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An Unusual Economy? (Thomas Sowell)
Creators Syndicate ^ | August 30, 2011 | Thomas Sowell

Posted on 08/29/2011 12:20:07 PM PDT by jazusamo

 

Many in the media are saying how unusual it is for our economy to be so sluggish for so long, after we have officially emerged from a recession. In a sense, they are right. But, in another sense, they are profoundly wrong.

The American economy usually rebounds a lot faster than it is doing today. After a recession passes, consumers usually increase their spending. And when businesses see demand picking up, they usually start hiring workers to produce the additional output required to meet that demand.

Some very sharp downturns in the American economy, such as in the early 1920s, were followed quickly by bouncing back to normal levels or beyond. The government did nothing — and it worked.

In that sense, this is an unusual recovery in how long it is taking and in how slowly the economy is growing — while the government is doing virtually everything imaginable.

Government intervention may look good to the media but its actual track record — both today and in the 1930s — is far worse than the track record of letting the economy recover on its own.

Americans today are alarmed that unemployment has stayed around 9 percent for so long. But such unemployment rates have been common for years in Western European welfare states that have followed policies similar to policies being followed currently by the Obama administration.

Those European welfare states have not only used the taxpayers' money to hand out "free" benefits to particular groups, they have mandated that employers do the same. Faced with higher labor costs, employers have hired less labor.

The vast uncertainties created by ObamaCare create a special problem. If employers knew that ObamaCare would add $1,000 to their costs of hiring an employee, then they could simply reduce the salaries they offer by $1,000 and start hiring.

But, since it will take years to create all the regulations required to carry out ObamaCare, employers today don't know whether the ObamaCare costs that will hit them down the road will be $500 per employee or $5,000 per employee. Even businesses that have record amounts of cash on hand are reluctant to gamble it by expanding their hiring under these conditions.

Many businesses work their existing employees overtime or hire temporary workers, rather than get stuck with unknown and unknowable costs for expanding their permanent work force.

As unusual as 9 percent unemployment rates may seem to the current generation of Americans, unemployment rates stayed in double digits for months and years on end during the 1930s. Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration followed policies very similar to those of the Obama administration today. He also got away with it politically by blaming his predecessor.



TOPICS: Business/Economy; Editorial; Government
KEYWORDS: obama; sowell; thomassowell

1 posted on 08/29/2011 12:20:11 PM PDT by jazusamo
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To: jazusamo

>>>>Government intervention may look good to the media but its actual track record — both today and in the 1930s — is far worse than the track record of letting the economy recover on its own.


2 posted on 08/29/2011 12:22:06 PM PDT by ken21 (ruling class dem + rino progressives -- destroying america for 150 years.)
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To: abigail2; Amalie; American Quilter; arthurus; awelliott; Bahbah; bamahead; Battle Axe; ...
*PING*
Thomas Sowell

Photobucket

Recent columns
Social Degeneration: Part III
Social Degeneration: Part II
Social Degeneration

Please FReepmail me if you would like to be added to or removed from the Thomas Sowell ping list…

3 posted on 08/29/2011 12:22:32 PM PDT by jazusamo (His [Obama's] political base---the young, the left and the thoughtless: Thomas Sowell)
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To: jazusamo

He is correct, of course. Doing nothing would be far preferable to what Obama is doing or what the Republicans are proposing. Just leave the economy alone and it will get better.


4 posted on 08/29/2011 12:23:33 PM PDT by 10thAmendmentGuy ("[Drug] crusaders cannot accept the fact that they are not God." -Thomas Sowell)
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To: jazusamo

Government actions are unpredictable.

The market hates unpredictability.

It is as if you spent a lot of time researching fast horses and good jockeys with an eye towards betting lots of money, but when you showed up to the races they announced that they had an official who would add or subtract from race times as he saw fit.

Still want to bet your money?


5 posted on 08/29/2011 12:26:22 PM PDT by allmendream (Tea Party did not send the GOP to D.C. to negotiate the terms of our surrender to socialism.)
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To: jazusamo

He’s right, of course. But additionally, I think there is a demographic factor. Baby boomers, of which I am one, are simply going to be spending less from here on out. My kids are grown, so I’m not buying stuff for them anymore. I’ve bought and furnished my last house. I no longer need four cars and the two that I have I’m going to keep around for awhile. I’m socking money away for old age.


6 posted on 08/29/2011 12:32:57 PM PDT by TexasKamaAina
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To: jazusamo

The company I work for laid off a third of our permanent work force and replaced them with temporary employees. They don’t have to pay the temps benefits.


7 posted on 08/29/2011 12:33:39 PM PDT by mbynack (Retired USAF SMSgt)
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To: TexasKamaAina
But additionally, I think there is a demographic factor. Baby boomers, of which I am one, are simply going to be spending less from here on out. My kids are grown, so I’m not buying stuff for them anymore. I’ve bought and furnished my last house. I no longer need four cars and the two that I have I’m going to keep around for awhile. I’m socking money away for old age.

I agree. I'm 55 and I don't plan on making any more major purchases in the foreseeable future. We actually started planning for this about 7 years ago.

8 posted on 08/29/2011 12:36:55 PM PDT by mbynack (Retired USAF SMSgt)
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To: ken21

Unusual to say the least.

Read this guy’s blog on the economy. He testifies in Congress quite a bit (and gets called an ideologue by the Dems). Pretty funny - he simply stands for free markets and little government involvement.

http://confoundedinterest.wordpress.com


9 posted on 08/29/2011 12:37:36 PM PDT by whitedog57
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To: mbynack

That’s understandable right now though tough on workers. With the way things are the temp agencies are having no problems getting good workers.


10 posted on 08/29/2011 12:41:42 PM PDT by jazusamo (His [Obama's] political base---the young, the left and the thoughtless: Thomas Sowell)
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To: jazusamo

It was government policies that kept the great depression alive until after WW2.


11 posted on 08/29/2011 12:47:50 PM PDT by GeronL (The Right to Life came before the Right to Happiness)
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To: jazusamo

Sowell’s analysis is spot on but incomplete. The best economic analysts I’ve been reading have made the point that this isn’t a standard 20th century “recession”, nor is it really like the Depression, although it feels that way. Rather, this more favorably compares to a 19th century “contraction” which occurred for 16 years in the late 1880’s. By Contraction is meant that the economy is in fact shrinking; thus for example, we’re seeing far lower employment rates expressed as a percentage of eligible working population holding jobs. That rate is down to something like 63%. Typically it runs in the high 80’s. At the same time, we’re seeing a serious “wealth” contraction with something like 1/3 of the residential real estate market under water with no hope for recovery. Housing hasn’t really ever bottomed out.

I “think” (meaning I’m not sure) the problem may well be twofold, 1) too many are being paid far too much to not work and 2) horrible trade policy has incentivized the offshoring of jobs.

There being little in the way of political talent in the offing, I don’t expect any speedy resolution to this mess. For all practical purposes, this is the “new normal”.


12 posted on 08/29/2011 12:48:24 PM PDT by Rich21IE
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To: jazusamo

The worry is for the ‘class warfare’ people, in media/Dem politicians/the usual suspects, to coordinate their effort and brand those of us ‘unpatriotic’ and escalate their unhappy feelings.

They truly want a civil war, and think they can come out from it the winner.


13 posted on 08/29/2011 12:54:07 PM PDT by Sir Napsalot (Pravda + Useful Idiots = CCCP; JournOList + Useful Idiots = DopeyChangey!)
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To: TexasKamaAina

As a fellow baby boomer (tail end of the era) I agree, however, Doctor Sowell used as an example the 1920 recession. There were no baby boomers during that recovery. It is not that we spend less, we are a bigger hit on the economy as we retire. That said, when you paid into a system for 47 or more years, considering you a problem now after taking your money for so long is unethical and a result of mismangement by the government.


14 posted on 08/29/2011 12:58:33 PM PDT by OldGoatCPO
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To: mbynack

Same here; I’m 51 but the only expenses left are to put the kids through college. We have a nice home in a nice neighborhood and don’t plan on moving or any major upgrades now that the basement is finished. The cars are paid for and well-maintained; I’ll keep them until they are ready to return to the soil from whence they came.

Most people in my age bracket are doing the same (if they have any sense, that is).


15 posted on 08/29/2011 1:10:44 PM PDT by henkster (Socialists and liberals all want jobs; they just don't want to work.)
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To: jazusamo

The media, as usual, professes to be shocked, *shocked*!, that direct government control over large sectors of the economy doesn’t produce prosperity and happiness.


16 posted on 08/29/2011 1:11:17 PM PDT by Tax-chick ("True education is not an adjustment to the world, but a defense against the world.")
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To: Tax-chick

Excellent point and right on. I sometimes wonder what it would be like to have a media that would present the news and conditions without their obvious leftist slant, but then we couldn’t refer to them as the enemedia. :)


17 posted on 08/29/2011 1:17:03 PM PDT by jazusamo (His [Obama's] political base---the young, the left and the thoughtless: Thomas Sowell)
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To: jazusamo
then we couldn’t refer to them as the enemedia.

Or the Democrat Propaganda Ministry.

18 posted on 08/29/2011 1:19:38 PM PDT by Tax-chick ("True education is not an adjustment to the world, but a defense against the world.")
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To: TexasKamaAina

Not to mention, I am not interested in discretionary spending until 0bama is out of the WH. I do not want to contribute in any way to the potential “success” he might claim if it appeared we were having a recovery. We are truly middle class in my household. If I have this attitude, think of the money being held back by the “wealthy”.


19 posted on 08/29/2011 1:25:12 PM PDT by NEMDF
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To: jazusamo; All

“He also got away with it politically by blaming his predecessor.”

Until he was able to get us into WWII, after promising that he would not.

The Depression ended when Roosevelt’s heart stopped beating. He was our version of a leftist dictator. Only the Constitution and the Supreme Court kept us from going completely totalitarian.


20 posted on 08/29/2011 1:40:27 PM PDT by marktwain (In an age of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.)
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To: jazusamo
It's what happens when you print enough money to replace labor with capital, then export the capital so that you can print MORE!
21 posted on 08/29/2011 1:53:57 PM PDT by Carry_Okie (GunWalker: Arming "a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as well funded")
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To: jazusamo

it’s the OBAMACARE, stupid!


22 posted on 08/29/2011 2:45:00 PM PDT by Buckeye McFrog
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To: jazusamo
Photobucket

23 posted on 08/29/2011 2:58:07 PM PDT by Dick Bachert (The 2012 election is coming. Seems we have MORE TRASH TO REMOVE!)
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To: mbynack
I agree. I'm 55 and I don't plan on making any more major purchases in the foreseeable future.

Ditto that. I am of similar age. I am probably about 2 years behind schedule where I would like to be with retirement. So it is save more, spend less. My lifestyle hasn't changed drastically, but I do a little bit less of everything..

24 posted on 08/29/2011 6:07:35 PM PDT by EVO X
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To: 10thAmendmentGuy

Which, of course, indicates that those in power are the dumbest bricks in the pile or that they know they are causing damage and that they are following a destructive course of action knowingly and willingly.


25 posted on 08/29/2011 7:38:19 PM PDT by Ghost of Philip Marlowe (Prepare for survival.)
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To: allmendream

An interesting aside...in the period of the 1920’s through the 1940’s when socialism was really starting to get some traction, one of the big arguments they used to implement central management was that the free-market system (those eeevil capitalists) created an inherently unstable and unpredictable economic environment.

Their argument was that central management would eliminate that unpredictability and create an environment of expectations that could be relied upon.

History has proved that the greater the power of the central managers and the more they try to manage the more frequent the swings in all aspects of the economy and the more wild the swings.

Some would try to explain this as complicated, but it is actually quite simple.

When a handful of people try to dictate to millions what employment there will be, how much it will pay, how much manufacturing can produce, how much they can sell their goods and services for, they are trying to push with a rope. One little snag anywhere along that rope and it binds.

By allowing the market to drive the economy, millions of people pull the economy rope along, when there is a snag, legions jump in to fix that snag and keep the economy towing along.


26 posted on 08/29/2011 7:43:10 PM PDT by Ghost of Philip Marlowe (Prepare for survival.)
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To: Ghost of Philip Marlowe
Which, of course, indicates that those in power are the dumbest bricks in the pile or that they know they are causing damage and that they are following a destructive course of action knowingly and willingly.

I don't think that's the entire explanation, however. Let's be honest with ourselves and admit that a majority of Americans are stupid, and that they don't have a clue how the economy works. They don't understand that the economy is actually US, and that central planning or targeted tax cuts or any other load of B.S. won't do a darned thing to help the economy. Americans see the economy as it stands right now and demand ACTION from politicians. Politicians who advocate letting the market correct itself and go through the full process of deleveraging will be savaged. Americans are wimps. They decry socialism while stating that they have an entitlement to receive 3x as much in Medicare benefits as they ever paid in. Medicare is socialism, and it is a failed system. When polled, Americans say that the rich should pay more in taxes. Okay, but they also state that no one should pay more than 15% of their income in taxes. See the problem here? The only conclusion we can draw from this manifestation of cognitive dissonance is that Americans are stupid, and they don't really know what they want. That's why they're so susceptible to being TOLD what they want by opportunistic politicians.

27 posted on 08/29/2011 7:48:46 PM PDT by 10thAmendmentGuy ("[Drug] crusaders cannot accept the fact that they are not God." -Thomas Sowell)
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To: 10thAmendmentGuy

I’ve studied far too much regarding the history of collectivism from the mid 19th century to the present not to think that this is all deliberate and part of a master plan toward an end goal of globalized socialism.


28 posted on 08/29/2011 8:02:38 PM PDT by Ghost of Philip Marlowe (Prepare for survival.)
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To: TexasKamaAina
Yes... that's true, you will be spending less. That money you are socking away, however, will be put right back into the economy in the form of loans (if your money is in a bank) or spent by businesses (if it's in stocks).

So, your money isn't being pulled out of the economy... unless the government is creating so much uncertainty in the market that banks and businesses refuse to do anything with your money.

Oh, wait...

:-P

29 posted on 08/29/2011 8:59:37 PM PDT by gogogodzilla (Live free or die!)
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To: 10thAmendmentGuy
Doing nothing would be far preferable to what Obama is doing or what the Republicans are proposing. Just leave the economy alone and it will get better.

Unfortunately, Democrats (and Obama) are congenitally incapable of leaving the economy alone.

30 posted on 08/29/2011 9:06:18 PM PDT by okie01 (THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA: Ignorance On Parade)
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To: Ghost of Philip Marlowe

I dunno, a command economy could be simple and successful!

Rule #1: Anyone with money (personal or loaned) can open a business.
Rule #2: Business must sell their good/service at prices that net an overall profit.
Rule #3: If demand increases, supply will increase (either by increasing capabilities of existing business, or because new businesses will spring up to meet the gap).
Rule #4: see Rule #3, now flip it to the negative side (ie: if demand decreases...)

See, simple!

:-P


31 posted on 08/29/2011 9:09:40 PM PDT by gogogodzilla (Live free or die!)
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To: Tax-chick

Ministry of Truth.


32 posted on 08/30/2011 12:23:42 AM PDT by wastoute (Government cannot redistribute wealth. Government can only redistribute poverty.)
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To: Ghost of Philip Marlowe

Re-read that essay “I, pencil”. Realize not one of these “central planners” knows how to make a pencil.


33 posted on 08/30/2011 12:26:16 AM PDT by wastoute (Government cannot redistribute wealth. Government can only redistribute poverty.)
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To: Rich21IE
Sowell’s analysis is spot on but incomplete.

Of necessity. This is his column which is limited to certain space. He has written extensively on economic matters with many books filled with analysis including "contraction".

34 posted on 08/30/2011 3:29:46 AM PDT by mc5cents
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To: wastoute

It’s worse than that.

These central planners loathe not only the production of “the pencil,” but also loathe that the people want and use “the pencil.”

Their real end-goal is to determine what the people should have and to direct who shall be the producers and distributors of that limited set of goods and services (to each according to his needs, from each according to his abilities).

That they fail in the production and distribution of “the pencil” is secondary to their goal of obtaining control over the manufacture, distribution, ownership, and usage of “the pencil.”


35 posted on 08/30/2011 5:06:38 AM PDT by Ghost of Philip Marlowe (Prepare for survival.)
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To: Ghost of Philip Marlowe
In a socialist/communist system it is inevitable that you will end up ‘feeding bread to pigs’.

The ‘Revolution’ promised “bread and freedom”, they were not too forthcoming with the freedom - so they figured they could at least give out bread.

Bread was cheaper than the grain that went into it. So farmers fed their pigs bread.

Now the pig doesn't care that you ground up the wheat and wasted fuel cooking it, or that you mixed in finer ingredients - they grow just as fat on wheat.

With a “command” economy it is inevitable that such discrepancies will happen - and that people will take advantage of them. And you end up ‘feeding bread to pigs’.

36 posted on 08/30/2011 6:27:23 AM PDT by allmendream (Tea Party did not send the GOP to D.C. to negotiate the terms of our surrender to socialism.)
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To: marktwain; jazusamo
“He also got away with it politically by blaming his predecessor.”
Until he was able to get us into WWII, after promising that he would not.

The Depression ended when Roosevelt’s heart stopped beating. He was our version of a leftist dictator. Only the Constitution and the Supreme Court kept us from going completely totalitarian.

Roosevelt had many people so brainwashed, there were soldiers/Marines who, upon hearing of his death, said sorrowfully, "Now the war will never end."
He had people thinking inside the box, big time.

37 posted on 08/30/2011 10:04:14 AM PDT by conservatism_IS_compassion (DRAFT PALIN)
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To: conservatism_IS_compassion; marktwain
Roosevelt had many people so brainwashed, there were soldiers/Marines who, upon hearing of his death, said sorrowfully, "Now the war will never end."

My FIL fought in the US Army until the end of the war in Europe. He became an LEO and retired after many years service and was a conservative in almost every fiber of his being.

We were talking one evening and the subject of FDR came up, he worshiped FDR and I was astounded, I would never have believed it if I hadn't heard it from him. I didn't argue the issue because he was a great guy and I believe him going through the depression and his Dad losing most everything he had had a lot to do with it.

38 posted on 08/30/2011 10:25:10 AM PDT by jazusamo (His [Obama's] political base---the young, the left and the thoughtless: Thomas Sowell)
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To: Rich21IE; jazusamo
Sowell’s analysis is spot on but incomplete. The best economic analysts I’ve been reading have made the point that this isn’t a standard 20th century “recession”, nor is it really like the Depression, although it feels that way. Rather, this more favorably compares to a 19th century “contraction” which occurred for 16 years in the late 1880’s. By Contraction is meant that the economy is in fact shrinking; thus for example, we’re seeing far lower employment rates expressed as a percentage of eligible working population holding jobs. That rate is down to something like 63%. Typically it runs in the high 80’s. At the same time, we’re seeing a serious “wealth” contraction with something like 1/3 of the residential real estate market under water with no hope for recovery. Housing hasn’t really ever bottomed out.

I “think” (meaning I’m not sure) the problem may well be twofold, 1) too many are being paid far too much to not work and 2) horrible trade policy has incentivized the offshoring of jobs.

There being little in the way of political talent in the offing, I don’t expect any speedy resolution to this mess. For all practical purposes, this is the “new normal”.

Rich21IE, you're very close. Even Obama' representatives have said that recessions due to financial crises take very long to resolve. IIRC, the average is about 7 years. Bank closures and bank holidays were very common during the Great Depression. The cause was bad debt just like the subprime mess and housing bubble caused this great recession.

Obama took a bad situation and is making it worse with Keynesian deficit spending and more regulations! Add in expensive energy and food. We're going nowhere fast.

39 posted on 08/30/2011 1:36:07 PM PDT by neverdem (Xin loi minh oi)
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To: jazusamo
Roosevelt had many people so brainwashed, there were soldiers/Marines who, upon hearing of his death, said sorrowfully, "Now the war will never end."
My FIL fought in the US Army until the end of the war in Europe. He became an LEO and retired after many years service and was a conservative in almost every fiber of his being.

We were talking one evening and the subject of FDR came up, he worshiped FDR and I was astounded, I would never have believed it if I hadn't heard it from him. I didn't argue the issue because he was a great guy and I believe him going through the depression and his Dad losing most everything he had had a lot to do with it.

Once they swallowed the idea that FDR was doing things for the people, and anything in opposition to FDR was against the people, they were irredeemable.

40 posted on 08/31/2011 10:29:53 AM PDT by conservatism_IS_compassion (DRAFT PALIN)
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To: jazusamo

I am an Adult Education/GED Instructor for our public school system. Another teacher and myself were hired to replace a long time employee who retired with full benefits.

We work 20 hrs per week each. No insurance, pension, holiday pay, sick pay, snow day pay....nothing. We are paid hourly as contract employees. If we don’t work, we don’t get paid. I’ve worked 5 years without any increase in pay. Full time employees get all the benefits mentioned above and across the board raises annually. I’m not complaining. I agreed to work for what I was offered. I just want to point out how right Mr. Sowell is.

The hospitals here hire nurses to work three 12 hr shifts with four days off each week. This means they don’t have to hire three employees to work 8 hr shifts per day. They save on insurance and pension for 1 less employee and the workers don’t mind work 4 extra hrs per day because they get so much time off.

The state and county are hiring cleaning agencies and maintenance people on contract to replace full benefit employees who have left.

If the government is using contract help now, how can they expect private employers to do any different?

Mr. Sowell lives in the real world. The folks in Congress and the White House don’t. Their lifestyles prove they are clueless.


41 posted on 09/09/2011 8:29:57 PM PDT by Jude in WV
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To: TexasKamaAina

same here at our house


42 posted on 09/09/2011 8:32:29 PM PDT by Jude in WV
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To: whitedog57

I wish the Congress critters would read this thread on Free Republic!


43 posted on 09/09/2011 8:33:46 PM PDT by Jude in WV
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