More hysteria from Geithner on raising the debt ceiling, predicting double-dip recession

Before we get into Geithner's claims, let me briefly use Obama's 2012 budget to illustrate how much spending would still occur even if the debt ceiling isn't lifted. Revenue will be about 70.5% of spending. Presumably, national defense spending could be reduced somewhat.

Social Security 20.04%
Medicare 12.86%
Medicaid and Children's health insurance 7.28%
Defense 19.27%
Interest 6.31%
Federal Law Enforcement and Immigration 0.81%
Veterans benefits 3.26%
Response to natural disasters 0.4%

Total 70.23% -- this would imply a small surplus or allow some other spending on "crucial" operations

A default would be bad, but failure to lift the debt ceiling does not come close to meaning a default will occur. This type of fear mongering is irresponsible.

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said if Congress fails to lift the debt ceiling and the U.S. defaults on its obligations “this abrupt contraction would likely push us into a double dip recession,” painting the most explicitly dire prediction to date of the consequences of inaction.
In a heavily-anticipated response to Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., who asked Geithner to document the economic and fiscal impacts of failing to lift the statutory debt limit, the Treasury secretary detailed a chain reaction that would cripple the economy, costing jobs and income.
“A default would inflict catastrophic far-reaching damage on our nation’s economy, significantly reducing growth and increasing unemployment,” said Geithner in the letter to Bennet which was dated May 13. “Even a short-term default could cause irrevocable damage to the economy."
Geithner has imposed an August deadline for Congress to lift the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling, but lawmakers are still negotiating over Republican demands to tie the move to spending cuts. And a portion of the GOP still remains skeptical about the need to act by the deadline at all, arguing that the consequences have been overstates.
In the letter Geithner walked through the doomsday scenario he has been describing on the Hill. Default would cast doubt on the full faith and credit of the U.S., which would scare away investors and enable those remaining to demand higher interest rates on Treasury securities, which would have far-reaching negative ramifications. Increased borrowing costs would extend to families, businesses, and local governments, he said. . . .

So what impact did the previous big shutdown have on GDP during the fourth quarter of 1995 and the first quarter of 1996? If you can see a negative impact on national income, you have a better eye than I do (see graph here).


Obama's games on drilling, being as restrictive as possible

From US News & World Report, Obama's impact on gulf oil drilling:

The president's yearlong de facto moratorium on deepwater exploration in the Gulf of Mexico has artificially tightened supply—by 375,000 barrels of oil a day, or, as the EIA forecasts, a 13 percent drop in offshore oil output from 2010 estimates.
The president's choice to prohibit deepwater drilling in the Gulf for a full year costs jobs. Tens of thousands of workers and their families are suffering because the administration's opaque energy policies have kept them from working. In Baton Rouge, the civilian unemployment rate jumped from 6.6 percent to 8.2 percent (from March 2010 to this past March). That 1.6 percent drop in employment was the worst for any U.S. city, followed closely by a 1.3 percent drop in New Orleans.
The president isn't opposed to drilling for oil, just not off U.S. shores. The president prefers that Americans enrich Brazil—both as a customer of its oil exports and as the beneficiary of our experts and innovative technologies leaving the Gulf of Mexico.
The president's position on domestic energy production will not put Americans back to work exploring for new sources of affordable, abundant energy, or ease our pain at the pump, or make us less reliant on oil imports.
The president could do something about this. He could direct his interior secretary, Ken Salazar, to expedite the release of previously approved permits and start issuing new deepwater permits to explore for domestic oil. But we know that he won't. [Read the U.S. News debate: Should offshore drilling be expanded?]

Now House passage of a bill to again allow drilling in the Gulf has forced Obama to move back from the ban that he has imposed. Previously a court had put some cracks in the ban and forced the Obama administration to allow some new permits to be issued (see also here).

President Barack Obama is looking to bolster U.S. oil drilling, announcing Saturday a preemptive strike against bolder efforts from Capitol Hill as consumer unrest deepens over the price at the pump.

The White House will move forward without congressional action on a set of ideas espoused by Republicans and oil-state Democrats to expand oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska and potentially parts of the Atlantic seaboard.

It’s the closest Obama has come to rivaling his short-lived pro-drilling stance that ended with the BP oil spill.

At the same time, Obama is also firing up the liberal Democratic base by urging Congress to repeal billions of dollars in oil-industry tax incentives and to raise fees against companies that do not act quickly on drilling leases they own. . . .

But drilling is where the political problems lie for the White House. Republicans and oil-state Democrats have continued to criticize Obama and the Interior Department for what they say is a dramatic slowdown in new permits off and on shore. . . .


News Corp will annually list its political donations

While I have seen evidence before that most employee donations at Fox News who made donations donated to Democrats, News Corp, Fox News' parent company, has agreed to make its political donations public. News Corps has been known to make some large donations to Republicans. While it is understandable that a news company would want to be open about these donations, I guess that I wish that they didn't feel the political pressure and threats of additional laws to do this.


"Newt's daughter says hospital bed divorce story a myth"

Mother Jones apparently completely botched the story on Newt's first divorce. This story has been particularly devastating for Newt's image. It is nice to know that it has been cleared up.

. . . Cushman, Gingrich's daughter from his first marriage, writes that her parents discussed splitting up long before the infamous 1980 hospital visit — a devastating anecdote that's haunted the former House speaker for years.

"You can look them up online if you are interested in untruths," she wrote last week in her syndicated column. "But here's what happened: My mother and father were already in the process of getting a divorce, which she requested. Dad took my sister and me to the hospital to see our mother. She had undergone surgery the day before to remove a tumor. The tumor was benign. As with many divorces, it was hard and painful for all involved, but life continued. As have many families, we have healed; we have moved on."

Mother Jones first reported the incident in 1984 and described it as Gingrich asking his wife for a divorce shortly after cancer surgery. . . .

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Here are a few real zingers against Obama

Charles Krauthammer in the Washington Post:

“The [border] fence is now basically complete,” asserted the president. Complete? There are now 350 miles of pedestrian fencing along the Mexican border. The border is 1,954 miles long. That’s 18 percent. And only one-tenth of that 18 percent is the double and triple fencing that has proved so remarkably effective in, for example, the Yuma sector. Another 299 miles — 15 percent — are vehicle barriers that pedestrians can walk right through.

Obama then boasted that on his watch 31 percent more drugs have been seized, 64 percent more weapons — proof of how he has secured the border. And for more proof: Apprehension of illegal immigrants is down 40 percent. Down? Indeed, says Obama, this means that fewer people are trying to cross the border.

Interesting logic. Seizures of drugs and guns go up — proof of effective border control. Seizures of people go down — yet more proof of effective border control. Up or down, it matters not. Whatever the numbers, Obama vindicates himself.

You can believe this flimflam or you can believe the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office. The GAO reported in February that less than half the border is under “operational control” of the government. Which undermines the entire premise of Obama’s charge that, because the border is effectively secure, “Republicans who said they supported broader reform as long as we got serious about enforcement” didn’t really mean it. . . .

From Steve Huntley at the Chicago Sun-Times:

Someone seeking to build bridges wouldn’t ridicule the other side as Obama did in mocking Republicans as maybe wanting “alligators in the moat” along the U.S. border. That kind of derision certainly wasn’t in keeping with his 2008 campaign pledge to walk the nation back from the divisive politics of the past.

No, Obama was out to paint the GOP as a foe to immigration reform because of its stance that border security must come before a plan to resolve the status of 11 million illegal immigrants, a position not foreign to millions of voters of both parties.

Self-interest might inspire Hispanic voters to wonder why Obama squandered nearly two years of a 60-vote, filibuster-proof Democratic majority in the Senate in failing to push reform if this were such a vital interest to the administration. Could it be that immigration reform works better for Democrats as a campaign issue than it would as a legislative accomplishment? . . .

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More Zero Tolerance: 9-year-old charged with crime for accidentally bringing toy gun on school bus

School Superintendent thinks that the appropriate response to this crime was made.

Police say a 9-year-old elementary school student from Palmer will be summoned to juvenile court to face charges for bringing a toy handgun on the school bus.
Chief Robert Frydryk says the school district has a "zero tolerance policy" regarding weapons. Even though the gun was a toy, it is considered a weapon because it shoots soft plastic projectiles.
Frydryk says there is no indication the Old Mill Pond Elementary School student wanted to hurt anyone. The student's name was not made public.
The incident occurred May 5. The boy told police he forgot he had it in his jacket when he got on the bus. . . .


"[Rep. Steny] Hoyer urges schools to teach health care benefits"

The notion that universities should be teaching the benefits of Obamacare should be rather shocking. It isn't clear that Hoyer, a powerful Democrat in Congress, understands the point of universities. It is also surprising that the Federal government has already spent money putting together sample flyers for universities to hand out to students. When Hoyer writes that "Another excellent resource for your student body is the non-partisan Young Invincibles online tool kit," it appears as if he is implicitly acknowledging the obvious that the government information is biased.

Rep. Steny H. Hoyer is asking colleges and universities in his district to add a new item to their curricula: Information about the benefits of the Democrats' health care overhaul. . . .

The letter, which Hoyer's office said was sent to the University of Maryland, Bowie State University, St. Mary's College of Maryland and other schools, follows after the jump.

May 11, 2011

Dear ------,

As we approach the graduation season, I wanted to follow up on a letter you should have received from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan regarding health care coverage for students.

The recently enacted Affordable Care Act contains a vitally important, immediate improvement in health coverage options for young people under age 26. Thanks to this new law, young people up to age 26 can typically obtain coverage on their parents’ health insurance plan as long as that plan covers dependent children. This option is true regardless of whether they are employed, in school, or living at home. I encourage you to follow up on the secretaries’ advice and ensure that your graduating students – and the entire student body – are aware of this new option for health coverage.

The Administration provided numerous ways to supply this information to your student body. Listed below are those links for your convenience:

• Place a “badge” on the home page of your Website that automatically links to information about how students can remain on their parents’ health insurance plan. Download the badge by visiting: http://www.healthcare.gov/stay_connected.html.

• Distribute a flyer to students and their parents about this new benefit along with graduation materials. Download a sample flyer by visiting: www.healthcare.gov/center/brochures/new_benefits_for_graduates_and_young_adults.pdf.

• Encourage staff to talk to students about other insurance options – for example, if their parents do not have coverage – by visiting: www.healthcare.gov/foryou/betterbenefitsbetterhealth/youngadults.html.

• Host a session to explain insurance options to your students. HHS has helpfully offered to assistance in creating this event and you can email them at: externalaffairs@hhs.gov.

• Encourage students to visit the Administration’s Facebook page with information for young adults and parents about coverage for individuals under age 26. That can be found at: www.facebook.com/youngadultcoverage.

Another excellent resource for your student body is the non-partisan Young Invincibles online tool kit: http://www.gettingcovered.org/Toolkit/, which has information tailored specifically to young people. It is searchable by state and explains exactly what the new law means to young people, including how to get on a parent’s insurance policy, what to do if he or she has a pre-existing condition, and how the new law impacts women and young people with cancer.

Working together, we can ensure more students and recent alumni obtain the health coverage they need. Please feel free to contact my office at 202-225-4131, should you have any questions. We appreciate your attention to this important matter.

Wishing you the best during this graduation season and with kindest regards, I am

Sincerely yours,


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Rand Paul makes a very clear point on "The right to Health Care"

Someone needed to say this. This reminds me some of an old speech by Ronald Reagan.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): "With regard to the idea of whether you have a right to health care, you have realize what that implies. It's not an abstraction. I’m a physician. That means you have a right to come to my house and conscript me. It means you believe in slavery."


In Indiana, there is no right to resist an illegal entry by police

Police make mistakes and they have a very difficult job, but still it would seem that people should still have the right to resist and illegal entry by police. Apparently not in Indiana.

Overturning a common law dating back to the English Magna Carta of 1215, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Hoosiers have no right to resist unlawful police entry into their homes.
In a 3-2 decision, Justice Steven David writing for the court said if a police officer wants to enter a home for any reason or no reason at all, a homeowner cannot do anything to block the officer's entry.
"We believe ... a right to resist an unlawful police entry into a home is against public policy and is incompatible with modern Fourth Amendment jurisprudence," David said. "We also find that allowing resistance unnecessarily escalates the level of violence and therefore the risk of injuries to all parties involved without preventing the arrest."
David said a person arrested following an unlawful entry by police still can be released on bail and has plenty of opportunities to protest the illegal entry through the court system. . . .


If Florida Gov Signs bill, Doctors won't be able to grill patients about gun ownership

I have run into these types of doctors myself in the past. My book The Bias Against Guns has a discussion of what happened when I took some of my kids to the medical clinic at Yale University. Michael Graham has a similar story here.

With a stroke of the governor's pen, Florida is positioned to become the first state in the nation to prohibit physicians from asking patients if they have guns in their homes, a move some doctors say will interfere with health care.
The Florida Senate passed House Bill 155 last month by a 27-10 vote and the measure now awaits the signature of Republican Gov. Rick Scott. If signed, it would ban doctors from asking about the presence of guns or ammunition in the home.
Republican State Rep. Jason Brodeur, a sponsor of the bill, proposed the legislation following an incident in which a Florida pediatrician told a mother to find another doctor when she refused to answer questions about guns in her home.
Supporters of the legislation, including the National Rifle Association, say they're seeking to stop doctors from invading their privacy. Critics of the bill, however, claim that doctors need to ask patients about guns to ensure their safety and to make sure they remain out of the reach of children.
"The [bill], if enacted, would limit pediatricians’ capacity to do what they do best -- compassionately and effectively care for children," read a March 30 statement released by The American Academy of Pediatrics. "Because unintentional injuries continue to be the leading cause of death in children older than 1 year, pediatricians play a key role in injury prevention by providing anticipatory guidance to parents during office visits to help minimize the risk of injury in the child’s everyday environment." . . .

A copy of the law is available here. Note that other states first tried to force doctors to ask patients about gun ownership.

Here is what I wrote on this topic a few years ago. Given the costs of gunlocks, there isn't much of a problem to solve in Florida or other states.

Here are what doctors are saying about the law.

The American Academy of Pediatrics' position on firearm-related injuries states "the absence of guns from children's homes and communities is the most reliable and effective measure to prevent firearm-related injuries" to them.
Timothy Wheeler, a retired surgeon in Upland, Calif., founder and director of Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, cites the position statement as proof that pediatricians want to ban firearms. Pediatric residents "think it's normal to ask about guns in the home," he says. "They don't understand that it is an ethical boundary violation."
Louis St. Petery, a Tallahassee pediatric cardiologist and executive vice president of the Florida Pediatric Society, says prevention, not politics, drives children's doctors to inquire about firearms. . . .

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More on the Federal Government Telling Boeing It has to Build Plane in Washington State

"This is nothing more than bullying by the labor unions. This is Harry Reid and President Obama carrying their water and making sure our companies are hurting because of it. All they're doing is getting the friendliness of other companies that are going to take our jobs. It's a terrible thing for South Carolina and terrible for our country. I'll tell you, while this happened in South Carolina, I won't let this happen to any other governor in other state. We need to allow our companies to create jobs where they want to. We're very grateful for Boeing in South Carolina. What the president needs to do is ask the NLRB to step down. This is the union's last attempt to be relevant and it's not working," Gov. Nikki Haley (R-SC) said on "FOX & Friends" this morning.

No jobs are being lost out of Washington State. Boeing was expanding jobs in Washington State and this line is in addition to what is in Washington State. Whether it is Obama refusing to give disaster aid to Texas because it is a Republican state or this payoff to unions, he uses government to make payoffs to his supporters and punish those with whom he disagrees. This is exactly one reason why you don't want government to get too powerful.

UPDATE: "NLRB lawyer: Boeing complaint 'not intended to harm' S. Carolina workers"

Is this serious? How can the NRLB not say that this was not expected or intended to negatively impact South Carolina workers?

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Borrowing costs plummet for Wisconsin after Walker's budget moves

Wisconsin went from having to pay almost a half a percentage point above top-rated general obligation debt premium on its debt to only two-tenths of a percentage point premium. That isn't bad for a few months work.

Governor Scott Walker’s moves to limit the power of public worker unions in Wisconsin may have been rewarded by investors as the state’s borrowing costs fell by more than half since the Republican took office in January.

Walker signed a bill March 11 that eliminates the ability of public employees except police and firemen to collectively bargain for benefits. The unions have said that the governor was using the deficit as a pretext to break their power.

The state today is offering about $286 million in tax- exempt debt following an “overall tightening of spreads” since January. Wisconsin’s improved premiums may be a result of Walker’s efforts to address the state’s projected $3.4 billion deficit, said Duane McAllister, who helps oversee $1.7 billion for M&I Investment Management in Milwaukee.

The state sold about $429 million on Jan. 12, with a 10- year maturity priced to yield 3.75 percent, or about 47 basis points above top-rated general obligation debt, according to Bloomberg Valuation pricing. The same security was yielding about 21 basis points above the benchmark yesterday. A basis point is 0.01 percentage point.

“The state’s addressing the fiscal challenges,” McAllister said. “We’re looking at structural changes and that’s very favorable for the market.” . . .

The business climate has definitely improved in the state:

Chief Executive magazine recently completed its annual survey of CEOs on the best and worst states for business. The 500 CEOs graded the states on taxes and regulation, the quality of the work force and living environment, among other categories. Wisconsin made the biggest jump of any state, and one of the largest in the history of the survey, rising to 24th from 41st in 2010 and 43rd in 2009. Louisiana continued its rise, moving up 13 spots to 27th on the basis of its improvements in tax climate and deregulation. Indiana moved up 10 spots to sixth.

The Wisconsin jump is especially notable because Mr. Walker and a new GOP legislature only took office in January. This suggests that Big Labor's attempt to make Mr. Walker a national political target had the ironic result of making Wisconsin more appealing to business executives. "Indiana and Wisconsin's governors have been outspoken about wanting to be more business friendly," says Chief Executive director for digital media Michael Bamberger. . . .



Selling assets to reduce the national debt

Craig Newmark has some links available here.


Wisconsin moves forward on requiring voter IDs

Wisconsin is moving forward despite strong opposition from most Democrats.

The Assembly late Wednesday approved requiring people to show photo ID at the polls, putting the measure on a fast track to becoming law. The Senate is expected to sign off on the plan Tuesday.

The move comes when drivers are about to have to present more documentation to get their licenses and wait longer to get them.

The Assembly passed the bill 60-35 amid shouts from a small group of protesters in the viewing gallery. . . .

Democrats Peggy Krusick of Milwaukee and Tony Staskunas of West Allis joined all Republicans in approving the bill.

In a change that's separate from the photo ID legislation, drivers will soon have to present more documents proving their identity to get licenses under a federal anti-terrorism law. And instead of receiving their licenses when they visit a Division of Motor Vehicles office, they will get them a week to 10 days later in the mail.

Gov. Scott Walker is a longtime supporter of requiring photo ID to vote. His fellow Republicans have pushed the idea for a decade but have been blocked by Democrats. . . .

Instead of getting their licenses at DMV stations, drivers would receive a receipt they could use for up to 60 days to drive. Under the bill requiring ID at the polls, they could also use those temporary receipts to vote.

The other IDs that could be used to vote are: Wisconsin driver's licenses; state-issued ID cards; military IDs; passports; naturalization certificates; IDs issued by Wisconsin-based tribes; and certain student IDs.

The student IDs would be acceptable if they came from accredited public and private colleges and universities in Wisconsin, included signatures and expired within two years of being issued. Those showing college IDs would have to establish they are current students. . . .
A voter who forgot to bring a photo ID could cast a provisional ballot, which would be counted if the voter presented a clerk with a photo ID by the Friday after the election. . . .

Here is a list of action in states considering voter IDs. It was written by opponents of requiring voter IDs.

Missouri: The Missouri House approved a photo ID bill on Wednesday in a 99-52 vote. The bill includes a provision to establish a limited early voting period. Because a different version of the bill, without the early voting component, passed the Senate in February, it now goes back to the Senate for reconciliation. If a final version passes, it will be contingent on the approval of a constitutional amendment because the Missouri Supreme Court determined in 2006 that a photo ID requirement violates the state constitution. Both chambers have passed legislation to put a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot, but they too need to be reconciled because they differ from one another.

New Hampshire: The New Hampshire House also passed a photo ID bill on Wednesday in a 243-111 vote. A House committee had amended the Senate bill to remove a provision that would let election officials take digital photos at the polling place of voters without the required ID. Instead, the version passed by the House would allow voters without the required ID to vote by provisional ballot and return within 3 days with ID in order for the ballot to be counted. The bill will now go to a fiscal committee and then back to the Senate for approval. On a slightly positive note, the current language allows for out of state driver’s licenses, which is a good thing for out-of-state students. We also hope it will be interpreted to allow for public college or university IDs (as ID “issued by the state of New Hampshire”).

Wisconsin: Despite Director Kennedy’s letter, the Wisconsin Assembly Committee on Elections and Campaign Reform approved the photo ID bill, passing it on to the Finance Committee. That committee is expected to vote on it early next week, and it could be on the House floor as early as the end of next week. A strict photo ID bill is already pending on the Senate floor. However, differences between the bills would have to be worked out before a final version could be passed by both chambers.

Rhode Island: State senators passed a photo ID bill out of committee on Tuesday, and it is expected on the Senate floor sometime next week. Community and civil rights organizations came together on Wednesday to censure the committee for its vote. The legislation has a companion bill in the House, where a similar piece of legislation was passed by a sizeable margin in 2009.

Pennsylvania: A photo ID bill has been scheduled for a committee vote on Monday. The House State Government Committee held a hearing on the bill in March. In addition to various interested organizations, the Pennsylvania County Commissioners Association submitted testimony against the bill.

Florida: In other voter suppression news, an omnibus “election reform” bill was passed by the Florida Senate in a 25-13 vote this afternoon. Among other things, the bill would shorten the early voting period and place harsh restrictions on groups that conduct voter registration drives, making it virtually impossible to register voters. It would also limit the ability of registered voters to update their address at the polls during early voting or on Election Day, forcing those voters who have moved to a new county to vote via provisional ballot. The bill now goes back to the House floor because it differs from the version passed by the House two weeks ago, but House Republican leadership has indicated it will pass the bill.

Ohio: Though the Senate has not yet taken action on a photo ID bill passed by the House in March, Ohio also has omnibus “election reform” bills in both chambers. On Wednesday, a substitute bill for HB 194 was introduced in committee, largely to synchronize the House and Senate bills, though new campaign finance changes were also added. Opposition testimony to the bill was added at the last minute to a committee meeting agenda for this morning, giving opponents little time to review the new language or prepare. However, another opportunity for opposition testimony is expected on Tuesday. Among other things, the bill would drastically alter in-person absentee voting (OH’s version of early voting) so that it would start on the 10th day before an election (instead of the 35th day before), be prohibited on Sundays, and end on the Friday before an election. This would cut out the opportunity to vote early in-person on the last weekend before Election Day.

An update on Pennsylvania is here.

The bill from State Government Committee chairman Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Cranberry, passed the panel Monday on a party-line vote of 15-9. Under the proposal, voters would be required to show a photo identification card issued by either the state or federal government.

Pennsylvania voters currently are only required to show an ID during their first appearance at a polling place. Under a change added Monday, a voter without a government-issued photo ID could request one from the state Department of Transportation at no cost. . . .


This year's deficit continues to outpace last year's

More bad news on the deficit.

The U.S. spent $40.49 billion more than it collected last month, a Treasury Department report said Wednesday.

The monthly deficit was smaller than April 2010's shortfall of $82.69 billion. Tax refunds last month fell while non-withheld tax receipts climbed.

Still, the deficit was the 31st monthly shortfall in a row. With nine months of fiscal 2011 elapsed, the government has spent $869.90 billion more than it has collected—higher than $799.68 billion for the same period a year earlier.

"We expect that as the labor market improves further throughout this year, the increases in jobs will maintain the growth in individual income tax revenues," Barclays Capital economist Theresa Chen said in a note to clients. "However, the spending side of the fiscal balance remains precarious. We look for spending to increase at a gradual pace throughout the rest of this year."

The government's fiscal years begin Oct. 1. So far in fiscal 2011, the U.S. has collected $1.31 trillion and spent $2.18 trillion. . . .


Is gun control at the top of Obama's 2nd term?

I think that John Bolton is correct about Obama's goal during his second term. It surely fits in with what Sarah Brady claims that Obama told her.

John Bolton suggested Friday that Barack Obama is laying the foundation to push an ambitious gun control agenda if he wins a second term.

Trying to make his background relevant to an audience of gun activists, the former ambassador to the United Nations and dark horse presidential candidate accused the administration of using its own failures in the war against Mexican drug cartels as a pretext for more gun control.
“We can understand that, as he likes to say, he’s playing the long game, and that ‘leading from behind’ means waiting until he’s elected to a second term when he faces no further political constraints and his true agenda can come to the floor,” Bolton told thousands of gun owners at the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting here. “And I believe right at the top of it is [to] increase gun control at the federal level and at the international level.”

Bolton focused much of his 11-minute speech on the collapse of order in Mexico, which he worries will continue to spill across the border like a conveyor belt. He cited estimates of 35,000 to 40,000 drug-related homicides in the last five years in Mexico, spoke of how dangerous tourist areas have become and noted recent State Department travel warnings.

“If it weren’t for our demand, the supply wouldn’t be there and the drug cartels wouldn’t be there. But the administration in as cynical a political move as I think we’ve seen in Washington in a long time –and that’s saying something–is using this crisis in Mexico and the use of drugs in our own country not to combat the illicit narcotics but to use it as a foundation to argue for stricter gun controls at the federal level in our country,” he said.

Bolton faulted the administration for having an incoherent foreign policy. He said that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been more honest about the situation in Mexico.

“When they do talk about what’s happening in Mexico, our government, our White House follows the Mexican line by saying that the real problem of drug-related violence in Mexico is caused by guns that have come illegally across the U.S.-Mexican border,” he said. . . .



Lundberg Survey says that regular unleaded gasoline has hit $4 a gallon

The Lundberg Survey says that regular unleaded gasoline hit the magic $4 a gallon number on Friday, May 6th. Gas Price Watch claimed that regular unleaded had hit the number a few days earlier, though since then prices fell below $4 and now are back up to $4. My piece on the high gas prices from Fox News is available here.


Facebook and Twitter make it easier for criminals to know who are the undercover police

Is this the reason for the increased attacks on police officers? What risk does this pose for police to be blackmailed by drug gangs?

In the midst of what officials call an "appalling" and "alarming spike" in attacks on law enforcement around the country, officials are warning the success of sites such as Facebook and Twitter has made police even more vulnerable.
While police have for some time used social networking sites to identify and investigate suspected criminals, now criminals are using such sites to identify and investigate law enforcement officers, including undercover police. In addition, hostage-takers and suspects who barricade themselves in buildings are monitoring social media to track police movements in real time, and gang members are launching their own surveillance operations targeting police.
Social media "will be used against you," Lauri Stevens -- organizer of this week's Social Media, Internet and Law Enforcement conference in Chicago -- promised police officials who have gathered from across the country and overseas to swap ideas over harnessing the changing media environment and protecting against its dangers.
After police first discovered a DVD inside a suspect's car in October, Phoenix authorities issued a "security alert," telling law enforcement officials that officers were being "targeted" on Facebook and that posting photographs and other personal information on social media "may create serious officer safety consequences."
It also may create serious safety consequences for the friends and family, including young children, of officers who appear in many of the photos on DVDs recovered by authorities, conference attendees were told Tuesday. . . .



To Obama doing 5% of the border fence means that it is "basically complete"

"They wanted a fence. Well, that fence is now basically complete. . . . Maybe they'll say we need a moat. Or alligators in the moat. They'll never be satisfied." President Obama on May 10, 2011

Just 36.3 miles of the promised 700-mile double-layered fence along the 1951-mile southwest border has been completed. Remember that there were a lot of people concerned that the fence was only going to be 700 miles long to begin with.

The President attacks Republicans as the ones who are playing politics with the issue, that he has done everything that they asked for. From Obama's talk in El Paso:
So, we have gone above and beyond what was requested by the very Republicans who said they supported broader reform as long as we got serious about enforcement. But even though we’ve answered these concerns, I suspect there will be those who will try to move the goal posts one more time. They’ll say we need to triple the border patrol. Or quadruple the border patrol. They’ll say we need a higher fence to support reform.

Maybe they’ll say we need a moat. Or alligators in the moat. They’ll never be satisfied. And I understand that. That’s politics. . . .


Daley asks for five round the clock armed police bodyguards for after he retires

Chicago police might be down 2,300 below authorized strength, but soon to be retired Chicago Mayor Daley thinks that his safety is so important that he should have five armed bodyguards. It is nice to know that Daley continues to believe that guns are very important for his own and his family's personal protection.  From the Chicago Sun-Times:
Mayor Daley on Thursday defended his request to continue using Chicago Police officers as bodyguards after he leaves office — a courtesy that former Mayor Jane Byrne never received and considers unnecessary.

“There’s been threats all through my career. … The safety of my family comes first,” said Daley, who leaves office on May 16.
“I’ve been mayor for 22 years, and my wife has made a commitment [to the city]. … Former mayors received security appropriately. … It’s appropriate for every former mayor. Yes, it’s always appropriate.”

Daley refused to comment on reports that he had requested a pair of vehicles in political retirement — one for himself, the other for his wife, Maggie, who is battling breast cancer and remains hospitalized with flu-like symptoms. . . .

Byrne, Daley’s political arch rival, took issue with Daley’s claim that “former mayors received security appropriately.”

When Byrne was defeated in 1983 after serving a single term, she was neither offered nor received bodyguard protection — and that was just fine with her.

“I expected it to end, and it did. Once you leave, you leave. You have to take care of yourself. You’re no longer mayor,” Byrne said. . . .

Fraternal Order of Police President Mike Shields called the mayor’s request ill-timed when a two-year police hiring slowdown has left the Chicago Police Department more than 2,300 officers-a-day short of authorized strength, counting vacancies and officers on medical leave and limited duty.

“We have an extreme manpower shortage. The citizens of Chicago can feel that shortage. To ask for five bodyguards is ridiculously excessive,” Shields said.

“If the department were up to 13,500 officers, it would not be a problem. But officers are working in one-man cars. Police officers can’t go to weddings and family events because there is such a shortage.” . . .

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"U.S. Postal Service reports $2.2 billion loss"

The post office has a government guaranteed monopoly on first class mail, but even with a monopoly it can't make money.

The U.S. Postal Service continues to hemorrhage money, with a loss of $2.2 billion in the most recent quarter.
The national mail service said Tuesday that it expects to have a cash shortfall and reach its statutory borrowing limit by the time its fiscal year ends in September. That means the agency could be forced to default on some of its payments to the federal government. . . .

Here is an article that suggests privatization.

The U.S. Postal Service is losing money so quickly you'd think it somehow got mixed up in the subprime mortgage business. It's on track this year for an operating loss of between $6 billion and $12 billion, debt surpassing $10 billion, and a $1 billion cash shortfall. For any business, those are some ugly numbers. . . .

But here's how the USPS is not treated like everyone else: It's exempt from taxes and antitrust law. No one else is allowed to deliver first-class mail. Those are advantages, but on the other hand USPS is subjected to constant meddling from Congress -- for instance, the postmaster general Jack Potter has to ask Congress for permission to reduce a six-day delivery schedule to five in order to save money. And these same politicians get an earful from constituents anytime a local post-office branch, no matter how unprofitable for the USPS, is threatened with closure. . . .

Germany's Deutsche Post, which runs the DHL brand, has been private since 2000 and is now the world's largest logistics group. The European Union is in the midst of privatizing the postal services of all its member nations. And in 2005, Japan approved the privatization of its postal service, Japan Post. . . .

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One cost of killing Osama

This isn't saying that it was wrong to go after Osama or to go after him in the way that he was gone after with a strike team. Apparently, the helicopter that was abandoned was a U.S.'s top secret stealth-modified helicopter. There hadn't even been public pictures of this helicopter in the past.

U.S. officials have not officially disclosed any details on the helicopter, but President Obama said it was a "$60 million helicopter," according to a report by The Washington Post. While the price tag on normal Blackhawks varies depending the type, none cost more than $20 million according to the latest Department of Defense procurement report. . . .

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Schumer has voted against raising the debt ceiling four times

Sen. Schumer is among those screaming the loudest about how irresponsible it is to vote against raising the debt ceiling. For example, in January, he claimed:

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer said that threatening to deny an increase in the government’s debt ceiling would be “playing with fire.”

“If we didn’t renew the debt ceiling, our soldiers and veterans wouldn’t be paid, social security checks wouldn’t go out,” the New York Democrat said yesterday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program. “Worst of all, we might permanently threaten confidence of the credit markets in the dollar, which would create a recession worse than the one we have now, or even a depression.”

In April, Schumer claimed that not raising the debt ceiling could cause a recession. Apparently, today, Schumer made similar statements to what he made in January.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said that Boehner was “playing with fire” and risking repercussions in the markets by not saying he would approve a debt ceiling increase. Schumer also belittled Boehner for saying that there needed to be an “adult conversation” about the debt. “Speaker Boehner needs to have an adult moment right here and now,” Schumer said in the report. . . .

Yet, Schumer had voted against increasing the debt limit four times himself. Once when Clinton was president and three more times when Bush was president (1997, 2003, 2004, and 2006). At least the vote in 2006 was pretty close.

· H.R. 2015, Roll Call Vote #241: Passed 270-162, 6/25/97, Schumer Voted Nay

· H.J. Res. 51, Roll Call Vote #202: Passed 53-44, 5/23/03, Schumer Voted Nay

· S. 2986, Roll Call Vote #213: Passed 52-44, 11/17/04, Schumer Voted Nay

· H.J. Res. 47, Roll Call Vote #54: Passed 52-48, 3/16/06, Schumer Voted Nay


Pres. Obama again denies disaster aid for Texas

This sure seems like a vendetta against a Republican state: here is a new denial and a denial from last year. Federal aid is going to those who the president likes.


All three Judges to hear appeal of Obamacare in the 4th Circuit are Democrat Appointees

The odds of this happening are relatively low. With 7 Republicans and 7 Democrats on the court, the probability of getting all three judges being Democrats is 9.6% = .5 * .46 * .42. To me the most interesting fact isn't that the challenge to Obamacare will probably lose, but that I bet that the decision will take a long time coming.

All three judges that will hear Tuesday's arguments on the constitutionality of President Obama's health care law were appointed by Democratic presidents, including two by Obama himself.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit made the announcement shortly before the trial started, even though the case has been scheduled for months. Judges Diana Motz, the senior member of the panel, was appointed to the bench by President Bill Clinton in 1994. Andre Davis and James Wynn were appointed by Obama.

The hearing in Richmond is the first appellate review of Obama's signature legislation passed last year, and combines two cases. The first case was brought by Liberty University, and the second case was brought by the government after losing to Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinell.

The judges were randomly selected by computer a couple of months ago. They have presumably been reading briefs in the case ever since. The full 14 member Fourth Circuit is evenly split between Republican and Democratic judges, but only three judges hear any given case. . . .


28 percent of Homeowners "underwater," house prices fall 8.2 percent over last year

Things keep on getting worse in the housing market.

More than 28 percent of U.S. homeowners owed more than their properties were worth in the first quarter as values fell the most since 2008, Zillow Inc. said today.

Homeowners with negative equity increased from 22 percent a year earlier as home prices slumped 8.2 percent over the past 12 months, the Seattle-based company said. About 27 percent of homes with mortgages were “underwater” in the fourth quarter, according to Zillow, which runs a website with property-value estimates and real-estate listings.

Home prices fell 3 percent in the first quarter and will drop as much as 9 percent this year as foreclosures spread and unemployment remains high, Zillow Chief Economist Stan Humphries said. Prices won’t find a floor until 2012, he said.

“We get tired of telling such a grim story, but unfortunately this is the story that needs to be told,” Humphries said in a telephone interview. “Demand is still quite anemic due to unemployment and the fact that home values are still falling. And that tends to make people more cautious about buying.” . . .


Data on speed limits by state

This data is current as of today. Click on picture to make chart bigger. All of it is available here. What can I say? I like to collect data.



Concealed carry on campuses passes the Texas Senate

Given that there are twelve Democrats in the State Senate, two of them must have voted for the concealed carry on campus bill. The AP article tries to paint this debate as a pretty purely party line decision. Here is a recent piece that I wrote up for Fox News on concealed carry on campus.

From KWTX:

Texas senators voted Monday to approve legislation that would allow concealed handgun license holders to carry their weapons into public college classrooms and buildings.

Monday's 21-10 vote was a major push on an issue that stalled in the Senate and House despite the support of overwhelming numbers of lawmakers. . . .

Students for Concealed Carry Press Release


On Monday, May 9, following months of parliamentary challenges, backroom negotiations, and public accusations, the Texas Senate finally passed legislation that would legalize licensed concealed carry (of handguns) at Texas public colleges. By a vote of 21 to 10, the Texas Senate agreed to add Senator Jeff Wentorth’s (R- San Antonio) “campus carry” amendment to SB 1581, a higher education finance bill authored by Senator Steve Ogden (R-Bryan). The bill itself passed by a vote of 19-12 and will now go to the Texas House. Texas Governor Rick Perry has repeatedly voiced his support for campus carry and promised to sign the legislation if it’s passed by the legislature.

W. Scott Lewis, Texas legislative director for Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, commented, “This has never been a question of securing majority support; it’s always been about overcoming the parliamentary hurdles laid out by a handful of Senators opposed to campus carry. Now that it’s gotten past the Senate’s infamous two-thirds rule, campus carry has more momentum than a runaway freight train.”

The language of Senator Wentworth’s amendment is very similar to his Senate Bill 354, which stalled in the Senate last month after two Senators abruptly withdrew support during a floor debate, dropping the number of supporters from 22 to 20. A longstanding tradition in the Texas Senate requires that two-thirds of the Senators present (21 of 31) agree to hear a bill.

After exploring various methods for getting his bill heard on the Senate floor, Senator Wentworth was finally able to attach his amendment to SB 1581 after an earlier amendment by Senator Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) changed the overall subject matter of the bill, allowing Senator Wentworth’s amendment to meet the “germaneness” test laid out in the Senate rules. Senator Ogden supported the amendment despite having previously opposed SB 354.

Lewis concluded, “Despite all of the media hype, all of the fear mongering, and all of the misinformation, a vast majority of the Texas Senators tasked with researching and voting on this issue opted for empirical evidence over emotional rhetoric.”

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New Fox News piece: Where Are the Jobs, Mr. President? The Jobless Obama Recovery Continues

My newest piece at Fox News starts this way:

There has been no recovery in the job market during the Obama recovery. Despite all the cheerleading by the Obama administration and the media, job creation has been horribly sluggish. The jobs created recently are noteworthy only in comparison to the lack of jobs created during the rest of the “recovery.” In contrast to other recoveries over at least the last half century, job creation has never been more anemic.

When the new employment numbers came out on Friday, Austan Goolsbee, the head of the President Obama's Council of Economic Advisors, boasted about "the solid pace of employment growth in recent months" and that "The overall trajectory of the economy has improved dramatically over the past two years." Headlines in the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times were equally glowing, trumpeting "solid growth" and "strong growth." 

During the 23 months since the Obama recovery started, an average of 23,000 jobs a month have been created. The same 23 month period into the Reagan recovery saw that an average of 285,800 jobs were added each month. 

So what about the last three months? . . .

Please consider checking the "recommend" box at the top of the piece at the Fox News website. Thank you.

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New High Tech Taser packs a bigger punch

A written story on the new Taser rifles is available here.


Obama's anti-gun nominees for federal courts

A brief discussion of the type of person Obama is putting on the federal courts is available here.

John McConnell, a trial lawyer from Providence, Rhode Island, is a liberal, anti-gun activist who gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to far left candidates like President Obama and his allies in Congress.

He also served for a time as treasurer of the Rhode Island Democratic State Committee, raising the question of whether he could serve impartially on the federal bench.

McConnell backed Bill Bradley for president in 2000, citing the candidate’s strong support of gun control. You may recall that in the Democratic primary, Bradley ran to the left of his opponent, Al Gore, and was especially vocal on his gun control platform—which included banning small handguns, limiting handgun purchases to one per month, and registering gun owners.

And in response to Sen. Tom Coburn’s (R-OK) questioning about the Second Amendment and the Bill of Rights, McConnell was evasive and refused to declare that the right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental, individual liberty.

There is little doubt that McConnell would have no problem ruling that any gun control law that falls short of a total gun ban would be constitutional—despite the Supreme Court rulings in Heller and McDonald. . . .

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Sen. Schumer calls for "Do Not Ride" list for trains?

Sometimes I am truly amazed by Sen. Schumer. A "do not fly" list for planes makes a lot of sense in theory because the only way you can knock down a plane is to either be on board, crash another plane into it (something that is probably very difficult given air traffic control), or fire a missile at it (something that isn't readily available). A "do not ride" list for trains is pretty silly because you don't have to be on a train to attack it. There are thousands of miles of track and there is no way that you are going to be able to defend all of it. Given the error rate on the "do no fly" list, a "do not ride" list would be all errors and costs and provide little benefit.

Sen. Charles Schumer is calling for better rail security now that the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound has turned up plans to attack trains in the U.S.
“Anyone, even a member of al-Qaida could purchase a train ticket and board an Amtrak train without so much as a question asked,” Schumer said. “So that’s why I’m calling for the creation of an Amtrak no ride list. That would take the secure flight program and apply it to Amtrak trains.”
Schumer said Sunday that he will push for the creation of a “do not ride” list for Amtrak. The list would be similar to the no-fly list that keeps those suspected of terrorism from flying into or out of the United States. . . .

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Question: Why did Obama order Osama killed and not attempt to capture him?

The administration keeps touting the intelligence that we have gained from documents where Osama was located. It makes it seem as if there was really little that we could have gotten from questioning him. But if that is true, why has the administration pushed so hard to interview Osama's wives who are being held in Pakistan? If Osama didn't have useful information, why would anyone think that his wives will have anything useful?

The Obama administration Sunday pressed Pakistan to grant access to Osama bin Laden's three widows as part of a U.S. investigation into the al-Qaida leader's life leading up to his killing by Navy SEALs inside a compound in the garrison city of Abbottabad last week.

President Obama's national-security adviser, Tom Donilon, said the United States seeks to speak with the women and review materials taken from the compound after the U.S. raid. U.S. officials say bin Laden lived in the compound, about 60 miles from Islamabad, the capital, for at least five years.

A Pakistani intelligence official said Sunday that his government needed permission from the wives' home countries before Pakistan could allow U.S. officials to question them. One wife is from Yemen; the official said he did not know the others' nationalities. . . .

UPDATE: Chris Wallace asks the right question.

Wallace: We'll stipulate -- I think we'll all stipulate -- that bin Laden was a monster, but why is shooting an unarmed man in the face legal and proper while enhanced interrogation, including waterboarding of a detainee under very strict controls and limits -- why is that over the line?

Donilon: Well, let me talk first about the first half of the statement that you made. Again, the president met with the operators yesterday at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and here are the facts. We are at war with al-Qaeda. Osama bin Laden is the emir or commander, indeed the only leader of al-Qaeda in its 22 year history. This was his residence and operational compound. Our forces entered that compound and were fired upon in the pitch black. It's an organization that uses IEDs and suicide vests and booby traps and all manner of other kinds of destructive capabilities.

Wallace: Mr. Donilon, let me just make my point. I’m not asking you why it was OK to shoot Osama bin Laden. I fully understand the threat. And I’m not second-guessing the SEALs. What I am second guessing is, if that’s OK, why can’t you do waterboarding? Why can’t you do enhanced interrogation of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was just as bad an operator as Osama bin Laden?

Donilon: Because, well, our judgment is that it’s not consistent with our values, not consistent and not necessary in terms of getting the kind of intelligence that we need.

Wallace: But shooting bin Laden in the head is consistent with our values?

Donilon: We are at war with Osama bin Laden.

Wallace: We’re at war with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

Donilon: It was a military operation, right? It was absolutely appropriate for the SEALs to take the action -- for the forces to take the action that they took in this military operation against a military target.

Wallace: But why is it inappropriate to get information from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed?

Donilon: I didn’t say it was inappropriate to get information from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

Wallace: You said it was against our values.

Donilon: I think that the techniques are something that there’s been a policy debate about, and our administration has made our views known on that.

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Teacher Unions fighting having competition between schools

This is an extremely biased article, but it shows how insane that public teachers get about any discussion about competition between schools for students.

Protestors from Philadelphia, Bucks County and Harrisburg made their way to Washington, D.C., this morning to protest at an education-related conference where Gov. Corbett was scheduled to speak.
About 200 demonstrators gathered shortly before noon outside the Washington Marriott Hotel, chanting "Save Our Schools," and holding signs, such as "Vouchers Aren't the Answer." . . .
Corbett's budget "is a sure-fire way to send the city back into more poverty," said former city middle school teacher, Lisa Haver, 55.
"Education is a human right, and this is an assault on public education," said Azeem Hill, 17, a student at West Philadelphia High.
Senate Bill 1, expected to come up for a vote soon, would "strip money from public schools," diverting hundreds of millions of dollars away from already hard-hit districts statewide, said Marc Stier, head of Penn Action, the group behind the protest.
Parent Tim Brown, waiting for the bus to D.C., said he saw vouchers as "cynical maneuvering" by "right-wing billionaires," who want to privatize all education in America.
"If they're complaining there's a budget problem, why are they turning around and subsidizing private schools?" he asked. . . .

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