Why American Automakers Should Stop Building Cars in Other Countries

by John Brian Shannon | Reposted from JohnBrianShannon.com

At first glance, the idea that the ‘Big Three’ American automakers (Chrysler, Ford and GM) would stop manufacturing their cars and trucks in other countries might seem like a ground-breaking idea.

But it’s not as shocking as some new ideas that have come to light, such as putting engines in sailing ships enabling them to easily cross entire oceans, or passenger travel by aircraft instead of train, or that man should walk on the Moon by 1970.

Still, the idea that America’s Big Three automakers could stop building their cars in other countries might be seen as a novel idea.


Why Would American Automakers Want to Stop Building Cars in Other Countries?

Let’s take the case of the North American car market:

Chrysler, Ford, and GM have auto assembly plants in Canada, the United States and Mexico where they produce millions of cars and trucks per year. The majority of those vehicles are then sold into the U.S. because it’s a far bigger market than the Canadian and Mexican vehicle market combined.

Which means that many American auto industry jobs are lost to Canada and Mexico.

President Trump wants to lower the unemployment rate in his country and help make his domestic auto industry stronger and more responsive to the American market via high tariffs or restrictions on the number of cars Canada and Mexico could export to the United States.

The trade-off of that move would be worse relations with Canada and Mexico which have long benefited from Big Three auto factories located in their respective countries and Canada and Mexico would be loathe to lose those economic benefits.

And although I see U.S. President Donald Trump’s point on this — I’d rather talk about solutions that could work for all three countries.


What if There’s a Way for Each of the NAFTA Countries to Win?

Let’s pretend for a minute that we’re looking at the North American auto industry from the vantage point of 5-years in the future.

Five years on, let’s say that every Chrysler, Ford and GM car and truck sold in the United States is manufactured in the United States, unemployment is at an all-time low, and the American economy is rocketing along like it was in the 1960’s. Great!

What about Canada?

As the Big Three factories presently located in Canada would still remain, new licensee companies approved by Chrysler, Ford and GM could build all the Chrysler, Ford and GM vehicles required for the Canadian market and build 100% of them in Canada, while still keeping to U.S. auto company specifications and quality. Such licensee companies would be required to meet the same manufacturing standards and warranty terms.

Canadian companies like Magna International already produce a significant number of the parts required for all of the Big Three automakers; Extending their license to include vehicle assembly on behalf of one of the U.S. auto companies would be an easy transition.

Or, entirely new companies could be formed; One company (‘Chryton Co.’) could build all Chrysler cars and trucks for the Canadian market by purchasing the existing Chrysler manufacturing plants in Canada and paying the required per-unit license fees to Fiat Chrysler USA, while Canadian-owned ‘FordX’ could build every Ford car and truck for its Canadian dealers after paying its per-unit license fee to Ford USA. Likewise, GM vehicles would be built by a Canadian-owned and GM-approved company (‘AC Delco’) that would pay a license fee to GM USA for each vehicle it builds for the Canadian market.

In that way, all Chrysler, Ford and GM vehicles destined for the Canadian market would be manufactured in Canada by Canadian workers — and other than paying license fees to the respective USA auto manufacturer — the Canadian automotive manufacturing industry would be 100% Canadian. That’s 100% Canadian-owned and 100% Canadian-staffed. (They would still need to match U.S. manufacturing and warranty standards however)

Exactly the same could be done in Mexico for Mexican companies and consumers. (They would still need to match U.S. manufacturing and warranty standards)

And all Chrysler, Ford and GM cars and trucks destined for the U.S. market would be manufactured in the United States by American workers and the U.S. auto industry would find itself in the middle of an economic boom!


In an Era of 3D Printing, License Fees Will be Everything

Welcome to the future!

If you live in Canada and you want a Ford car you’d simply order the car online and the Ford-approved Canadian company 3D prints and otherwise assembles your Ford car and the car arrives at your local dealership a few days later.

You might even choose to watch it being 3D printed, painted, and assembled on your tablet or laptop computer.

Yes, other than upholstery and tires, etc. all 3D printed cars and trucks will be made from aircraft grade aluminum alloy as aluminum works better than steel for 3D printing.


Not Only The Big Three, But European and Japanese Automakers Too!

Imagine if EVERY new car and truck sold in Canada is built in Canada by Canadian companies that pay a license fee to the respective American, European, or Japanese automaker. That equals full employment in the Canadian auto sector, without the (understandable) griping by President Trump about American job losses.

Imagine if EVERY new car and truck sold in the U.S.A. would be built in the United States by American workers, and even European and Japanese vehicles sold in the U.S. would be built by U.S. companies that paid for the rights to 3D print and assemble those cars. That equals full employment in the American auto sector.

Imagine if EVERY new car and truck sold in Mexico would be built by Mexican companies that pay a license fee to the respective American, European, or Japanese automakers. That equals full employment in the Mexican auto sector, without any griping by President Trump about American job losses.

NOTE: I understand that hand-built cars like Rolls Royce, Ferrari, Aston Martin, etc. would decline to take part in such an arrangement, but those cars account for less than 1% of the North American market share. They would simply continue to export their cars to their North American customers as usual.

Again, manufacturing and warranty standards would need to be carefully vetted by the licensor before granting manufacturing rights to licensees. Even so, every country in this equation would ‘Win-Win-Win’.

And consumers could purchase a locally built vehicle that wasn’t shipped across the continent or thousands of miles of ocean.

Shop Local, and still get the ‘foreign’ car of your dreams!


Auto Manufacturers Would Make the Same Per Vehicle Profit in Foreign Countries as Now — But Via License Fees (only)

The era of ‘things-based’ globalization is morphing into ‘ideas-based’ globalization where things are designed in country ‘A’ by a company that retains 100% rights over who is allowed to 3D print and assemble its products in country ‘B’ — which could be literally anywhere on the planet.

Whether it’s T-shirt graphics electronically transmitted and licensed to a company thousands of miles away (as is done now) or whether licensed companies 3D print and assemble your foreign car in the city where you live — globalization might finally become all that it can and should be — creating hundreds of thousands of jobs in each country for workers in 3D printing/manufacturing factories that could literally build anything, anytime, for anyone, as long as they have purchased the proper license.

Such ‘On Demand’ manufacturing might become the biggest job creator ever and lower the tensions brought on by the endless competition between the world’s free trading nations.


Ready for the future? Order your locally-manufactured foreign car here.

(OK, just kidding… But it might be that easy in only a few years!)

The Iran Nuclear Deal: Obligation or Opportunity?

by John Brian Shannon | Reposted from JohnBrianShannon.com

It’s always helpful to look at a country’s actions over the past 200 years to help understand what its intentions may be here and now, and in the future.

The burgeoning but relatively isolated country of Iran hasn’t militarily attacked another country for over 200 years, and it was Saddam Hussein’s Iraq that militarily attacked Iran in September 1980 — a conflict that finally ended in August 1988 with 1 million casualties and an economic cost of $680 million to $1 trillion dollars — with no clear winner and no benefit to either country.

After all that blood and treasure, no benefit to either country(!) although via the UN-sponsored peace accord and as a penalty to Iraq for starting the war, Iran gained access to the Shatt al-Arab waterway which runs into the Persian Gulf.

Since 2000, Iran has purportedly financed organizations (some listed as terrorist organizations, and others not) throughout the Middle East and most recently in Syria, Iraq, and perhaps Lebanon, in an attempt to exert some control on the various forces operating around their region. (Every country uses various methods to control what happens in its own region, so no news there)

But nothing captures the world’s attention like the Iran nuclear deal.

U.S. President Donald Trump says the deal is a bad one for the West and shouldn’t have been signed and wants to walk away from the deal, reserving the right to act unilaterally if he feels the country is a danger to the U.S.A. or its Middle East allies.

Last week, France’s President Emmanuel Macron flew to Washington to meet with the U.S. President to convince him to stay in the deal or to embrace a ‘third way’ which means renegotiating some of the agreement to better suit U.S. concerns.

Iran barely signed the previous agreement… so it will be interesting to see how the U.S. can get everything it wants from a renegotiated deal while still obtaining Iran’s signature to a new agreement. A deal isn’t a deal unless both sides sign on the dotted line.


Why Would the U.S. Care About Iran? (and Syria, for that matter)

From a strategic perspective, there isn’t a country in the world that could be less important to the security of the United States than Iran, and ditto for Syria.

Neither country has the kind of military that could threaten America, nor could they project their power anywhere near the North American continent.

Unless the United States is actively working for Israel — a country which has an irrational fear of Iran (again, Iran hasn’t invaded any other country for over 200 years) and is willing to spend billions or even another trillion dollars to wage another Iraq War-style conflict against Iran, there’s no reason for the U.S. to have any dealings with Iran whatsoever.

If the United States is actively working for Saudi Arabia — a country that views Iran as an unwelcome competitor in the race to dominate the region, the same advice applies. Why should the U.S. spend multi-billions and sacrifice thousands of young soldiers to satisfy the Saudi ambition to be the local hegemon?

Iran is a regional power at best, and will remain so for approximately the next 30-years as it hasn’t the capacity to be anything else.


Why is Iranian Oil in Such High Demand?

It’s not like Iran is withholding oil deliveries. On the contrary, Iranian oil is easily obtainable with a phone call — the country is highly motivated to sell every drop of oil due to high spending on social programmes by the Iranian government which are largely funded by oil revenue.

And Iran’s crude oil is rated either #2 (sweet) or #3 (semi-sweet) which means it’s in high demand around the world. Global oil producers have already pumped all their #2 sweet crude out of the ground years ago; only Iran and Venezuela have significant reserves of sweet crude in the 21st-century.

As for oil refineries, they need Iran’s (or Venezuela’s) #2 sweet crude oil to blend with the oil supplied by their producers which is almost always #4 (sour) or #4.75 (very sour) like the Canadian oil sands product.

Most refineries won’t accept sour crude oil unless plenty of #2 or #3 sweet crude is blended into the sour crude. It’s just too toxic to refine ‘sour’ as it requires a much more stringent maintenance protocol, meaning the refinery needs to shut down and go into ‘maintenance mode’ more often. That downtime represents a significant loss of revenue for oil refineries.

Therefore, as long as Iran continues to ship huge quantities of sweet crude, the United States should be facilitating that oil business instead of trying to curtail it.


The EU View of Iran is a Mature View

Say what you want about the Europeans, but they don’t allow themselves to be used by countries like Israel that have an irrational fear of Iran and want to use the United States and the EU to keep the Iranians ‘down’ and in their ‘proper’ place and thereby become the regional superpower, or countries like Saudi Arabia that want to use the United States and the EU to keep the Iranians ‘down’ and in their ‘proper’ place and thereby become the regional superpower.

To oversimplify the EU view; As long as Iran’s sweet crude continues to flow (it is) and as long as Iran isn’t actively invading any other country (it isn’t) then there’s no reason to use some imagined breach of the Iranian nuclear deal to launch another trillion dollar war in the Middle East. And, as always, the EU continues to refuse to allow itself to be used by regional powers such as Israel and Saudi Arabia.

In the final analysis, the EU’s position on the Iranian nuclear deal is the most enlightened of all and it is the view the United States should support.

Why Norway Should Help the Rohingya Refugees

Written by John Brian Shannon | Reposted from LetterToNorway.com

Why Norway?

Of all the countries in the world that could get this right, Norway is surely number one.

In many areas of human endeavor, the tiny country of Norway (population 5.2 million) excels beyond all expectations — being one of the first to win the coveted top position on the UN Happiness Index, likewise on the Social Progress Imperative (SPI) an index that measures quality of life metrics, and in many other ways Norway is an ongoing success story.

Norway ranks very highly on per capita income, on the safety and security of its residents (it averages 1 murder annually) and it’s the go-to arbitrator for countries experiencing internal or external conflict. And almost unheard of anywhere, Norway donates 1% of its GDP to foreign aid.

Citizens enjoy a high standard of living, the country features a highly-ranked healthcare system and it also offers tuition-free university education for all residents whether they’re native Norwegians or not.

Norway seems to enjoy a permanently healthy economy with a 2.5% unemployment rate, while the country’s pension fund shows a +1 trillion dollar surplus which is sometimes used to fund government infrastructure or joint public/private projects in Norway.

Because Norway is so advanced and is such a safe and wholesome place to raise children, many European executives live in Norway and fly to and from their EU office daily. Others work the entire week in the EU, returning to their families on the weekends.

Even when compared to the EU which is one of the pinnacles of human civilization, Norway continues to stand out as an example of ongoing excellence in governance and environmental stewardship.


Lots of Global Talk About the Rohingya: Not Much Action

For all the political posturing that has been going on around the world over the past year, nothing has changed for the Rohingya people.

And a year from now most politicians and pundits will still be chuntering on about the terrible conditions in Myanmar where several hundred thousand Rohingya people have fled across the Bangladesh border only to become encamped in the mud, living in miserable ‘homes’ made out of whatever floated down the river that week.

Norway news - Rohingya refugee camp in southern Bangladesh, August 2017.
Rohingya refugee camp in southern Bangladesh, August 2017. Image courtesy of Australian Broadcast Corporation

The tragedy in Myanmar has been going on for decades and the genocide in the country will continue regardless of the endless talk among the world’s politicians. Nothing will be done. The Rohingya are finished in the absence of outside assistance.


What Could Norway Do for the Rohingya?

Because nobody knows what to do, Norway will have to set the example for other countries.

The country could build a community in small-town Norway to show countries how to help refugees — a working model that’s people-based — because the Rohingya are human beings. They’re not faceless numbers on a chart.

It’s time for some of that Norwegian excellence to shine through!


FOR EXAMPLE:

The town of Bodø in Norway is a thriving community of 51,000 people. (I’m using Bodø as an example because it was destroyed in WWII and was kindly rebuilt by the Swedes in the postwar era and that part of the town still remains an important part of Bodø, adding to the cultural richness of the region)

If the Norwegian government, acting with one or more investor groups, built an apartment complex near Bodø to hold 1000 Myanmar refugees complete with a recreation centre, an indoor swimming pool, an outdoor ice rink, a medical/dental clinic, some minor food and clothing stores tailored to the specific needs of the Rohingya, and an auditorium (which could also serve as a basic schoolroom during weekdays) Norway could admit 1000 Rohingya for a strictly time-limited 6 month period.

The Rohingya could have all their medical, psychological, and dental needs attended to — and the payoff for Norway is that the country’s future Doctors, Psychologists, Dentists, Nurses and more, could gain plenty of experience in the treatment of those patients during the required practicum portion of their education.

After 6-months, those 1000 refugees would return to Myanmar or Bangladesh in much better health, with more education, and a better understanding about how Western society works.

And after a three week cleanup and repaint interval (as required by facility administrators and maintenance staff) a completely different set of 1000 refugees would arrive in Bodø and the process of helping Rohingya would begin anew.

In effect, relatively small groups of Rohingya would spend 6 months away from (what is basically) Hell on Earth in Myanmar and southern Bangladesh — and also provide a minor boost to the Bodø economy.

Yes, Norway would need to divert some of its foreign aid budget to building such facilities (Bodø construction companies would love it!) and provide the Rohingya with some minimal income to spend in Bodø stores (for those Rohingya who want to venture into the town) and some strong and able Rohingya men might want to volunteer for clearing Bodø sidewalks of snow in the winter, etc. and such volunteerism should be strongly encouraged by the administrators of the 1000-person complex.

The Rohingya would arrive in Norway courtesy of the Norwegian government, be housed, receive medical care, learn basic Norwegian or English language, see how successful societies work, learn about and practice volunteerism, understand the Western mindset of ‘Can Do’ vs. ‘Can’t Do’ and return to their country brimming with new ideas and enthusiasm to make their country better.

Their default mindset will thenceforth veer towards the obvious success story they witnessed in Norway instead of being easily-led to disaster by the military strongmen and religious fanatics common in their home region.


More ‘Bang for the Buck’

Norway can spend 20 million dollars (for example) to help the Rohingya encamped in squalor in southern Bangladesh where it will get very little value for the money — or it can spend 20 million dollars in the Bodø economy and help 2000 Rohingya per year, and thereby provide a significant benefit to the refugees and to the businesses of Bodø.

One way (the typical way countries help refugees) is about ‘working hard’ to help refugees within their own conflict-ridden country, while the way I propose is about ‘working smart’ to help strictly-limited numbers of refugees that have been transferred to Norway.

See the difference?

Years from now when the Rohingya crisis is over, Norway may have helped 10,000 or even 30,000 Rohingya refugees doing it the ‘smart way’ — and that Bodø facility will remain and be available for other refugee groups in the future that the government of Norway may invite for short-term stays and once again boost the Norwegian economy.


A Simple Redirection of the Norwegian Foreign Aid Budget

By diverting $20 million from Norway’s annual foreign aid budget to help refugees (but helping them within Norway, instead of helping them in Myanmar or southern Bangladesh) 2000 Rohingya per year could receive excellent medical, psychological and dental care from Norwegian pre-med students, the refugees could have a rest from their deplorable living conditions, learn about the Western ‘Can Do’ mindset, experience an ultra-successful culture in Norway, learn about volunteerism and return to their own region knowing that Norwegians care about them and those Rohingya will thenceforth find extremist archetypes far less appealing for the rest of their lives.

And that’s a win for everyone!


 

Is NAFTA a Bad Deal for America?

by John Brian Shannon | Reposted from Letter to Britain

There seems to be only one man in all of America who thinks the NAFTA agreement between the three North American economies is a bad deal for the United States. Which would be a very ordinary thing except that man happens to be the president of the United States of America. At least for now.

The one great thing about the American electoral system is that U.S. presidents can serve only two concurrent terms in office, so no matter how bad or popular a U.S. president is, he or she can stay in office for a maximum of 8 years. Although nothing prevents them from running for their old job once another president has served, other than the fact that American voters have never returned a previous two-term president to office.

That law is a tiny part of what makes the United States exceptional in the world. The most meritorious or most popular presidential candidates rise to the top — but unlike other countries where leaders can serve several terms in office — the American system is refreshed by new leadership every 4 or 8 years. And that’s what makes America great.

‘New blood’, a ‘new vision’, a ‘breath of fresh air’, or however you wish to describe it, occurs at regular intervals. No wonder America is exceptional! It’s too bad they don’t do the same thing with members of the Senate and Congress — and yes, even the office of Mayor in every U.S. city. If they did, the United States would be twice as exceptional on account of all that new blood and fresh enthusiasm.

Alas, because only one office in the land is refreshed regularly, America is great from the top down only — not up and down and in the middle — at least where governance is concerned.


Where Donald Trump is Wrong

President Trump arrived on the scene 13 months ago and with no particular government experience behind him, declared that many things are wrong with America and he’s just the man to fix it. And he may be that man, but only time will tell.

Yet, we’re seeing a man who sees symptoms and sincerely wants to treat the symptoms instead of wanting to solve the underlying condition that created the symptoms in the first place.

Certainly no one can fault Donald Trump for being enthusiastic about America, about America’s history in the world, and no one can deny he’s a breath of fresh air to the Oval Office.

But we need to have a conversation about the present symptoms in order to ascertain what the underlying condition may be in present-day America, and for that, we must travel back in time to see how America lost its way.


When Henry Ford was right: Creating the American middle class by filling a transportation need

Henry thought that ‘everyman’ should own an automobile, instead of only railway barons with their obscene personal wealth able to afford motorized transportation. During a downturn in Ford company fortunes, Henry decided to increase the pay of his workers to $5.00 per day, and was thereafter able to cherry-pick whatever workers he wanted from Louis Chevrolet, Buick, General Motors, Cord, Packard, and others.

Once Henry had created a whole new economic classification which later came to be called ‘the American middle class’ so many people bought Ford vehicles that 16.5 million Model T’s were produced in less than 20 years of production.


The moral of this story? Paying higher wages created ‘the middle class’ — a growing cohort of workers earning good wages and able to afford a car, which catapulted Ford’s fortunes into the stratosphere.


The Post-war Boom

Early in the 20th-century, the U.S. became the most powerful manufacturing nation in the world and surpassed even longtime patent leader Germany as the country that received the most annual patent applications.

This occurred only because of strong patent law in the United States. Any inventor with a worthwhile invention brought their idea to America for one reason — because out of all the countries in the world only the U.S. offered the maximum level of legal protection for their idea, design, system, or machine.

Even German scientists brought their ideas to America to have them registered with the U.S. Patent Office!

For countries other than America, the existence of a strong U.S. Patent Office created a ‘brain drain’ in their own countries, meaning that all their scientists and inventors headed to America instead of registering their contraptions in their home country.

Having received their patent protection in the United States, it was a natural step to have their inventions manufactured in America. Although not its primary mandate, the U.S. Patent Office was often excellent at matching inventors with such suppliers or manufacturers as they required.

It was a clear case of the American government passing the right legislation at the right time to attract the best and brightest in the world.


The moral of this story? Not a tariff in sight!


Because the postwar economy was booming and expectations were high, the Baby Boom generation went on a buying spree that is unparalleled in history

All of which worked to make all those patent-holders and their manufacturing companies obscenely rich. And good for them! When you work hard, you should see a positive return for your effort.

The favourable consequence of powerful U.S. patent protection combined with a huge and growing manufacturing base, created a booming economy and concomitant high consumer confidence which provided an unexpected result — usually about 9 months later.

Yes, during the boom times when one family member earned enough to support an entire family, the birthrate in America skyrocketed, creating even more demand as Americans began to have more children per fertile woman.


The moral of this story? When one breadwinner could support a spouse and up to 4 children, afford a new car every 3 years, a couple could own their own home via a 10-year mortgage and enjoy a refreshing vacation every year, the American economy was operating at full output!


American Foreign Policy in the Postwar Era

In the 41 years leading up to 1974, the Saudi government had been selling their oil to America for only the price of production (sans profit) as their contribution to the Cold War effort.

Interestingly, they were allowed to reinvest their cost of production payments in crude oil deliveries and refined oil products — so although they made zero profit on the crude oil as it came out of the ground — they were able to amass considerable wealth by speculating on oil stocks.

But that ended when it was perceived by the Saudis in 1973 that America was favouring Israel, a country that had never delivered billions of barrels of free oil to America.

When America’s oil supplier felt slighted, they decided that they wanted to get paid for their oil after all. ‘Oh, and, we’re pulling back on our Cold War commitment too.’

Which is why the Soviets thought they could successfully invade Afghanistan and tone the world’s opium supply down to almost zero.

When the Saudis suddenly wanted to be paid for their oil and they simultaneously lowered their Cold War commitment to America, the U.S. economy slowed.

With 20/20 hindsight, the ensuing economic disaster was only a symptom of a bungled foreign policy that caused a dramatic increase in new car registrations of foreign cars (with their better gas mileage) moving from 4% of all U.S. new car registrations in 1970 to 65% of new car registrations by 2017. Not only that, but up to 75% of the parts used in today’s American cars are made in Asia.

Therefore, the problem clearly isn’t NAFTA which came into effect in January 1994.

Here’s how that looks expressed as a math equation:
America -10 trillion dollars Japan +10 trillion dollars
(If you’re not into math, the symbol means ‘therefore’)

It could be argued that the United States took a highly principled stand on account of the people of Israel, but it was America’s decision alone, and it cost America 10 trillion dollars and poisoned relations with their oil-producing and Cold War ally, Saudi Arabia.


The moral of this story? The problem of offshoring American manufacturing jobs began in 1973 due to an American foreign policy decision which took place long before NAFTA had been created. Blaming Japan for American capital flight since 1974, or blaming NAFTA (which wouldn’t be created for 20-years) is disingenuous.


Social problems in 1960’s and 1970’s America: Racism, weak civil rights for women, and the Vietnam War worked to reverse America’s earlier gains

A lost generation occurred in the 1960’s where The People lost faith in their elected representatives, but they didn’t lose faith in the institutions of government.

President Carter worked to restore the faith the American people felt toward the executive branch of government by working on some very noble causes and meeting with some success. President Reagan moved things forward by strengthening the U.S. economy, infusing Americans with newfound confidence by offering loan guarantees to struggling American automobile manufacturers and dramatically increasing military spending.


The moral of this story? President Carter and President Reagan didn’t fix America by blaming other countries — they did it by empowering American citizens with tax changes and supporting American industry with loan guarantees to at-risk corporations, with huge defense spending increases, and plenty of positive exhortations about what made America great in the first place.


Every American, Canadian, or Mexican captain of industry wanted NAFTA back in 1994

If NAFTA was so grievous to be borne, why did almost every CEO in North America want NAFTA?

But some U.S. Congressmen and Senators were nervous prior to NAFTA on account of so many job losses in the American economy since 1974 and they were concerned that even NAFTA could go wrong. And let’s face it, some members were creating a negative stir so that new U.S. president Bill Clinton would feel compelled to direct more federal funding to their districts in advance of the accord, in case NAFTA failed.

In reality, the only U.S. and Canadian companies that lived in fear of NAFTA were ones that didn’t keep up with the times. In the booming 1980’s and 1990’s economy, some companies decided they wouldn’t modernize and consequently continued to spend millions per month on electricity costs (for example) instead of reinvesting their (then record) profits in newer, energy-efficient factories or foundries.

For other corporations in the mergers era, it seemed a time to slow capital spending in order to maintain high profit margins and pay record-high dividends to their shareholders. But when the bull market finally came to its end, many businesses were suddenly cash poor and couldn’t afford a new, energy-efficient factory or foundry. Which was brilliant tactical thinking, but abysmal strategic thinking.

So… the question is; If corporations employ poor strategic thinking, should taxpayers be forced to bail them out?


Why should U.S. taxpayers bail out industries that choose high shareholder returns over sound financial management?

In the 1970’s and 1980’s, some American automakers needed the federal government to subsidize them with billions of taxpayer dollars to save them from implosion. That’s only one example out of thousands of U.S. companies that accepted or have lobbied for federal subsidies. Canada is just as bad as the United States on this point. Governments in both countries spend more on corporate welfare than they do on citizen welfare — times two!

Now in 2018, President Trump wants American taxpayers to pay even more for their cars (and anything else made of steel or aluminum) via a 25% tariff on steel imports and a 10% tariff on aluminum.

For one example, Trans Canada Pipeline will be forced to pay the tariff on the steel pipe for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Although steel is a small part of the overall cost of building a pipeline, the cost of the multi-billion dollar project will now rise by 5% or more. Just for comparison, 5% on 10 dollars is 20 cents — but 5% on 5.4 billion dollars adds 270 million dollars to the overall project cost.


The moral of this story? While Donald Trump’s motives are obviously ultra-pure, tariffs are simply a de facto form of taxation that U.S. citizens will pay because a few American corporations preferred high profits/high shareholder returns over competitiveness


Is there ever a good case for tariffs?

In a word, yes. Everything that’s imported into the U.S. (or any country) should face a globally standardized 5% tariff because every government needs money to improve port facilities, to streamline customs, and to maintain the transportation corridors that are essential to trade flows.

Even countries with free trade agreements like the NAFTA countries should institute a standardized 5% tariff on every good that crosses their border — and be required by legislation to use that money to improve transportation corridors and border security.

Consumers would find that presently high tariff items would drop in price, and zero tariff items would rise by 5%, but the trade-off would be astonishingly better roads, bridges, tunnels, rail links, airports and seaports, complete with better security. Every citizen would like to spend fewer hours per week stuck on congested highways, in airports, and enjoy faster and more secure delivery of goods.

Suddenly we wouldn’t be talking about ‘trade wars’ we’d be talking about improved trade, improved infrastructure, and a complete standardization and levelization of tariffs between every country.

And instead of heated rhetoric from politicians, we’d become more efficient throughout our countries and less efficient corporations wouldn’t continue getting rewarded for not re-investing in their businesses.

Streamlining Towards Brexit

by John Brian Shannon | Reposted from LetterToBritain

Time is running down on the Brexit clock (395 days and counting!) and the default path seems the only way that will allow a smooth and orderly Brexit in any sort of timeframe that could be construed as reasonable to British voters. (See how many more days until Brexit here)

If the UK government chooses to simply photocopy existing EU trade regulations and then change those laws incrementally over a period of years, the UK should rightly expect to be invited by the European Union to continue their mutually beneficial trade relationship.

After all, how could the EU possibly be upset that the UK will voluntarily continue to follow European Union trade regulations in the pre-Brexit period?

However, this implies that until Brexit actually occurs, the UK will be obligated to consult with the EU on every incremental change made on those photocopied laws and regulations from now until the UK officially leaves the European Union on March 29, 2019. It’s not about polite diplomatic behavior, it’s about pragmatic self-interest.

The UK must begin today to re-prove that it intends — in all cases — to be a fair and reliable trading partner with the EU, and other countries are sure to be watching as this process unfolds. No amount of effort can be spared in this regard, because as so goes the UK trading relationship with the EU, so it will go between Britain and every other country in the world, after Brexit.


Trade After Brexit

Once March 29, 2019 has passed and the UK has officially left the European Union there will be no longer be any requirement for lengthy consultations with the EU on changes to British trade laws or regulations far in advance of them coming into effect.

That doesn’t mean that the UK shouldn’t continue to consult with the EU, it means that it doesn’t need to consult with the EU during the entire policy formation period. But once UK policy has been decided, the EU should continue to be the first to know about pending changes due to the bloc’s importance to the British economy.

As above, no effort should be spared in showing the EU every possible courtesy on even the most incremental of trade policy adjustments under consideration in the pre-Brexit timeframe.

And in the post-Brexit timeframe, a high level of communication and consultation must continue to define the relationship between the two sides.


Customs Law After Brexit

Unlike trade, the present customs union will end the day after Brexit which will be a very positive thing for the UK. After Brexit, the UK alone will be fully in charge of who can and can’t enter the country, and it should mount a Herculean effort now to identify and locate every single foreigner in the country, matching them to their home and workplace (or school) address.

Every non-British born resident in the country should be required to pay 100 pounds sterling per year, and also be required to provide their updated home and work/school address as often as it changes, no matter which country they originally hailed from. It’s the 21st century(!) all of this can be done on a UK.gov webform in less than 10 minutes per year.

Especially for those foreigners living in the United Kingdom anytime prior to Brexit day, the UK government should make the entire process as streamlined as possible.


Commonwealth Nations in the post-Brexit Timeframe

As the UK returns to its Commonwealth roots, immigration to the UK should thenceforth be sourced from Commonwealth nations.

Of course, there will always be a number of immigrants from the EU, America, and other countries. But as much as possible, the focus should be on the ‘all for one and one for all’ approach of Commonwealth nations — and one great way to keep that viable is by sourcing 2/3rds of the UK’s immigration requirements from the Commonwealth.


In addition, the UK should continue to spend .7 per cent of GDP on foreign aid — but spend it in Commonwealth nations exclusively.

This means that the British government must find other nations to take over its existing foreign aid commitments in non-Commonwealth nations so that Britain can concentrate on building a better Commonwealth.

Done right, every pound sterling spent in Commonwealth foreign aid should return a minimum of two pounds sterling to the UK, as a rising tide in a finite environment like the Commonwealth will lift all boats, which is quite unlike spending that same amount of foreign aid in the wider world.

One example of how Britain could benefit in the post-Brexit timeframe with a policy that favours Commonwealth nations is that UK universities, colleges and trade schools should see a vast increase in enrollment from the 2 billion citizens of Commonwealth nations.


Time is Tight

Although Brexit once seemed far-off, time is getting a little tight. Much needs to be accomplished in the remaining 395 days until Brexit.

The best way to do that is to harmonize UK trade law with EU trade law and then make incremental changes over time. That’s how not to lose.

How to win is to engage with Commonwealth nations as never before in ways that work to benefit both the United Kingdom and every Commonwealth member nation.

Keeping our EU friendships healthy on the one hand while updating our Commonwealth friendships for the 21st century on the other hand, is irrevocably in Britain’s best interests, thereby creating a new paradigm that will allow the UK to work to its strengths over the next 100 years.