Irwin M. Stelzer Articles


Another Reason to Raise the Minimum Wage

Gleanings and observations.
3:20 PM, Apr 27, 2015

Every liberal knows that poverty breeds crime, although data are unable to show such a correlation, much less causation. This understanding of what is called the root cause of crime was best expressed in one of those Woody Allen flashbacks in which his father is defending the family maid against his mother’s charges that she is a thief, “Of course she steals, she’s poor,” a truism and in this case a call to ignore the maid’s appropriation of the property of a family struggling to remain above the poverty line.

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Double Dividend?

The economics and politics of taxing carbon.
Apr 27, 2015

There are three ways to view a carbon tax. Conservatives see it, or should see it, as what is called “a tax swap”—a revenue-neutral tool to shift the burden of taxation from income and other taxes that reduce economic growth and risk-taking to consumption, thereby increasing the efficiency of the tax regime. Liberals see it as they see most things: a way to raise revenues to fund the growth of an already bloated government.

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August 4, 1961: In The Year 1 AO

Gleanings and observations.
1:22 PM, Apr 24, 2015

The day President Obama believes relevant history began. Rather like the French revolutionaries who decreed that the establishment of their Republic be dated Year I of the French Republic. August 4, 1961 was the day on which Barack Hussein Obama arrived on this earth in Honolulu, Hawaii. Anything occurring before the world received this blessing is irrelevant, the President told the gathering of heads of state at The Summit of the Americas. Not  directly, but in effect. “The Cold War has been over for a very long time.

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Lenin Was Right

Gleanings and observations.
12:36 PM, Apr 24, 2015

It is not certain that Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known as Lenin, actually said, “The capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them,” but if he didn’t, he certainly thought it, and if still around would like to claim that prophesy as his own. IBM has announced plans “to help a little-known Chinese company (Teamsun) absorb and build upon key technologies” that IBM licenses, according to the New York Times.

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Great Inventions and Their Enemies

Gleanings and observations.
12:23 PM, Apr 23, 2015

In one of his gag appearances, this one as a 2000-year old man, Mel Brooks was asked to name the greatest invention he had witnessed in his long life. “Saran wrap,” he shot back. A useful product, surely, but if environmentalists had the power they now have, unlikely to have emerged from the lab into lunch boxes.

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Their Finest Hour

Cita and Irwin M. Stelzer, in the presence of heroes
Apr 20, 2015

"Keep our story going,” implored Commander Dave Evans in his remarks closing the monthly meeting of the Korean War Veterans Association, General Brad Smith Chapter. At the meeting, one of us—Cita—had given a talk, as she often volunteers to do to veterans’ groups, about Winston Churchill, based on her book, Dinner with Churchill: Policy Making at the Dinner Table. So it was that we found ourselves in a bar and meeting hall in a sparsely developed section of Scottsdale, Arizona.

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What GE's Decision to Exit the Finance Sector Means

11:00 PM, Apr 17, 2015

General Electric is divesting its finance business, starting with the sale of $26.5 billion of real estate assets. Back to its roots as an industrial manufacturing powerhouse, churning out jet engines, medical devices, oil drilling equipment and the other heavy equipment.

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The Promise and the Peril of King Dollar

11:01 PM, Apr 10, 2015

The strong dollar, warns Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock in a letter to be released to shareholders next week, “will lead to an erosion of confidence on the part of CEOs, with the potential to slow both investment decisions and future growth in the U.S.” When you manage almost $5 trillion in assets, and monitor perhaps twice that much for the U.S.

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All's Well With America's Young

Gleanings and observations.
3:34 PM, Apr 08, 2015

Start with those old enough to be graduating from law school. The law business ain’t exactly what it used to be -- so hungry for new lawyers that anyone with a law degree could find work and earn enough to start chipping away at his or her student loan, unless responding to government incentives to wipe the loan from the books seemed more attractive. Those halcyon days may never return, but the worst seems to be over.

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The New York Times: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Gleanings and observations.
2:28 PM, Apr 08, 2015

For your further enlightenment, two news stories on page one of last Sunday’s New York Times. One begins a long report on California’s water problems, attributed to a drought rather than bureaucratic mismanagement.

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Soft Power Can Be A Joke -- Or Make A Mayor

Gleanings and observations.
1:22 PM, Apr 08, 2015

Harvard’s estimable Joe Nye has argued for decades that an important component of America’s ability to  influence world affairs is soft power -- a culture and values that coopt other nations and makes them want to follow our lead. A notion beloved of liberals who forget that Nye also mentioned the need for hard power. Never mind.

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Germany Uber Alles -- Well, Not Alles

Gleanings and observations.
12:31 PM, Apr 07, 2015

The German chancellor bestrides Europe like a colossus. She sets economic policy for the 18-nation eurozone. She says “If the euro goes, Europe goes”, by which she means that the currency’s value favors German exports to her eurozone partners, and makes it more difficult for them to sell their olives, wine and cars in Germany.

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Weight Regulation Is Around The Corner

Gleanings and observations.
12:13 PM, Apr 07, 2015

Weightier matters no longer have to wait, to paraphrase the great Stephen Sondheim. Or weight is about to be regulated, caught in a pincer movement.

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The Ambivalent Economy

11:01 PM, Apr 03, 2015

The economy might, but only might, be slowing. In March we added only 126,000 jobs, the lowest increase since December 2013, barely enough to absorb new entrants into the workforce. Almost all measures of the health of the labor market -- the unemployment rate, the number of workers jobless for more than 27 weeks, the number involuntarily working short hours or too discouraged to continue looking for a job -- remain more or less stuck at present levels.

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Gleanings and Observations

April 1, 2015, edition.
11:14 AM, Apr 01, 2015

Brevity Is The Soul Of Wit

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Disrupters on the March

11:01 PM, Mar 27, 2015

They are men, mostly. They are young, mostly. They are visionaries on a mission -- to systematize and make all the world’s knowledge accessible (Google); to connect all the world’s people with each other (Facebook); to change the way books are read and the sound of music is heard (Apple, Amazon); to reorganize urban transportation in 55 countries (Uber); to make brevity mandatory (Twitter); to create a more literate world and, not to be ignored, elevate free delivery to a right (Amazon).

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Gleanings and Observations

8:50 AM, Mar 25, 2015

Water, Water Everywhere

And in some places in drought-ravished California even where it proves an embarrassment.

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Interest Rates: To Raise or Not To Raise?

11:01 PM, Mar 20, 2015

“Fed Puts Interest-Rate Hikes in Play,” led the Wall Street Journal’s page one, following Federal Reserve Board chair Janet Yellen’s latest press conference. “Don’t bet on June for Federal Reserve hike,” countered page one of the business section of USA Today. To which I would add a headline for this piece, “It doesn’t really matter which one is right,” were I consulted by our esteemed headline writers.

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Gleanings and Observations

March 18, 2015, edition.
10:03 AM, Mar 18, 2015

Clinton Makes Trouble For Cuomo

Until Hillary Clinton decided to destroy 33,000 allegedly personal e-mails, all was quiet on the document-retention front in her selected home State of New York.  Governor Andrew Cuomo was quite happy with the secrecy provided by his own refusal to send written memos or e-mails, and the practice followed by his staff and state agencies (at his insistence) of destroying e-mails older than 90 days. No footprints. Which is the way the famously secretive Cuomo likes it.

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Banks Under Stress

11:01 PM, Mar 13, 2015

So all’s well. No more financial meltdowns. No more taxpayer bailouts of bonus-hunting, risk-taking bankers. The Federal Reserve Board’s regulators have decided that all 31 of the largest U.S. banks, including seven that are foreign-owned, would survive a severe recession with sufficient capital to continue lending and remain in business without a taxpayer bailout.

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Notes and Observations

March 13, 2015, edition.
5:32 AM, Mar 13, 2015

Scaring Putin: Britain plans to meet the NATO requirement that it spend 2% of its GDP on defense by “creative accountancy” rather than by “actually spending more money,” reports the Financial Times. The trick: count spending on intelligence services and war pensions as military spending.

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Have America's Labor Pains Finally Subsided?

12:01 AM, Mar 07, 2015

Sometimes -- not often, but sometimes -- anecdote is more revealing than data. Especially when the data are subject to major revisions, which is the case with most monthly economic data. This is one of those times. Last week’s jobs report -- 295,00 new nonfarm jobs in February -- was a bit more robust than most experts had expected, and the unemployment rate ticked down from 5.7% to 5.5%.

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Notes and Observations

3:14 PM, Mar 02, 2015

Sometimes, anecdote is more revealing than data. A few days’ gleanings:

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The Clinton Conundrum

12:01 AM, Feb 28, 2015

There will come a time when the survivor of the circular firing squad that is commonly known as the Republican primary debates will square off against Hillary Clinton. That survivor will have to grin and bear seeing multiple videos of his Republican opponents attacking him for one thing or another. Meanwhile, Mrs.

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The Meaning of Walmart's Wage Hike

12:01 AM, Feb 21, 2015

Markets work. That’s the message from Walmart’s decision to raise its starting wage for 500,000 of its 1.3 million US employees to $10 per hour starting next year. That’s 37% above the statutory minimum of $7.25.

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The 'Consummate' Bias of the New York Times

Even the sports section has a liberal bent.
8:25 AM, Feb 16, 2015

Nothing like a quiet Sunday with the New York Times. Start with the sports section, as I do, hoping for an escape from the paper’s relentlessly liberal approach to what it calls news. No luck.

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How to Keep Our Oil Bonanza

Time to counter the Saudis with a tariff?
Feb 16, 2015

We are in a war with Saudi Arabia—and losing. The Saudis aim to regain substantial control of our oil supply by driving from the industry many of our shale-oil-producing frackers who have reduced the power conveyed to the kingdom’s rulers by the underground ocean of oil on which their palaces sit. And we seem prepared to let them do just that, by failing to do what is necessary to prevent a reversal of the major strides we have made to get out from under the boot of an avaricious oil cartel.

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On the Fast Lane to Fast Track?

12:01 AM, Feb 14, 2015

The right and left are moving towards each other, in a sort of pincers movement designed to destroy the army of free traders pressing Congress to give President Obama what is known as fast-track authority. That would permit him to put any trade deals he negotiates with eleven Pacific Rim countries (the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP) and the EU (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP) to Congress on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.

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Listening Tour

Irwin M. Stelzer hits the listener circuit.
Feb 09, 2015

The itinerant sing-for-your-supper bunch who travel the country sharing wisdom for a fee have a dirty little secret. As a member of the fraternity, I have found that I learn as much as I teach, maybe more, during speaking engagements. But don’t tell those who hand over rather large sums of money to hear what we have to say, lest the groups that host us reverse current practice and charge us a fee.

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The Oil Effect

12:01 AM, Feb 07, 2015

We should “stop thinking about the economy as being in a perpetual crisis” commented Charles Plosser, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, after the government announced on Friday that the private sector added 267,000 jobs in January, and that upward revisions to November and December data brought total job creation in 2014 to over three million.

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