Saturday, May 19, 2012

Unintended Consequences in Government

                                                Night blooming cerus Tucson Arizona USA 

As I grew older my understanding of long term consequences of social engineering, regulations, tax policies, R&D priorities and other phenomena has grown.  A course of action that is beneficial in the short term might not be so beneficial down the road.  An example of that is a recent celebration that consumer debt had risen and thus helped the economy.  As this debt comes due, less spending will be the result, which will negatively impact the economy for as long as it takes to pay the debt.  Interest goes to the moneylenders, who sock it away to gamble on derivatives, shorts and other nonproductive 'investments'.  Investments like these used to be called a 'stake' in gambler's lingo.  Maybe this short term gambling leads to long term malaise of the economy. 
The betting on whether a country will default or not should be confined to Las Vegas and other gambling centers.  Huge sums bet on national default in today's world will result in activity that brings default about, in order to cash in on insurance purchased.  It's like buying life insurance on your neighbor, then setting him up so you can collect.   Who is investigating if this is happening?
Student debt is of much discussion and a huge debate whether to raise student debt interest rates or not has not produced a solution to the problem that graduates don't have jobs waiting for them.  As a student, I remember knowing that degrees in the arts might not be able to get a job after graduation.  Students choose their major and apparently the student loan people do not limit the debt to people who are specializing where the jobs are. 
Why have the costs of education versus income changed so much?  The Arizona constitution guarantees an education at reasonable cost.  Is student debt a reasonable cost?  For how long is this debt reasonable or is it reasonable to demand a long term lien on future earnings in order to go to school at all?  Has it become so that the average student MUST assume debt in order to access school?  That is not a reasonable cost.
 When I entered the University of Arizona in 1963, tuition was about $424 a year plus about $160 more for books.  Working at $3.00 an hour, it took about 5 weeks to earn that money by working at a service job.  Now, in state tuition at the UofA is $9,286 a year, which would require about 1,160 hours of work at $8.00 an hour, slightly over minimum wage.   Now a student would have to work 29 weeks to earn the tuition, while in 1963 a student would work just 5 weeks to earn the tuition.   
Economic problems result from little planning and the student loan problem is a good example of what EZ Loans can do to a society, as future productivity is harnessed for the present, resulting in future economic slowdowns based on the debt service.  This harms the consumer market because the debt prevents spending on widgets and the few moneylenders who are amassing the money can only use so many widgets. 
Unintended consequences from policies and thoughtless legislation have resulted in detrimental effects towards perpetuating the long term culture.  The formation of unions when workers were little more than slaves was appropriate for the time but the politically powerful unions have now lobbied their advantage throughout the nation.  The unplanned long term consequence of requiring union membership is seen in rising costs and fewer jobs.
 Another phenomena is that of the government assisting the unions in control of workers by forcing the deletion of union dues from workers' paychecks instead of the unions collecting their own dues.  It appears that some of these organizations are so good at getting their workers such high wages and benefits that the widgets they make can be made for much less elsewhere, and shipped here for sale at a profit.  The short term planning is always higher wages and more benefits, not whether their demands will bankrupt the business in the long term.  Forcing workers to finance organizations like these is not going to result in economic recovery.     
The union stalemate creates very few high paying jobs and expensive products that cannot even compete locally in the global economy.  The laws forcing union membership  are actually preventing access to a willing and able workforce who would work for less, which would allow the production of a lower priced product.  Some unions are essential, but membership should be voluntary, with a secret ballot.  Competitive hiring would allow for more workers to be hired, at a lower rate than union scale.  The issue of 'benefits' must be addressed next.  
The long term consequences of requiring employers to buy health insurance for their workers is affecting our economy today.  Workers in hazardous jobs like mining and police work should receive coverage of job related health care costs, which was the original intent of activists who saw workers suffering from job related maladies who were then replaced without regard for compensation for injuries.  Such is the moral basis of capitalism, that businesses must legally be bound to take care of workers injured on the job but the unions have ballooned 'benefits' into total coverage for every wart for the worker and his family, even after they retire.  And the insurance companies responded to the mandatory insurance requirement by raising their prices.  Some businesses are not hiring workers due to the unpredictable escalating costs of providing insurance.
I say go back to the free enterprise system and cancel all the mandatory insurance requirements.  If an individual wants 'coverage', then that individual can find their own insurance plan and pay for it.  Employers will then be relieved of paying and arranging for insurance for employees and employees will be free to spend their money however they like.  There is already a low cost health care option in the form of the urgent care outlets and drug store nurses, who can serve the locals' minor needs quickly and inexpensively.  Individuals should not be required to buy health insurance.  Let the market determine health care costs, not the insurance companies.  The populace and employers should not see an ever increasing percentage of their income go to insurance. 
The government should not be in the business of requiring purchase of anything.  Taxes are already a burden.  The long term consequences of mandatory insurance in the workplace has been inflation in health care and insurance costs.  The insurance brokers and  health care suppliers continually raise prices, while the populace has no say but must pay ever higher costs. 
Short term thinking has resulted in problems for our nation.  The EZ loan caused housing bubble and the sale of worthless derivatives based on the subprime loans caused politicians to vote to bailout the institutions that insured those loans, rather than the original investors who were defrauded.  The long term consequences for this bailout remain to be seen, but the recent J.P. Morgan financial losses point to more of the same behavior that caused the financial crisis. 
Repeal of the Glass Steagall Act was a prime example of short term thinking that had negative long term consequences.  I disrespect anyone who had anything to do with that, including President Clinton, who signed it.
                                              Reaching For Rain