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September 2010

"Entrepreneurs Under Attack"

John Stossel:

Every day, federal, state and local governments stifle small businesses to privilege well-connected incumbent companies. It's a system of protectionism for influential insiders who don't want competition. Every locality has its share of business moguls who are cozy with politicians. Together, they use the power of government to keep competition down and prices high.

The Institute for Justice, a libertarian public-interest law firm, works to free entrepreneurs from such opportunity-killing regulations. Here are four cases from IJ's files.

Why we have horse races

Jim Jubak, 9/23: "Be ready for the rally's end".

Steven Pearlstein, 9/24: "Yes, it may finally be time to get back into stocks".

One more:

Mad Money, 9/23:

What investors should do then, Cramer said, is review their portfolios right away . . . They’re the companies with less-than-stellar fundamentals whose stocks have performed well regardless. Think accidental high-yielders like Johnson & Johnson . . . which used to offer an attractive 4% yield that has since slipped to 3.5%. As far as Cramer’s concerned, the underlying business isn’t strong enough to justify owning the stock anymore.

Anand Chokkavelu, Motley Fool, 9/24:

Johnson & Johnson is a robust global health care play that is trading for around 11 times trailing free cash flow and is throwing off a 3.5% dividend yield. At current prices, I believe Johnson & Johnson is a solid addition to your portfolio's core. And I'm not the only one. It's recently been picked in our 50 Stocks in 50 Days series, Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-B) has been loading up on the shares, and our CAPS community gives it the maximum 5 stars.

Two fine pieces from this week's National Review Online

Kevin Williamson, "70 Percent: The Myth of the Consumer Economy". This is a nice complement to a piece I linked to about two weeks ago about the "vulgar Keynesian focus on consumption".

Thomas Aquinas warned against homo unius libri — the “man of one book.” Harvard president Edward Everett followed that up, warning against “not only to the man of one book, but also to the man of one idea, in whom the sense of proportion is lacking, and who sees only that for which he looks.”

God defend us from man of one datum, particularly if that man is an economist, and particularly if the datum is wrong.

Exhibit A is the constantly repeated but entirely untrue statement that consumer spending represents 70 percent of the U.S. economy, and that it is therefore imperative that we give consumers some stimulus, in the form of tax rebates, more generous unemployment checks, or cocaine-monkey research grants, in order to put some schmundo in Joe Consumer’s hip pocket, the better for him to carry that seven-tenths of the economy he allegedly holds upon his shoulders like some debt-ridden Atlas chained to Mount Wal-Mart, his liver pecked by a winged and deathless Visa bill.

Mona Charon, "The Dog That Didn't Bark: Poverty is Up, Crime is Down. Is That Possible?".

Short answer: yes.

As poker players say, Chris Christie has . . .

. . . gone all in.

He wants to raise the normal retirement age for teachers and most state and municipal workers to 65, requiring 30 years service for early retirement instead of 25. Police would have to work 30 years for full retirement, but could retire early with reduced benefits.
He also wants public employees to:

* Contribute 8.5 percent of their salaries toward their pensions.

* Start paying 30 percent of the cost of their health premiums.

* Accept the rollback of a 9 percent raise in pension benefits granted in 2001 -- an increase he admits was put into place by Republicans, who "shouldn't have done it in the first place."

"This is one of the most galvanizing documentaries I’ve ever seen"

David Edelstein reviews Waiting for Superman. If you have a friend in the AFT, please take 'em to see it. Make it your treat.

More, from "Schools: The Disaster Movie," New York magazine, 9/5:

Among leaders of the burgeoning education-reform movement, the degree of anticipation surrounding “Superman” is difficult to overstate. “The movie is going to create a sense of outrage, and a sense of urgency,” says Arne Duncan, Barack Obama’s secretary of Education. New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein concurs. “It’s gonna grab people much deeper than An Inconvenient Truth, because watching ice caps melt doesn’t have the human quality of watching these kids being denied something you know will change their lives,” Klein says. “It grabs at you. It should grab at you. Those kids are dying.” 

Still more, from the New York Post's report on the NYC opening:

"I'm almost speechless with horror and disgust," said viewer Rita Callahan, who works for Con Ed. "I'm embarrassed to be an American. I can't believe what we let happen."

The New York Times's reviewer calls the movie "a powerful and alarming documentary about America’s failing public school system".

An example of our federal government at work

"Years after floods, homeowners await FEMA buyouts".

Karen Niece loves her idyllic bungalow in the Indiana countryside, but when storms dumped nearly a foot of rain on her 19-acre property in 2008, flash floods left mold in the foundation — and gave Niece a lung infection she will have the rest of her life.

After the water receded, Niece and thousands of other flood victims around the Midwest stayed in their damaged homes, despite health risks, because they had pinned their hopes on a federal program that helps buy flood-damaged properties. Two and even three years later, many are still waiting for relief.

"How to get a job at Google, interview questions, hiring process"

Don Dodge, Developer Advocate at Google:

The Google hiring process is designed to hire the most talented, creative, and articulate people in the world who will be the best fit for Google. The Google culture is different. You notice it the moment you walk on campus. It isn’t for everyone, but it works amazingly well for Google. That is why cultural fit is so important. There is a lot of mystery and misinformation about the Google hiring process so I would like to give you my perspective on how it works, and more importantly, why it works.

Google receives over one million resumes per year, and hires about 1,000 to 4,000 people each year, depending on economic conditions. So, in any given year, less than one half of one percent of all applicants actually get hired. That means a lot of people who are very successful in their current jobs, and others who are very talented, will not be be hired at Google this year. That is just the reality of the numbers. As Google continues to grow there will be more opportunities. As of this writing there are about 1,000 job openings.