2/25/2012

Democrats then and now over high gas prices

Now the Democrats claim that nothing can be done to control prices. Back six years ago, Democrats didn't have the same view:

Democrats running for Congress are moving quickly to use the most recent surge in oil and gasoline prices to bash Republicans over energy policy, and more broadly, the direction of the country.

With oil prices hitting a high this week and prices at the pump topping $3 a gallon in many places, Amy Klobuchar, a Democratic Senate candidate in Minnesota, is making the issue the centerpiece of her campaign. Ms. Klobuchar says it "is one of the first things people bring up" at her campaign stops.

To varying degrees, Democrats around the country are following a similar script that touches on economic anxiety and populist resentment against oil companies.

"It's a metaphor for an economy that keeps biting people despite overall good numbers," said Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Mr. Schumer said Democratic candidates in 10 of the 34 Senate races this year had scheduled campaign events this week focusing on gasoline prices. . . .

Democrats are tailoring campaign messages to pierce any economic good news by focusing on other aspects of the energy law . . . .

Democrats are eagerly laying blame for the situation on the Republicans . . . .


Of course, if you increase gas supplies 10 years from now, that will lower prices today. Obama is simply wrong when he claims:

“there are no quick fixes to this problem, and you know we can’t just drill our way to lower gas prices.” . . .


Obama's solution is this:

A pre-summer spike in gasoline prices has ignited an election-year furor, with President Obama mocking presumed Republican "three-point plans for $2 gas," all of which involve drilling, and Republicans claiming that Obama's energy strategy relies on algae, pond scum and chicken manure, not to mention bankrupt Fremont solar manufacturer Solyndra. . . .

Like his predecessor, George W. Bush, who lamented in 2008 that he had no "magic wand" to reduce gas prices, Obama said he had "no silver bullet" and embraced an "all-of-the-above" energy strategy, which includes "public investments" in green energy companies, "even though some companies will fail," a tacit acknowledgement of the Solyndra bankruptcy and other green energy companies that received billions of dollars in taxpayer funds.

Obama also touted algae as a fuel source, prompting ridicule from the Republican National Committee, which recycled Obama campaign quotes from 2008 about pond scum and chicken manure. . . .


During April of the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama opposed tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

McCain advocates suspending U.S. purchases for it. Obama supports suspending purchases for the reserve and advocates tapping it only if there's a short-term disruption in the oil supply. . . .


His administration seems to have a different position:

On Friday, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner suggested the SPR is a possibility. "There's a case for the use of the (reserves) in some circumstances, and we'll continue to look at that and evaluate that carefully," he told CNBC Friday morning. . . .


UPDATE: These guys don't understand economics. Again, the Obama spokesman is wrong about how long it takes for policies to impact the price of gas at the pump. In addition, if these "efficiency" savings made a difference, they would lower the price of gas today.

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Rich Need to pay Higher Taxes for "privilege of being an American"


Geithner: "That’s the kind of balance you need. Why is that the case? Because if you don't try to generate more revenues through tax reform, if you don't ask, you know, the most fortunate Americans to bear a slightly larger burden of the privilege of being an American, then you have to -- the only way to achieve fiscal sustainability is through unacceptably deep cuts in benefits for middle class seniors, or unacceptably deep cuts in national security."

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2/24/2012

Cost of government risk insurance double what was previously estimated

Only a fraction of the people who were supposed to sign up for this program have done so (see here). The government has gone all out to try to convince more people to sign on to it. But the costs for those who have turned out to be wildly higher that the Obama administration had estimated. From the Washington Post:

The health-care law set aside $5 billion for a Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, meant to provide health insurance to those who had been declined coverage by private carriers. Since its launch last summer, nearly 50,000 Americans have enrolled in the program.

The PCIP program will phase out in 2014, when insurers will be required to accept all applicants regardless of their health-care status.

Those who have enrolled in the program are projected to have significantly higher medical costs than the government initially expected. Each participant is expected to average $28,994 in medical costs in 2012, according to the report, more than double what government-contracted actuaries predicted in November 2010. Then, the analysts expected that the program would cost $13,026 per enrollee.

The costs also are significantly higher than those of similar high-risk pools that many states have operated for decades. States spent an average of $12,471 on enrollees in 2008, according to the National Association of State Comprehensive Health Insurance Plans.

The Obama administration has spent $600 million of its $5 billion budget for the program over the past 18 months. . . .

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Alinsky-tied gets $56 million federal loan

Tax dollars given to an left wing group that has no background in area that it is being given a huge amount of money for. From Fox News:

A Saul Alinsky-tied group has been awarded a $56 million federal loan to start up a nonprofit health insurance company -- one of several organizations across the country this week tapped to launch a new network of insurers under the sponsorship of the federal health care overhaul.

The Wisconsin group, Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative, was awarded the funding on Tuesday. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the group is expected to provide coverage statewide within five years after starting on a smaller scale in early 2014.

But Americans for Limited Government President Bill Wilson questioned the group's credentials -- given its affiliation and lack of experience in the insurance field.

"The indisputable fact is that Common Ground was an outgrowth of the Alinsky operation in Chicago," Wilson said. "We're not giving money to a group with experience in health care issues or in setting up exchanges. ... We're handing the money to people who have been trained by arguably the single most expert individual on community organizing in the last 100 years." . . .

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Another Recovery Act Environmental "Success Story" goes bankrupt

At least the Obama administration was able to fund big salary increases for these executives. Another Recovery Act success story?

In the nine months since David Prystash was named Chief Financial Officer of A123 Systems — the battery manufacturer that received $390.1 million in federal and state subsidies — the company has laid off 125 employees and had a net loss of $172 million through the first three quarters of 2011. . . .

this month A123’s Compensation Committee approved a $30,000 raise for Prystash . . . . Prystash wasn’t the only executive to see a big raise this month. Robert Johnson, vice president of the energy solutions group, got a 20.7 percent pay increase going from $331,250 to $400,000, while Jason Forcier, vice president of the automotive solutions group, saw his pay increase from $331,250 to $350,000. Prystash’s raise was 8.5 percent, going from $350,000 to $380,000. . . .

When A123 Systems announced it was opening its lithium-ion battery manufacturing plant in Livonia in September 2010, then Gov. Jennifer Granholm wrote about it on the Huffington Post calling it “a Recovery Act success story.”

But there have been troubles for A123 Systems in the 17 months since then despite a lot of state and federal aid to prop it up.

The state of Michigan gave it a $100 million MEGA tax credit that is contingent on the company creating 300 jobs by the end of 2016. A123 Systems also received another $41 million in tax breaks and subsidies from the state. The Department of Energy awarded A123 Systems a $249.1 million grant. . . .


More on the waste and corruption involved in the process:

Other Solyndras are coming to light, the latest being Sapphire Energy. Its pond-scum-based biofuel still costs over $26 a gallon, but that doesn't matter when your executives give almost solely to Democrats.

The Washington Free Beacon reports that after $104.5 million in stimulus and other Energy and Agriculture Department funds for a New Mexico facility, it can boast just 36 new jobs. UC Berkeley's Energy Biosciences Institute says it'll take a decade before we know if algae-based fuel can compete with gas.

The Washington Post recently found "$3.9 billion in federal grants and financing flowed to 21 companies backed by firms with connections to five Obama administration staffers and advisers." . . .

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2/23/2012

Problem with Tesla Motor's $40,000 batteries

Apparently this problem has occurred at least five times in the short time that the Roadster has been in service. Between 2008 and December 2011, Tesla has sold more than 2,100 Roadsters in 31 countries.

Tesla Motors’ lineup of all-electric vehicles — its existing Roadster, almost certainly its impending Model S, and possibly its future Model X — apparently suffer from a severe limitation that can largely destroy the value of the vehicle. If the battery is ever totally discharged, the owner is left with what Tesla describes as a “brick”: a completely immobile vehicle that cannot be started or even pushed down the street. The only known remedy is for the owner to pay Tesla approximately $40,000 to replace the entire battery. Unlike practically every other modern car problem, neither Tesla’s warranty nor typical car insurance policies provide any protection from this major financial loss.

Despite this “brick” scenario having occurred several times already, Tesla has publicly downplayed the severity of battery depletion risk to both existing owners and future buyers. Privately though, Tesla has gone to great lengths to prevent this potentially brand-destroying incident from happening more often, including possibly engaging in GPS tracking of a vehicle without the owner’s knowledge. . . . .

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Valerie Jarrett: Unemployment checks are good for the economy


White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett: "People who receive that unemployment check go out and spend it and help stimulate the economy, so that's healthy as well."
One general point: where is this money coming from? If it is having to come from someplace else, where is there a net increase in spending?

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2/22/2012

False identities in the Global warming debate

From the Washington Post:

Legislation to fight global warming has disappeared from Washington’s policy agenda, but the battle over climate science continues to escalate.

The latest skirmish culminated in the admission Monday night by Peter Gleick, a climate scientist and author, that he assumed a fake identity to obtain documents that would expose the inner workings of a climate skeptic group.

“My judgment was blinded by my frustration with the ongoing efforts — often anonymous, well-funded and coordinated — to attack climate science and scientists and prevent this debate, and by the lack of transparency of the organizations involved,” Gleick wrote in a post on his Huffington Post blog.

Gleick’s admission “is the latest in an escalating spiral of polarizing warfare between self-described ‘Climate Hawks’ and so-called Climate Deniers,” which leaves the majority of scientists and the public “caught in the crossfire,” American University professor Matthew C. Nisbet, who studies the issues, wrote in a blog entry. . . .

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Obama's tax hikes on investments

The WSJ has this analysis of Obama's dividend tax rate increase.

President Obama's 2013 budget is the gift that keeps on giving—to government. One buried surprise is his proposal to triple the tax rate on corporate dividends, which believe it or not is higher than in his previous budgets.

Mr. Obama is proposing to raise the dividend tax rate to the higher personal income tax rate of 39.6% that will kick in next year. Add in the planned phase-out of deductions and exemptions, and the rate hits 41%. Then add the 3.8% investment tax surcharge in ObamaCare, and the new dividend tax rate in 2013 would be 44.8%—nearly three times today's 15% rate.

Keep in mind that dividends are paid to shareholders only after the corporation pays taxes on its profits. So assuming a maximum 35% corporate tax rate and a 44.8% dividend tax, the total tax on corporate earnings passed through as dividends would be 64.1%. . . .

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More on Starbucks "buycott" and "boycott"

The LA Times has an interesting story on the different sides of the Starbucks and guns debate.

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This is actually an amusing take by SNL on Obama black supporters

White House ignores House subpoena's on Solyndra

So much for the most open administration every. Remember also the Obama administration claims that only nonpolitical officials dealt with this loan? From the Washington Examiner:

President Obama and his West Wing aides ignored a subpoena of documents pertaining to the Solyndra loan guarantee even after congressional investigators met with White House officials to negotiate the scope of the subpoena, according to the House Energy and Commerce Committee. . . .

House investigators requested 12 categories of documents designed to explore a range of issues, such as Obama donor and Solyndra investor George Kaiser's role in the solar company receiving a loan gaurantee.

White House counsel disputed the initial subpoena in November, calling it "a significant intrusion on Executive branch interests." Committee officials met with Obama's attorneys to negotiate the subpoena, but the White House failed to produce the documents by the February 21 deadline.

"Despite an all star cast of presidential aides that have their fingerprints on Solyndra," Upton and Stearns observed, "Larry Summers, Carol Browner, Ron Klain, Valerie Jarrett, David Axelrod, Jim Messina, Dan Pfeiffer, Jay Carney, Cecilia Munoz, -- the White House is having great difficult turning over relevant internal documents."

The investigators said that Obama's aides have not answered questions about the White House role in restructuring the Solyndra loan, who told Solyndra officials to delay announcing layoffs until after the 2010 midterms, and why the company received so much attention from senior advisers to the president. . . .

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2/21/2012

So much for the Obama administration claim that mandating abortion and contraception coverage would lower insurance costs

Obviously it is right that people will pay for these benefits one way or the other. From The Hill Newspaper
:

The insurance industry is concerned it will take a hit from the Obama administration’s mandate that they provide birth control in health plans for employees of religious organizations that object to the coverage.

Publicly, the health insurance industry has avoided getting involved in the fight.

But in private, the industry is dubious of the administration’s argument that the insurance industry wouldn't take a hit because birth control is cheaper than unwanted pregnancies.
The trade group America's Health Insurance Plans has limited its comments to saying it worries about the "precedent" the mandate would set. The concern is that the government could eventually require health plans to cover any number of preventive services – even prescription drugs - without copays or deductibles, under the theory that they save money in the long-term.

Privately, however, insurers say there's nothing "free" about preventing unwarranted pregnancies. They say the mandate also covers costly surgical sterilization procedures, and that in any case even the pill has up-front costs.

"Saying it's revenue-neutral doesn't mean it's free and that you're not paying for it," an industry source told The Hill. . . .

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2/20/2012

More on Media Matters, Guns, and Hypocrisy


Second version of it.
video
My appearance on Fox News Live today from 10:16 to 10:26 AM.

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Newest Op-ed piece: Death of a Long-Gun Registry

My piece with Gary Mauser at National Review Online starts this way:

Despite spending a whopping $2.7 billion on creating and running a long-gun registry, Canadians never reaped any benefits from the project. The legislation to end the program finally passed the Parliament on Wednesday. Even though the country started registering long guns in 1998, the registry never solved a single murder. Instead it has been an enormous waste of police officers’ time, diverting their efforts from patrolling Canadian streets and doing traditional policing activities.
Gun-control advocates have long claimed that registration is a safety issue, and their reasoning is straightforward: If a gun has been left at a crime scene and it was registered to the person who committed the crime, the registry will link the crime gun back to the criminal.
Nice logic, but reality never worked that way. Crime guns are very rarely left at the crime scene, and when they are left at the scene, they have not been registered — criminals are not stupid enough to leave behind a gun that’s registered to them. Even in the few cases where registered crime guns are left at the scene, it is usually because the criminal has been seriously injured or killed, so these crimes would have been solved even without registration.
The statistics speak for themselves. . . . .

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DC's phony crime closure rates

This is one way to increase the closure rate. Put solved cases from many years in the numerator and only this year's cases in the denominator. From the Washington Post:

For the past two months, D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier has touted the city’s astronomically high homicide closure rate — 94 percent for 2011 — and warned anyone contemplating murder in the District to think twice.

“Your risk of being caught is pretty high if you commit a homicide in D.C.,” Lanier told The Washington Post in December.

The closure rate she presents for the District is 154 percent higher than Boston’s and at least 104 percent higher than Baltimore’s, and it gives residents reason to believe that D.C. police have been remarkably successful at solving homicide cases under her watch.

But an examination of District homicides found that the department’s closure rate is a statistical mishmash that makes things seem much better than they are. The District had 108 homicides last year, police records show. A 94 percent closure rate would mean that detectives solved 102 of them. But only 62 were solved as of year’s end, for a true closure rate of 57 percent, according to records reviewed by The Post.

D.C. police achieved the high closure rate last year by including about 40 cases from other years that were closed in 2011. . . .

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2/19/2012

Endless Unemployment Insurance?

So what do you do when your unemployment insurance runs out after about two years? Apparently, about two million more people are declaring that they have mental health disabilities than about three+ years ago. From Fox News:

Being unemployed for too long reportedly is driving people mad and costing taxpayers billions of dollars in mental illness and other disability claims.
The New York Post reported Sunday that as unemployment checks run out, many jobless are trying to gain government benefits by declaring themselves unhealthy.
More than 10.5 million people -- about 5.3 percent of the population aged 25 and 64 -- received disability checks in January from the federal government, the Post wrote, a 18 percent jump from before the recession. . . .

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