business news in context, analysis with attitude

We reported last week that the Bush administration is looking at a new way to improve the nation's job numbers, especially in the manufacturing sector where statistics have not been looking good. According to the new Economic Report of the President, just sent to Congress, it has been suggested that fast food restaurant jobs aren't actually service jobs, but in fact are manufacturing jobs - because the employee is assembling the burger.

N. Gregory Mankiw, chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers, says that properly classifying such workers is "an important consideration" in setting economic policy. And as we pointed out, Mankiw is the same guy who said in an interview the other day that outsourcing jobs to foreign countries was good for the US economy - which set off its own firestorm.

MNB user Glenn Cantor wrote:

Aren't these the same people who tried to claim that ketchup is a vegetable?

Assembling a Big Mac isn't quite the same thing as assembling a Chevy.

Another MNB user wrote:

So burger making is just manufacturing. If that is the case, then it is just a matter of time before the voice at the drive-thru has a thick Indian accent and my food is handed to me by a robotic arm.

MNB user Karmi Middlemiss wrote:

How stupid do they think we are? Do they think the entire nation is unaware of the numbers games they play? When the day is done, we still feel no better about the job situation. Trouble is we no longer have any faith in our government's reports, either.

And another MNB user chimed in:

Wow. Did I just step into Orwell's 1984? That would be double plus
ungood. Spin has been taken to frightening heights in the interest of winning that upcoming election. Then again, manufacturing news could be a new job in the manufacturing sector.

Good line.

And on the general jobs issue, one member of the MNB community wrote:

We need more jobs. It could be a simple fix by further reductions in Capital Gain Taxes. I for one would roll more money out of commercial property investments if the Capital Gains was further reduced or eliminated. It is common for large companies to receive tax breaks for creating jobs. Just think of all the small commercial property investors if relieved of capital Gains all the cash freed up and the economical impact that would create.

We wrote last week about Wal-Mart's Asda Group in the UK giving its employees $430 (US) bonuses, and noted that "the best way to get people to feel ownership about the place where they work is to actually give them a financial stake in the company…whether through stock ownership, profit-sharing, or some kind of bonus program." MNB also wrote, "We have to admit to thinking that four hundred bucks doesn't exactly rock our world…but hey, we're dealing with college financial aid issues these days and have a completely jaundiced view of the subject."

MNB user Gerry Good wrote:

At Super Fresh (a unit of A&P started in 1982) the associates got incentive payments of as much as $4000 (gross). They were really motivated to build sales and take care of customers at a reasonable cost. I know, I was the President and I passed out every check myself! Get common goals and the right management attitude and it can work.

MNB user Steve Panza took us to task, though:

Although (an average of) $430 may not be much to you, many others would be happy to get it. Before I started working for my current employer, annual bonuses for us grunts were $50 and a turkey. Management obviously received more. My wife's employer (along with many others) doesn't give bonuses.

We wrote last week about the expansion of the single-serve-coffee-maker market, and noted that while a lot of companies seem to be investing in building these machines, we don't really understand the 'drink one cup' thing. One MNB user responded:

We own at home a Nespresso espresso/cappuccino maker that uses 'pods' of pre-ground coffee -- one word: magnificent. Fantastic coffees with little time or effort, and NO MESS -- no grounds, no tamping, just quick and excellent (think Paris cafe quality) espresso.

Please also remember that you at MNB control the quality of your own coffee -- because you make it. Those of us in offices are sentenced to the disgusting stuff that's brewed in the break room -- thin enough to read the paper through, with all the taste characteristics of last week's dishwater. If I had one of these pod machines, and I will if the price is reasonable, I could make as many cups as I could drink, right here in my office and never have to drink that revolting stuff again. It only makes one cup at a time, you say? No problem - I only drink one cup at a time. Lots of cups, but one at a time. (My sincere sympathies to those forced to drink machine/instant coffee by the way -- has there ever been potable coffee dispensed from a machine?)

My worst work weeks are the first week back after a trip abroad -- not only is my inbox stuffed full, but it takes me days to get used to drinking crummy American coffee again.
KC's View: