that is in your family’s future, I want to recommend five of my favorite films.

1) CLUE (1985)

Some people may argue that board games don’t make for good movies. CLUE in one case that proves them wrong. Based on the Parker Bros. game Clue is a classic whodunnit mystery.  Tim Curry, Martin Mull, Micheal McKean, Christopher Lloyd, Madeline Kahn, Eileen Brennan, and Lesley Ann Warren made an all-star cast of comedic actors from the mid 1980’s. The premise was simple. Six people show up at a dinner party. Then Mr. Boddy arrives. Mr. Boddy is quickly killed and we are left to figure out who murdered him.  With fantastic performances by the entire cast, and 3 alternate endings, Clue is an underappreciated classic of American comedy.

2) Uncle Buck (1989)

If you talk to people about John Hughes films, you will likely hear about “The Breakfast Club” and “Sixteen Candles.” You may even come across the occasional fan of “Ferris Buehler’s Day Off.” The one John Hughes flick you aren’t likely to hear about is “Uncle Buck.” “Uncle Buck” starred John Candy as, Buck Russell, the estranged uncle of a suburban Chicago family. When his sister-in-law’s father has a heart attack the family must turn to Buck to look after the three children, only one of whom knows he even exists. Uncle Buck has all the humor of an outright comedy, and the touching growing up story of teenage angst that is the hallmark of John Hughes films. It’s a definite must see.

3) O Brother Where Art Thou? (2000)

Ethan and Joel Cohen might just be the most creative filmmakers alive today. Their films range from the hilarious to absurd to downright frightening. How a pair can come up with “The Dude” for one movie and then have a characters body put through a wood chipper in another is beyond me. I was exposed to the Coen brothers early in my life when I first saw “Raising Arizona.” Since then I have had the pleasure of seeing 8 of the 15 or so movies they have released. While I constantly fight myself over which is my favorite, I believe 2000’s “O, Brother Where Art Thou” is possibly the most creative film of my lifetime. Centered around Ulysses Everett McGill (George Clooney) and his chain gang companions, Pete (John Turturro) and Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson), the film is an adaptation of Homer’s “Odyssey” set in the Depression Era South. After they escape from a penal farm, the trio sets out to find treasure. Along the way they encounter a blind soothsayer on the railroad, a guitar player named Tommy(Chris Thomas King), a one-eyed Bible salesman (John Goodman), infamous bank robber George “Baby-Face” Nelson (Michael Badalucco), Governor Pappy O’Daniel (Charles Durning), and a man who will pay you 20 dollars to sing into a can (Stephen Root). Backed up by the brilliant musical direction of T-Bone Burnett, “O Brother Where Art Thou?” is a film you just can’t miss.

4) Inherit The Wind (1960)

When I was growing up my mother took it upon herself to make sure I had an appreciation for classic American cinema. I was the only kid in the elementary school who could talk about Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart and Danny Kaye. My friends didn’t have a clue about who Andy Griffith was,  but I had seen “No Time For Sergeants” ten times. At some point this experience led me to “Inherit The Wind.” Based on the real-life events of the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial, “Inherit The Wind” is a fantastic film. “Inherit The Wind” has a top-notch cast with Spencer Tracy, Frederic March, and Gene Kelly, in a rare dramatic, non-dancing role. The cast, the script, and the directing are all reasons to watch this film, but the most important reason is the subject itself.  “Inherit The Wind” is based on the real trial that pitted conservative hero William Jennings Bryan and famous trial lawyer Clarence Darrow against each other. The argument of faith vs. science is explored in-depth. This is the debate that is still going on today. If you want an example of a film that is as relevant today as it was when it was made, “Inherit The Wind” is a great example.

5) Casablanca (1942)

Intrigue, romance, suspense, murder, and most importantly Nazis, “Casablanca” has it all. If you pick one movie from this list to watch, this is it. “Casablanca” is always in the top five of any list of the greatest films ever made. There is good reason. “Casablanca” gave us great lines like, “Here’s looking at you, kid,” “Of all the gin joints in all the world, she had to walk into mine,” “Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” and “Play it again, Sam,” which is actually never said in the movie. Like the other movies I’ve recommended in this list, “Casablanca” has an amazing cast. Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, and Paul Henreid put in stellar performances. However, Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman make Casablanca unforgettable. If you had to pick one movie to watch on a random night, “Casablanca” will never dissapoint.

While this list is not meant to promote the five best movies ever made, I believe that these five are great movies to watch. I hope you will take the time to see them.

Republican Playoff Update

With Congress out on the playground this month, there is little in the world of national politics to talk about it would seem. Or is there?  Republican’s seem to still be running for President so let’s take at look at the continuing Republican Presidential Playoffs.

Former Gov. Tim “I’m The Sensible Minnesotan” Pawlenty seems be dropping out due to injury. Sources say the injury is a bruised ego. His 3rd place finish in Ames just wasn’t enough to keep him going. It seems Ames was the straw poll that broke Pawlenty’s back. Herman “Three Page” Cain is sticking in the race but he isn’t generating the buzz he once did. Maybe the memory of former RNC Chair Micheal Steele is to recent for conservatives to put another African-American man out there. Or it could be that they figured out that Cain is just crazy. Let’s face it, you couldn’t put the legislative language to buy the paper for the legislation on three pages.  Rick “Water Is What It Is” Santorum is still hanging on despite lackluster fundraising. Perhaps he hoping being a native Pennsylvanian will help gain him the VP nod. That or he doesn’t realize that no one is going to vote for him. The race “is what it is, it can’t be something else” Rick. You aren’t going to win. Newt “I’m Still Running” Gingrich seems to still think this is 1995 and he is a national figure. After his top campaign staff quit, you would have thought he would too. Instead, Gringrich has continued to run and one of his issues has been “made in America” products. That issue took a detour when he held up a “Newt 2012” shirt that was made in El Salvador at a press conference. Despite a strong 2nd in the Ames poll Rep. Ron “Ignored-By-The-Media” Paul, still can’t seem to get any real press. The only news stories about Paul seem to be about how the news is ignoring him. There has to be some kind of irony ban for something like that. Jon “The Other Mormon” Huntsman is also still chugging along, but in the midst of conservative Anti-Obama fervor, the fact that he was Obama’s ambassador to China seems to be dragging him down.

The media has officially declared the top-tier in the race now. Let’s take a look. Texas Gov. Rick “Jesus Make it Rain” Perry has jumped in the race and is already being called a “top tier candidate.” Perry has some unusual hiccups in his game, however. He allowed the execution of a death row inmate after being shown compelling evidence that the man was innocent, his less than impressive college transcripts made the Huffington Post, and he issued a proclomation asking Texans to pray for rain to help against wildfires as he cut funding for firefighters. He does have a strong ability to tell people how everything is President Obama’s fault so he may be able to overcome his rivals. How he will do in the finals is up in the air.

Mitt “It Wasn’t Just Like Obamacare” Romney is the real used to be a moderate, Mormon former Governor. While Obamacare could prove to be a liability Romeny has shown remarkable fundraising capability. We’ll see if the other two point out that Romney has left his old positions to become more “conservative.” 2012 could prove to be a drastic repeat for Romney.

To round out the “top tier” is this year’s most exciting, unconventional, and probably insane candidate, Rep. Michele “Where’s The Camera” Bachmann. Bachmann has created unbelievable fervor among conservatives. Fresh off a win at the Ames Straw Poll, Bachmann is possibly crowding Sarah Palin out of the picture just because she has actually completed a term in an elected office. While she has at least 3 unforced errors this year. She praised our Founding Father’s “opposition” to slavery, using a 9-year old John Quincy Adams as an example. She talked about sharing a hometown with John Wayne when it was actually serial killer John Wayne Gacy who lived in Waterloo, Iowa. Finally she recently wished Elvis a “Happy Birthday” on the anniversiary of his death. Obviously, her research staff needs a shake-up. Bachmann might do alright with the Republican base but there is no doubt she needs a new coach to get her through this.

It seems no Republican is without their flaws. Some individual strengths have emerged. Which of these will lead to the nomination? Then the question will be; do the playoffs leave the eventual nominee with the stamina for the finals?

I Feel Better, For Awhile At Least

I gotta tell you, it was tough the past few weeks. This whole debt ceiling “debate” was really dragging me down.  I may talk about it in the future, but for now I just wanted to say that I’m glad it’s over. Unfortunately, we’re just going to go through it again in a few months. However, it’s done. I hope maybe we can talk more rationally for now.

So going forward, I’m going to make a few more lists. I’m working on a list of 5 movies from five great filmmakers that I believe people should see. Also by request, I’m going to add a food section where I intend to document and review a recipe every once in a while. In essence, Independent Kansan is going to be broadening its horizons. Hopefully that will give me something to write about when the politics start depressing me. So here’s to the future. Enjoy blogging.

Two Signs of Hope From Very Odd Places

I gotta tell you I never would have seen this coming. In the increasingly polarized country we live in today, it is hard to believe that conservatives and liberals could talk about each other, much less with each other. Yet, during my daily scanning of the headlines on Google news, I came across an article I thought surely had to be a joke. I read it and it wasn’t. The whole thing was true. It appeared to be a rare occurrence, something a person might never see. I moved on, amazed by my luck, and then it happened again.

No I’m talking about Rep. David Wu being accused of sexual misconduct. Let’s face it, that happens all the time. He is the fourth member of Congress who has been accused this year. It really makes you wonder what the hell is wrong with the people in Congress, but if you ask that it begs the question of what the hell is wrong with us? We vote for these guys. Anyway, I came across two instances of a person defending someone who is in another ideological world from them.  Ann Coulter , who I normally regard as insane although I do own one of her books, was on Sean Hannity’s show and refused to talk badly about Bill Maher. While disagreeing on everything, Maher and Coulter, are actually longtime friends. Maher often introduces Coulter as his “old drinking buddy.” That must have irked Hannity, so Ann Coulter’s on my good list today. Perhaps, that one isn’t so surprising, but then I read that Arianna Huffington went on ABC and defended Michele Bachmann. The media has recently taken to talking about Bachmann’s migraines. While it might be news, even I think that it’s been overblown. Huffington called the media’s coverage “sexist” and said Bachmann was getting the “female treatment.” Those are pretty harsh words coming from someone who must think everything Bachmann believes is crazy.

I feel pretty good about this. It shows that we’re not at each other’s throats constantly. It makes you realize that some people out there can keep things in perspective. And let me tell you, if those people are Ann Coulter, and Arianna Huffington, then there has to be hope for the rest of us.