$160,000 to $248,309 per stimulus job

I had apparently also made a similar abuse of the calculator. From ABC News:

Posting its results late this afternoon at Recovery.gov, the White House claimed 640,329 jobs have been created or saved because of the $159 billion in stimulus funds allocated as of Sept. 30.

Officials acknowledged the numbers were not exact, saying that states and localities that reported the numbers have made mistakes.

In recent days, the Recovery Act board has been reviewing all the numbers, with many inaccurate ones having been posted. California's San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission received $5 million in stimulus funds to hire workers to build addition train track for the Union Pacific Railroad in an economically tarnished spot of the Golden State.

Brian Schmidt, director of planning and programming for the commission said that his staff originally reported to the Obama administration that the stimulus money saved 250 jobs. Then, realizing they had mistakenly double credited, they later changed that to 125 jobs. Tuesday, they updated it again to 74 jobs.

Ed DeSeve, senior advisor to the president for Recovery Act implementation, said he'd been "scrubbing" the job estimates so much since they came it at the beginning of the month that he now has "dishpan hands and my fingers are worn to the nub."

White House officials heralded the unparalleled transparency in reporting job numbers to the public, but acknowledged there is no consistent standard across states or localities, or among federal agencies giving out stimulus funds, in differentiating between a “saved” job and a “created” job.

The White House argues that the actual job number is actually larger than 640,000 -- closer to 1 million jobs when one factors in stimulus jobs added in October and, more importantly, jobs created indirectly, such as "the waitress who's still on the job," Vice President Biden said today.

So let's see. Assuming their number is right -- 160 billion divided by 1 million. Does that mean the stimulus costs taxpayers $160,000 per job?

Jared Bernstein, chief economist and senior economic advisor to the vice president, called that "calculator abuse."

He said the cost per job was actually $92,000 -- but acknowledged that estimate is for the whole stimulus package as of the end of 2010. . . .

Of course, the 640,000 estimate is not serious. Note that most are state government jobs.

Of the 640,239 jobs recipients claimed to have created or saved so far, officials said, more than half — 325,000 — were in education. Most were teachers’ jobs that states said were saved when stimulus money averted a need for layoffs. . .

How do we know that the states would have really laid off these people? The money is fungible.

UPDATE: Well over a month since my post, Reuters has this news story:

The Obama Administration is touting that their stimulus program has saved or created 640,329 jobs since it was enacted back in February through the end of October. This number is updated and posted on the Administration’s recovery.gov web site. That amounts to $246,436 per job based on the $157.8bn that has been awarded so far! Total compensation earned by the average payroll employee during October, on an annualized basis, was $59,867. If the government had simply used the funds awarded so far to pay for a year’s worth of labor, that would have paid for 2.6mn jobs!

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Not a wise thing to do when your office is investigating others for taping conversations

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

A spokesman for Attorney General Jerry Brown acknowledged Thursday that he taped a phone conversation with a reporter for The Chronicle this week without disclosing the fact or asking permission - and admitted he has taped conversations with other news reporters. . . .


This was taxpayers' money well spent?

The WSJ has this.

The $2.3 billion in taxpayer money spent to save CIT Group Inc. is likely to be wiped out, as the lender prepares to file for bankruptcy protection in a high-stakes restructuring plan aimed at keeping the firm in business. . . . .


Larry Sabato is way out there

I used to always think that Sabato was a straight shooter politically (sure I disagreed with him some, but he always seemed pretty fair). That was until he got involved in the attacks on the Allen Senate campaign in 2006. Now Sabato has some comments on Obama.

He’s a liberal but certainly not a revolutionary, as some on the right continue to insist. He’s practical which makes him tentative about pushing some of his liberal positions—which has already aggravated the left and will continue to do so. He’s a politician, not a saint. He’s a fiery rhetorician but often seems coolly detached when away from the podium. He’s far more professor than community organizer. . . .



A 67 meter increase in ocean levels within 10 years? Only Al Gore could make such a claim.

Does Gore get paid for these talks?

“The North Pole ice cap is 40 percent gone already and could be completely and totally gone in the winter months in the next 5 to 10 years,” he warned.

If the North Pole were to melt it could increase sea levels by 67 metres, Gore said, speaking in the heart of an oil-rich region not known for its regard for the environment. . . .

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Several Dozens Congressmen being investigated in ethic probes

Some of these names have already gotten attention:Charlie Rangel, John Murtha, Marcy Kaptur, Pete Visclosky, Maxine Waters, Norm Dicks, Jo Bonner, and Zoe Lofgren. The large majority of these congressmen seem to be Democrats. Will this create a discussion in the media about the Democrats' ethic problems?

A leaked document shows that House ethics investigators are probing the activities of nearly three dozen lawmakers — an ethical dust storm that will empower the Republicans and could imperil efforts to get health care reform through the House next week.

The House Ethics Committee said Thursday that it was opening two new investigations — one into the foreclosure scandal of Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Calif.) and one involving financial questions about Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and her husband.

But shortly after the committee met, chairs Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) interrupted proceedings on the House floor to say that an internal document on secret committee proceedings had been leaked to the Washington Post — and that it would name the names of many other members who had drawn the attention of either the committee or the Office of Congressional Ethics.

According to the Post, the document identifies more than 30 House members.

Much of the investigative interest swirls around lawmakers' relationship with the PMA Group, a now-defunct lobbying firm that pumped campaign contributions to members and obtained earmarks for its defense clients.

Democratic Reps. Jack Murtha (D-Pa.) and Peter Visclosky (Ind.) had been implicated in the PMA case previously, but the leaked document showed that investigators are also interested in Reps. James Moran Jr. (D-Va.), Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), Bill Young (R-Fla.) and Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.), according to the Post.

The Department of Justice is also looking into allegations that Paul Magliocchetti, a former Appropriations Committee staffer and founder of PMA, used “straw men” donors to improperly funnel campaign to Murtha and the other Appropriations Committee members.

Visclosky and his former chief of staff, Charles Brimmer, have been served with subpoenas in the FBI's criminal probe into PMA’s activities, and FBI agents raided a Pennsylvania defense contractor with close ties to Murtha earlier this year.

In addition, the ethics committee document said the panel had attempted to look into the case of Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.) but had been asked to back off by the Justice Department, the Post reported. Mollohan attracted DOJ attention in 2006 for steering tens of millions of dollars in earmarks to political allies and campaign contributors, including a former aide involved in the lawmaker’s lucrative real-estate investments. While Mollohan has never been charged with any wrongdoing, he stepped down from his post as ranking member of the ethics committee. . . .

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Copy of Pelosi Health Care Bill Available Here

An eleven page summary is here.

A 61 page summary of the different section heading is here.

You can download a copy of the legislation here. This is one long piece of legislation.

A CBO estimate puts the cost of this at $1,055 billion, though this estimate somehow fails to even take into account the impact of the rule changes regarding pre-existing conditions.


Glenn Beck on some of the revolutionaries in the Obama Government

Did the cost of "Cash for Clunkers" program run $24,000 per additional car sold?

Edmunds has this:

If you believe the statistical analysis of Edmunds, perhaps the program wasn't so terrific after all. The industry research juggernaut claims that of the 690,000 vehicles sold under the program, only 125,000 of those sales went to people who weren't going to purchase a new car in 2009. The result, says Edmunds, is that the $3 billion spent for C4C ended up spurring only 125,000 sales at a cost of $24,000 per vehicle. Further, Edmunds claims that October's sales would have ramped up even more than what current projections indicate.

There doesn't seem to be too many industry experts who disagree with Edmunds' assessment that the Clunkers program only generated 125,000 additional sales, but C4C wasn't just about selling cars and trucks. Ford industry guru George Pipas told CNN Money that the Blue Oval feels the program was a success, adding "The whole purpose of the program was to provide some kind of catalyst to kick-start the economy, and by all accounts the extra production that was added this year was a boost to the economy." . . . .

Fox News has this.

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NJ State court says that there is "no right to buy handguns"

Well, another decision that could be overturned when the Supreme Court issues its opinion on the Chicago gun ban.

A New Jersey appeals court has concluded that Americans have no Second Amendment right to buy a handgun.

In a case decided last week, the superior court upheld a state law saying that nobody may possess "any handgun" without obtaining law enforcement approval and permission in advance.

That outcome might seem like something of a surprise, especially after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year in the D.C. v. Heller case that the Second Amendment guarantees "the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation."

But New Jersey Appellate Division Judge Stephen Skillman wrote on behalf of a unanimous three-judge panel that Heller "has no impact upon the constitutionality of" the state law. . . .

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Despite promises Stimulus contracts going to organizations who were egregious offenders of state and federal laws

From the Washington Post

President Obama and members of Congress told federal agencies earlier this year to avoid awarding funds under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to contractors with troubled histories of work for the federal government.

But that isn't happening at numerous agencies, a Washington Post analysis shows. So far, 33 federal departments and agencies have awarded more than $1.2 billion in stimulus contracts to at least 30 companies that are ranked by one watchdog group as among the most egregious offenders of state and federal laws.

Government records show that as a group, these contractors have sold defective products, manufactured safety tests, submitted false travel claims and padded contracts with fraudulent fees.

"Even a simple Google search could raise red flags about some contractors' performance," said Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.).

Honeywell International, for example, is defending itself against a Justice Department lawsuit accusing it of selling defective shields for bulletproof vests to the Defense and Homeland Security departments, costing the federal government tens of millions of dollars. But that did not prevent the company from winning $2.9 million in stimulus contracts from the Air Force.

On a larger scale, UT-Battelle, a partnership of the University of Tennessee and Battelle Memorial Institute, has been awarded 43 Recovery Act contracts worth more than $331 million by the Department of Energy for work at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. In every instance, competitive bidding rules were waived, but officials said the contracts were largely extensions of competitively bid work that was already underway at the site. . . . .

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"Stimulus jobs overstated by 1,000s"

The Associated Press finds this:

The government's first accounting of jobs tied to the $787 billion stimulus program claimed more than 30,000 positions paid for with recovery money. But that figure is overstated by least 5,000 jobs, according to an Associated Press review of a sample of stimulus contracts.

The AP review found some counts were more than 10 times as high as the actual number of jobs; some jobs credited to the stimulus program were counted two and sometimes more than four times; and other jobs were credited to stimulus spending when none was produced.

For example:

- A company working with the Federal Communications Commission reported that stimulus money paid for 4,231 jobs, when about 1,000 were produced.

- A Georgia community college reported creating 280 jobs with recovery money, but none was created from stimulus spending.

- A Florida child care center said its stimulus money saved 129 jobs but used the money on raises for existing employees.

There's no evidence the White House sought to inflate job numbers in the report. But administration officials seized on the 30,000 figure as evidence that the stimulus program was on its way toward fulfilling the president's promise of creating or saving 3.5 million jobs by the end of next year.

The reporting problem could be magnified Friday when a much larger round of reports is expected to show hundreds of thousands of jobs repairing public housing, building schools, repaving highways and keeping teachers on local payrolls. . . .

It's not clear just how far off the 30,000 claim was. The AP's review was not an exhaustive accounting of all 9,000 contracts, but homed in on the most obvious cases where there were indications of duplications or misinterpretations. . . .

Here are some of the findings:

- Colorado-based Teletech Government Solutions on a $28.3 million contract with the Federal Communications Commission for creation of a call center, reported creating 4,231 jobs, although 3,000 of those workers were paid for five weeks or less.

"We all felt it was an appropriate way to represent the data at the time" and the reporting error has been corrected, said company president Mariano Tan.

- The Toledo, Ohio-based Koring Group received two FCC contracts, again for call centers. It reported hiring 26 people for each contract, or a total of 52 jobs, but cited the same workers for both contracts. The jobs only lasted about two months.

The FCC spotted the problem. The company's owner, Steve Holland, acknowledged the actual job count is closer to five and blamed the problem on confusion about the reporting.

The AP's review identified nearly 600 contracts claiming stimulus money for more than 2,700 jobs that appear to have similar duplicated counts.

- Barbara Moore, executive director of the Child Care Association of Brevard County in Cocoa, Fla., reported that the $98,669 she received in stimulus money saved 129 jobs at her center, though the cash was used to give her 129 employees a 3.9 percent cost-of-living raise. She said she needed to boost their salaries because some workers had left "because we had not been able to give them a raise in four years."

- Officials at East Central Technical College in Douglas, Ga., said they now know they shouldn't have claimed 280 stimulus jobs linked to more than $200,000 to buy trucks and trailers for commercial driving instruction, and a modular classroom and bathroom for a health education program.

"It was an error on someone's part," said Mike Light, spokesman for the Technical College System of Georgia. The 280 were not jobs, but the number of students who would benefit, he said.

- The San Joaquin, Calif., Regional Rail Commission reported creating or saving 125 jobs as part of a stimulus project to lay railroad track. Because the project drew from two pools of money, the commission reported the jobs figure twice, bringing the total to 250 on the government report. Spokesman Thomas Reeves said the commission corrected the data Tuesday.

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Didn't President Obama promise that politics wouldn't interfere with GM's business decisions?

President Obama promised that GM would be run by business decisions. Anyone who has watched how government owned companies are run around the world knew that this was an impossible promise. Well, it turns out that was only the beginning.

Along with Montana's two Democratic senators, the Republican congressman is battling to get GM to reinstate a contract with a Montana palladium mine nullified in bankruptcy court. "The simple fact is, when GM took federal dollars, they lost some of their autonomy," Mr. Rehberg says.

Federal support for companies such as GM, Chrysler Group LLC and Bank of America Corp. has come with baggage: Companies in hock to Washington now have the equivalent of 535 new board members -- 100 U.S. senators and 435 House members.

Since the financial crisis broke, Congress has been acting like the board of USA Inc., invoking the infusion of taxpayer money to get banks to modify loans to constituents and to give more help to those in danger of foreclosure. Members have berated CEOs for their business practices and pushed for caps on executive pay. They have also pushed GM and Chrysler to reverse core decisions designed to cut costs, such as closing facilities and shuttering dealerships.

Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota persuaded GM to rescind a closure order for a large dealership in Bloomington, Minn. In Tucson, Arizona Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords did the same for Don Mackey, owner of a longstanding Cadillac dealership with 80 employees. Rep. Giffords argues it made sense, even for GM, to keep the Mackey dealership, which sold 750 cars last year. "All I did was to help get GM to focus on his case," she says.

Lawmakers say it's their obligation to guard the government's investments, ensure that bailed-out firms are working in the country's interests and protect their constituents.

Executives say congressional demands gobble up time and make a rocky business environment even more unpredictable. Bank chief executives say incessant calls from Capitol Hill, combined with threats of legislation, were among the main incentives for them to pay back money injected by the government and escape Washington's clutches.

Thomas Geisel, chief executive of New Jersey's Sun Bancorp Inc., says the bank paid back its federal money in June because of legislation that imposed limits on bankers' pay, among other areas. "Lawmakers let emotion and ego get in the way of making good business decisions," he says. . . .

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Public Option is besides the point, all the regulations will wipe out private insurance

Some points in the new Wellpoint study.

. . . In all of the 14 states WellPoint scrutinized, ObamaCare would drive up premiums for the small businesses and individuals who are most of WellPoint's customers. (Other big insurers, like Aetna, focus on the market among large businesses.) Young and healthy consumers will see the largest increases—their premiums would more than triple in some states—though average middle-class buyers will pay more too.

Not even two hours after Wellpoint had presented its materials on the Hill, Democrats were already trashing it—which, considering that it runs to some 238 pages and took weeks to prepare, must have required remarkable powers of digestion and analysis. . . .

In fact, what distinguishes the Wellpoint study is its detailed rigor. Take Ohio, where a young, healthy 25-year-old living in Columbus can purchase insurance from WellPoint today for about $52 per month in the individual market. WellPoint's actuaries calculate the bill will rise to $79 because Democrats are going to require it to issue policies to anyone who applies, even if they've waited until they're sick to buy insurance. Then they'll also require the company to charge everyone nearly the same rate, bringing the premium to $134. Add in an extra $17, since Democrats will require higher benefit levels, and a share of the new health industry taxes ($6), and monthly premiums have risen to $157, a 199% boost.

Meanwhile, a 40-year-old husband and wife with two kids would see their premiums jump by 122%—to $737 from $332—while a small business with eight employees in Franklin County would see premiums climb by 86%. It's true that the family or the individual might qualify for subsidies if their incomes are low enough, but the business wouldn't qualify under the Senate Finance bill WellPoint examined. And even if there are subsidies, the new costs the bill creates don't vaporize. They're merely transferred to taxpayers nationwide—or financed with deficits, which will be financed eventually with higher taxes.

The story is largely the same from state to state, though the increases are smaller in the few states that have already adopted the same mandates and regulations that Democrats want to impose on all states. For the average small employer in high-cost New York, for instance, premiums would only rise by 6%. But they'd shoot up by 94% for the same employer in Indianapolis, 91% in St. Louis and 53% in Milwaukee.

A family of four with average health in those same cities would all face cost increases of 122% buying insurance on the individual market. And it's important to understand that these are merely the new costs created by ObamaCare—not including the natural increases in medical costs over time from new therapies and the like. . . .

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Zogby Poll on some recent positions of the Obama administration

The most disappointing thing to me here is that the percentage gaps are bigger than they are.

1. The Obama administration recently declared that the White House would treat the Fox News Channel as an 'opponent,' and declared that Fox News is not a 'legitimate news organization.' Do you agree or disagree that this is an attempt by the Obama administration to silence dissent?
Support 53 percent
Oppose 40 percent

2. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently condemned the health insurance industry for releasing an unflattering analysis on the Obama administration's proposal to create a government-run 'public option' health insurance plan. Pelosi also threatened to revoke the industry's anti-trust exemption which has been in place since 1945. Do you agree or disagree that Pelosi is using the power of congress to try to limit the free speech of private corporations?
Support 53 percent
Oppose 39 percent

3. The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a 'Hate Crimes' bill that would make assault based on sexual orientation or perceived gender identity a felony. As it is currently the written, the bill would also allow the prosecution of people whose speech allegedly influences others to commit hate crimes. Some experts believe this could lead to serious infringements on free speech, as well as the prosecution of religious preachers, talk show hosts or political activists who speak against homosexuality or transsexuals. Others say the bill is an effort to try and stop people from committing such crimes in the future. Do you agree or disagree with the Hate Crimes bill?
Support 38 percent
Oppose 47 percent

4. Federal Communications Commission Chief Diversity Czar Mark Lloyd wants the FCC to force good white people in positions of power in the broadcast industry to step down to make room for more African-Americans and gays to fill those positions. Do you agree or disagree that this presents a threat to free speech?
Support 51 percent
Oppose 31 percent

5. The Obama administration recently supported and helped pass a United Nations resolution that suggests nations exclude certain criticisms of religion from free speech protection. Do you support or oppose an international law that protects religions from criticism?
Support 21 percent
Oppose 59 percent

6. Recently, White House Communications Director Anita Dunn revealed that during the presidential campaign, President Obama's strategy was to limit his actual exposure to the press by only communicating through pre-taped videos and press releases. According to Dunn, 'Very rarely did we communicate through the press anything that we didn't absolutely control.' Do you think the Obama campaign's strategy is good or bad for free speech?
Support 20 percent
Oppose 52 percent

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Democrat book for children: Democrats care for people, want them to do well, Republicans don't

Do Republicans care about students have good teachers? Not according to this book for young kids. Republicans may advocate vouchers because they believe that competition will produce better schools. Democrats want to pay teachers more and protect teacher unions. Does the Democratic approach really work? I don't think so and I think that it should be pretty obvious to anyone, but it is a whole additional step to claim that Democrats don't care about children.
How about police and firefighters? Don't Republicans want them to do their jobs?
Do Republicans not care about the planet? What if you disagree on whether the planet is sick? What if you think that the Democrat's policies will make people poorer and that poorer people are don't live as long?

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Obama sells access to White House staff and the White House itself for campaign contributions

The Washington Times has this:

During his first nine months in office, President Obama has quietly rewarded scores of top Democratic donors with VIP access to the White House, private briefings with administration advisers and invitations to important speeches and town-hall meetings.

High-dollar fundraisers have been promised access to senior White House officials in exchange for pledges to donate $30,400 personally or to bundle $300,000 in contributions ahead of the 2010 midterm elections, according to internal Democratic National Committee documents obtained by The Washington Times. . . .

Didn't this type of behavior generate a lot of news coverage when it happened under Clinton? For some reason, I don't think that this will get much coverage now.

Is the White House movie theater the new Lincoln Bedroom?
It turns out that the White House bowling alley is the new Lincoln Bedroom . . .

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Some recent Washington Times pieces

Amtrak loses $32 per passenger

If Amtrak wasn't operating at such a loss, how many other alternatives would spring up? You would have more buses for one competing along their routes, though there are already a lot that do. These losses are nothing new. If a private firm were to do this, it would be considered predation. From the Associated Press:

U.S. taxpayers spent about $32 subsidizing the cost of the typical Amtrak passenger in 2008, about four times the rail operator's estimate, according to a private study.

Amtrak operates a nationwide rail network, serving more than 500 destinations in 46 states. Forty-one of Amtrak's 44 routes lost money in 2008, said the study by Subsidyscope, an arm of the Pew Charitable Trusts. . . .

While Acela Express made a profit, "The more heavily utilized Northeast Regional lost almost $5 per passenger."

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Barney Frank: "We Are Trying On Every Front To Increase The Role Of Government"

Extending the unemployment benefits by up to 20 weeks

I pointed out earlier this year how strange it was that the increase in unemployment benefits under the stimulus bill phased out the end of this year. It was one of the few parts of the stimulus that only lasted for one year, and it was especially strange given that no one argued that the unemployment rate would drop to where it was last year when the Democrats were first pushing for the increase in benefits. It seemed suspiciously political to me, that they wanted to reduce the subsidies so that the unemployment rate would start to fall before the elections next fall. The increase in benefits now at least shows that the simple model that I had was wrong.

The Senate agreed on an 87-13 procedural vote to bring the measure to a final vote, killing a Republican filibuster that had delayed action for more than a week.

If the bill is approved by both chambers on Capitol Hill and is signed by the president, those who cannot find work would be eligible for a maximum of 99 weeks of benefits.

The Senate bill would extend benefits for 14 additional weeks in all states, and an additional six weeks in states with unemployment rate above 8.5%. In September, 26 states and the District of Columbia had unemployment rates above 8.5%.

Nationally, the unemployment rate was 9.8% in September, the highest in 26 years. Most analysts expect the unemployment rate to reach 10% soon and to remain above 9% for at least another year, even if the economy continues to recover. . . .

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Wasn't Obama supposed to be "post-partisan"?

I have to say that this piece reminds me a lot of the early Clinton administration, and Clinton also attacked Bush even after Clinton left the White House. One should read the whole piece here to get McGurn's list of diggs at President Bush.

Nine months after Barack Obama entered the Oval Office, his most adamant critics must concede he's delivered on "change." And we see it in our first post-gracious presidency.

The most visible manifestations of the new ungraciousness are the repeated digs the president and his senior staffers continue to make against George W. Bush. Recently, the administration has given us two fresh examples. The first is about Afghanistan, the other about the economy.

On Afghanistan, Mr. Obama's chief of staff went on CNN's "State of the Union" earlier this month to discuss the presidential decision on Afghanistan that everyone is waiting for. "It's clear that basically we had a war for eight years that was going on, that's adrift," said Rahm Emanuel. "That we're beginning at scratch, and just from the starting point, after eight years." Translation: If we screw up Afghanistan, blame Mr. Bush.

The other came from Mr. Obama himself, speaking at various Democratic fund-raisers last week. "I don't mind cleaning up the mess that some other folks made," the president said. "That's what I signed up to do. But while I'm there mopping the floor, I don't want somebody standing there saying, 'You're not mopping fast enough.'"

This is a frequent Obama complaint. The logic is clear if curious: While it's OK to blame Mr. Bush for spending too much, it's not OK to point out that Mr. Obama is already well on track to spend much more.

Far from one-off asides, Mr. Obama's jabs at his predecessor have been a common feature of his speeches, fund-raisers and the like. They seem especially to pop up whenever Mr. Obama discovers some decision he must make is not as easy as he'd thought. And they date back to the first moments of his presidency. . . .


"Attorney General Tries to Silence School Choice Ad"

From the Cato Institute:

This, finally, is too much: Eric Holder, Attorney General of the United States, walked up to former DC Councilman Kevin Chavous at an event and told him to pull an ad criticizing the administration for its opposition to the DC school voucher program. The Attorney General of the United States!

This is as outrageous and shameful as it is consistent with other administration hostilities toward free speech (see also here) and freedom of the press.

There is a deep revulsion to such behavior in this country. It is not a Republican or a Democratic revulsion, it is an American one. Obama administration officials seem not to understand that, but voters will help them get the message the next time they go to the polls. . . .

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Medicare Fraud, these are the guys who will cut medical cost?

Watch CBS News Videos Online
$60 billion a year in fraud for Medicare system.

Watch CBS News Videos Online
"Tony" claims he stole more than $20-million dollars from the Medicare system before he was arrested (1:24)


Fraud with housing tax credit for first time house buyers

I wonder what percentage of frauds are even investigated by the government.

The new sales data could help backers of the credit, scheduled to expire Nov. 30. But the improvement also could undercut a key argument of backers -- that the recovery remains fragile enough to require an extension. It also doesn't alleviate concerns the credit has been subject to widespread abuse, as the Internal Revenue Service pursues more than 100,000 suspected improper claims. . . .

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Democrats exempting their states from environmental regulations

Politico headline says: "Dems seek home-state exemptions"

Taking a page from the Republican playbook, House Democrats are using an annual spending bill to exempt home state interests from new environmental rules that the party typically supports.

At issue is the treatment of Great Lakes freight vessels affected by proposed Environmental Protection Agency regulations designed to reduce harmful emissions. The rules are scheduled to take effect in December, but House Appropriations Committee Chairman Dave Obey (D-Wis.) appeared Monday night to have won an exemption for at least 13 older U.S. vessels threatened by the regulations.

While the full details have not been released, House and Senate aides confirmed to POLITICO the outlines of the deal expected to be ratified Tuesday.

That’s when House-Senate negotiators are slated to meet on a $32 billion-plus natural resources bill covering the EPA’s budget for the new fiscal year that began Oct. 1.

The same bill is likely to carry with it a stop-gap spending resolution to keep most of the government operating into December. By slipping the EPA exemption into the final talks on what will be a must-pass vehicle, Obey can maximize his control over the process. . . .

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Consumer confidence drops by 11 percent in October

The level of consumer confidence fell from 53.4 in September to 47.7 in October.

Consumers' confidence about the U.S. economy fell unexpectedly in October as job prospects remained bleak, a private research group said Tuesday, fueling speculation that an already gloomy holiday shopping forecast could worsen.

The Consumer Confidence Index, released by The Conference Board, sank unexpectedly to 47.7 in October — its second-lowest reading since May. . . .

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A concerted push by environmentalists to stop people eating meat or owning animals. What is next?

After getting rid of animals to eat and pets to own do they argue that there should be no more humans? I guess that they are already there.

People will need to turn vegetarian if the world is to conquer climate change, according to a leading authority on global warming.

In an interview with The Times, Lord Stern of Brentford said: “Meat is a wasteful use of water and creates a lot of greenhouse gases. It puts enormous pressure on the world’s resources. A vegetarian diet is better.”

Direct emissions of methane from cows and pigs is a significant source of greenhouse gases. Methane is 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a global warming gas.

Lord Stern, the author of the influential 2006 Stern Review on the cost of tackling global warming, said that a successful deal at the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December would lead to soaring costs for meat and other foods that generate large quantities of greenhouse gases.

He predicted that people’s attitudes would evolve until meat eating became unacceptable. “I think it’s important that people think about what they are doing and that includes what they are eating,” he said. “I am 61 now and attitudes towards drinking and driving have changed radically since I was a student. People change their notion of what is responsible. They will increasingly ask about the carbon content of their food.” . . . .

See this for the concerns about pets. File under the headline that "Land Cruiser is more eco-friendly than your dog!"

In a new research, scientists have determined that pets can play a large part in increasing greenhouse gas emissions, with calculations indicating that a Land Cruiser's eco-footprint being about 0.41 hectares, which is less than half that of a medium-sized dog.

According to a report in New Scientist, the research was done by Robert and Brenda Vale, two architects who specialise in sustainable living at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand.

As well as guzzling resources, cats and dogs devastate wildlife populations, spread disease and add to pollution.

To measure the ecological paw, claw and fin-prints of the family pet, the Vales analysed the ingredients of common brands of pet food.

They calculated, for example, that a medium-sized dog would consume 90 grams of meat and 156 grams of cereals daily in its recommended 300-gram portion of dried dog food.

At its pre-dried weight, that equates to 450 grams of fresh meat and 260 grams of cereal.

That means that over the course of a year, Fido wolfs down about 164 kilograms of meat and 95 kilograms of cereals.

It takes 43.3 square metres of land to generate 1 kilogram of chicken per year - far more for beef and lamb - and 13.4 square metres to generate a kilogram of cereals. So that gives him a footprint of 0.84 hectares.

For a big dog such as a German shepherd, the figure is 1.1 hectares.

Meanwhile, an SUV, driven a modest 10,000 kilometres a year, uses 55.1 gigajoules, which includes the energy required both to fuel and to build it.

The Vales used a 4.6-litre Toyota Land Cruiser in their comparison.

One hectare of land can produce approximately 135 gigajoules of energy per year, so the Land Cruiser's eco-footprint is about 0.41 hectares - less than half that of a medium-sized dog.

Doing similar calculations for a variety of pets and their foods, the Vales found that cats have an eco-footprint of about 0.15 hectares (slightly less than a Volkswagen Golf), hamsters come in at 0.014 hectares apiece and canaries half that.

Even a goldfish requires 0.00034 hectares (3.4 square metres) of land to sustain it, giving it an ecological fin-print equal to two cellphones.

The Vales suggest that eco-friendly animal lovers should change the diet of their pet. Meat is the key, since its production is so energy-intensive.

They can almost halve the eco-pawprint of their dogs, simply by feeding it many of the same sort of savory foods that they eat, which are likely to be far less protein-rich than most dog foods, they added.

Another discussion of the concerns over pets is available here.

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Gallup: 40 percent of Americans are conservative, 20 percent liberal

The new Gallup poll is discussed here.


Democrats pushing through Freeze on Credit-card Interest Rates

Price controls on credit cards, this is smart.

A top Senate Democrat moved Monday to impose an immediate freeze on credit-card interest rates, as congressional Democrats continued pushing to rein in financial-sector practices.

Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, who heads the Senate Banking Committee, introduced a measure that would freeze rates on existing card balances until February, when tough new rules for the industry are slated to go into effect.

Mr. Dodd said he was making the move because companies are using the delayed implementation of the new standards, passed by Congress in May, to push through aggressive rate and fee increases. "No sooner had it been signed into law, but credit card companies were looking for ways to get around the protections," Mr. Dodd said in a written statement.

The measure is part of a populist push by Mr. Dodd, a fifth-term senator facing a tough re-election battle against former Republican U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons next year. Mr. Dodd's ties to the financial-services industry and his receipt of a home loan from former Countrywide Financial Corp. have hurt his standing with voters. He was cleared of violating Senate ethics rules in the mortgage issue. . . .


"Health Costs and History"

From the WSJ:

Medicare has a similar record. In 1965, Congressional budgeters said that it would cost $12 billion in 1990. Its actual cost that year was $90 billion. Whoops. The hospitalization program alone was supposed to cost $9 billion but wound up costing $67 billion. These aren't small forecasting errors. The rate of increase in Medicare spending has outpaced overall inflation in nearly every year (up 9.8% in 2009), so a program that began at $4 billion now costs $428 billion.

The Medicare program for renal disease was originally estimated in 1973 to cover 11,000 participants. Today it covers 395,000, at a cost of $22 billion. The 1988 Medicare home-care benefit was supposed to cost $4 billion by 1993, but the actual cost was $10 billion, because many more people participated than expected. This is nearly always the case with government programs because their entitlement nature—accepting everyone who meets the age or income limits—means there's no fixed annual budget. . . . .


WSJ on the continued explosion in government spending

The Obama administration's budget forecasts predict on federal spending on discretionary programs increasing by LESS THAN INFLATION. In case the Congress can't tell, 12.1 percent is A LOT MORE than 0.8 percent. Pelosi and Democrats attacked Republicans in congress for their increases in discretionary spending, but their increases were about half of what the Democrats are pushing through now. From the WSJ:

The White House disclosed the other day that the fiscal 2009 budget deficit clocked in at $1.4 trillion, amid the usual promises to do something about it. Yet even as budget director Peter Orszag was speaking, House Democrats were moving on a dozen spending bills for fiscal 2010 that total 12.1% in more domestic discretionary increases.

Yes, 12.1%.

Remember, inflation is running close to zero, or 0.8%. The good news, if we can call it that, is that Senate Democrats only want to increase nondefense appropriations by 8% for 2010. Because these funding increases become part of the permanent baseline for future appropriations, the 2010 House budget bills would permanently raise annual outlays for discretionary programs by about $75 billion a year from now until, well, forever.

These spending hikes do not include the so-called mandatory spending programs like Medicare and Medicaid, which exploded by 9.8% and 24.7%, respectively, in the just-ended 2009 fiscal year. All of this largesse is also on top of the stimulus funding that agencies received in 2009. The budget for the Environmental Protection Agency rose 126%, the Department of Education budget 209% and energy programs 146%.

House Republicans on the Budget Committee added up the 2009 appropriations, the stimulus funding and 2010 budgets and found that federal agencies will, on average, receive a 57% increase in appropriated funds from 2008-2010. By contrast, real family incomes fell by 3.6% last year. There's no recession in Washington.

More broadly, the White House and the 111th Congress have already enacted or proposed $3.4 trillion of new spending through 2019 for things like the health-care plan, cap and tax, and the children's health bill passed earlier this year. Very little of this has been financed with offsetting spending cuts elsewhere in the budget. . . . .

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Might a lot of Republicans be about ready to vote for Hoffman in NY-23rd?

Might guess is that many Republicans are planning on voting for Dede Scozzafava simply because she is the Republican candidate and they don't think that a conservative can win. However, if those voters are convinced that Hoffman is outpolling Dede Scozzafava, I predict that they will quickly switch to Hoffman. Here are two polls that indicate that things may be about to change.

From John Fund at the WSJ's Political Diary:

But the NRCC is nonetheless playing a cautious game. Internal polls show Ms. Scozzafava slipping into third place with each new revelation about her liberal voting record as a state legislator. Thus the NRCC is running about $250,000 in TV ads to bash Ms. Scozzafava's Democratic opponent Bill Owens, but confining its attacks on Mr. Hoffman to low-impact press releases. . . .

Here is another poll:

The poll of 300 likely voters, conducted October 24-25, 2009, shows Conservative Doug Hoffman at 31.3%, Democrat Bill Owens at 27.0%, Republican Dede Scozzafava at 19.7%, and 22% undecided. The poll's margin of error is +/- 5.66%. No information was provided about any of the candidates prior to the ballot question. . . . .

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Daily Circulation for Top 25 Newspapers

Editor and Publisher has this:

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL -- 2,024,269 -- 0.61%
USA TODAY -- 1,900,116 -- (-17.15%)
THE NEW YORK TIMES -- 927,851 -- (-7.28%)
LOS ANGELES TIMES -- 657,467 -- (-11.05%)
THE WASHINGTON POST -- 582,844 -- (-6.40%)

DAILY NEWS (NEW YORK) -- 544,167 -- (-13.98%)
NEW YORK POST -- 508,042 -- (-18.77%)
CHICAGO TRIBUNE -- 465,892 -- (-9.72%)
HOUSTON CHRONICLE -- 384,419 -- (-14.24%)

NEWSDAY -- 357,124 -- (-5.40%)
THE DENVER POST -- 340,949 -- N/A
THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC -- 316,874 -- (-12.30%)
STAR TRIBUNE, MINNEAPOLIS -- 304,543 -- (-5.53%)
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES -- 275,641 -- (-11.98%)

The PLAIN DEALER, CLEVELAND -- 271,180 -- (-11.24%)
DETROIT FREE PRESS (e) -- 269,729 -- (-9.56%)
THE BOSTON GLOBE -- 264,105 -- (-18.48%)
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS -- 263,810 -- (-22.16%)
THE SEATTLE TIMES -- 263,588 -- N/A

SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE -- 251,782 -- (-25.82%)
THE OREGONIAN -- 249,163 -- (-12.06%)
THE STAR-LEDGER, NEWARK -- 246,006 -- (-22.22%)
SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE -- 242,705 -- (-10.05%)
ST. PETERSBURG (FLA.) TIMES -- 240,147 -- (-10.70%)


Appearing on Thom Hartmann's Radio Show on Air America

I will be on Thom Hartmann's show today shortly after noon.

An archive on some of our joint appearances are here.

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New Washington Times pieces


Health insurance industry profits are actually pretty low

Even the Associated Press asked this question:

Quick quiz: What do these enterprises have in common? Farm and construction machinery, Tupperware, the railroads, Hershey sweets, Yum food brands and Yahoo? Answer: They're all more profitable than the health insurance industry. In the health care debate, Democrats and their allies have gone after insurance companies as rapacious profiteers making "immoral" and "obscene" returns while "the bodies pile up."
Ledgers tell a different reality. Health insurance profit margins typically run about 6 percent, give or take a point or two. That's anemic compared with other forms of insurance and a broad array of industries, even some beleaguered ones.
Profits barely exceeded 2 percent of revenues in the latest annual measure. This partly explains why the credit ratings of some of the largest insurers were downgraded to negative from stable heading into this year, as investors were warned of a stagnant if not shrinking market for private plans.
Insurers are an expedient target for leaders who want a government-run plan in the marketplace. Such a public option would force private insurers to trim profits and restrain premiums to compete, the argument goes. This would "keep insurance companies honest," says President Barack Obama. . . . .

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Industry groups timidly speak out against Obama Administration Attacks on Critics

More on administration attacks on critics is here. A video from Fox News Sunday can be seen here.

President Obama is not living up to his pledge to hold an open debate over health care reform and is engaged in a "public relations campaign" to penalize critics, representatives from two industry groups in the administration's cross hairs said Sunday.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Vice President Bruce Josten and America's Health Insurance Plans Vice President Mike Tuffin told "Fox News Sunday" that they will continue to raise questions about the health care reforms plans working their way through Congress. But they decried the "name-calling" they said was coming out of the White House.

"There shouldn't be a penalty for speaking out and introducing data into the public domain," Tuffin said. "There's been a political, public relations campaign run against people who put data out that says specific provisions are going to increase cost."

Tuffin's group absorbed sharp criticism earlier in the month when it released a report criticizing health care reform ahead of a key vote on the Senate Finance Committee. The group claims efforts to weaken penalties for not getting insurance will encourage people to wait until they fall sick to get covered.

Meanwhile, administration officials have tried to do an end-run around the Chamber of Commerce, which has also opposed health care reform proposals, by dealing directly with members and publicly criticizing the group.

Josten said the administration was keeping a tight grip on debate.

"Being invited to auditoriums with 130 to 150 people where the president comes and gives prepared remarks, calls on a couple people in the audience, is not a consultative outreach," he said. "That's not an exchange of ideas." . . . .

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Useful discussion by Congressman Mike Rogers


International trade still declining

This is a huge drop in international trade over the last year. Even if the IMF is right about next year, it would mean that trade was down 11 percent from what it was a year ago in August.

Global trade flows slipped in August after rising for the two previous months, an indication that the economic recovery is more fragile and anemic than previous data have hinted.

The Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis said trade volumes fell 2% from July, according to an algorithm based on customs data from 23 developed countries and 60 emerging markets, accounting for 95% of global trade.

The report is closely watched because it comes out before those compiled by the World Trade Organization and other institutions.

Global trade flows plummeted in the final months of last year as demand slowed and banks financed fewer cross-border transactions. Volumes were down 13% in August compared with the previous year.

The trade crisis has hit exporting powerhouses such as Japan and Germany particularly hard, sparked minor waves of protectionism almost everywhere, and inspired world leaders to make more funds available for trade finance.

The International Monetary Fund says world trade will fall 11.9% overall in 2009, the biggest drop since the Great Depression. The IMF sees a modest 2.5% increase in 2010. . . . .

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Even though the US only has a small fraction of the H1N1 Vaccine it ordered, we are going to donate 10 percent of the vaccine to other countries

CNS News has this:

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told CNSNews.com Wednesday that one in 10 doses of the swine-flu vaccine purchased by the U.S. will be donated to other nations before the U.S. demand for the vaccine is filled.

Sebelius also told a Senate committee that vaccine production is well behind demand.

“What we said is once we have 40 million doses (of the vaccine), the donation can start,” Sebelius told CNSNews.com. “There’s an agreement (of) 10 percent donation that 11 nations have made,” she said.

HHS has ordered about 250 million doses of the vaccine, so the donation would begin after the U.S. received just 16 percent of its original order. . . .

Obama Declares H1N1 Flu 'National Emergency'

Study: H1N1 Vaccine Too Late, Won't Help Most

So on the one had the President declares a national emergency and people are worried that we won't have the vaccine soon enough. On the other hand, the President is going to give away what vaccine we have.

A brief history of the government's errors in getting vaccines to where they are supposed to be.

By Friday, 16.1 million doses of vaccine for what is also called H1N1 flu had been shipped to warehouses, the CDC said.

The total is far below the government's most recent estimate that by the end of this month, about 28 million to 30 million doses would be ready.

That estimate itself is a revison, made last week, from a prior expectation of about 40 million doses by the end of the month. However, the number of doses shipped is steadily increasing.

"We are nowhere near where we thought we'd be by now," CDC Director Thomas Frieden said Friday. "We share the frustration of people who have waited in line or called a number or checked a Web site and haven't been able to find a place to get vaccinated." . . .

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