Monday, March 10, 2008

Personal Aside: Foster’s Election Validates an Old Tradition…The Religion of the Strong Dollar—and Why It’s Sometimes Helpful to Stray from Virtue (a Helpful Heresy).

Foster’s Election.

Democrat Bill Foster’s election as 14th district congressman over Jim Oberweis by a margin of 5,000 or so votes…winning 53 to 47… proved several things—to me at least.

1. Are we going to have to wait until Big Jim Oberweis spends ALL his money in primary election after primary election for the purpose to determine if he’s loved—which for anyone who really knows him understands that this, not political issues, is the reason for this experiment? This is the real story why Oberweis has been running. I endorsed him the last time for governor but begged him not to run for Congress this time so as to allow Chris Lauzen a chance. No soap. And it’s for sure that Oberweis will be dominating the field for a rerun eight months hence. His money stunts anyone’s success in challenging him—yet his money is never sufficient to carry him through any general election. The cumulative results show that Oberweis plain-and-simple is not liked. What has to happen before we understands this—someone to drive a political stake through his heart?

2. The astoundingly low turnout was caused by several factors butr certainly one major thing: the Republican electorate’s getting sick and tired of Oberweis, having been through his first race as a pro-cboicer, his second as a pro-lifer, his third where he sought to negotiate Bill Brady out of the governorship race by a system of drawing straws where Oberweis had more straws than Brady—which really was confounding. Sure there is a Republican morale downturn with a sluggish economy and Hastert’s failure as Speaker to rein in GOP House spending…but a majority of the turnout problems seemed to turn on Oberweis fatigue. But there’s more.

3. The juvenile, sulk-in-his-tent attitude of Chris Lauzen who refused to endorse the winner because Lauzen felt he was slandered by Oberweis’ campaign tactics. Sure the Oberweis commercials were rough…which is Oberweis’ style…but someone should have told Lauzen that politics ain’t beanbag as Mr. Dooley said. I urged Lauzen to endorse him so as to spare Lauzen’s wearing the collar for an Oberweis defeat. No, Lauzen insisted on an apology that would approximate the Japanese surrender on the deck of the battleship Missouri. Well, now Lauzen IS wearing the collar, bearing some responsibility for the loss. Tell me, does stubbornness and refusal to listen to advice come with a CPA? Or does the certification come equipped with a whine: I have given up so much for public service; how dare anyone say bad things about me? Com’on Chris, it’s politics. Nobody forced you to run at any time, did they?

4. Oberweis has been notable for paying lavish fees to campaign consultants who are less than bright. The first time it was to a consultant that insisted Oberweis had to be pro-choice. The second time it was to a consultant who devised a TV commercial that didn’t just make a statement on immigration but which was bound to inflame. Now we have a consultant who told the media on election night (Bill Pascoe) “I think everybody was surprised. We did not see it coming.” HUH? Evidently everybody saw it coming but you, Mr. Pascoe. The word on the street, far from the precincts of the 14th and the headlines in most newspapers was that Oberweis could easily lose. Where were you? And are you going to continue raking down the money for the next lucrative Oberweis loss eight months hence? Really a neat industry for you and others, isn’t it?

5. Enough already. When Oberweis allowed himself to be shown on TV mimicking the halting speaking style of Foster, it shows one thing: this guy has an MBA, is a bright entrepreneur but was…is…and forever will be laden with a tin ear for politics. Now as for the august “Tribune.”

6. For the second straight time, the “Tribune” has invaded the campaign business to justify its guilt-ridden “we’re-Republican-but” concept that has shaded its integrity since April 1, 1955 when the Colonel died. The newspaper undertook a decidedly partisan…election shading role…is prying loose private and confidential material concerning a Jack Ryan’s divorce in 2004 which had utterly no implications for public policy whatsoever. By doing so the newspaper was as malicious and as mean-spirited as the “National Enquirer.” Ryan was a major league candidate with talent, smarts, looks and funds to go all the way. The paper purposely bumped him out of the way as a service to the Democrats with the newspaper looking skyward in fake innocence, claiming that when a husband propositions his own wife it is a news story. What rot. Had Ryan’s divorce involved drunkenness, lechery, infidelity, wife-beating or any serious character assassination, the paper would have been justified in breaking the court code of secrecy. . It did not. Instead it was an insidious invasion into a candidate’s private life in an obvious attempt to skew the field of Republican candidates.

The editorial in the “Tribune” endorsing Foster, the work of Bruce Dold, was a masterpiece of duplicity. It started off by saying that the paper agreed heavily with Oberweis on the issues and then dragged allegations from earlier campaigns Oberweis ran to justify that Oberweis ran bogus charges. When Foster came out with an ad that falsely implied Oberweis had hired illegals when in fact a store cleaning company on contract had, there wasn’t a peep from the august dozing sentinel of political correctness. It should have been enough to cause another editorial that at least would be qualifying of the earlier endorsement of Foster. The fact is that the “Tribune” follows a pattern advocated by its marketing people: the purposeful crafting of mushy-moderate positions so as to not lose exurban readers or embarrass its heavy advertisers…despite the fact that on item-after-item on economic policy where Oberweis and the newspaper agree, the “Tribune” savaged him. The Foster endorsement smacks, indeed smells, of political manipulation contrary to the issues for the sole purpose of racking up another Democratic victory, after which the newspaper, turning its eyes skyward, claims it had no stake. Not much.

The Religion of the Strong Dollar.

Many years ago as an assistant Commerce secretary who had only a cursory understanding of the deadly dull science from Economics 101 at St. John’s in Minnesota, I spent a lot of time with old-hand department experts on the dollar who had served in the department under Republican and Democratic secretaries for many years and had no partisan axe to grind.

They told me that a “strong dollar” was always the political goal (doesn’t it sound patriotic and make you want to doff your hat as well the national anthem is played?) but occasionally…and here they bit their tongue…a weaker dollar (you’ll pardon them and me) also helps. It boosts our exports relative to imports for one thing. Then as when I served in Commerce this factor is an aid to avoiding recession. They taught me that the doctrine of “the strong dollar” isn’t always an index into economic health. How? A weaker dollar stimulates the prospect of good investment strategies at home which means future strengthening of the dollar. Attracting foreign capital, they said, stimulates dollar purchases by foreign investors. They showed me charts showing that in the past that showed capital inflows from large trade deficits. When I was at Commerce, 1969, I remember the Japanese yen was 360 to the dollar; not long ago it was 110 to the dollar and how are the Japanese doing today, you may ask?

Sure, all of us consumers are helped by the dollar’s gaining greater purchasing power but after that designation we fall into separate categories. Exporters benefit from a weak dollar because foreigners buy more of our goods. A free market works out the balance but that’s the nature of the free market. And sometimes it is tragic i.e. higher ethanol production here means spiraling cost of corn which hits those fading away in malnutrition in Africa. Remember what we learned in Economics 101?—the price of a loaf of bread rotates up and down until it settles down to equal the quantity supplied at the price. At that point we say it is the approximate rate it will go far and assign to it the baseline which governs future movements that are rated “strength” or “weakness.” As a floating exchange rate ceases fluttering and the needle hits steady after a time we assign to it the norm in the market for foreign exchange.

While the status of the dollar is a major consideration in foreign trade, the dollar’s expected future movement is more essential for foreign investors. Why? Because they want to come in here when the dollar is cheap and scram when the dollar is strong. As they said at Commerce so many years ago: “The faster the dollar devalues the sooner the expectation that things will change and it will zoom up again. This, after all, is par for the most vibrant economy in the world.” Translated to today it would seem to indicate that a quick zoom up for the dollar’s value would short-circuit trade adjustment and cut trade as a tool of increased demand—not helpful as we try to avoid a serious recession. All of which means, we shouldn’t let panicky headlines scare us to think the dike is cracking. Which was ratified by an oldster…a sprightly 75-year-old legendary free market advocate I had dinner with one night after a long day’s work at Commerce.

He said, “that’s the free market and how it works, son.”

I said: Yes sir. I’ll remember that.

His name, by the way, was Henry Hazlitt.


  1. PARIS (March 10) - Airbus parent EADS hopes to make an acquisition in the U.S. this year following the huge U.S. Air Force contract Airbus recently snatched from rival Boeing Co.

    European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co. NV Chief Executive Louis Gallois proposed two takeover projects to the board "in the fields of defense, security or services" of which one "at least should be in the United States," according to a letter sent to staff and read to The Associated Press by an EADS employee who asked not to be named because the document was intended only for EADS staffers.

    Gallois said in January that Airbus is planning acquisitions in the United States to take advantage of the dollar's weakness and reduce its exposure to shifting exchange rates. EADS is aiming at "medium-sized companies," he said - without naming any potential target.

  2. Today you made this comment,

    "I endorsed him the last time for governor but begged him not to run for Congress this time so as to allow Chris Lauzen a chance. No soap."

    On August 28th you posted this,

    "Oberweis’ Time?

    It appears obvious that Denny Hastert has all but endorsed Jim Oberweis as his successor for the 14th. If that is true, a candidate who has embodied all that conservatives have really been seeking is on the cusp of winning. But what about State Sen. Chris Lauzen who I would distinctly prefer? I asked Chris where the differences are between him and Jim Oberweis and he pointed out that they appear to be indistinct…the fact that Oberweis has not been able to get elected over a period of time. But given that Hastert has seemingly endorsed him and that Oberweis is flush with money, the next loser may well be Chris. Perhaps he might want to discard his intention to run for Congress and wait for a better opportunity.

    The danger is that with Lauzen and Oberweis dividing the conservative vote, a liberal Republican like the mayor of Geneva may get in. Of course, despite no discernible differences, Chris Lauzen will lower his head and plunge right into the brick wall along with his followers…repenting at leisure as they have so often in the past when they rejected a change of course when circumstances required it. For the record, I am still for Lauzen but is there no accommodation for circumstances? We’ll see.

    Posted By: Tom Roeser
    at 8/28/2007 7:09:00 AM"

    It appears Tom that you were trying to push Lauzen out of the race and not the other way around! And what about this "begging", Tom? Oh really? It appears that you are impressed by deep pockets.
    Isn't it nice to have Google to keep you honest! And whats this nastiness against Lauzen all about? You pat him with one hand and slap him with another.

    Further reading of your blog shows that it was Oberweis who sorta stood you up for a Shootout appearance. Lauzen did go on your show. I think you owe Lauzen an apology, sir.

  3. What is inconsistent about the above statements?

    Is Chris Lauzen above criticism? Just because Tom criticizes Lauzen does not mean that he did not try to talk Oberweis out of running.

    I think Lauzen has been childish and hypocritical. Lauzen know up front the primary would be nasty, told people that he would indeed go negative himself. Lauzen just didn't expect the dump truck load back in return. Poor Chris. And then Chris showed his famous temper and flew off the handle.

    Google is a wonderful thing, but you're straining to find 'nastiness' on Tom's part.

  4. I don't get it Tom. You say Oberweis is a bad candidate with a lot of problems, who few like.

    But then Lauzen is supposed to wear some kind of collar for the loss? Huh?

    So basically you're saying Lauzen should have been dishonest and tried to have conned voters into voting for a guy that he can't stand, voters can't stand, and that appearently you can't stand anymore?

    That seems crazy to me.

    It's obvious that the brand of "politics" you've been practicing for half a century or whatever doesn't work Tom. The GOP is now non-existent in Illinois at this point.

    Maybe it's time for new people who want to do more than just go through the motions of making the same meaningless, double-talking gestures over and over again.

    "Jim Oberweis is a rich guy with ego problems who has a tin ear, has flip-flopped on issues, can't win, and who almost no one likes. But you're a bad guy for not endorsing him Chris Lauzen!"

    Tom, do you actually ever think about this double talk before you hit the send key?

  5. It is only yesterday that Roeser said he "begged" Oberweis to not run. How can you believe that Tom Roeser begged Oberweis to do anything when he through his post is trying to push Lauzen out? It is Roeser who started the nastiness against Lauzen at the very beginning with his "brick wall" comment.

    It is only when Oberweis snubbed Roeser that Roeser turned on Oberweis as evidenced by his posts here. But this "begging" stuff is new and I simply don't believe it given Roeser's attitude toward Lauzen. And talk about touchy, Roeser complains about Lauzen being thin skinned but in this blog there is plenty of places where Roeser appears to be the thin skinned one when people do not agree with him. In fact his attitude against Lauzen on the Sunday night show was downright testy.