Thursday, January 21, 2016

On Production Costs, or, the $350,000,000 Saturn

A fun fact from NDIA might put the cost of some defense systems in context, especially for dramatically reduced orders:
While working on the B-2 bomber, [Tom Vice, president of Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems] recalls, the company studied General Motors’ production process for introducing its new Saturn line and estimated that if only 20 cars had been built, each would have cost $350 million.
In the case of the B-2, this happened:
The company set up an assembly line in a one million square-feet facility to build 132 bombers, but the order was truncated to 21. The poor economies of scale inflated the price of the aircraft to about $2 billion each.
The fixed costs of production (designs, machinery, tools, etc.) have to be covered by what is actually produced, whether 20 or 20,000.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

2,431 Words, Not One of Which Was "Federalism"

In the New York Times, Thomas Edsall tries to find the mysterious explanation of how Republicans could possibly be successful at the state level in recent years. The divisive president is overlooked, but Charles and David Koch are referenced nine times. Most notable, however, is the omission of the one simple advantage that Republicans have over Democrats at the state level: an interest in federalism (the division of power between states and the central, or federal, government).

The closest he comes is to note, referencing an interview with a liberal strategist
the right can tap into an embedded structure of community-based cultural, religious, social organizations — churches, Elks, veterans halls, gun groups, local business organizations, etc. — that are gathering places with offices, meeting halls, phones and computers that can be used by activist troops for logistical and operational support.
Or, put another way, Republicans are more involved in their communities than Democrats.

Federalism is central to the difference between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats as a party believe in central planning and dictates from the capital (e.g., ObamaCare), while Republicans are more likely to encourage states to solve their own problems and learn from each other (even RomneyCare would seem to fit here). That is a natural advantage at the local level. Republicans are more inclined to look for local solutions while Democrats pray to DC for theirs.

For example, an article in The Atlantic about the future of work as automation increases was useful when it stayed on topic, but went on to propose a "national policy that directed money toward [community] centers in distressed areas..." A Republican would be more likely to say, "we need a community center in our community--let's build it." than to suggest laundering money through Washington, DC where bureaucrats could choose which community centers to fund among the thousands of communities.

Who is more appealing: the candidate who wants the community to build a community center or the one who promises to lobby the federal government for the return of laundered tax dollars to build a community center?