On the day that US economic growth was reported to have slowed to "a barely discernible 0.1 per cent", here are three signs that the nation's problems are more severe than (in the feeble excuse offered by the court eunuchs of the Obama media) just a bit of inclement weather:
1) AMERICAN DYNAMISM IS A MUSEUM ITEM
The factory where the inspiration for Rosie the Riveter once worked is about to be torn down:
The wrecking ball is poised to demolish the iconic Willow Run plant in Michigan, which produced not only bombers for World War II, but also inspired the iconic symbol of female empowerment and American wartime unity, "Rosie the Riveter..."
After building bombers, and later going back to building cars, the Willow Run factory transitioned back to producing automobiles for more than a half-century after the war ended, until it was closed for good in 2010.
A campaign has been in place to save Willow Run from demolition. According to reports, over the last year, supporters have raised $7 million of the total $8 million needed to preserve part of the building. However, they only have until Thursday to raise the funds needed.
"We can do it" was the "Rosie the Riveter" slogan and America is poised to fall flat on that promise if there aren't those â€“ perhaps some of America's most prominent women in business â€“ willing to step in with the final million.
Who now associates the Greater Detroit area with the slogan "We can do it"? Clearly, the spirit of Rosie the Riveter has fled. So what's the point of preserving the crappy building?
2) AMERICAN BUSINESS IS A BRANCH OFFICE
After landing at LaGuardia for some TV and radio interviews last week, I found myself idling in traffic on 42nd Street outside the Pfizer headquarters. The company's been in New York since it was founded in 1849 by Charles Pfizer and his cousin Charles Erhart. But latterly it has had various foreign entities whose profits it's been obliged to keep overseas in order to avoid handing them over to the US Treasury, which levies the highest corporate taxes in the developed world. Still, all that foreign dough keeps piling up, and eventually you have to spend it on something. So Pfizer wants to use its overseas profits to buy the British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, which has some fine cancer drugs and other attractive items in its portfolio. But you have to get all the way down to the foot of the story before you find the real reason Pfizer wants to buy a foreign corporation:
In addition to using offshore cash, buying AstraZeneca would be tax-efficient since Pfizer could redomicile to Britain and enjoy lower tax rates, thanks to attractive incentives to companies that manufacture and hold patents in the country.
Apparently, it would save Pfizer a billion dollars a year in taxes. Forbes wonders if something should be done:
What happens if America's largest drug company, Pfizer PFE -1.51%, and America's drug store, Walgreen's WAG +0.86%, both execute deals that mean they no longer will be domiciled in America, and as a result will pay far less in American taxes? Could mergers done for the sake of dodging taxes become a key issue in the upcoming midterm elections?
That's a key question for all investors this morning as New York's Pfizer, the largest drug company in the U.S., publicly detailed a bid to purchase AstraZeneca AZN +2.52% for $100 billion, 70% of it in stock and the rest in cash. Pfizer says the deal is being driven by the complementary nature of the two drug giants' stables of products and by the costs it could cut, but it would also move its tax domicile to a holding company in the U.K. and therefore pay a significantly lower tax rate. This is known as a "tax inversion."
Wow, where can I get one of those? Whoops, sorry, wrong question. I meant to say: when is Congress going to act to make America even more of an unattractive environment to do business in?
Any debate seems likely to play to the strengths of Democrats, who will portray these moves as tax dodges, and not to the outcome that companies would like: for the U.S. corporate tax rate to be lowered in order to make it more competitive to other countries. Instead, the effort will probably be to erect barriers that make sure that companies don't acquire other firms just to take advantage of a lower tax rate.
Yes, the one thing that should do wonders for that barely detectable 0.1 per cent growth rate is if Congress "erects more barriers". Rosie the 'Recter says, "We can do it!"
3) AMERICAN BUREAUCRACY IS YOUR BIGGEST HOUSEHOLD EXPENSE
Speaking of erecting barriers, don't think just because you gave at the office they're not making house calls:
Average U.S. Household Spends More on Federal Regulations Than for Health Care, Food or Transportation
That's not a late-breaking April Fool's story. It's true. The Bureau of Compliance sucks up a quarter of everything you make:
Crews estimates the annual cost of compliance with the record number of new federal rules and regulations issued under President Obama at $1.863 trillion.
That works out to a $14,974 "hidden tax" every year for the average U.S. household. That's 23 percent of the $65,596 annual average household income in America.
Good thing this is a republic of limited government, or who knows what that 23 per cent would be climbing to.
Speaking of federal regulation, let's have one for the road:
4) AMERICAN FIREPOWER IS POINTED AT YOU
Five years ago, I was parked on the shoulder of the road making a cellphone call about arrangements for a family funeral when an officer pulled up and told me I wasn't allowed to telephone in that particular area. I was just about to burst out laughing when I noticed he was a US Border Patrol officer. And we were some considerable distance from the border. So I asked him what on earth it had to do with him. And he informed me that the Border Patrol had jurisdiction within 100 miles of the border. This sounded too stupid to be true, especially in a country on supposed Orange Alert that millions of illegal aliens have strolled into with apparent ease. But I checked when I got home, and he was right: post-9/11, the "border" has been redefined to mean anywhere within 100 miles of the actual frontier. In other words, the US border zone is wider than many European countries. A hundred-mile buffer zone from Belgium's northern border, for example, would be well south of the southern border and deep into France. But, between the seacoast and the Quebec border, the whole of my own state of New Hampshire now falls within the jurisdiction of the Border Patrol.
So does Three Points, Arizona. Clarisa Christiansen and her two children were driving from their grade school when, two miles from their home, they were pulled over by Border Patrol agents. The border is some 40 miles south. The encounter was somewhat more dramatic than mine:
Ms. Christiansen then stated that if there was no reason for stopping her that she would be on her way, and wished the agent a good day. The agent told her, "You're not going anywhere." That agent then said to the other agents, "This one is being difficult, get the Taser." The agent opened the driver's side door and demanded that she exit. Ms. Christiansen, now fearing for her safety and that of her children, refused. Ms. Christiansen's children became upset; her daughter asked, "Mommy what's going on?" Ms. Christiansen told the children to stay calm and sit still, but she could see they were confused and afraid.
The agent then approached Ms. Christiansen with a retractable knife and threatened to cut her out of her seatbelt if she didn't exit the vehicle. Ms. Christiansen repeated her demand for an explanation, which the agents still refused to give her. Instead, the agent forcibly reached inside Ms. Christiansen's vehicle without her consent and removed the keys from the ignition.
Ms. Christiansen had no choice but to exit the vehicle. She presented her identification. The agents ran a background check, gave her back her driver's license, returned to their vehicle without saying anything, and drove away. The entire stop lasted approximately 35 minutes. At that point, Ms. Christiansen noticed that her rear tire had been punctured...
The US Border Patrol can't police the US border, but they can police you. Frankly, it's a lot easier.
I wish Ms Christiansen good luck with her case, but one notes that the Supreme Court has dramatically circumscribed protections against unreasonable search and seizure when it occurs at America's border, and, given that the border's now 100 miles wide, that means Three Points is a Fourth Amendment-free zone. In stories like these, Washington is telling you how it's going to go when things get even worse.