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OpenMarket: Fran Smith

  • Shedding Light on Light Bulbs -- Don't Count on the NYT

    May 27, 2011
    In its “Home and Garden” section yesterday, The New York Times did it again: in what should have been a straight-forward puff piece about incandescent light bulb hoarding, the writer, Penelope Green, rather than shedding light on the subject, provided some misleading information.

    The article focused on decorators and stylists buying large quantities of standard light bulbs because they think they are going to be phased out.  Not at all, Green writes, that’s wrong – that’s not what the law says.
    Late in his second term, George W. Bush signed into law the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which requires light bulb makers to improve the efficiency of incandescent bulbs by 25 percent. The details of the law dictated a phase-out of the...
  • Sen. Hatch Questions Illogic of Holding Three Trade Agreements Hostage to TAA

    May 26, 2011
    Consideration of the three pending trade pacts -- with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea -- presents a conundrum. The administration is saying that these Free Trade Agreements with bipartisan support will open markets, improve the economy and help create jobs. However, they won’t be submitted to  Congress for a vote unless a substantial Trade Adjustment Assistance program is enacted to support workers who ostensibly lost their jobs because of trade.

    Come again? The U.S. won’t pass these agreements, which are expected to provide significant and sorely needed economic gains for the U.S. and put a lot of people back to work, unless we help workers. In fact, the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee,...
  • Is the U.S. Serious About Trade and Economic Growth -- Or About Currying Favor with Trade Unions?

    May 19, 2011
    Is the U.S. serious about trade or does the Obama administration just want to cater to union supporters and set up more obstacles for trade pacts? The latest of the delaying tactics is linking the renewal of Trade Adjustment Assistance -- special aid for workers who purportedly lost their jobs because of international trade -- with congressional consideration of the free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea. When looking at the history of the three pending trade agreements, it seems obvious that U.S. trade unions are calling the shots.

    The most egregious hold-ups relate to the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, which has been languishing for more than four years. ...
  • Is Trade Adjustment Assistance a Pre-Condition for Pending Trade Agreements?

    May 11, 2011
    Today, at the Senate Finance Committee’s hearing on the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA), the committee chairman, ranking Republican, and the U.S. Trade Representative’s witness all endorsed the importance of this trade pact, but emphasized a non-trade related issue -- trade unions and worker rights in Colombia and the Labor Action Plan that Colombia agreed to as a condition for the FTA to be considered by Congress. Several committee members also said that reauthorization of Trade Adjustment Assistance -- that provides subsidies for U.S. workers who ostensibly lose their jobs because of trade -- must go hand in hand with consideration of the pending FTAs -- with South Korea, Panama, and Colombia....
  • Progress on Free Trade -- With Strings Attached

    May 5, 2011
    Looks like there could finally be some progress on long-pending free trade agreements (FTAs). Yesterday U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said that the administration will ask Congress to consider the three trade agreements that have been languishing for several years. In an announcement, Kirk said the administration will begin technical discussions today with key Congressional staff on draft legislation to implement the three pending trade pacts -- with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama. Under trade laws, the president has to submit implementing legislation to Congress for their approval.

    While some unions have been opposing all agreements, the Colombia FTA has been the main focus of U.S. trade unions’ opposition on grounds that the government hasn’t done enough to curb...
  • Biofuels Policy -- Death and Disease Follow

    April 22, 2011
    The inestimable Indur Goklany has an important new report on biofuels and developing countries. “Could Biofuel Policies Increase Death and Disease in Developing Countries?” appears in the Spring 2011 issue of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons. In his analysis, Goklany concludes that biofuels production “may have led to at least 192,000 additional deaths and 6.7 million additional lost DALYS [Disability Adjusted Life Years] in 2010.” He points out that those estimates may be low:
    These estimates are conservative.

    First, they exclude consideration of a number of health risks that are, in fact, directly related to poverty (e.g., indoor smoke from burning coal, wood and dung indoors; and iron deficiency). Second, the analysis only considered the poverty effects of biofuel production over and above...
  • China Had a Quarterly Trade Deficit -- And it was Hardly Noticed

    April 12, 2011
    Here’s a bit of news that didn’t get too much attention -- China had a first quarter 2011 trade deficit. It’s the country’s first quarterly deficit in 7 years. China’s deficit of $1.02 billion is partly attributed to rising demand for goods and services in the country and higher global commodity prices.

    China’s phenomenal growth has moderated a bit. First quarter GDP growth is expected to be 9.5 percent (it was 10.3 percent in 2010), while annual GDP growth is projected to come in at 9.6 percent. With the yuan appreciating as...
  • Cuts in Agricultural Subsidies Gain Support

    April 11, 2011
    “Farm Subsidies: Sacred Cows No More” is the headline of the WSJ April 9 article. Agricultural subsidies, in a period where budget cuts are de rigeur, may no longer be sacrosanct, noted the article. With farmers making record profits, yet still getting heavily subsidized, some policy makers are setting their sights on direct payments to farmers of about $5 billion per year. Last year total farm subsidies were about $15 billion.

    Corn farmers are the ones who benefit most, with about $2.1 billion of those direct payments going to them.

    Even some industry organizations see the need for some cuts in agricultural support:
    Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union, said the direct subsidies have become indefensible because they don't go to farmers who need them to...
  • U.S. Swipes at Colombia's Sovereignty with Onerous Labor Requirements

    April 11, 2011
    AEI’s Claude Barfield posted an insightful comment on the new labor requirements the U.S. foisted on Colombia in connection with the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. Barfield rightly pointed out the U.S. is taking a swipe at the sovereignty of another nation and is interfering in its domestic labor market.  As he notes:
    Among the more egregious demands, Colombia has acquiesced to “criminalize” (with prison terms of up to five years) any acts that “undermine the right to organize and bargain collectively.” It must also pass a law dictating prison terms for anyone who “offers a collective pact to non-union workers that is superior to terms for union workers.” No definition of “undermine” or “superior terms,” of course, is set forth. Such vague mandates are an invitation to harassment and extortion. Further, Colombia must...
  • Gail Giggles at Consumer Choice in the NYT

    March 31, 2011
    Gail Collins has a truly inane opinion piece in the NYT today, in which she excoriates those people -- Tea Partiers and libertarians --  who are opposed to the upcoming ban on incandescent light bulbs. She completely misses the argument for consumer choice, that is, some people may want to stick with the old-fashioned incandescent instead of the fluorescent bulbs for a variety of reasons -- some real concerns (photosensitivity, mercury, melting plastic, fumes) and some aesthetic ones.

    Instead, Collins does her usual cutesy, aren’t-I-clever dismissal of those who think consumers and not the government should be deciding what light bulbs to use in their homes. Rand Paul, who spoke eloquently against the ban, made that point about light bulbs and about low-flush toilets at a hearing on the issue,...


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