Support is building> in Washington for a second stimulus bill, with politicians from both parties offering proposals they believe would put the much beleaguered economy back on track. For many like Gov. John Corzine, the Democratic leader of New Jersey, that means spending on infrastructure. Appearing in front of a House committee, Corzine said, "Let's put people to work, build roads, bridges, tunnels, schools, wastewater treatment systems, even a 21st century commitment to build alternative energy capacity and implement carbon abatement policies."
Indeed, as the economy weakens, government now sees its role as creating> employment, putting people to work doing just about anything it can think of or afford, rather than fostering an environment for job creation. "Every billion dollars in spending on infrastructure, on highway and transportation expenditures does result in 35,000 new jobs," said Rep. John Mica (R., Fla.). What elected official wouldn't like to brag about the number of new jobs created under his watch?
A few years back you might recall the eyebrows raised in the entertainment world when rap star P. Diddy began traveling with a valet whose sole job it was to hold his umbrella or personal belongings. The notion that P. Diddy was so extravagantly wealthy that he employed someone to cart around his cellphone perfectly exemplified the rap star ethos of lavish, thoughtless and wasteful spending.
Yet that's the direction our own government seems to be heading. Amid the tsunami of bailouts for Wall Street banks, deadbeat homeowners, domestic car manufacturers and countless others, Washington is now dead set at keeping people employed doing just about anything it can think of to spend money on.
For a recent lesson in what happens to jobs created as a result of government intervention, look no further than the ethanol industry, which in 2006 rode a wave of federal subsidies and special privileges to raise hundreds of millions of dollars from investors. Plants were opened, employees were hired and billions were invested in what was supposed to be the first step in independence from fossil fuels.
Not two years later, however, economic reality has caught up with political grandstanding. Ineffective and inefficient, corn-based ethanol has yet to develop a user base as its political proponents had hoped. Stocks like Pacific Ethanol (PEIX),
Ethanol's Boom to Bust
2-year performance of PEIX, VSE, AVR>
The lesson is that a job is only useful when it fulfills an actual economic function. Government creating jobs solely for the purpose of keeping constituents off the unemployment line simply misallocates scarce resources and prohibits actual jobs productive jobs from being developed in the private sector where they belong.
Long Distance From the Far East?
After dropping to a 26-year low on Monday, Japan's Nikkei 225 index has rebounded over 26% in three days. Among those components with ADRs trading here in the U.S. is NTT DoCoMo (DCM),
Making the Call
2-month performance of NTT DoCoMo>
Jonathan: Live and On Stage!
For those readers on the East Coast, I will be speaking at The Money Show in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Nov. 6 at 9:20 a.m. My remarks will cover the suffocating "Social Safety Net" that will inevitably mushroom regardless of which candidate prevails on Tuesday. I'll also try to offer some hope as to how we might restore a culture of rugged independence in this country. Hope to see you there.