What thrills Google

Google still has some way to go to match Facebook’s 850 million users, of course, but Page is thrilled the network is giving the company more information about its users. . . .


Obama campaign stiffs small Vermont town for campaign costs

From Fox News:
A Vermont police chief said President Obama’s re-election campaign has failed to reimburse local taxpayers after his officers had to work overtime to provide security at two fundraising events. Trevor Whipple, the police chief in South Burlington, told Fox News that his department incurred $4,200 in overtime expenses as a result of separate fundraising events featuring President Obama and the First Lady. “At the end of the day, I’ve submitted an invoice and they haven’t paid,” Whipple told Fox News. “It was an additional burden on our taxpayers, on our budget and we simply wanted to ask that they reimburse us.” . . .

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This is the beginning of Breitbart.com's discussion of my book:
Grover Norquist and John Lott, Jr. lay waste to the economic claims of Obama-backer, stimulus defender, and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman in their new, hard-hitting book, Debacle: Obama’s War on Jobs and Growth and What We Can Do Now to Regain Our Future. Grover Norquist, who is the President of Americans for Tax Reform, and economist John Lott marshal a mountain of economic data that reveal that, contrary to Krugman’s Keynesian claims, President Obama’s 2009 stimulus plan has made the American economy worse, not better. Their refutation makes for fascinating and sometimes humorous reading. . . .


The revolution in Louisiana's education system

In a couple of years Louisiana will have a pretty amazing educational system. The Milton Friedman Foundation put this out:
Louisiana will be home to one of the nation’s largest school voucher programs once Gov. Bobby Jindal signs legislation that recently passed his state’s legislature. Today, by a vote of 60-42, the Louisiana House of Representatives approved Gov. Jindal’s voucher expansion, which passed the Senate last night 24-15. “This is a momentous day for the families of Louisiana,” State Superintendent of Education John White said. “All students deserve a fair chance in life, and that begins with the opportunity to attend a high-quality school. These policy changes are aligned with that central belief, and Gov. Jindal and state lawmakers have demonstrated a clear commitment to prioritize the educational rights of Louisiana’s next generation above all else.” The expansion of the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program will allow low- and middle-income students in Louisiana public schools graded “C,” “D,” or “F” by the state accountability system to receive government-funded vouchers to attend private schools. Currently, that option is available only to children in New Orleans and students with special needs in eligible parishes. . . .

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NBC fires "seasoned" producer who doctored Zimmerman's 911 tape

I would be interested in knowing whether this "seasoned" producer is able to get another media related job. From Fox News:
NBC News has fired a producer who worked on a 'Today' show segment that featured a heavily edited 911 recording in which George Zimmerman appears to racially profile Trayvon Martin before the teen's shooting, according to The New York Times. The name of the Miami-based producer who was fired was not released, according to the Times report, which does not refer to any disciplinary action that may have been taken against other NBC staffers. NBC News has been slammed for the report since last week, and had promised an investigation into what has been described as a grossly misleading editing of the tape. NBC declined to confirm the firing, according to the Times report. "An internal investigation determined that a "seasoned" producer was to blame for the edit, NBC had said earlier in the week, before news of the firing. The edited version of the call that aired on Today clearly made Zimmerman appear to say Martin looked dangerous because of his race. . . .

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GSA employees joke about all the government waste that they oversee


Newest Fox News piece: Team Obama and the phantom jobs that never were

My newest piece at Fox News starts this way:
Call it the phantom jobs that never were. Prior to the rather anemic 120,000 jobs created in March, the media has been going on and on about the over 200,000 jobs that have been created over the previous three months, the actual number of jobs was falling – yes, that is right, falling, dropping by an average of about 290,500 per month. The number of people working in March was fewer than the number of people working when Obama became president in January 2009 and essentially unchanged when the recovery started in June 2009. There are two ways of measuring the number of jobs: a survey of households and a survey of employers. But no matter how you measure it, the answer is the same: there has been no job growth under Obama. But you won’t hear this depressing information on the news because everyone reports what are called the “seasonally adjusted” employment numbers, not the actual number of jobs. . . .

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New National Review piece: Defending Fiscal Insanity “Demagoguery” is not too strong of a word to describe Obama’s speech

My National Review piece starts this way:
In President Obama’s address to the Associated Press Luncheon on Wednesday, he claimed that he is preventing disaster. Republican congressman Paul Ryan’s proposed budget cuts would still allow publicly held debt to increase by $5.5 trillion over the next ten years, but to Obama, they mean Americans will be dying from starvation and defenseless from hurricanes and other natural disasters. “Demagoguery” is not too strong of a word to describe Obama’s speech. Two million mothers and young children will be left without “access to healthy food.” Violent crime will soar and illegal aliens will flood across our borders because of cuts in law enforcement. “Hundreds of national parks” will close. We won’t be able to “protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, or the food that we eat.” Airline flights will be cancelled or delayed, and safety will be threatened in parts of the country. “Weather forecasts would become less accurate.” Governors and mayors will “wait longer to order evacuations in the event of a hurricane.” The list went on and on. . . .

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So did George Zimmerman really use a racial slur on the 911 tape?

This audio makes it very clear didn't say "f****** coons," but said "f****** cold." The wind interfered with the sound of the word "cold."

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George Zimmerman's father talks to Hannity

More confirmation here of what happened in the Trayvon Martin case:
Host Sean Hannity asked the elder Zimmerman to relate the story of how his son ran into Trayvon Martin. “He had been texting his sister and said he was going to the grocery store,” Zimmerman narrated, “he saw somebody that did not live in the community wandering behind some town homes,” explaining that the town “has had a lot of problems with burglaries.” Zimmerman confirmed to Hannity that his son tutored minority children and had defended a minority child hit by a car in the neighborhood and accused Martin of following Zimmerman to a street corner. “Trayvon came from that area where the sidewalks meet, asked my son whether he had a problem… he said no, and Martin said, ‘well, you do now.’” Zimmerman also insisted the screamed on the 911 tape were his son, not Trayvon Martin. “George was there yelling for help for at least 40 seconds… there is absolutely no doubt it’s him on the tape,” he argued. “Neighbor said he was calling 911 and that’s what he went inside and did,” he told Hannity, adding that “me, my family, friends, everyone knows that’s absolutely George.” . . .


"Watchdog finds Solyndra loan was 'rushed'"

From Fox News:
An internal investigation into a half-billion dollar federal loan to failed solar company Solyndra Inc. has found that a last-minute review by financial experts was rushed and completed in about a day. Those experts had concerns, but there's no evidence to show whether they were addressed by the Energy Department, which already had decided to approve the loan. The report, released Wednesday by the Treasury Department's inspector general, provides further evidence of serious concerns about a loan to California-based Solyndra pushed by the Obama administration. . . .


Congressional Democrats from Florida sponsor Resolution blaming Trayvon Martin's shooting on "Racial Bias"

Racial bias? Where is the evidence of that? This resolution selectively picks that some parts of Zimmerman's statements to police were accurate. Mr. Emanuel Cleaver from Missouri was the sponsor and Ms. BROWN of Florida, Mr. HASTINGS of Florida, and Ms. WILSON of Florida were the co-sponsors. All are Democrats. The resolution is available here:
Honoring the life of 17-year-old, Trayvon Martin, urging the State of Florida and others to repeal the Stand Your Ground law, and admonishing involved parties to pursue full investigations into all homicides, regardless of defenses asserted by the offender. Whereas on February 26, 2012, Trayvon Martin, an African-American youth, was horrifically shot and killed while walking from his local 7-Eleven in Sanford, Florida, because he was viewed as ‘suspicious' by George Zimmerman … Whereas Zimmerman's unfounded assumptions and racial bias led to the use of deadly force; Whereas a month after the crime, Zimmerman remains free and still bears a concealed weapons permit and the legal right to carry a gun; Whereas Trayvon Martin's brutal death and the inconceivable fact that his killer remains free should not be ignored . . . Whereas Stand Your Ground laws dramatically and recklessly expand the right of citizens to use deadly force in self-defense, and have been the subject of national scrutiny in the wake of Trayvon Martin's death; Whereas the Stand Your Ground laws were drafted by organizations, corporations, and individuals that ignored advice from experts explaining that such laws would compromise public safety, disproportionately impact communities of color, and would result in offenders circumventing prosecution; Whereas an attempted expansion of the Stand Your Ground laws doctrine has resulted in the collaboration of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which promotes conservative public policy by affecting change in State legislatures;. . . . Whereas the 2005 passage of Florida's Stand Your Ground law resulted in similar statutes being passed in 16 other States: Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That the House of Representatives-- (1) admonishes any State, local agency, or official acting to obstruct an open investigation or failing to fully execute their official duties in the investigation of the events surrounding the death of Trayvon Martin; (2) condemns all relevant parties for their roles in proposing Stand Your Ground legislation and similar legislation that compromises public safety and the integrity of the prosecutorial system; (3) condemns unfounded reliance on Stand Your Ground laws to protect actions that extend far beyond historical use of self-defense; (4) urges any State legislature considering Stand Your Ground legislation to reject such proposals; and (5) urges the repeal of the Stand Your Ground law in every applicable State, including Florida.

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What is the total number of deaths that occur each year because of government regulations?

There has been some discussion about parts of this question. For example, the FDA rules delay life saving drugs getting approved and may even prevent many drugs from being developed in the first place. MPG regulations make cars lighter and increase the number of traffic accident deaths. What is the cost of having drugs being illegal in terms of drug gangs? Regulations that lower wealth also increase deaths because wealthier countries have higher life expectancies. Can we sum them up? Thanks to Martyn Reiss for his email.


If VoterID requirements discriminate against minorities, how about ID requirements to buy guns?

Democrats are threatening boycotts of firms that have supported Voter IDs. Coke is the first company to back down after this threat. From the Washington Examiner:
Democratic officials Wednesday launched a two-pronged attack on states with new laws requiring identification before voting, the highlight being a call to boycott Coke, Walmart and others that back a leading organization pushing for voter ID laws. Coke was quick to react to the political boycott threat, pulling support from the targeted group just five hours after it was called. Walmart said that support for a group does not mean it backs every decision by those groups. At issue: Liberal claims that some states are trying to keep minority voters from the polls via voter ID laws, a suggestion conservatives call silly. “We are organizing. We are not agonizing,” said Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., who is leading a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee effort to get government identification into the hands of the estimated 2-3 million Democrats who don’t have one. “We have staffed up,” he said. . . . .


Real personal income falling

From Politico:
Research shows that the amount of money Americans earn after taxes and inflation is one of the most reliable predictors of a president’s November chances — more so than the unemployment rate. In the past year, most Americans have barely seen a bump in earnings, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. But the figures for the past two months create the potential for an even more dire situation for the White House: Wages increased at a slower rate than energy prices, so the measure known as disposable personal income dropped. With take-home pay effectively falling 0.2 percent and 0.1 percent in January and February, respectively. If take-home pay continues to fall, as it has for the first two months of the year, President Barack Obama would be lucky to get 45 percent of the vote, according to a model developed by former Harvard University professor Douglas Hibbs. Vanderbilt University political scientist Larry Bartels said one of his models, based on the outcomes of elections from 1948 to 2008, shows that Obama will be the favorite if incomes grow by more than 1 percent over the course of the year. The decline in January and February “would suggest that the economy needs to pick up between now and November in order for him to have a good chance to win,” Bartels said. . . .

"I’ll buy another gun, vows senior who lost his after shooting intruder"

Here are two defensive gun use stories. I have frequently seen that felons what their right to have a gun restored more than any other right. From the Chicago Sun Times:
Homer Wright says he won’t hesitate to buy another gun — or use it to defend himself or his South Side tavern. The 81-year-old Englewood man who shot a teen who allegedly had broken into his home said Monday he was happy that weapons charges against him were dropped, but he was annoyed that cops had seized his gun. Wright said he will buy another one if he gets the chance. “I’ll get arrested again, if somebody be breaking in here. I’m going to use it,” Wright said. Prosecutors on Monday dropped weapons charges against Wright. He had been charged with unlawful use of a weapon because, as a felon, he is not allowed to have a gun. After a morning court appearance, Wright sat at the bar inside his Englewood tavern Monday afternoon, watching reruns of the 1970s cop drama, “Kojak.” . . .
From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
A Dardenne Prairie man shot and killed an intruder who broke into his home last night and started beating the man's wife, authorities said. . . . St. Charles County Sheriff's Department spokesman Lt. Craig McGuire gave this account: The homeowners, Bob Lohman, 64, and his wife, Charlene Lohman, 57, were in the downstairs living room, watching television. Bob Lohman glanced over at the French-style doors, which lead to the yard, and saw a man looking through the doors at them. He got up to investigate, and a landscaping block flew through one of the windows on the doors, and then the doors flew open. Carlton came into the house, grabbed Charlene Lohman, dragged her to the floor, and began beating her. Lohman tried to get Carlton off his wife, but couldn't. So Bob Lohman went upstairs and grabbed a .38 caliber revolver, went downstairs and warned Carlton several times to get off his wife. But Carlton didn't, so Lohman shot him once in the upper torso. He then pulled Carlton off his wife and called police. . . .


Reasons not to rely on the FBI's justifiable homicides

Possibly the biggest problem with justifiable homicides is that in many years states don't report the number. For example in 2010, large states such as New York, Illinois, and North Carolina didn't report their numbers at all. Indeed, 14 of the 50 states didn't report a number and the 36 that do report the number are largely not doing so accurately, since just because a state reports the numbers doesn't mean that all or even most police jurisdictions within the state are reporting the data. The laws over what is classified as a justifiable homicide have also been changing a lot over time. Even when New York did report justifiable homicides up until 2006, Hawaii has a significantly higher justifiable homicide rate than New York. The rate is about a third higher. In 2006, Illinois has a rate that is about a sixth of the rate of Hawaii. It appears that what is counted as justifiable homicides is politically determined.
2000 164
2001 222
2002 233
2003 247
2004 222
2005 196

2006 238
2007 257
2008 265
2009 266
2010 278

I don't know how the WSJ gets the claim that justifiable homicides went from 176 in 2000 to 326 in 2010. I get a 70 percent increase versus their claimed 85 percent increase, but more importantly 2000 appears to be an unusually low year -- going from 2001 to 2010 gives only a 25 percent increase.
The WSJ piece did acknowledge that the increase could be due to the changing definition of what is classified as self-defense and not an increase in shootings.
UPDATE: Rob Barry at the WSJ was nice enough to respond to my question on this last point and he notes that they included Florida in their numbers. Florida reportedly had 12 cases in 2000, 12 cases in 2001, and 48 in 2010.
UPDATE 2: There was apparently a 25% increase in justifiable homicides by law enforcement from 2000 to 2010. The data by state is still more complete for justifiable homicides by law enforcement than for civilians. For example, during the years 2003 and 2005 20 states did not have the data for civilians while 7 did not have it for law enforcement.
2000 309
2001 378
2002 341
2003 373
2004 367
2005 347

2006 376
2007 398
2008 378
2009 414
2010 387

UPDATE: A further example of the problems with reporting the numbers even in the states that report the numbers is available here.

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DC drags feet on correcting false info on DC's gun laws

From the Washington Times:
Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) has had two weeks to remove false information about the city’s gun transport laws from its forms and website. It has no interest in doing so. . . . MPD's firearms registry has at least six full-time staff who answer questions about gun laws and regulations asked over the phone or in person. Unfortunately, the police officers do not appear to understand the legal code they are in charge of interpreting, which means gun owners are being given bad advice regarding activities that could result in a felony arrest. . . .

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Newest Fox News piece: Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman and the media's misleading rhetoric on guns

My newest Fox News piece starts this way:
Democrats want to make gun control an issue in the upcoming November elections. With Obama telling gun control proponents last year to be patient, that he was pushing gun control “under the radar,” it was probably always destined to be an issue. But the shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman in Florida has opened up an opportunity for Democrats to more openly embrace it. When asked about Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law on Sunday, Vice President Joe Biden warned: “as a consequence of the [gun control] laws, [people] unintendedly put themselves in harm's way.” Biden praised Florida's governor for setting up a commission to review the state's "Stand your ground" law and reminded everyone that Obama had already called for everything, including gun laws, to be re-examined. There's no question that the media has pushed the Martin story. . . .

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Another Solyndra? This time with up to $2.1 billion at stake

From the Washington Examiner:
Solar Trust for America received $2.1 billion in conditional loan guarantees from the Department of Energy -- "the largest amount ever offered to a solar project," according to Energy Secretary Steven Chu -- for a project near Blythe, Calif., but declared bankruptcy within a year. It is unclear how much of the guarantee, if any, was actually awarded. Senior officials in Obama's administration had very high hopes for the Blythe project. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar attended the groundbreaking ceremony, which he described as "a historic moment in America’s new energy frontier" and "another important step in making America’s clean energy future a reality." Chu trumpeted at the time that Solar Trust would prove that "when we rev up the great American innovation machine, we can out-compete any other nation." . . .
At the same time Fisker Automotive is having trouble.
Fisker Automotive's new chief executive, Tom LaSorda, said the luxury electric-vehicle company is looking at alternatives to building its second model in a former General Motors Co. GM -4.56% plant in Delaware, raising the possibility of abandoning a plan that had financial backing from the Obama administration. Mr. LaSorda also said Fisker is looking for strategic partners as part of its effort to raise new funds to replace a federal loan that was frozen earlier this year. Fisker was awarded a $529 million loan under an Obama administration program designed to spur production of advanced technology vehicles. Fisker drew about $193 million of the Energy Department loan to engineer its Karma luxury plug-in hybrid. But a plan to retool the former GM factory to build a second model, now called the Atlantic, was delayed . . .

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Palin does a good job explaining about the economy on the Today Show

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


New piece at Politico: Obama’s stimulus delayed recovery

Politico didn't publish the graphs that I gave them and they were the most powerful part of the whole piece, but in any case, this is how my op-ed with Grover Norquist starts:

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner keeps resorting to a familiar excuse for the slow recovery — the financial crisis. “Recoveries that follow financial crises are slower and more protracted, as Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff have famously written. They are slower,” he told the Economic Club of New York last month. 
It is an argument President Barack Obama has relied on repeatedly during his presidency. For example, in April 2011, Obama lamented: “[The economy] is not growing quite as fast as we would like, because after a financial crisis, typically there’s a bigger drag on the economy for a longer period of time.” 
Thirty-three months since the “recovery” started in June 2009, the unemployment rate has yet to fall below 8.3 percent, far exceeding the previous post-World War II record of 13 months. Worse, most of the drop in recent months has occurred because people have given up looking for work and are thus no longer classified as unemployed. Today, there are 12.8 million unemployed and 43 percent have been out of a job for more than six months, almost twice as high as Americans have ever faced in the past. 
But “financial crises” aren’t a valid explanation for the slow recovery.Unemployment actually recovered faster in countries hit by a “financial crisis” than in those that were in a recession for other reasons.  . . .

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You can determine for yourself whether Politifact is agreeing with a Fox News piece I wrote

Politifact rates the following statement as "half true."  "Having an entirely Democrat congressional delegation in 2009, when the [federal stimulus] bill passed, increases the per capita stimulus dollars that the state receives per person by $460."  The bottom line is that a chain email that had this quote stripped out the explanation that I gave along with the supporting evidence and the graph that I had.  It was thus apparently not clear that I had run a regression.  I will give Gene Emery credit for the long discussion that he wrote up.  From Politifact:
So where did Lott's number come from?
If you create a graph that shows how much a state received per capita on one side and the percentage of Democrats in the congressional delegation on the other, you get a graph that looks like 50 drops of paint spattered against a wall.
But in this case, there is a pattern to that spattering. Lott uncovered it with a statistical analysis that turned the scattershot data into a straight line, indicating the overall trend. The lesson of the line: whenever Democratic representation increased by 10 percentage points, the per-person allotment in the state increased by $46.
Thus, he said, by that measure, going from 0 percent Democratic representation to 100 percent gives you an extra $460.
Plenty of individual states don't conform to this, as demonstrated by the fact that, using Lott's data, the only all-Republican state of Wyoming got more money than two of the five all-Democrat states.
(Lott did not include the District of Columbia, which has all Democrats in its non-voting delegation and has received five times more stimulus money per resident than the national average.)
Lott's analysis on FoxNews.com make it clear that he is looking at trends, noting, for example, that "each one percentage point reduction in the percent of a state's workforce represented by unions saw a $26 drop in stimulus dollars per person."
But the e-mail stripped out that context.

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Should an arrest record show up in criminal background checks?

My guess is that employers don't put as much weight on an arrest as they do a conviction.  On the other hand, employers might not have to be convince as much as a court does before they believe that there is a serious problem.  If someone has been arrested multiple times but not convicted, an employer might still legitimately conclude that there is a serious problem.  In any case, Georgia's Republican lawmakers are moving to expunge criminal records of information on arrests.  From Fox News:

For 13 years, a Georgia woman has lived under the shadow of a child abuse investigation, though police cleared her of any wrongdoing.  The welts and bruises on her daughter's body turned out to be an allergic reaction to antibiotics. But the investigation showed up on criminal background checks, restricting her access to jobs, housing and even her daughter's school.
"I used to have to call ahead and let them know I was coming," said Theresa, who asked to keep her last name unpublished. "I always had to get a clearance if I wanted to participate in certain activities."
Late last year, Theresa was able to remove the investigation from public criminal records with the help of Ashley Deadwyler, an attorney with the Georgia Justice Project, a non-profit advocacy group that provides criminal defense for the indigent.
Lawmakers are now trying to ensure other Georgians don't have to go through the same ordeal, with a piece of legislation that advanced Tuesday in the Capitol.   GJP Executive Director Doug Ammar said many others still face this problem, because Georgia gives district attorneys discretion over whether to allow the restriction of arrest records, even if there's no conviction. . . .

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New York taxing both unhealthy and healthy activities

Well, if the government is going to put a heavy tax on healthy activities, this must justify them putting a really heavy tax on unhealthy ones.  From the WSJ:

The New York Department of Taxation and Finance decided that yoga studios fall into a category of businesses -- specifically weight control or health salons -- that must pay the city's levy, officials said.
The decision was revealed last April in a bulletin from the department and now is sinking in as yoga studios across the city prepare their taxes.
The state -- which collects the city's sales tax -- already began auditing yoga studios, presenting them in some cases with bills for back sales taxes for the past three years.
"We do see this as a fairness issue," according to Edward Walsh, a spokesman for the Department of Taxation and Finance, noting that Pilates studios have to pay sales tax. "Businesses that provide similar services should be subject to the same taxes in the city." . . .

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The Media's troubling biases in Trayvon Martin Case

Dylan Stableford has written up the problems with the ABC News surveillance video footage, the NBC editing of the 911 call, and a CBS interview with a funeral director who handled Martin's body.

For the NBC Editing:

The investigation came after Fox News and others pointed out that the network spliced two parts of the call together, making it appear as if Zimmerman had said, "This guy looks like he's up to no good. He looks black." In reality, Zimmerman was answering a dispatcher's question:
Zimmerman: This guy looks like he's up to no good. Or he's on drugs or something. It's raining and he's just walking around, looking about.
Dispatcher: OK, and this guy--is he black, white or Hispanic?
Zimmerman: He looks black.

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Democrats' campaign against "Stand Your Ground" Law will hit a lot of Democrats

When asked about Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law on Sunday, Vice President Joe Biden told Face the Nation that gun control would be a topic of debate this year.  He warned: as a consequence of the laws, [people] unintendedly put themselves in harm's way.”

Well, it turns out that Democrats have overwhelmingly supported the law.  From the Daily Caller:

One Democrat, Fort Lauderdale state Sen. Mandy Dawson, missed the vote. But the rest of the Senate chamber supported it, 39-0.
The Florida House vote was 92-20. Twelve Democrats voted in favor.
And of the 15 states that have passed variations of the law since 2005, the year Florida’s model legislation became law, eight — a majority — had Democratic governors when the laws were enacted. None issued a veto. . . . Democratic governors who signed “stand your ground” bills, or otherwise permitted them to become law, include Kathleen Blanco of Louisiana, Jennifer Granholm of Michigan, Brian Schweitzer of  Montana, John Lynch of New Hampshire, Brad Henry of Oklahoma, Phil Bredesen of Tennessee, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Janet Napolitano of Arizona – now the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security.
The bills in Louisiana and West Virginia passed with Democratic control of both houses in the states’ legislatures, in 2006 and 2008, respectively. . . .

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Big tax increases in a few states doesn't seem to have closed deficits

The six states with the biggest increases in taxes in 2009 were Delaware, California, Illinois, New York, Rhode Island, and West Virginia.  From Fox Business:

In 2010, California, Illinois, New York and Rhode Island, all of which increased revenue from taxes by over 9%, had among the highest deficits, exceeding 30% of general funds. California faced a gap of more than 50%, second only to Arizona. Despite cutting spending and increasing tax revenue, many of these states have continued to experience major shortfalls. Projected budget deficits for California, New York and Illinois remain among the highest in the country. . . . .

California for 2012
The State ended last fiscal year with a cash deficit of $8.2 billion. The combined current-year cash deficit stands at $21.6 billion.  Those deficits are being covered with $15.2 billion of internal borrowing (temporary loans from special funds) and $6.4 billion of external borrowing. 

Illinois for 2012
The Institute for Illinois’ Fiscal Sustainability at the Civic Federation released its analysis of the enacted FY2012 State budget today. The report found that the spending plan will increase Illinois’ total general operating deficit to $5.0 billion by June 2012. . . .

New York was expected to still have a large deficit, but it had to raise yet more taxes.
The budget closes what was once a $3.5 billion deficit, a process made easier when lawmakers in December approved a Cuomo- backed tax increase on joint earners making at least $2 million annually. That lowered the gap to $2 billion. The remaining savings were reached mostly by consolidating agencies. . . . 
Rhode Island
Although Rhode Island’s economy is beginning to recover after multiple years of economic distress the House Fiscal Staff estimate a FY 2012 budget shortfall of roughly $300 million, which is projected to grow to approximately $375 million by FY 2016. . . . 

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More Democrat attacks on business, going after oil companies again

Democrats see the future as attacking oil companies.  From Politico:

Democrats have a “huge opportunity” to reclaim control of the debate over gas prices by training attention on the excesses of oil companies, two prominent party strategists argue in a memo obtained by POLITICO.
The document circulating among Democrats was authored by Center for American Progress Chairman John Podesta and pollster Geoff Garin, and cites private polling that confirms “Americans are tired of the stranglehold oil companies have over our national energy policy.”
The strategists reveal that a CAP Action Fund poll taken by Garin’s firm, Hart Research, found that 59 percent of Americans say they’ve suffered due to high gas prices – “with large majorities of the public assigning a significant share of the blame to the major oil companies and Wall Street speculators.”
“The fact is domestic production is at an eight-year high, domestic demand for oil and oil products is down, and gas prices continue to rise. Meanwhile the big five oil companies earned a record $137 billion in profits in 2011,” Podesta and Garin write. . . .

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Blue Bloods - No Questions

I have written on Blue Bloods before.  Tom Selleck's influence is probably responsible for the discussion at 1:30 into the program that points out some of the problems with gun buyback programs: the guns purchased are largely ones that don't work and some guns are crime guns that get purchased without question.  In addition, raising the price that you will pay for used guns actually increases the demand for new guns.  Take an extreme case.  Suppose that the government offered a $1,000 to buy guns.  People would buy every gun that they could find and then sell them to the government.  The amount offered here is $200, but the amount that you think that you can eventually sell your gun for increases how much you are willing to pay for it to begin with.

Now I am not sure what to make of the rest of the program.  A criminal gun is traced through the buyback, but doing so involved a cop breaking the rules behind the program.  Breaking those rules would eliminate the incentives for criminals to turn in the crime guns to begin with.  In any case, it turned out that a video may have let them solve the case anyway.

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Doonesbury cartoon on Norquist's Tax Pledge

Please go here for the source of this comic strip.

More Mandates in Obamacare

From ABC News:
The individual insurance requirement that the Supreme Court is reviewing isn't the first federal mandate involving health care. There's a Medicare payroll tax on workers and employers, for example, and a requirement that hospitals provide free emergency services to indigents. Health care is full of government dictates, some arguably more intrusive than President Barack Obama's overhaul law. It's a wrinkle that has caught the attention of the justices. Most of the mandates apply to providers such as hospitals and insurers. For example, a 1990s law requires health plans to cover at least a 48-hour hospital stay for new mothers and their babies. Such requirements protect some consumers while indirectly raising costs for others. One mandate affects just about everybody: Workers must pay a tax to finance Medicare, which collects about $200 billion a year. It's right on your W-2 form, line 6, "Medicare tax withheld." Workers must pay it even if they don't have health insurance. Employees of a company get to split the tax with their employer. The self-employed owe the full amount, 2.9 percent of earnings. . . .

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Is it time to get rid of mandatory government surveys?

Why should people be forced to answer a questionnaire that will be used to generate more government regulations?  From the WSJ:

The Census Bureau does more than count all Americans every 10 years. It also runs hundreds of other surveys in between. But Americans are only obligated by federal law to participate in the once-a-decade headcount and a massive, continuous data-collection effort known as the American Community Survey. The ACS will reach 3.5 million households this year, using dozens of detailed questions—including asking about a household's use of flush toilets, wood fuel and carpools—to determine the need for various government programs. The survey's mandatory status, along with telephone and in-person follow-ups to initial mailings, helps keep response rates near 100%. . . .  The Census Bureau says the very specific questions—which are approved by Congress—are part of what makes the survey useful in helping the government dole out more than $400 billion annually. Tests by the agency indicate a voluntary survey would get fewer responses, particularly by mail, which would make collecting the data more expensive—in-person interviews cost about six times as much as mail per completed survey. . . .

This reminds me of something that Milton Friedman once said.  When he visited Hong Kong in the earlier 1960s he wanted to know about lots of things such as per capita income and poverty rate.  But the Governor of Hong Kong told him that he didn't compile that information because it would be used to generate support for more government action.

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Paul Krugman's embarrassingly weak analysis on the Supreme Court debate over health care

Krugman's piece on Friday, "Broccoli and Bad Faith," continues his trend for polemics over accuracy or analysis.
Let's start with the already famous exchange in which Justice Antonin Scalia compared the purchase of health insurance to the purchase of broccoli, with the implication that if the government can compel you to do the former, it can also compel you to do the latter. That comparison horrified health care experts all across America because health insurance is nothing like broccoli. Why? When people choose not to buy broccoli, they don't make broccoli unavailable to those who want it. But when people don't buy health insurance until they get sick -- which is what happens in the absence of a mandate -- the resulting worsening of the risk pool makes insurance more expensive, and often unaffordable, for those who remain. As a result, unregulated health insurance basically doesn't work, and never has. . . .
OK, so if you wait until you are sick before you buy health insurance, you drive up the price of insurance for others. But the exact same argument exists for broccoli. If broccoli makes you healthier and you don't eat it, you are more likely to get sick and you will shift up the demand curve for health care, raising the price of insurance.
unregulated health insurance basically doesn't work, and never has. . . .
Krugman is well-known for his assertions. If you got rid of insurance regulations, prices would be set according to risk.
I was struck, in particular, by the argument over whether requiring that state governments participate in an expansion of Medicaid -- an expansion, by the way, for which they would foot only a small fraction of the bill -- constituted unacceptable "coercion." One would have thought that this claim was self-evidently absurd. After all, states are free to opt out of Medicaid if they choose; Medicaid's "coercive" power comes only from the fact that the federal government provides aid to states that are willing to follow the program's guidelines. If you offer to give me a lot of money, but only if I perform certain tasks, is that servitude? . . .
The discussion before the Supreme Court was over "coercion," not "servitude." "Coercion" means to impose a cost on others. As any economist knows, costs are always opportunity costs. Giving up money represents an opportunity cost. But let me make it simple for Krugman: You take money from me by force and give it back only if I do want what you want me to do. That sure seems like coercion.

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New paper: "Trust But Verify: Lessons for the Empirical Evaluation of Law and Policy"

I hope that a lot of people download this paper (available here). Here is the abstract of the paper:

In a recent article, Aneja, Donohue and Zhang claim that they are unable to replicate the regressions published by the National Research Council in Chapter 6 of Firearms and Violence. They conclude that the NRC regressions must have been based on bad data supplied by John Lott. The implication is that earlier studies that found that right-to-carry laws reduced crime were flawed because of bad data. However, we can replicate the NRC results with Lott’s original data and with the data set used by the NRC. The earlier studies are not flawed by bad data.

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