6/18/2011

Why are Americans and the rest of Europe bailing out Greece?

Greece owes about $330 Billion Euros (about $472 billion dollars). Well, according to the European Central Bank, "The Greek government has shares in listed companies, it owns real estate. Experts estimate the sales potential (from privatizations) at up to 300 billion euros ($429.5 billion)." This is going to be a big week for Greece: "Greece stands on the brink of crisis as European officials prepare for a week of crucial meetings to avert economic collapse." Reuters has this story:

EU officials have asked Athens to step up privatizations urgently and suggested setting up a trustee institution to help oversee the process, similar to the body that privatized East German companies after the fall of communism. . . .

The fund's European department director, Antonio Borges, said earlier this month the 50 billion euros cited as a figure for proceeds represented "probably less than 20 percent of all the assets the Greeks could privatize. . . .


The speed with which conditions are deteriorating is really quite incredible. What was supposed to be a three year plan last year to solve the problem has lasted just one year. The Xinhua news agency reports that the Finance Ministry claims that without new changes: "the sovereign debt will reach 501 billion euros (728.1 billion dollars) or 198 percent of GDP in 2015."

Greek unions are fiercely against any privatization moves, and the Socialist Party obviously has close ties to the unions that it doesn't want to upset any more than necessary. Of course, the reason that unions fear privatization is that it will increase efficiency in the entire economy.

As a Socialist elected with union support, Mr. Papandreou also faces resistance to the privatization of state assets, slated to be part of the next round of austerity measures.

Greece’s public power company union has called for rolling power cutoffs starting Monday to protest the government’s plan to sell 17 percent of the state’s stake in the Public Power Corporation, which is listed on the Athens stock exchange.

Costas Koutsodimas, the vice president of the union, known as Genop, called the plan a win for the banks and a loss to Greek patrimony, questioning how selling state assets, perhaps to foreign utilities that are reportedly interested in buying stakes, would be good for Greece. . . .


USA Today reports today that: "Protesters who flock each afternoon to Athens' central Syntagma square in front of parliament have been wearing stickers saying 'We owe nothing, we'll sell nothing, we'll pay nothing' — rejecting creditors' demands to sell off state assets." The Greek government is considering selling off: "public utilities - electricity, water, railways, and the docks." A recent WSJ piece lists some things that the government is agreeing to sell and they include: "the government's stake in the Mont Parnes Casino resort in Athens, hotels, and even a concession to develop a luxury resort with a world-class golf course on the island of Rhodes." Of the 75,000 government owned properties, the government is preparing to sell some 20 to 30 properties, the first of which may be available in a few months. "Most of the public real estate is undeveloped land or retired sites such as the old Athens airport at Hellenikon." But the government can't even bring itself to sell most of this land outright, instead pushing to make "long-tern leases of 30 to 40 years." why should the government be running or owning any of those items anyway?

The Economist magazine writes: "Greece has not complied with its obligation to its EU/IMF rescuers, notably in its failure to privatise state assets." The New York Times notes: "doubts have emerged about the government’s ability to implement and enforce the measures it has already passed." The Economist summarized a lot of the problems in one sentence: "The fact that it has come back to ask for more money just a year after being bailed out infuriates Germans, who feel they are being asked to throw good money after bad." Last year's bailout package was supposed to last for three years. Now they are back trying to rescue Greece with more money just one year later. Greece doesn't want to do what it has to do to fix things and possibly they don't feel that they have to since other countries are going to give them money. So why should other countries give Greece even more money? Finland's election this April turned in part on opposition to these types of bailouts. The True Finns party scored a solid third place in the April 2011 elections as a result of their opposition to these loans, though after months of haggling six other parties banded together across the political spectrum to keep True Finns out of the government. Of course, the conservative German parties have also been badly hurt at the polls for their past support for these bailouts.

Even the current Socialist government in Greece talks about its civil service as being "bloated," that they think that it can be cut by over 21 percent. The Wall Street Journal reports: "Never mind that Greece has not upheld its end of the bargain—spending is up over last year, and tax receipts are down, the opposite of what was promised. . . . The bailouts will give Greece enough cash to cover its current deficits, but not enough to pay off creditors whose bonds are coming due." But of course, Portugal and Ireland are in similar situations: "Portugal and Ireland are only avoiding default because of a flow of bailout cash, but have no prospect of repaying their outstanding loans."

So while plans have been floated to force private bond holders to write off a part of their bond holdings, Greece could pay off the debt if they want. The country seems in no mood for any other type of belt tightening. "With Athens erupting into violence last week as tens of thousands of protesters marched on parliament, it became clear that the prospect of further belt-tightening is a line few are willing to cross.' Note that in just a month the amount owed by Greece has gone from €330bn to €347bn.

Under Schaeuble’s plan, an estimated €270bn of Greece’s €347bn of sovereign debt would be restructured — meaning bondholders would have to mark down the value of their holdings. . . .


One disaster after another has been predicted if the different bailouts weren't carried out. Alan Greenspan, former Federal Reserve chairman, says: “The chances of Greece not defaulting are very small.” He believes that the chances of Greece defaulting are “so high that you almost have to say there’s no way out,” and that may leave some U.S. banks “up against the wall.” He believes that it has the "potential to push the U.S. into another recession."

Moody's threatens to cut Italy's credit rating in the next 90 days on worries that Greece's credit crisis may drive euro-zone interest rates higher.

While they don't talk about selling off assets, some useful points in a recent WSJ op-ed.

If Greece defaults, then important French and German banks will be in deep trouble. Even a small rescheduling would force the banks to admit their losses. . . . .


The banks have really already born this loss. Bond prices have plummeted as the interest rate that Greece is having to pay has soared. Restructuring would force the banks to actually write down that loss.

Greece is not being bailed out. Greece's bondholders are being bailed out. Greece would rather default. Cleared of its debts, it would likely be able to borrow again soon.

Financial markets have figured this out. As of yesterday, it cost $182 per year to insure $1,000 five-year Greek debt, implying a 63% probability of total loss in five years. Yes, the write-down is inevitable.

Second, European banks are holding the bag. This week the Moody's rating agency put three large French banks under review for a potential downgrade because of their Greek exposure. Beyond direct exposure, banks throughout Europe lend to each other and write insurance against sovereign defaults. Even U.S. prime money market funds are indirectly exposed. . . .

Third, the European Central Bank (ECB) is now involved as well. It started buying secondary-market Greek debt last May. The ECB has now lent in excess of 80 billion euros to Greek banks, replacing private funding that has run away, and typically receiving Greek government debt as collateral.

If there is even a minor credit event, the ECB could no longer legally take that collateral. If Greece defaults and Greek banks fail, the ECB is stuck with junk collateral. This explains why ECB President Jean Claude Trichet insists that there must be "no credit event, no selective default."

Fourth, in the end this is all about Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy. If Greece were the only country in trouble, it would have been allowed to default. . . .

Greece cannot possibly pay 17% interest rates for 10 years. . . . .


Question: How much of this trouble faced by European banks results from them buying Greece's bonds to keep their governments happy?

A time line of events in the Greek bailout are available here.

Finally, here is something that the Washington Post put together last year.

Greek government workers have received what are called "13th- and 14th-month salaries." That means they work for 12 months, but get paid for 14. Sweet deal, if it doesn't wreck your economy. Oh, wait. It does. So, Greece's back-breaking concession to get the European bailout is not to actually eliminate the 13th- and 14th-month salaries. Oh, no: These will not be Draconian cuts, despite the fact that Draco was Athens's original lawgiver -- they will merely be capped at a flat rate. Henceforth, government workers will get a flat 250 euro ($331) Easter bonus, a 500 euro ($662) Christmas bonus and an additional 250 euro "subsidy leave."
Under the bailout, Greeks must now work until they are 67 years old. Up until now, they have been able to retire with pensions at -- take a guess -- 65? Nope. 62? Lower. 57? Keep going! 53? Bingo! . . .


UPDATE: The latest on the negotiations can be found in a WSJ article here. The US is obviously involved in paying more money this time.

European finance ministers meeting Sunday in Luxembourg moved toward approving a fresh quarterly installment of Greece's €110 billion ($157 billion) bailout loan, but they remained divided over the details of a far harder task—extending Greece a giant new package that would support it for years to come. . . .

Group of Seven industrialized countries held a conference call late Sunday to discuss the crisis, according to people familiar with the matter. Natalie Wyeth, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Treasury Department, confirmed a G-7 conference call was held but declined to provide any details.

In Athens, Prime Minister George Papandreou said his country was negotiating a new deal of roughly the same size as the one granted just last year—about another €100 billion—and urged his parliament to back him in a vote of confidence scheduled for Tuesday. . . .

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WH Chief of Staff William Daley: On Obama regulations "Sometimes you can't defend the indefensible"

The Obama administration's economic policy is to pick winners and losers -- to throw lots of specialized tax breaks and subsidies at industries and companies and products that they like and penalize the ones that they don't like. If you listen to the CSPAN video below you will see Daley mention (at 16:25 into the video): "it seems as though the number of regulations and rules that come out of agencies is just overwhelming, I am saying something that you sure know." In the video, company after company talks about how the regulations will shut down plants. Daley falsely states that the recent court decisions are forcing them to make certain regulations when all they did was say regulators could make decisions if they wanted to. The Washington Post's Peter Wallsten and and Jia Lynn Yang broke this story.

One by one, exasperated executives stood to air their grievances on environmental regulations and stalled free-trade deals. And Daley, the former banker tasked with building ties with industry, found himself looking for the right balance between empathy and defending his boss.

At one point, the room erupted in applause when Massachusetts manufacturing executive Doug Starrett, his voice shaking with emotion, accused the administration of blocking construction on one of his facilities to protect fish, saying government “throws sand into the gears of progress.”

Daley said he did not have many good answers, appearing to throw up his hands in frustration at what he called “bureaucratic stuff that’s hard to defend.”

“Sometimes you can’t defend the indefensible,” he said.

The exchange suggests the limits of the elaborate courtship of corporations begun by President Obama and his top aides after Democrats’ big losses in the 2010 elections — an effort that has taken on new urgency in recent weeks.

Top aides have been reaching out to business leaders as Obama’s reelection campaign seeks to expand its network of potential new donors and fundraisers. And the White House has hoped that a closer alliance with businesses would help spur job growth.

Even as the White House pledges more receptivity to corporate concerns, business continues to spar with the administration on numerous fronts.

Wall Street is lobbying to undo many of the new regulations signed into law last year. Manufacturers say environmental policies are hindering growth. And, in a high-profile case that tests the administration’s allegiances, aerospace giant Boeing is warring with labor regulators over its decision to open a plant in South Carolina, which is hostile to unions. . . .


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David Protess founder of "Innocence Project" removed from teaching and forced to retire because of ethical problems

This is a pretty surprising event for academia: “You have the most lionized member of the faculty suddenly becoming somebody who is summarily removed from teaching with no notice and subjected to a kind of banishment." From the NY Times has this story about David Protess, a renowned journalist and professor:

But in a search of Innocence Project computers, the university turned up an e-mail from Mr. Protess to his assistant in 2006 that indicated the students’ reporting memos had been shared with the defense.

“My position about memos, as you know, is that we share everything with the legal team, and don’t keep copies,” he wrote, referring to Mr. McKinney’s lawyers.

But the copy of the e-mail he provided to university lawyers was altered to read, “My position about memos, as you know, is that we don’t keep copies.”

Mr. Protess said that he altered the e-mail to reflect the actual practice of the Innocence Project as he remembered it.

“Everybody assigns sinister motives to what I did, but my intent was not to mislead; it was precisely the opposite,” he said. “My part was due to memory failure about the extent to which I had shared student memos with the defense, and then I stubbornly stuck to that position when I felt ganged up on by everybody else.”

With the discovery of the e-mail, what had been a publicly united front broke down behind the scenes. At a hastily called faculty meeting at Medill on April 6, Mr. Lavine presented his colleagues with a PowerPoint presentation of statements and actions by Mr. Protess that the dean considered misleading, and asked for opinions. But by the time the faculty members got back to their desks, a press release had already been issued announcing Mr. Protess would not be teaching spring semester and making it clear he would not be welcomed back after that. . . .

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Many errors in AP article on concealed handguns in restaurants

UPDATE: At least at Fox News, the piece has been corrected.

Ohio is among nine states that generally prohibit firearms where alcohol is served and consumed, according to the Legal Community Against Violence, a national public interest law center aimed at preventing gun violence. Eight states allow guns in bars and restaurants, and a dozen states prohibit guns in bars but allow them in at least limited parts of restaurants. The remaining 21 states allow guns in places that serve alcohol.


Original Post: This article on "Ohio Set to Allow Concealed Guns in Bars, Restaurants" contains many factual errors. Prominent among these errors is this claim:

"Eight states allow guns in bars and restaurants, and a dozen states prohibit guns in bars but allow them in at least limited parts of restaurants. The remaining 21 states don't have laws on the issue."


The Associated Press doesn't seem to understand that these state laws list places where permitted concealed handguns are not allowed, they don't list the places where they are allowed (the one exception is K-12 schools because of the Federal Safe School Act). Thus the 21 states noted do allow concealed handguns in places that serve alcohol. In addition, they don't really correctly describe the law regarding restaurants. You can carry a gun into a bar as long as the bar gets at least a certain percentage of it revenue from selling food. That percentage of revenue from food could be as high as 50 percent.

As to the claim in the article about it being unusual to carry in other venues, I know that two of the states that border Ohio (Indiana and Pennsylvania) have no restrictions on where one can carry a permitted concealed handgun outside of those areas prohibited by Federal law (K-12 schools and airports) as well as court houses. Thus sporting events, bars, night clubs, and the other areas discussed are not prohibited there. Kentucky is also relatively liberal on where one can carry, though there are a few restrictions.

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Democrats now say that "We own the economy"

While a new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll says that 54 percent of Americans disapprove of the president’s handling of the economy, only 25 percent believe Obama is “mostly responsible” for the current economic conditions. Well, if we are to believe DNC chief and Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, from now on the responsibility is that of the Democrats.

"We own the economy," [DNC chief and Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz] said. "We own the beginning of the turnaround, and we want to make sure that we continue that pace of recovery, not go back to the policies of the past under the Bush administration that put us in the ditch in the first place." . . .

Obama made recently [made a statement] to employees at a North Carolina company that manufactures LED lights . . . "We stabilized the economy, we prevented a financial meltdown, an economy that was shrinking is now growing," the president said. . . . .

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Any predictions on what will happen to the unemployment rate in Alaska, Arizona, and Wisconsin?

This New York Times article refers to opposition to very long term unemployment benefits as "ideological." No mention of the huge number of economics studies on this issue. Economists are quoted as only saying: "Some economists say that cutting off the long-term unemployed from extended federal assistance could backfire by putting further strain on state economies instead." But no one about the real costs that the long term benefits have on unemployment and even those who get the benefits.

That last extension of unemployment benefits — typically received in weeks 80 through 99 of unemployment — is paid for entirely with federal money and does not affect state budgets. But because of ideological opposition and other legislative priorities, Arizona and a handful of other states, like Wisconsin and Alaska, have not made the one-word change necessary to keep the program going.

Right now about 640,000 jobless Americans are receiving this last tier of benefits, according to the National Employment Law Project. The money, appropriated in the 2009 federal stimulus package, was initially intended for states with jobless rates higher than they were two years earlier. Since the recovery has been much slower than predicted, though, Congress decided last December to allow states to continue receiving the money if their unemployment rates were higher than they were three years earlier. States simply needed to change “two” to “three” in the relevant state law. . . .

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6/17/2011

Just the IMF portion of the Greek bailout costs $345.82 per American

The Obama administration has seen lots of taxpayer money bailing out European banks. It would be nice to figure out exactly how much of that either went directly to Greece or to European banks that found themselves in trouble because they held Greek bonds. But apparently we do have a number of how much our tax dollars have gone directly to Greece through the IMF and the total comes to $345.82.

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Another aspect about Palin's comments on Paul Revere

One aspect of Sarah Palin's statements about Paul Revere has been ignored: that the British were trying to disarm Americans. It is an important point because it helps explain why Americans felt so strongly about the Second Amendment. A nice article on this point is available here. Of course, Palin was right about the rest of what she said about Revere's famous ride also. Would Obama have gotten either of these points correct?

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Poll numbers for some of the new Republican Governors are pretty weak

The approval ratings for the new Republican governors around the country are pretty low, though it is interesting that despite the constant national media attacks, Wisconsin's Scott Walker is doing better than many of the others. From the WSJ's Political Diary.

Michigan's Rick Snyder holds a 33% approval rating, while Ohio's John Kasich, Wisconsin's Scott Walker, and Pennsylvania's Tom Corbett are at 33%, 43% and 39%, respectively. . . . [Florida's] GOP Gov. Rick Scott's approval rating is just 29% . . . .

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Bachmann's chances in Iowa

This is from today's WSJ Political Diary.

"Bachmann is going to surprise a lot of people here," [Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad] said, adding that Mr. Pawlenty seems to have the strongest organization in the state and that former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain has also impressed a lot of Iowans. The governor said that he's heard continuing rumors about Govs. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Rick Perry of Texas possibly entering the race.

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How the Supreme Court makes a mess of things

The Supreme Court expanded Miranda rights for juveniles in a case this week. There is nothing wrong with that per se. But the vagueness of their decision will cause all sorts of problems for police. Great rather than bright lines, police must now rely on commonsense reality to determine when they are required to give Miranda warnings. The liberal members of the court were joined by Anthony Kennedy in this decision. From the WSJ:

The court ruled in the latest case that police may have to give Miranda warnings to juvenile suspects in some situations where they could question adults without doing so. Although the Miranda decision did not spell out age-based distinctions, "commonsense reality" . . . "A child's age is far 'more than a chronological fact,' " Justice Sotomayor wrote, citing precedents dating to the 1940s. . . .


It would be interesting to see if this decision increase juvenile crime rates.

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Gallup: How should we solve the deficit problem

The entire Gallup survey available here is interesting, but most people think that the deficit is due to spending and that there seems to be a lot more political support for cutting spending than there is for raising taxes. Unlike the newest WSJ/NBC poll, another question shows that only 19 percent favor increasing the debt limit, with 47 percent saying no. The WSJ/NBC poll shows a dramatically different result for June: Do not raise 42%, Should be raised 46%. Part of the difference between the two surveys may be that Gallup survey was done in May and the WSJ/NBC was done in June, but it can't explain all of the difference.



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Gallup: Economic Confidence Falling

The depressing finding of this Gallup poll is that fewer people think that the economy is getting better than at any point during the first half of last year.

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6/16/2011

"Kasich Will Sign 'Guns In Bars' Bill"

There is an interesting poll here that asks people "Which do you think should be allowed in bars?" and the choices are "smoking," "guns," "both," and "neither." The majority of people in this unscientific poll support allowing either guns or smoking in bars.

Ohio lawmakers passed a proposal which would allow people with concealed-carry permits to take firearms into bars and facilities where alcohol is served, as long as they don't drink.
The House and the Senate both approved the measure Wednesday which will send it to the governor.
Gov. John Kasich told ONN's Jim Heath that he would sign the bill. . . .

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Nutty willingness to pay measure behind EPA's claim that its new regulations will produce $2 trillion in benefits

"Willingness to Pay" surveys ask individuals how much they are willing to pay for some improvement in life. These estimates have traditionally given extreme and unbelievable estimates in many different areas, and the reason is very simple: there is no real cost to me making up whatever number I want. It is not as if anyone ever really expects to pay this amount, and people are given calls without any real time to think about it. In addition, errors are only really allowed in one direction. For example, I can't say that you would need to pay me to agree to the reduction in economic growth that would result from the proposed economic regulations.
Even if people thought that the rules would ever result in policy change, they may not think that they will be the ones to pay it. After all, half of the working people in the US don't pay income tax so if they think that taxes will rise, they might think that burden will entirely be picked up by someone else. A critical evaluation of the EPA claimed benefits from the new Clean Air Act Regulations is available here.

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Comparing Canadian and US unemployment rates during the recession and recovery


The striking feature of this diagram is how the Canadian and US unemployment rates moved so incredibly similarly until after Obama's $830 billion "Stimulus" was passed.
Sources: for Canada and the US.

UPDATE3: Welcome to those from Talking Point Memo, though TPM has made multiple incorrect claims. While TPM cites Bachmann's tweet, Eric Kleefeld doesn't mention fails to mention her Facebook post. Tweets limit posts to 140 characters, Bachmann's was 138, not much extra to into extra details or even longer words such as "small" or "little" instead of "no." It is true that Bachmann's tweet said Canada had "no stimulus," but her simultaneous Facebook post was much more complete: "Consider Canada, whose unemployment equaled America's at the bill's passage. Now, without massive gov't intervention, the Canadian unemployment rate is a full 20% less than ours." There was nothing wrong with that Facebook post, but mentioning it would have made TPM's article a lot less compelling. (Note that the "Markie Marxist sez" shown in the picture below is from the first comment on my post.)



UPDATE1: What I have pointed out is that Obama's "Stimulus" was three times bigger on a per capita basis than the Canadian stimulus, and Obama raised marginal income tax rates while Canada has cut marginal tax rates. For a discussion on the massive difference in size and composition of the conservative minority Canadian government and the liberal/Keynesian/Obama US stimulus program see this here.

TPM's claim about relatively strict banking regulations in Canada is wrong on two counts. 1) Most importantly, it doesn't explain the sharp difference in unemployment rates between Canada and the US right after the Obama "Stimulus." Before the Stimulus, the unemployment rates were moving together very closely. After the Stimulus, the US rates rose much higher than the Canadian rate. 2) It is factually wrong anyway. Canada simply didn't have the crazy types of government regulations that the US has had that forced banks to make loans that they didn't want to make (see here for some examples).

UPDATE2: I could rewrite what I have already put up about the banking regulations in Canada, but TPM readers just keep repeating what they read on that website without any recognition that it is nonsensical. Even if the claim about regulations were true (and it isn't), it can't explain why the changes in unemployment in the two countries were identical right up until Obama's Stimulus and then the unemployment rate diverged dramatically.

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The Change in Canadian and US net Debt as a percent of GDP


The policies for Canada and the US couldn't have been much more different. Obama followed a massive Keynesian debt and spending binge. Canada didn't. The data is available here. Look at Fiscal balances and public indebtedness, worksheet 55.
UPDATE: If you put Canada's $32.6 billion (US dollars) stimulus in per capita terms, it comes to $979 per person (2008 population in Canada is 33.31 million). If you put the US's $830 billion "Stimulus" in per capita terms, it comes to $2730 per person (2008 US population is 304 million). Half the Canadian stimulus also involved cuts in marginal tax rates. Less than 22 percent of the US Stimulus involved tax cuts (the total Stimulus ended up being $830 billion, not $819 billion). Canada has been gradually cutting its corporate income tax rate from 21 percent in 2007 to 15 percent next year. More importantly, to the extent that Obama's stimulus cut taxes, it contained cuts in average rates through deductions and credits, but increases in marginal tax rates as those benefits were phased out. Economists would argue that it is the marginal tax rate that determines the return from additional work. Canada's cutting marginal tax rates versus Obama's raising marginal tax rates is the most important point.
If you want to use the IMF real purchasing power measures for Canada and the United States, one will see that the US "Stimulus" ran about 5.9 percent of GDP ($830 billion/$14,441.43 billion). By contrast, the Canadian stimulus ran about 2.1 percent of GDP ($32.6 billion/$1,499.11 billion). For whatever it is worth if people want to put this on a per capita real income basis, Canada and the US had very similar real personal income in 2008 ($45,068 for Canada and $47,392.75 for the US).

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Senate Democrats and WH try to avoid taking positions on the National Labor Relations Board preventing Boeing from building a plane in SC

Politico has the story available here. The amazing thing is that the Obama administration claims no responsibility when Obama appointed these guys.

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Obama explains how automation through ATMs has cause unemployment

Of course, there are the false claims about this being the worst recession since the Depression and that 2 million jobs have been created over 15 months, but the more amazing claim is why we have had such bad unemployment. The notion that more ATMs or automation generally have held down job growth.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

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There are many ways that people can make donations to a political campaign

After the 2008 election there was an article (I believe in Wired magazine) about how one of the top people at Facebook worked very closely with the Obama campaign to help them raise money. Now there is a similar story about Google. All this might ultimately just show how impossible it is to regulate campaign finance money.

Google denied Wednesday that it gave President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign special access to a new advertising program, something a sales representative from the search and advertising giant had claimed in an email to customers.

The new ad program would charge clients for every email address (or other piece of user data) they collect. The program is attractive to campaigns eager for that information, so when a staffer at the National Republican Senatorial Committee saw what appeared to be an Obama ad built on this technology on the RealClearPolitics website last month, she emailed a Google sales rep to ask about creating a similar ad campaign for Republicans.

The saleswoman, Sirene Abou-Chakra, replied by suggesting that Obama had a special deal.

“This is a pre-alpha product that is being released to a select few clients,” she wrote in an email, referring to the first stage of a product’s roll-out. “I’d be happy to get you into the beta if you’re interested.”

A similar email went out to at least one other Republican digital media firm, a Republican source said.

“It certainly raises some red flags that the Obama campaign appears to have been given special access to a new online advertising product,” said NRSC communications director Brian Walsh in response to an inquiry from POLITICO. . . .


Note also how facebook is hiring former Clinton White House spokesman Joe Lockhart.

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6/15/2011

New Jersey Public Unions refer to Republican Gov. Chris Christie as Nazi

My question is whether any Democratic politicians will take the Union chief to task for using this type of language.

At a Thursday rally in New Jersey protesting Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s pension deal that would cut pensions and benefits to public workers, a union leader charged Christie with acting like a Nazi. And not any ordinary Nazi, but Adolf Hitler himself.

“Good afternoon brothers and sisters. Welcome to Nazi Germany,” Communications Workers of America District 1 Vice President Christopher Shelton is seen raving in a video posted on YouTube.

“We have Adolf Christie and his two generals trying to make New Jersey Nazi Germany.”

The two Nazi “generals” apparently refer to two Democratic state legislators instrumental in reaching the pension deal with Christie. . . . .

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Donors to Obama got big government contracts through Stimulus

Do you think that some businessmen support Obama because he gives out so much government money? Fred Schulte, John Farrell and Jeremy Borden at Politico sure do.

Telecom executive Donald H. Gips raised a big bundle of cash to help finance his friend Barack Obama’s run for the presidency.

Gips, a vice president of Colorado-based Level 3 Communications, delivered more than $500,000 in contributions for the Obama war chest, while two other company executives collected at least $150,000 more.

After the election, Gips was put in charge of hiring in the Obama White House, helping to place loyalists and fundraisers in many key positions. Then, in mid-2009, Obama named him ambassador to South Africa. Meanwhile, Level 3 Communications, in which Gips retained stock, received millions of dollars of government stimulus contracts for broadband projects in six states — though Gips said he had been “completely unaware” that the company had received the contracts.

More than two years after Obama took office vowing to banish “special interests” from his administration, nearly 200 of his biggest donors have landed plum government jobs and advisory posts, won federal contracts worth millions of dollars for their business interests or attended numerous elite White House meetings and social events, an investigation by iWatch News has found.

These “bundlers” raised at least $50,000 — and sometimes more than $500,000 — in campaign donations for Obama’s campaign. Many of those in the “Class of 2008” are now being asked to bundle contributions for Obama’s reelection, an effort that could cost $1 billion. . . .


Jake Tapper is even tougher at ABC News:

President Obama launched his campaign in 2007 promising a change in the way business is done in Washington, D.C., but today a report from the Center for Public Integrity says that when it comes to major campaign donors scoring plum administration positions, it's business as usual. . . .

But the percentages are much higher for the big-dollar bundlers. Nearly "80 percent of those who collected more than $500,000 for Obama took 'key administration posts,' as defined by the White House," the report said.

The center pointed out that candidate Obama suggested that big moneyed interests would not have as prominent a role in D.C. during his administration.

"The cynics, the lobbyists, the special interests who've turned our government into a game, only they can afford to play," said then-Sen. Obama in his February 2007 announcement speech. "They get the access while you get to write a letter. ... The time for that kind of politics is over." . . . .

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Only six Senate Democrats voted to end the $6 Billion subsidy for Ethanol

34 out of 47 Republicans were willing to bit the bullet and cut this subsidy to corn farmers. This subsidy was originally set up to help cars built before 1972 that weren't tuned up to burn their gas more completely. BTW, environmentalists aren't too thrilled about ethanol any more. Besides all the energy wasted on producing ethanol, there is also the problem of the formaldehyde burning ethanol produces. In case you didn't know, formaldehyde causes cancer. From The Hill newspaper:

Thirty-four Senate Republicans voted Tuesday to advance a proposal eliminating a $6 billion ethanol tax break, which one GOP leader said struck a blow against the Taxpayer Protection Pledge.

But the measure fell 20 votes short, 40-59, as most Democrats voted against proceeding.

The vote came on an amendment sponsored by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) to eliminate a 45-cent tax break given to refiners for every gallon of ethanol they blend with gasoline. . . .

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Wisconsin close to being the 49th State to allowed Concealed Carry

The vote was overwhelming. The Senate passed the bill by a 25 to 8 vote, with six Democrats voting with all 19 Republicans. There is a $50 fee and a training requirement. This the third time in a decade that the state Senate has given at least a two-thirds vote for such a bill, but this time with a Republican governor the bill will get signed. A long article on the bill is available here.

The state Senate passed a measure Tuesday allowing people to carry concealed weapons by a 25-8 margin, getting votes from all 19 Republicans and six Democrats, including Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee). . . .

The measure now goes to the Assembly, where it is expected to pass. It would then go to Gov. Scott Walker, who supports the bill.

"This is a great victory for the people of Wisconsin and for the 2nd Amendment," Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said in a statement. "The right to protect ourselves by legally carrying a firearm is long overdue and I'm glad we're joining 48 other states with this law - finally."

The measure would require people to get training and permits to carry concealed weapons, after some Republicans earlier pushed a bill that would let people do so without training or permits.

Wisconsin and Illinois are the only states that have outright bans on carrying concealed weapons. Gun rights advocates for years have pushed allowing concealed weapons in Wisconsin, but they were thwarted by then-Gov. Jim Doyle or Democrats in the Legislature.

Under the bill, the state Department of Justice would have to issue permits to state residents 21 or over who got training and cleared background checks that showed they were not felons or otherwise prohibited from carrying guns. . . .

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Appearing on Coast-to-Coast AM tonight

I will be on Coast-to-Coast AM tonight during the show's first live hour from 1:15 to 2 AM EDT/ 10:15 to 11 PM PDT.

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6/14/2011

Robert Gibbs is completely wrong about job growth under George Bush

The Obama administration is making false claims about job losses under Bush.

Last night on CNN, Anderson Cooper 19, after the debate, they talked to the former Press Secretary Robert Gibbs about Obama's success and the campaign . . . .

Robert Gibbs: If the Bush tax cuts were great for economic policy, why did we lose three and a half million jobs. . . .


In fact, from January 2001 to January 2009, the total number people employed using the Household Survey grew from 137.778 million to 142.201 million -- an increase of 4.5 million jobs, not a drop of 3.5 million.

Total nonfarm jobs in the US using the Establishment survey grew from 132.469 million to 133.563 million. Again, this is not the same as a 3.5 million drop.

Robert Gibbs has apparently rejoined the Obama campaign.

Unfortunately, Robert Gibbs isn't the only one making misleading statements about the Republican debate.

At last night’s Republican debate, the seven candidates talked about unemployment, taxes, regulations, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s talk of a goal of 5% GDP growth, the individual mandate in the health care bill, the Independent Medicare Advisory Board, welfare reform, the Tea Party, currency policy, the National Labor Relations Board, Boeing, TARP, the auto bailout, Rep. Paul Ryan’s Medicare proposal, former Gov. Mitt Romney’s health care program in Massachusetts, raising the debt ceiling, raising the retirement age for Social Security, the role of religion in public life, the 10th amendment, Libya, Afghanistan, and so on.

But President Obama’s 2012 campaign is sending out a DNC video suggesting the candidates spoke only about sharia law, an anti-gay-marriage amendment, repealing health care, Sarah Palin, and the space program.

“You should watch this,” says campaign manager Jim Messina in the email to supporters . . . .

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Double Dip in Housing market official, new drops take prices below drop in Great Depression

So if the second housing market drop is under Obama's watch, who is he going to blame?

It's official: The housing crisis that began in 2006 and has recently entered a double dip is now worse than the Great Depression.

Prices have fallen some 33 percent since the market began its collapse, greater than the 31 percent fall that began in the late 1920s and culminated in the early 1930s, according to Case-Shiller data.

The news comes as the Federal Reserve considers whether the economy has regained enough strength to stand on its own and as unemployment remains at a still-elevated 9.1 percent, throwing into question whether the recovery is real.

"The sharp fall in house prices in the first quarter provided further confirmation that this housing crash has been larger and faster than the one during the Great Depression," Paul Dales, senior economist at Capital Economics in Toronto, wrote in research for clients.

According to Case-Shiller, which provides the most closely followed housing industry data, prices dropped 1.9 percent in the first quarter, a move that the firm interpreted as a clear double dip in prices. . . .

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Obama admits some failure on government created jobs: "Shovel-Ready Was Not as Shovel-Ready as We Expected"

So much for having to get the stimulus passed right away so that we could get the immediate benefits in 2009.

President Obama's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness met today in Durham, NC at Cree Inc., a company that manufactures energy-efficient LED lighting. One of the Council's recommendations to President Obama was to streamline the federal permit process for construction and infrastructure projects. It was explained to Obama that the permitting process can delay projects for "months to years ... and in many cases even cause projects to be abandoned ... I'm sure that when you implemented the Recovery Act your staff briefed you on many of these challenges." At this point, Obama smiled and interjected, "Shovel-ready was not as ... uh .. shovel-ready as we expected." The Council, led by GE's Jeffrey Immelt, erupted in laughter. . . .

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Two Segments that Maxim Produced for the Stossel Special that Aired this weekend

ELECTRIC cars likely produce higher emissions over their lifetimes than gas equivalents

Try driving 129,000km without replacing your electric car's batteries. Great, electric cars make us poorer and pollute the environment.

An electric car owner would have to drive at least 129,000km before producing a net saving in CO2. Many electric cars will not travel that far in their lifetime because they typically have a range of less than 145km on a single charge and are unsuitable for long trips. Even those driven 160,000km would save only about a tonne of CO2 over their lifetimes.

The British study, which is the first analysis of the full lifetime emissions of electric cars covering manufacturing, driving and disposal, undermines the case for tackling climate change by the rapid introduction of electric cars.

The Committee on Climate Change, the UK government watchdog, has called for the number of electric cars on Britain's roads to increase from a few hundred now to 1.7 million by 2020. . . .

It found that a mid-size electric car would produce 23.1 tonnes of CO2 over its lifetime, compared with 24 tonnes for a similar petrol car. Emissions from manufacturing electric cars are at least 50 per cent higher because batteries are made from materials such as lithium, copper and refined silicon, which require much energy to be processed.

Many electric cars are expected to need a replacement battery after a few years. Once the emissions from producing the second battery are added in, the total CO2 from producing an electric car rises to 12.6 tonnes, compared with 5.6 tonnes for a petrol car. Disposal also produces double the emissions because of the energy consumed in recovering and recycling metals in the battery. The study also took into account carbon emitted to generate the grid electricity consumed. . . .

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6/13/2011

Does he really believe this: "If you were looking for a bunch of partisan rhetoric, I'm probably not your guy."

RCP has a video of this quote by Obama: "If you were looking for a bunch of partisan rhetoric, I'm probably not your guy."

Is this the same president who in May inaccurately attacked Republicans and belittled them over immigration reform this way:

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. . . .


Discussions about Obama bringing civility into politics can be found here and here.

Obama faces the widest partisan job approval gap in modern polling history. Yet, this could be either because he is particularly partisan or that Republican voters just aren't giving him a chance.

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"W.H. won't say Weiner must go"

So much for the Obama administration getting its message straight. From Politico at 1:46 PM today:

CARNEY ON WEINER: The White House addressed the the Anthony Weiner scandal for the first time Monday morning, as press secretary Jay Carney was asked about it on Air Force One. Here's the Q&A with reporters:

Is his service in Congress in the nation's best interest?

"The president feels, we feel at the White House, this is a distraction, as Congressman Weiner has said himself, his behavior was inappropriate, dishonesty was inappropriate. But the president is focused on his job which is getting this economy continuing to grow, creating jobs and ensuring the safety and security of the American people."

Were top aides involved in the calls for resignation?

"Not that I'm aware of."

Should he resign?

"I answered that question. We think it's a distraction from the important business that this president needs to conduct and Congress need to conduct. Beyond that, I don't have any more comment."


After a few hours I think that the Obama administration realized that for a problem that had gone on for weeks the above statement was simply not enough. So later today we have this:

President Barack Obama has joined the ever-growing chorus of Democrats seeking the resignation of New York Rep. Anthony Weiner, putting even more pressure on the embattled lawmaker to quit the House in the midst of a sex scandal that seems to produce a new, embarrassing chapter with each passing day.

“I can tell you that if it was me, I would resign,’’ Obama said during an interview scheduled to air Tuesday morning on NBC’s “Today” show. . . .

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Ad on Obama's "Bump in the Road"


I may not be a Romney supporter, but this is a very effective ad.

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The Problem with Brady Background Checks: Virtually all of those denied purchasing a gun are false positives

There are several things to understand about how the Brady Law background check process works. At gun stores or other registered dealers, would-be buyers have to fill out a form asking whether there are any criminal convictions or types of mental illness that would prevent them from legally purchasing the weapon. Falsely answering these questions amounts to perjury. If people answer the question by saying that they have a background that prohibits them from buying, a gun dealers stop right there and do not even process those forms. And if people are believed to have knowingly provided false information on the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) form and prosecutors think that they can prove that knowingly false information was provided, the would-be buyer faces prosecution.

Yet, the NICS system accidentally flags many law-abiding people, stopping those who simply have the same name as a prohibited individual from buying a gun.

Some may remember the five times the late Senator Ted Kennedy was placed on a “no fly list.” If someone is flagged by the NICS system, it is because it appears that they didn’t put down something in their background that disqualified them from buying a gun. Yet, an initial denial does not mean that the individual is actually disqualified from owning a gun. Take the numbers for 2009, the latest year with data available. There were 71,010 initial denials. Of those, only 4,681, or 6.6 percent, were referred to the BATF field offices for further investigation. As a report on these denials by the U.S. Department of Justice indicates, “The remaining denials (66,329 – 93%) did not meet referral guidelines or were overturned after review by Brady Operations or after the FBI received additional information.”  The last two of these three categories are clearly false positives.  The first might involve false positives, but it is possible that the disqualifying offenses are too old (though there are some prosecutions that involve misdemeanor violations that are four decades old so that isn't too obvious).  To put it differently, the initial review didn’t find that these individuals had a record that prevented them from buying a gun. (Numbers for 2010 are available here.)

Still that isn’t the end of the story. Of these 4,681 referrals, over 51 percent, or 2,390 cases, involve “delayed denials,” cases where a check hasn’t even been completed. Of the rest, 2,291 covered cases where initial reviews indicated that the person should have been denied buying a gun. But the government admits that upon further review another 572 of these referrals were found “not [to be] a prohibited person,” leaving about 4,154 cases. That implies an initial false positive rate of roughly 94.2%. And it still doesn’t mean that the government hasn’t made a mistake on the remaining cases. In some cases for example, a person’s criminal record was supposed to be expunged, and it had not been?

Of the cases referred to the BATF field offices there were still a number of false positives.  A 2004 sample found out that about 21 percent of these cases were found to be false positives (the percentage is slightly higher if a weighted sample is used).

Up until this point, no discretion about the merits of the case has entered the picture. If a review of the records indicates that someone is a prohibited individual, they are included. But of these 4,154 cases, only 140 cases involving banned individuals trying to purchase guns being referred to prosecutors, just 60 of which involved providing false information when buying a firearm. Of those 140 cases, prosecutors thought the evidence was strong enough to bring a case only 77 times.

Prosecution may be declined either because further investigation revealed that the person wasn’t prohibited from owning a gun, because false information hadn’t knowingly been provided, or prosecutors didn’t believe that the cases “merited” prosecution. But if someone is indeed prohibited from owning a gun and they left that information off their NICS form, it is relatively easy for authorities to prove they knowingly concealed that information. The most frequently claimed reasons that people failed the background checks are: “restraining orders, domestic violence misdemeanors, non-immigrant aliens, violent felonies, warrants, and indictments.” How hard is it for prosecutors to prove that someone hadn’t accidentally forgotten that they had a conviction for a violent felony or they had a restraining order?

While prosecutors tend to go forward with their strongest cases, those prosecuted are often not found guilty. By the end of 2010, prosecutors had only 32 convictions or pleas agreements, and only 13 of those involved falsified information when buying a gun or illegal possession of a gun, that translates into just 0.018% of the 71,010 initial denials.

So we have two estimates of the false positive rate: 94.2% or 99.98%. The first estimate is obviously too low, it assumes that all the cases identified up to that point are accurate. The second estimate is obviously too high, it only counts as prohibited individuals those who have been proven so beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.  These numbers are just one of the reason that no study by criminologists or economists has found that the Federal Brady Law has reduced national crime rates.

Of course, being falsely labeled as being ineligible to own a gun isn’t the only cost imposed on law-abiding Americans. Even those who aren’t prevented from buying a gun face delays in getting approved. Eight percent of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System checks are “not resolved immediately.” Two-thirds of those checks take up to 3 business days, and the rest take even longer, though these further delays can’t stop one from obtaining a gun at that point.

Some other information is available here.

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