Is it better to spend more money on helping the Olympic athletes or on their clothes?

Possibly with all of Obama's attacks on outsourcing this was inevitable. It surely fits in with the Obama campaign theme. ABC's "Made in America Team" has this investigation. This has to take the cake for being nutty:
“I think they should take all the uniforms, put them in a big pile and burn them and start all over again,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said when asked by ABC News today, “If they have to wear nothing but a singlet that says USA on it, painted by hand, that is what they should wear.” . . .
Did donors to the Olympics care more about winning medals or about who made the clothes? There are only so much funds to go around. There are real opportunity costs.

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Cost of Government Day: Now July 15th?

A new report from Americans for Tax Reform:
This year, Cost of Government Day (COGD), the day of the calendar year on which the average American has earned enough income to pay for the burdens imposed by government spending and regulation at the federal, state and local levels, falls on July 15.

This marks the second consecutive year in which COGD has fallen slightly earlier than the previous year. It is true that 2012 was not without victories for taxpayers—the 2010 elections ushered new advocates of limited government into Congress and statehouses across the country who quickly championed budget and spending reforms. However, the threat of bigger government is far from ameliorated; this year’s earlier COGD may be the last if policymakers don’t take seriously the lessons of the past year.

The 2012 Fiscal Year was remarkable in several ways. First, a protracted battle over spending levels resulted in the first net spending cut from previous year appropriations for the first time this decade. After three years of explosive discretionary spending baselines, this signaled a major shift in Washington’s spending-as-usual. . . .

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Vice President Joe Biden faults Mitt Romney for believing that “so-called job creators” build the economy

Biden said at the National Education Association conference: “[Romney believes] somehow, that those so-called job creators will make everything okay for the rest of us. We believe that the way to build this country is the way we always have, from the middle out . . . [to] invest in the things that have always made our economy grow: innovation, research, development, infrastructure, and education.”

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Instead of passing new laws the Obama administration just unilaterally redoes the law itself: This time welfare reform

From Fox News:
. . . Republicans are accusing the Obama administration of unilaterally gutting welfare reform after the Department of Health and Human Services quietly notified states that they may seek a waiver for the program's strict work requirements.

HHS made the announcement in a policy memo Thursday, news that slipped well below the radar amid a raucous day on the presidential campaign trail. But a few prominent GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill picked up on the change, and accused the administration of overhauling one of the most important bipartisan agreements of the past several decades.

"President Obama just tore up a basic foundation of the welfare contract" Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, D-Ohio, said in a statement. He also called the move a "blatant violation of the law."

Mitt Romney on Friday spoke up on the change, saying: "President Obama now wants to strip the established work requirements from welfare." He said "the linkage of work and welfare is essential to prevent welfare from becoming a way of life."

How exactly the HHS change will play out is unclear. In Thursday's policy directive, the department said the states may seek a waiver from the work component of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program, in order to "test alternative and innovative strategies, policies and procedures that are designed to improve employment outcomes for needy families." . . . But HHS is suddenly allowing for more flexibility in a program known -- and in many circles, lauded -- for its rigid framework. . . .

Meanwhile, the Obama administration finally is stopping its "go on food stamps" ads.

. . . The Spanish-language radio ads composed a 10-part miniseries called "Hope Park." In it, the characters were shown persistently trying to convince a character named "Diana" to go on food stamps -- known these days as SNAP, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program -- even though her husband works and she doesn't think she needs it.

"I don't need help from anyone," Diana says in Episode 4. "My husband makes enough to take care of us."

But her friends are persistent, and by Episode 10 Diana is enrolled and singing the program's praises.

The ads drew criticism at a time when one in seven are already enrolled.

The food stamp rolls have swelled since the recession, growing roughly 40 percent since 2009. As of April, more than 46 million people were in the program, which costs $80 billion a year.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, slammed the campaign as a push to enroll individuals who don't feel they need it. . . .

It would be useful for someone to go through the studies that have looked at the benefits of the welfare reform and to see what the Obama administration is putting at risk.

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Audio of my interview with Sean Hannity on the UN Arms Trade Treaty

The audio of the interview is available here. The audio of my interview on Coast-to-Coast AM on Thursday morning is available here.

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Now they tell us: Obama DOE Official says Loan Program to Solyndra and Abound Solar Wasn't About Job Creation

Obama Department of Energy official: "By definition, they are not a multiplier for job creation."

Obviously Vice President Biden got the wrong memo about whether these stimulus loans were supposed to create jobs.

. . . And I'm really happy, along with the Secretary, to announce today that we've closed a $535 million loan guarantee for Solyndra, more than half a billion dollars. This is the first in what the Secretary is going to be announcing the Department of Energy will be making available for more than $30 billion in loan guarantees the Recovery Act is providing and will provide to American companies that are leading the way to a new, clean energy future.

The loan to Solyndra will allow you to build a new manufacturing facility and with it almost immediately generate 3000 new well paying construction jobs. And once your facility opens, there will be about 1000 permanent new jobs here at Solyndra and in the surrounding business community and hundreds more to install your growing output of solar panels throughout the country.

It's important. It's important because these jobs are going to be permanent jobs. These are the jobs of the future. These are the green jobs. These are the jobs that won't be exported. These are the jobs that are going to define the 21st Century and the jobs that are going to allow America to compete and to lead like we did in the 20th Century. . . .

Even Obama apparently misunderstood what his project was supposed to do. This ripple effect on jobs sure sounds like a multiplier claim. From the White House website:

. . . So that’s why we’ve placed a big emphasis on clean energy. It’s the right thing to do for our environment, it’s the right thing to do for our national security, but it’s also the right thing to do for our economy.

And we can see the positive impacts right here at Solyndra. Less than a year ago, we were standing on what was an empty lot. But through the Recovery Act, this company received a loan to expand its operations. This new factory is the result of those loans.

Since the project broke ground last fall, more than 3,000 construction workers have been employed building this plant. Across the country, workers -- (applause) -- across the country, workers in 22 states are manufacturing the supplies for this project. Workers in a dozen states are building the advanced manufacturing equipment that will power this new facility. When it’s completed in a few months, Solyndra expects to hire a thousand workers to manufacture solar panels and sell them across America and around the world. (Applause.)

And this in turn will generate business for companies throughout our country who will create jobs supplying this factory with parts and materials. So there’s a ripple effect. It’s not just localized to this area. . . .

So these steps are helping to safeguard our environment. They’re helping to lower our dependence on oil. At a time when people are struggling and looking for work, these steps are helping to strengthen our economy and create jobs. We all know how important that is, because times here in California are still tough. It’s going to take time to replace the millions of jobs we lost in this recession.

Unemployment remains high, even though the economy is growing and has started adding hundreds of thousands of jobs each month. So it took years to dig our way into this hole; we’re not going to dig our way out overnight. But what you are proving here -- all of you, collectively -- is that as difficult as it will be, as far as we’ve got to go, we will recover. We will rebuild. We will emerge from this period of turmoil stronger than ever before. . . .

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A lost generation of workers: Young people in Obama's Recovery

From a new report entitled: "No End in Sight?"
The standard unemployment rate does not count those who have given up any hope of finding work. At the moment, fewer than half of 16- to 24-year-old Americans hold any kind of job at all; fewer young people were working during the recession than at any time since our nation started tracking unemployment data. . . . The American economy is currently “missing” an estimated 2.7 million youth jobs. More young people went back to school during the recession, but this migration does not come close to accounting for the lost jobs. . . .


Appearing on Sean Hannity's show at 5:05 PM EDT to discuss the UN Arms Trade Treaty

I will be on Sean Hannity's show at 5:05 PM EDT to discuss the UN Arms Trade Treaty -- the proposed treaty that will regulation private ownership of guns.

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Justice Department threatens reporter with retaliation?

CBS reports:
Two Louisiana congressmen are calling on the Justice Department to respond to a complaint that one of its attorneys tried to bar a newspaper reporter from quoting or recording the lawyer's comments at a public hearing in New Iberia. The Daily Iberian contends Justice Department attorney Rachel Hranitzky became "belligerent and threatening" after the reporter, Matthew Beaton, questioned why he couldn't quote her comments during a June 12 public hearing about the New Iberia Fire Department's hiring and promotion practices. The newspaper reported that Hranitzky told Beaton he would be asked to leave the City Hall hearing if he didn't comply with her directive. "Then (the Justice Department) can call your editors and publisher at the paper, and trust you don't want to get on the Department of Justice's bad side," the paper quoted Hranitzky as saying. . . .
Will DOJ punish this lawyer for these threats?

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James Glassman gives a fair and accurate measure of deficits by presidency

Jim Glassman's piece from Forbes is available here. There is a case to reporting this just not in terms of percent of GDP but also in inflation adjusted dollars.


Get ready for flood of regulations after election

A soft freeze just means that these regulations are piling up.
But now Obama’s making it tougher to put costly new rules in place. His enforcer: Cass Sunstein, an old buddy from their University of Chicago days whose friendship with the president gives him more clout in the West Wing than many advisers of higher rank. Sunstein has imposed what is essentially a soft freeze on new regulations.
Even though that’s not official policy, the administration has been increasingly frugal in issuing regulations, according to a POLITICO review of government data and more than two dozen interviews with current and former administration officials, lawmakers in both parties, business leaders and liberal activists. The analysis of the federal rule-making database shows Obama as of Tuesday had issued 1,004 final regulations since arriving in office. That’s fewer than his two immediate predecessors, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. This year, Obama is also on pace to put out the fewest “economically significant” regulations of any year in his presidency.
In classic Washington fashion, the administration’s slowdown of new rules is making liberals mad and winning Obama no credit from Republicans or the business community — especially not in an election year in which the over-regulator meme is so prevalent. . . .
UPDATE: The National Federation of Independent Businesses surely gets it (see stopthetidalwave.org).

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Outsourcing debate: For private companies, who cares. For government, my problem is with the government funding.

Disappointingly, both Republicans and Democrats are trying to out demonize each other over who has done the most outsourcing. The bottom line is that trade makes the US wealthier. That is certainly true for private companies. And while Obama has dishonest attacks on outsourcing while Romney was governor, if Obama didn't outsource some of his government expenditures, presumably the cost to taxpayers would be even greater.

There is a certain irony for President Obama to attack anyone over the trade issue. People may remember the promise that Obama made during the 2008 presidential race to renegotiate NAFTA.

I wouldn't criticize Romney if he had used outsourcing to rescue the companies that he helped. But Romney didn't really engage in outsourcing (though I assume that new documents will create a debate over when Romney really left Bain), while Obama spent almost $29 billion last year on outsourcing. By the way, Obama gets a lot of campaign donations from employees at companies that do outsourcing. Will he return those donations?

I suspect that a lot of the people denouncing Romney for outsourcing are using an iPhone. Would it be better if they bought a smart phone from South Korea or Taiwan? Possibly Suppose that Apple was forced to build the iPhone entirely in the US.

Figure from the New York Times, July 5, 2010, about the iPhone 4. Even more here:
...designed by Apple engineers in the United States, sourced with high-tech components from around the world and assembled in China. Shipped back to the United States, the iPhone is priced at $600, though the cost to consumers is less, subsidized by AT&T in exchange for service contracts.

“China makes very little money on these things,” said Jason Dedrick, a professor at Syracuse University and an author of several studies of Apple’s supply chain. Much of the value in high-end products is captured at the beginning and end of the process, by the brand and the distributors and retailers.

According to the latest teardown report compiled by iSuppli, a market research firm in El Segundo, Calif., the bulk of what Apple pays for the iPhone 4’s parts goes to its chip suppliers, like Samsung and Broadcom, which supply crucial components, like processors and the device’s flash-memory chip. . . .

Apple, for instance, pays Samsung about $27 for flash memory and $10.75 to make its (Apple-designed) applications processor; and a German chip maker called Infineon gets $14.05 a phone for chips that send and receive phone calls and data. Most of the electronics cost much less. The gyroscope, new to the iPhone 4, was made by STMicroelectronics, based in Geneva, and added $2.60 to the cost. . . .

The least expensive part of the process is manufacturing and assembly. And that often takes place here in southern China, where workers are paid less than a dollar an hour to solder, assemble and package products for the world’s best-known brands. . .

Note that if Apple didn't assemble the iPhone in China it might not be able to make that $360 in profit. As Hal Varian wrote in the New York Times:
The real value of the iPod doesn't lie in its parts or even in putting those parts together. The bulk of the iPod's value is in the conception and design of the iPod. That is why Apple gets $80 for each of these video iPods it sells, which is by far the largest piece of value added in the entire supply chain. . . .
From Fox Nation. The first few paragraphs are my own rough transcription. But do you really want a Republican candidate attacking a Democrat over outsourcing. I would have attacked it over government spending, not outsourcing. Is this really too difficult to explain? If it is too difficult, what does that say about future policy that will also be too difficult to explain?

Andrea Mitchell, MSNBC: But Mitt Romney today in Colorado, which is one of the important battle ground states, making the point that President Obama has an outsourcing problem.

John Sununu: Yah, he does. And the outsourcing issue really causes two problems for President Obama. One it really underscores his dishonest. . . .

And the second problem that he has with outsourcing is that there is a huge amount of outsourcing which was driven by Obama policy. The $500 million that they gave to Fisker created jobs in Finland. The solar energy grants that they gave created jobs in Mexico. The windturbine grants they gave created jobs that in Denmark. So the point that I think is really interesting is that it that the os issue underscores how few smarts there are in this White House and in this Obama campaign. That they expose themselves to the response criticisms that I think . . . is going to make it a winning issue for Mitt Romney.

Andrea Mitchell, MSNBC: Isn't it a winning issue for the White House, fundamentally, granted that the PolitiFact folks and the Washington Post pointing out that the President's campaign ad on that issue had a lot of questions and a lot of questionable attacks?

John Sununu: But they said it was wrong. A lot of questionable tactics is not right, it was wrong.

Mitchell: But the point is, that isn't Mitt Romney more vulnerable than the President on this issue because there still is -- the whole question of private equity of outsourcing. Yo could argue about when he left Bain Capital and whether he was still getting money from Bain Capital and what some of the companies in Bain were doing, companies that did end up working overseas and sending jobs overseas. But isn't it a bigger problem for Republicans than for the White House?

Sununu: No. When you've sent $500 million to Fisker and it goes to Finland immediately. When you send the solar money and it goes to Mexico. When you send the turbine money and it goes to Denmark. And we can go on all day. There is $29 billion worth of purchases that came out of this administration, outsourced jobs to foreign countries.

Mitt Romney outsourced zero --

Mitchell: Zero?

Sununu: Zero. He wasn't there when those issues came up.

Mitchell: Well, first of all the $29 billion are not all outsourced from the administration because ---

Sununu: Sure they are.

Mitchell: A lot of those jobs still remained here. There are jobs -- when you do a grant, governor, there are jobs here as well as overseas.

Sununu: [laughing] You're struggling, Andrea. You're struggling.

Mitchell: First of all, these are competing claims and we will get back to you with all of the numbers.

UPDATE: See more here from Michael Kinsley.
Democrats argue that he should be ashamed of Swiss bank accounts and other foreign currency investments that amount to "betting against the dollar." If Romney is sincere in his belief that Obama is wrecking the economy, then he ought to bet against the dollar. . . .
Only problem with Kinsley's point here is that Romney's money is in a blind trust. Here is something from the WSJ: What about Romney making protectionist arguments against China? Probably it is in response to the anti-free-trade arguments for China from Obama. Not that I want him to follow these policies, but what tough policies has Obama imposed on China? From Fox News:
President Barack Obama challenged rival Mitt Romney's promise to get tough on China, saying in a new ad released Saturday that Romney "made a fortune" allowing China to take U.S. jobs. Obama's ad turns again to a report that several businesses backed by Romney's former private equity firm moved American jobs to China and India to cut costs. In a parting shot, a narrator says Romney is "not the solution. He's the problem." The ad follows Obama's two-day bus tour in Ohio and Pennsylvania, where the president announced plans to file a trade complaint against China at the World Trade Organization for unfairly imposing duties on the exports of U.S.-produced automobiles. Ohio is home to several auto plants and tens of thousands of workers directly employed by the auto industry. . . .

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The Debate over Spain's Austerity Program heats up

Reuters reports:

Recession-plagued Spain unveiled new austerity measures on Wednesday designed to slash 65 billion euros from the public deficit by 2014 . . .
The conservative leader announced a 3-point hike in the main rate of Value Added Tax on goods and services to 21 percent and cuts in unemployment benefits and civil service pay and perks in a speech interrupted by jeers and boos from the opposition. . . .
Madrid won softer deficit targets from its European Union partners this week and also negotiated rescue aid of up to 100 billion euros ($123 billion) from the euro zone's bailout fund for its crippled banking sector. . . .
The Economist magazine talks about the kooky claimed "Multiplier" effect from government spending. I am not thrilled by the increase in marginal taxes, but that isn't the concern of the Economist.
More important, this is incredibly counterproductive. The Spanish economy is imploding. Without the ability to offset these cuts with a very aggressive monetary policy, the multiplier on this austerity will be substantial. There can't be much confidence that this austerity plan will generate any fiscal improvement given the likely cyclical hit to revenues and the resulting impact on banks, which could well feed back into greater sovereign obligations. It's more economic pain for no fiscal gain. . . .
There are two problems with this claim. 1) It ignores that the money has to come from someplace. 2) The multiplier implies that government spends all of times money, but private individuals don't. Yet, as I have tried to explain many times before, people essentially spend all of their money. If you put your pay check in the bank, either you spend it on the mortgage or car or food or the bank buys bonds or lends out the money. To believe the typical MPC argument you would have to believe that saving is the equivalent to throwing money in a hole in the backyard. David Malpass says that this is a false austerity, that they are really just moving money to other areas of spending.

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Temperatures 2,000 years ago about 1 deg C warmer than now

Well done article in the UK Daily Mail. Where is the coverage in the US about this? Note the importance of the sun in the changing temperatures.
How did the Romans grow grapes in northern England? Perhaps because it was warmer than we thought.

A study suggests the Britain of 2,000 years ago experienced a lengthy period of hotter summers than today.

German researchers used data from tree rings – a key indicator of past climate – to claim the world has been on a ‘long-term cooling trend’ for two millennia until the global warming of the twentieth century.

This cooling was punctuated by a couple of warm spells.

These are the Medieval Warm Period, which is well known, but also a period during the toga-wearing Roman times when temperatures were apparently 1 deg C warmer than now.

They say the very warm period during the years 21 to 50AD has been underestimated by climate scientists.

Lead author Professor Dr Jan Esper of Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz said: ‘We found that previous estimates of historical temperatures during the Roman era and the Middle Ages were too low.

‘This figure we calculated may not seem particularly significant, however it is not negligible when compared to global warming, which up to now has been less than 1 deg C.’

In general the scientists found a slow cooling of 0.6C over 2,000 years, which they attributed to changes in the Earth’s orbit which took it further away from the Sun. . . .


Senate passes on chance to vote on Obama's tax plan

The Senate has previously voted down President Obama's tax proposals. Given that, it isn't surprising that Senate Democrats want to put off consideration of that again. From the WSJ:
“My recommendation is we give the president what he asked for,” Mr. McConnell said. “He wants to have a vote on raising taxes on individuals making over $250,000…That’s a vote we welcome.” Mr. Reid called this an obstructionist stunt, saying that he would be happy to debate the tax issue once the small business jobs bill is done. “The American people should see this,” Mr. Reid said. “Again, again, and again and again—scores of times during the last 18 months—we’re engaged in a filibuster…why shouldn’t we pass the bill that’s before the body today?” This led to a heated back-and-forth between the two leaders. Mr. McConnell professed surprise that Democratic leaders would not vote on Mr. Obama’s proposal. “I’m a little surprised that we’re not willing to give the president what he asked for,” Mr. McConnell said. . . .

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Update on UN Arms Trade Treaty

The treaty is basically a way for governments to blame individuals for what governments are doing. Government, not individuals, are the almost exclusive suppliers of guns to rebel and terrorist organizations. In addition, the treaty will be used to to accomplish all sorts of other political aims. From Fox News:
A clause permitting arms transfers solely between UN member states would allow UN member China to object to U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, a non-UN member that China considers to be a renegade province. This would be highly problematic for the U.S. at a time when Beijing is engaged in an unprecedented arms buildup. Another fear is that Arab or other states critical of Israel may use any treaty language on human rights standards to argue against U.S. arms transfers to the Israeli government – much in the same way they currently use the UN Human Rights Council to repeatedly condemn Israel. . . .
Why do we want to set up rules that are being pushed by a country such as Iran?
A treaty being hammered out this month at the United Nations -- with Iran playing a key role -- could expose the records of America's gun owners to foreign governments -- and, critics warn, eventually put the Second Amendment on global trial. . . .
My concern about Iran is more for its ability to stop rebel groups from getting arms in its country than it is for them getting a hold of lists of Americans who own guns. Here is an old article that I wrote for the Washington Times in July 2010:
. . . “Some type of micro-stamping regulations seems all but inevitable. It is very, very likely,” the Heritage Foundation’s Theodore R. Bromund, who tracks the U.N., told The Washington Times. “Restrictions on trade between private individuals are somewhat less than 50-50, but you surely can’t rule that out. Some kind of gun registration and licensing system is an extremely likely probability.” Registration proposals cover guns as well as individual rounds of ammunition. The Obama administration strongly supports the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty and no doubt will use the process to push for gun-control regulations that it can’t get through Congress otherwise. . . . Gun registration is being promoted despite evidence that the costly bureaucratic system has been a complete failure in solving any crimes or stopping criminals from getting access to guns everywhere it’s been tried. “None of these treaties have a relationship to reality,” Mr. Bromund explains. “Terrorists are still going to have access to guns because governments give them guns, and they are still going to be able to give them guns.” As an example, he pointed out, “The FARC fighting in Colombia get their guns from Venezuela.” . . .

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So where will Americans end up going for health care?

Obama has often said that he would like a health care system like they have in Canada. Look at how so few doctors these days are taking new Medicare patients. If that type of pricing policy is applied across the board, we would see fewer doctors providing services there also.

A Canadian study released Wednesday found that many provinces in our neighbor to the north have seen patients fleeing the country and opting for medical treatment in the United States.

The nonpartisan Fraser Institute reported that 46,159 Canadians sought medical treatment outside of Canada in 2011, as wait times increased 104 percent — more than double — compared with statistics from 1993.

Specialist physicians surveyed across 12 specialties and 10 provinces reported an average total wait time of 19 weeks between the time a general practitioner refers a patient and the time a specialist provides elective treatment — the longest they have ever recorded.

In 2011, Canadians enrolled in the nation’s government-dominated health service waited long periods of time for an estimated 941,321 procedures. As many as 2.8 percent of Canadians were waiting for treatment at any given time, according to the Institute.

“In some cases, these patients needed to leave Canada due to a lack of available resources or a lack of appropriate procedure/technology,” according to the Institute. “In others, their departure will have been driven by a desire to return more quickly to their lives, to seek out superior quality care, or perhaps to save their own lives or avoid the risk of disability.” . . .

On a related note:
Eighty-three percent of American physicians have considered leaving their practices over President Barack Obama’s health care reform law, according to a survey released by the Doctor Patient Medical Association.

The DPMA, a non-partisan association of doctors and patients, surveyed a random selection of 699 doctors nationwide. The survey found that the majority have thought about bailing out of their careers over the legislation, which was upheld last month by the Supreme Court. . . .

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How much damage did Dodd-Frank do to the economy?

Peter J. Wallison has a piece at the American Magazine that the impact of Dodd-Frank on the economy.
. . . Although event studies like this are always subject to question, the fact that the same patterns are seen in overall GDP and in two major sectors of the economy lends support to the idea that they had the same cause. Moreover, no other event at the outset of the third quarter of 2010 can explain the two-year persistence of the decline that followed.

The question is why—why did this act have such a dramatic effect on the U.S. economy, essentially stifling the modest recovery that had begun almost a year earlier? The most likely explanation is uncertainty. The Dodd-Frank Act was such a comprehensive piece of legislation—and required so many new regulations before its effects could be fully evaluated—that many financial institutions and firms simply decided to wait for regulatory developments before expanding, hiring new workers, or rehiring workers who had previously been laid off.

The act also had very substantial unintended consequences. In part, this was the result of the short shrift that the relevant congressional committees gave to specific provisions before adopting the law. Following the precept of the president’s then-chief of staff Rahm Emanuel that “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste,” the law was rushed through Congress only 18 months after the Obama administration took office and 13 months after the first draft of the law was available to Congress and the public. This would have been warp speed for any one of the major provisions in the act. For a law with dozens of complex, radical, and occasionally contradictory provisions, adopting it so quickly and with so little real understanding of its effects verged on dereliction of duty. . . .

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Is General Motors manipulating its sales numbers?

Are General Motors' sales a lot worse than they seem? Is GM recording inventories that it is sending to dealers as "sales"? What sales there are seems to be sales to the government. Is GM really government motors? From "The Truth about Cars":
A lawsuit filed by a Florida investor against General Motors over the age-old practice of “channel stuffing”, or sending inventory to dealers and recording it as a “sale”, so that revenue numbers can be pumped up while the vehicles languish on dealer lots. The practice of channel stuffing is universal in the auto industry, but in this case, the consequences are much broader. . . . While General Motors is touting their 32 percent year-over-year increase in sales, a closer look at the numbers reveals a couple of things. According to Bloomberg, inventory for full-size trucks was at a 135 day supply, as GM ostensibly cranked out profitable pickups and sent them off to dealers across the land, allowing them to book sales of their most lucrative vehicles just in time for the half-way mark – and coincidentally (or not), government purchases of GM vehicles rose 79 percent in June. Retail sales were up a mere 8 percent, while fleet sales rose by 36 percent. . . .

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Obama administration tries to soften image of CFPB

From the WSJ's Political Diary:
. . . Mr. Cordray talks about why the CFPB brings enforcement officials to routine bank examinations. "I feel like that has been much misunderstood," Mr. Cordray says. "We want supervision examiners to understand the role of enforcement" and "the enforcement attorneys to understand the role of examination and supervision." That may be true, but it's not how any other federal banking regulator has ever done business, and for good reason. Regulators have to build trust with the regulated to encourage transparency and an open channel of communication, especially during times of crisis. The CFPB has done just the opposite by flexing its legal might. Mr. Cordray adds that he expects a "steady stream" of enforcement actions. Hmm. In part two of the American Banker series, Mr. Cordray addressed the financial industry's other big bugbear: the CFPB's recent release of a database of unverified consumer complaints against credit-card companies. "It's a free market of ideas," Mr. Cordray says, noting the database "puts pressure for everyone to compete with one another over customer service." Well, that's one interpretation. But credit-card companies have been fiercely competing with each other for decades, long before the CFPB came into existence. The release of unverified complaints—another unprecedented regulatory move—serves the interest of no one but trial lawyers looking to levy frivolous class-action lawsuits. Mr. Cordray says he understands industry's "concerns" and will "continue to listen to all sides in terms of how we can improve that database." How comforting. Mr. Cordray, like his predecessor, Elizabeth Warren, has aggressively argued that the CFPB is a force for good in the U.S. economy and that the lack of a serious congressional check on the agency is nothing to worry about. The American Banker series shows that those arguments, no matter how politely phrased, are far from settled.

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Obama claims that he was outspent by McCain in 2008 campaign?

Is this serious? How big of whoopers is Obama allowed to get away with? From remarks that Obama gave at Carnegie Mellon University on July 6, 2012.
And you know what, I might be worried about all this money being spent if it wasn’t for my memories of previous campaigns. That first campaign I ran, the last campaign I ran in 2008 -- I’ve been outspent before. I’ve had a lot of money thrown at me before. . . .
Of course, the difference was so small that it is easy for Obama to get confused by this. After all, he only outspent McCain by 4 to 1 after labor day. From Bloomberg:
Arizona Senator McCain, unlike Obama, accepted $84.1 million in public financing for the general election, a decision that barred him from raising money privately. Obama outspent him by a 4-1 margin between Sept. 1 and Nov. 24, FEC records show. . . .
As to the first campaign that Obama ran, he got the incumbent and all the other candidates thrown off the ballot by successfully challenging their petition signatures. He had no opposition in the Democratic primary and in his district there were so few Republicans that winning the primary was the same as winning the general election. If there was no one running against him in the primary, how exactly could have been outspent in the election? From the Chicago Tribune:
There they began the tedious process of challenging hundreds of signatures on the nominating petitions of state Sen. Alice Palmer, the longtime progressive activist from the city's South Side. And they kept challenging petitions until every one of Obama's four Democratic primary rivals was forced off the ballot. . . .
Finally, here is a slightly related example of Obama making up claims about campaign expenditures in another race. The only irony that I would raise is that if you can dismiss Walker's win because he supposedly outspent his opponent, what does that mean about Obama's 2008 win where he really did massively outspend McCain? UPDATE: Obama's campaign has spent $100 million on attack ads in swing states.
President Barack Obama's campaign has spent nearly $100 million on television commercials in selected battleground states so far, unleashing a sustained early barrage designed to create lasting, negative impressions of Republican Mitt Romney before he and his allies ramp up for the fall. In a reflection of campaign strategy, more than one-fifth of the president's ad spending has been in Ohio, a state that looms as a must-win for Romney more so than for Obama. Florida ranks second and Virginia third, according to organizations that track media spending and other sources. About three-quarters of the president's advertising has been critical of Romney as Obama struggles to turn the election into a choice between him and his rival, rather than a referendum on his own handling of the weak economy. Obama's television ad spending dwarfs the Romney campaign's so far by a margin of 4-1 or more. It is at rough parity with the Republican challenger and several outside GOP-led organizations combined. They appear positioned to outspend the president and his allies this fall, perhaps heavily. . . .
UPDATE:  Apparently, Obama has no shame on this point because he continues to make the claim over and over again.  From August 14, 2012:
And they're just going to say it over and over again.  Over and over again.  You're going to get sick of it -- you already are.  And you know, I've got to admit, I would be worried, given the amount of money that is being spent, if it weren't for Iowa; if it weren't for what I remember about 2008.  See, we've been outspent before.  We've been counted out before. . . . 

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Newest Fox News piece: The truth about Obama's tax cut extension plan

My newest piece starts this way:
Politics, not economics, is driving President Obama's election year strategy to force a battle over his efforts to raise income taxes. So much of Obama's speech Monday focused on his political opponents and the difference between those whom he claims support the middle class and those who support what Obama continually called "the wealthy."
For an administration that last week blamed Fox News for the class warfare rhetoric, Obama's talk today sure contained a lot of such rhetoric.
But contrast Obama's position with that of other prominent Democrats. Just last month, his former chief economic advisor Larry Summers told MSNBC: "The real risk to this economy is on the side of slow down, certainly not on the side of overheating, and that means we've got to make sure that we don't take gasoline out of the tank at the end of this year that's gotta be the top priority." Former Democratic President Bill Clinton made a similar claim warning against tax increases because it is better to "avoid doing anything that would contract the economy now." Under Obama administration pressure both quickly retracted their statements.
Obama seem oblivious to Summers' and Clinton's concerns about the poorly performing economy. . . . .
Brit Hume has an excellent response here.

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When does campaigning become stalking?: Democrats putting videos of Republican Congressional candidates' homes online

From Politico:
. . . While most serious campaigns on both sides use campaign trackers — staffers whose job is to record on video every public appearance and statement by an opponent — House Democrats are taking it to another level. They’re now recording video of the homes of GOP congressmen and candidates and posting the raw footage on the Internet for all to see. . . .Wisconsin GOP Rep. Reid Ribble, who said he’s also been followed by a cameraman when shopping for groceries, said the home videos cross a line. . . .Republicans whose homes have been videotaped say they understand that politics is a contact sport and that every public utterance they make is fair game. But, they argue, filming a home — and posting actual addresses— ought to be off-limits, if only out of respect for their families and neighbors. . . .Trackers assigned to California GOP candidate Ricky Gill, a highly touted challenger to Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney, pushed the edge of the envelope even further.  In May, a clip of Gill’s parents’ Lodi, Calif., mansion appeared online. . . .Democrats, on the other hand, insist the videos are fair game — and are unapologetic about the hardball tactics. . . .

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By 56 to 35% Americans think that Obama has changed the country for the worse

One would think that this fact alone would give Romney a significant leg up in the election.
. . . A new poll for The Hill found 56 percent of likely voters believe Obama’s first term has transformed the nation in a negative way, compared to 35 percent who believe the country has changed for the better under his leadership.
The results signal broad voter unease with the direction the nation has taken under Obama’s leadership and present a major challenge for the incumbent Democrat as he seeks reelection this fall. . . .
The feeling that Obama has changed the country for the worse is strongest among Republicans, at 91 percent, compared to 71 percent of Democrats who support Obama’s brand of change.
Strikingly, 1-in-5 Democrats say they feel Obama has changed the United States for the worse.
Compared to the sentiment about Obama’s impact, fewer people see presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney as a candidate who will change the country dramatically if elected. . . .

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"Record US heatwave blamed for spike in murders"

Surely it has long been recognized that there are fewer murders during winters than summers, but are there even more murders when there are heat waves? There is not a lot of data mentioned here, but it would be worth accounting for this in monthly crime regressions.  From the UK Telegraph: 

Temperatures rose beyond 104F (40C) in cities from Kentucky to Pennsylvania, with a record 107F (41.7C) registered briefly in Washington DC.
Some 16 murders have been recorded in New York City over the past five days, roughly twice the average rate. One city councilman described the city as a "brewing cauldron". . . .

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The New Russian Police State Putin Style

So this is some of what happens to those who speak out in Russia today.  From the New York Times:

. . . For six hours the men — a squad from the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation — tore apart the apartment, neither removing their masks nor dropping their weapons. “You know what’s going on,” one of them chided her. “If you had married a good K.G.B. man, it would be another story.” They teased her by reading love letters from an ex-beau aloud in front of Yashin. And they humiliated her by sending a man to shadow her to the bathroom. Millions of Russians had seen Sobchak in various stages of undress before, but for the first time this was not a performance of her own making. In Sobchak’s safe, the officers reportedly discovered nearly one million euros and half a million dollars in dozens of envelopes. The state, Sobchak said when she described the episode to me in late June, had found its jackpot — and made, Sobchak believes, its intentions clear. “Whether it’s prison or exile,” she said, “they’re out to silence me.”
On that same June morning, several leaders of the opposition in Russia also had their homes raided by investigators. But Sobchak stands apart: in this new time of troubles, as Putin settles back into the Kremlin for his third term as president, few Russians more closely embody the state of the country today — in both its prospects and its hazards — than Sobchak. She has money and, with more than 470,000 followers on Twitter (making hers one of the most popular private Russian accounts), a following. And she is staking both resources in the fight for, as she puts it, “a better way to live.” . . .

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Interview on the Ed Morrissey Show discussing Friday's Unemployment numbers

John Lott on the new jobs numbers on the Ed Morrissey Show.

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With California already facing huge deficits, they want to spend another $68 billion on a green project

The problem is that if this railroad line made sense, the government wouldn't have to subsidize it.  Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin may have thought that they were saving taxpayers' money by turning down the Federal grants, but the money is simply going to go to other projects, such as the one in California.  From the Associated Press:
In a narrow 21-16 party-line vote that involved intense lobbying by the governor, legislative leaders and labor groups, the state Senate approved the measure marking the launch of California's ambitious bullet train, which has spent years in the planning stages. . . .
The bill authorizes the state to begin selling $4.5 billion in voter-approved bonds that includes $2.6 billion to build an initial 130-mile stretch of the high-speed rail line in the agriculturally rich Central Valley. That allows the state to draw another $3.2 billion in federal funding.

The first segment of the line will run from Madera to Bakersfield.

Senate Republicans blasted the decision, citing the state's ongoing budget problems. They said project would push California over a fiscal cliff. No GOP senators voted for the bill Friday.

The final cost of the completed project from Los Angeles to San Francisco is projected to be $68 billion.

"It's unfortunate that the majority would rather spend billions of dollars that we don't have for a train to nowhere than keep schools open and harmless from budget cuts," Sen. Tom Harman, R-Huntington Beach, said in a statement. . . .

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Obama's very selective use of unemployment data

Guess who made this statement.  A hint the news that the first quote is referring to is 310,000 new jobs.

Good morning. This is _____, the _____. For the past few weeks, President ____ and members of his administration have traveled the nation to celebrate recent, improved economic statistics. Well, I've been traveling, too. All over this large and diverse state, in cities and suburbs, Downstate and upstate, I've heard from people who say it's way too early to claim victory when it comes to our economy.
After three dismal years of job loss, we all welcome encouraging statistics. But for most Americans, the health of our economy is measured in a different and more personal way: If I lose my job, where will I find one that pays as well and offers real benefits? Can I afford health care coverage on my own, or the cost of sending my children to college? Will I ever be able to save, and retire with dignity and security? . . .
Or this quote:
Let me begin by saying a few words about the latest economic news.  This morning, we learned that American businesses added another 212,000 jobs last month.  Altogether, more private sector jobs were created in 2011 than any year since 2005.  And there are a lot of people that are still -- (applause) -- there are a lot of people that are still hurting out there.  After losing more than 8 million jobs in the recession, obviously we have a lot more work to do.  But it is important for the American people to recognize that we’ve now added 3.2 million new private sector jobs over the last 22 months -- nearly 2 million jobs last year alone.  So after shedding jobs for more than a decade, our manufacturing sector is also adding jobs two years in a row now.  So we’re making progress.  We’re moving in the right direction. . . .
So have you guessed who made these quotes?  Obama made both of them.  The first quote is from state Senator Obama in June 2004 criticizing a report of 310,000 jobs the previous month.  The second quote is from President Obama on January 6, 2012 lauding the announcement of 212,000 jobs the previous month (actually the final number was 223,000 jobs). 

Obviously the second quote goes beyond just the number of jobs in the previous month, but that is where some real dishonesty comes into the discussion.  You see by July 6, 2012 Obama's recovery had been going on for 37 months, but the comment that he was making about Bush was 30 months into his recovery.  

So what if we made the second quote the same based on that point in the corresponding recoveries?  Obama could have said this in June 2004:
Let me begin by saying a few words about the latest economic news.  This morning, we learned that American businesses added another 310,000 jobs last month.  But it is important for the American people to recognize that we’ve now added 2.5 million new jobs since the recovery started 30 months ago -- over 1.5 million jobs last year alone.  So we’re making progress.  We’re moving in the right direction. . . .
And he could have said this on Friday, January 6, 2012:
Let me begin by saying a few words about the latest economic news.  This morning, we learned that American businesses added another 212,000 jobs last month.  But it is important for the American people to recognize that we’ve now added 2.26 million new private sector jobs since the recovery started 30 months ago -- nearly 2 million jobs last year alone.  So we’re making progress.  We’re moving in the right direction. . . .
For those interested, this is what President Obama said on Friday:
We learned this morning that our businesses created 84,000 new jobs last month, and that overall means that businesses have created 4.4 million new jobs over the past 28 months, including 500,000 new manufacturing jobs.  That's a step in the right direction.  (Applause.)  That’s a step in the right direction. 

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Obama's campaign continues long string of dishonest attack ads on Romney

This ad goes quite a bit too far.
The Obama campaign began airing a TV ad Saturday in key election states attacking Mitt Romney for his stances on abortion and Planned Parenthood that was immediately rebuked by the Romney campaign as “viciously” negative and false.
The 30-second spot titled “Troubled” is airing in Virginia and seven other swing states.
“Every woman who believes decisions about our bodies and our health-care should be our own is troubled Mitt Romney supports overturning Roe v. Wade,” says a female voice at the beginning of the ad. “Romney backed a law that outlaws all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest.”
Romney, though, has not taken that position publicly.
In response, the Romney campaign pointed to Romney’s op-ed last year in the National Review titled “My Pro-Life Pledge” in which he said abortion should be “limited to only instances of rape, incest or to save the life of a mother.” . . .
UPDATE: "Poll: Obama barrage barely holds back Romney"

Politico has this discussion here.
Either way, a ton of money is being spent -- by Obama and GOP outside groups, in particular -- without any major shift in the race. Obama's ads may have held back Romney's momentum, but we're still looking at a close race with no silver-bullet ads on either side. . . .
"In the battlegrounds, one in 12 say the commercials have changed their minds about President Obama or Republican Mitt Romney — a difference on the margins, but one that could prove crucial in a close race. . . ."

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Diminishing returns to increasing car MPG?

The Eco adds apparently $1,600 to the price of the Malibu (with a sales tax of 7 percent that comes up to $1,712). Suppose that people spend about $2,900 on gas over the course of a year and that this 2 mpg increase represents a 7.7% increase (from 26 combined mpg to 28), it would take about 7.67 years to make up the $1,712 (and that assumes that the interest rate is zero).  A 3 percent interest rate will make it take about 10 years to pay this back.  Any repair costs would add to the number of years it would take before one breaks even.

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

On the nonhybrid side, the poster car for conventional fuel-efficiency excellence is Chevrolet's own Cruze Eco, which returns a government-rated 28 m.p.g. in town and 42 on the highway without any electrical assistance. Instead, the Cruze Eco uses a small turbocharged engine, a manual transmission and old-fashioned tricks like lightweight forged wheels.
The Malibu Eco is a larger, more powerful car, but its mileage numbers are a long way off the nonhybrid Cruze, at 25 m.p.g. city and 37 m.p.g. highway. The Cruze Eco even has more trunk space than the Malibu Eco because there's no battery pack beneath the carpeting.
While the Environmental Protection Agency hasn't released final numbers for the new base Malibu, I can't imagine that the Eco will beat it by more than 2 m.p.g. For comparison, the old 4-cylinder Malibu netted a combined city-highway rating of 26 m.p.g., while the 2013 Eco returns 29 m.p.g. combined. The Camry Hybrid beats both Chevys with a combined rating of 41 m.p.g.
Even the 2013 Nissan Altima, with a conventional nonhybrid powertrain, improves on the Malibu Eco by 2 m.p.g., with a combined city-highway estimate of 31. . . . .

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