Some recent editorials in the Washington Times

For those who think that the US Post Office is a Private entity, Congress gives the Post Office $5.4 billion

Well, this would imply a government take over unless you could the fact that the government already owns it. From the Politico:

The House approved a 30-day stop-gap spending bill Friday designed to keep the government operating through October and buy more time for the cash-strapped Postal Service to meet a $5.4 billion payment due next week for its retirees’ health benefits.

Adopted 217-190, the measure allows the Postal Service to pay only $1.4 billion on Sept. 30 and effectively amortize the remaining $4 billion after 2017. With $32 billion in the fund, the agency insists it is still able to meet its obligations, but the issue has been handled with such a political sleight-of-hand that conservatives worry it could come back to haunt taxpayers. . . . .



G20 nations agree to limit executive pay

Presumably this limit on pay is done to reduce international competition for the very best workers.

The agreements, if carried out by national governments, would lead to much tighter regulation over financial institutions, complex financial instruments and executive pay. They could also lead to big changes and more outside scrutiny over the economic strategies of individual countries, including the United States. . . .

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"Obamacare: Buy insurance or go to jail!"

This is comforting.

Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) received a handwritten note Thursday from Joint Committee on Taxation Chief of Staff Tom Barthold confirming the penalty for failing to pay the up to $1,900 fee for not buying health insurance.

Violators could be charged with a misdemeanor and could face up to a year in jail or a $25,000 penalty, Barthold wrote on JCT letterhead. He signed it "Sincerely, Thomas A. Barthold."

The note was a follow-up to Ensign's questioning at the markup.

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Durable goods dropped 2.4 percent in August

Even the Associated Press can't put too much of a positive spin on this, though they do try.

Orders for goods expected to last at least three years fell unexpectedly in August due mainly to a drop in demand for commercial aircraft. The worst reading since January for durable goods is evidence that any recovery in manufacturing will be slow and gradual.
Economists were disappointed with the report, which followed similarly weaker-than-expected data on existing home sales Thursday, but most said it reflected the uneven nature of the economy as it transitions out of the worst recession since the 1930s. . . .
Autos and auto parts orders posted a 0.4 percent gain in August, after rising 1.6 percent in July, according to the government data. The sector received a major boost last month from the Cash for Clunkers program, which provided consumers rebates of up to $4,500 for trading in older cars for newer, more fuel-efficient models. The program, which ended last month, boosted auto sales 30 percent in August. . . .

Meanwhile existing home sales fell:

The National Association of Realtors said Thursday that sales dropped 2.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.1 million in August, from a pace of 5.24 million in July. . . .

In past months when sales of new homes rose, prices were falling. This market has a way to go before it improves.

This is probably the worst news.

"the estimated earnings growth for the overall S&P 500 for the third quarter now stands at negative 24.7% compared with an estimated growth rate of 20.9% on July 1, according to Thomas Reuters." . . .

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Al Gore's car company gets $528 million government loan to produce cars in Finland

The US government is subsidizing Al Gore to produce cars in Finland? Is this serious?

A tiny car company backed by former Vice President Al Gore has just gotten a $529 million U.S. government loan to help build a hybrid sports car in Finland that will sell for about $89,000. . . .

The awards to Fisker and Tesla have prompted concern from companies that have had their bids for loans rejected, and criticism from groups that question why vehicles aimed at the wealthiest customers are getting loans subsidized by taxpayers.

"This is not for average Americans," said Leslie Paige, a spokeswoman for Citizens Against Government Waste, an anti-tax group in Washington. "This is for people to put something in their driveway that is a conversation piece. It's status symbol thing." . . .

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Rush on the Jay Leno Show

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Dems are losing big donors, but they still collect much more money from big donors than Republicans do

Why do Dems get much more money from big donors than Republicans? My guess is because big donors like government regulation and the favors that it can offer.

Democrats continue to collect more from big donors than Republicans do, with their trio of national committees almost tripling the amount taken in by the GOP committees in first half of the year, according to the FEC. But Republicans are benefiting from much more energized small-dollar contributors.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee, which has been pitching itself to conservative donors as the only check against Obama's agenda, has stayed roughly even with the DSCC in overall receipts, and its cash flow is 30 percent ahead of its 2007 level. . . .

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Obama administration cutting number of border patrol agents

CNS reports:

Even though the Border Patrol now reports that almost 1,300 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border is not under effective control, and the Department of Justice says that vast stretches of the border are “easily breached,” and the Government Accountability Office has revealed that three persons “linked to terrorism” and 530 aliens from “special interest countries” were intercepted at Border Patrol checkpoints last year, the administration is nonetheless now planning to decrease the number of Border Patrol agents deployed on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Border Patrol Director of Media Relations Lloyd Easterling confirmed this week--as I first reported in my column yesterday--that his agency is planning for a net decrease of 384 agents on the U.S.-Mexico border in fiscal 2010, which begins on October 1. . . .

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Democratic Hate Speech


An example of why it is so important to look at disaggregated data

Note that if some had looked at annual data, you would never have seen the pattern discussed in the WSJ article here.

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Former Democratic Governor Wilder refuses to endorse current Democratic Nominee Deeds

From the Politico:

Former Virginia governor Douglas Wilder announced Thursday that he will not be endorsing a candidate in the Virginia gubernatorial race, while mounting some sharp criticism at Democrat Creigh Deeds over his stance on taxes and guns. . . .


Bullets scarce

To the extent that this heavy buying is due to concerns about imminent gun control rules, I think that they are misplaced. That said, I think that there will be problems in the future.

NEW ORLEANS — Bullet-makers are working around the clock, seven days a week, and still can’t keep up with the nation’s demand for ammunition.
Shooting ranges, gun dealers and bullet manufacturers say they have never seen such shortages. Bullets, especially for handguns, have been scarce for months because gun enthusiasts are stocking up on ammo, in part because they fear President Barack Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress will pass antigun legislation — even though nothing specific has been proposed and the president last month signed a law allowing people to carry loaded guns in national parks.
Gun sales spiked when it became clear Obama would be elected a year ago and purchases continued to rise in his first few months of office. The FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System reported that 6.1 million background checks for gun sales were issued from January to May, an increase of 25.6 percent from the same period the year before.
“That is going to cause an upswing in ammunition sales,” said Larry Keane, senior vice president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade association representing about 5,000 members. “Without bullets a gun is just a paper weight.”
The shortage for sportsmen is different than the scarcity of ammo for some police forces earlier this year, a dearth fueled by an increase in ammo use by the military in Iraq and Afghanistan. . . . .

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"School kids taught to praise Obama"

This is pretty troubling. I can't remember anything remotely like this happening when I was in school.

UPDATE: Unfortunately, the New Jersey public school principal see no problem with teaching the children the above song. This song is just viewed as teaching the children about Black History month. This principal doesn't understand the difference between teaching about a president and advocating for the president.

The principal of a New Jersey elementary school where young students were videotaped singing the praises of President Obama is making no apologies for the singing and says she would allow the performance again if she could, according to parents who spoke with her Thursday night.

Three parents told FOXNews.com that Dr. Denise King, principal of B. Bernice Young Elementary School in Burlington, N.J., defended the controversial performance, which was videotaped and posted on YouTube, when they approached her during a "Back to School" event.

Parent Jim Angelillo said King told him the lesson was merely part of Black History month, and not an attempt to indoctrinate students, as critics have charged. He said he believes teachers have the freedom to express their political views, but not in the classroom.

"Freedom of speech, not freedom to teach," Angelillo told FOXNews.com.

King has long been a fan of Obama, hanging pictures of the president in her school's hallways and touting her trip to his inauguration in the school yearbook.

Included in the full-page yearbook spread were Obama campaign slogans ("Yes we can! Yes we did!") and photos King took in Washington on Jan. 20, when she attended the inauguration.

There also were photos taken at the school depicting students doing Obama-themed activities about their "hopes for the future," featuring posters of Obama. According to the yearbook, students watched the inauguration in class. . . .

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One major Democrat after another comes out and says that opponents motivated by race

The Politico has this:

Former Vice President Walter Mondale joined his old boss Jimmy Carter Wednesday, arguing that some of the opposition to President Obama's agenda is fueled by racial animus.

Asked at an event in Washington whether he agreed with former President Carter that racism was behind some criticism of Obama, Mondale took a long pause before answering: "Yeah."

"I don't like saying it," Mondale continued. "Having lived through those years, when civil rights was such a bitter issue, and when we argued those things for years ... I know that some of that must still be around." . . .

From Carter:

the issue was raised this week by former President Jimmy Carter, who said Tuesday that there’s “an inherent feeling among many in this country that an African-American should not be president,” . . .

Obama said that race is "not the overriding issue here."

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Newest Numbers piece up at Fox News: LOTT'S NUMBERS: The Truth About Obama's Health Care Plan, Part 2

My newest piece at Fox News starts this way:

"Then there's the problem of rising costs. We spend one-and-a-half times more per person on health care than any other country . . . . health care represents one-sixth of our economy . . . Everyone in this room knows what will happen if we do nothing. Our deficit will grow. More families will go bankrupt. More businesses will close. More Americans will lose their coverage when they are sick and need it most. And more will die as a result." -- President Obama in his address to a joint session of Congress on health care on September 9, 2009.

A number frequently tossed around is that a 1/6th of our nation's income is spent on health care. That number comes from $2.2 trillion in reported health care spending out of an almost $14 trillion economy. The President cites those statistics as evidence that the government needs to step in and keep health care spending under control. Yet, there are problems with both claims: The health care costs used in the debate have been inflated by double counting and further distorted by price controls, and the recent growth in US health care expenditures has actually been less than in countries where the government pays for most health care. . . .

Comments at the Fox News website are most welcome.

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Credit Card Defaults Reach Record in August to 11.49%

This number seems likely to keep rising with the increase in unemployment rates.

U.S. credit-card defaults rose to a record in August and more losses may lie ahead as delinquencies climbed for the first time since March, according to Moody’s Investors Service.

Write-offs rose to 11.49 percent from 10.52 percent in July, Moody’s said today in a report. Loans at least 30 days delinquent rose to 5.8 percent from 5.73 percent. “Early- stage” delinquencies, or loans overdue 30 to 59 days, surged to 1.65 percent, from 1.41 percent, signaling higher losses in coming months. Banks typically write off loans after 180 days.

Card issuers have struggled with rising defaults as the recession drove up unemployment to 9.7 percent and the impact of income tax refunds waned. Credit-card defaults typically track the U.S. jobless rate since consumers tend to fall behind on payments when their income dries up. . . .

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Maxim has a new lead article up at Fox News

My son Maxim has a new story about about the so-called "Safe Schools" Czar:

President Obama's "safe schools czar" is a former schoolteacher who has advocated promoting homosexuality in schools, written about his past drug abuse, expressed his contempt for religion and detailed an incident in which he did not report an underage student who told him he was having sex with older men. . . .

Another controversy from Jennings' past concerns an account in his 1994 book, "One Teacher In 10," about how, as a teacher, he knew a high school sophomore named Brewster who was "involved" with an "older man":

"Out spilled a story about his involvement with an older man he had met in Boston. I listened, sympathized, and offered advice. He left my office with a smile on his face that I would see every time I saw him on the campus for the next two years, until he graduated."

The account led Diane Lenning, head of the National Education Association's Republican Educators Caucus, to criticize Jennings in 2004 for not alerting school and state authorities about the boy's situation, calling Jennings' failure to do so an "unethical practice."

Jennings threatened to sue Lenning for libel, saying she had no evidence that he knew the student in question was sexually active, or that he failed to report the situation.

But a professor at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, Warren Throckmorton, has produced an audio recording of a speech Jennings gave in 2000 at a GLSEN rally in Iowa, in which Jennings made it clear that he believed the student was sexually active:

"I said, 'What were you doing in Boston on a school night, Brewster?' He got very quiet, and he finally looked at me and said, 'Well I met someone in the bus station bathroom and I went home with him.' High school sophomore, 15 years old' I looked at Brewster and said, 'You know, I hope you knew to use a condom.'" [Audio is available on the professor's Web site.] . . . .


One way to leave South Africa

The BBC has this interesting report:

Last month, a white South African man was given asylum in Canada after saying he had been attacked on seven different occasions.

His lawyer argued that the government was unable to protect its citizens.

The ruling ANC condemned the ruling as "racist" and pressed the Canadian government to challenge it.

The legacy of apartheid, social deprivation and corruption within the police force are among the reasons often cited for high levels of crime. . . .

No mention that the crime rate has gotten worse since apartheid ended. No mention that the people can't protect themselves as well as they used to because of the extremely strict gun regulations.

47 million people live in South Africa
Murder: 18,000
Rate: 38.3 per 100,000 people/ The US murder rate is about 5.5 per 100,000
South Africa's murder rate is 7 times greater than the US'
Street robbery: 72,194
Rate: 153.6 per 100,000 people
Sexual offences: 71,500
Rate: 152.1 per 100,000 people
Business robberies: 13,900 (41%)

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Banning Flavored Cigarettes

The Obama administration is moving quickly to limit people's ability to make choices.

Federal health officials Tuesday banned the sale of flavored cigarettes and hinted that they may soon take action against the far-larger market of flavored little cigars and cigarillos, the first major crackdown on cigarettes since the Food and Drug Administration was given authority to regulate tobacco.

The ban is intended to end the sale of tobacco products with chocolate, vanilla, clove and other flavorings that lure children and teenagers into smoking. Menthol products are as yet unaffected.

The ban comes three months after President Obama signed legislation giving the F.D.A. the authority for the first time to regulate tobacco products. . . . .

Why ban every other flavored cigarette but the ones with menthol? With all the health arguments put out for the ban, why not menthol? Could it be for the same reason that the rest of the bill is seen as favoring Philip Morris?

Tobacco companies can no longer sell candy-, spice-, or fruit-flavored cigarettes in the United States, regulators said, acting to enforce a ban signed into law in June by President Obama. . . .

Philip Morris USA, the maker of the top-selling Marlboro brand, sells no cigarettes covered by the ban, said David Sylvia, an Altria spokesman. Nor does third-biggest Lorillard Inc., said Hannah Sloane, a company spokeswoman.

North Carolina makers Reynolds, of Winston Salem, and Lorillard, of Greensboro, opposed FDA regulation, saying restrictions would perpetuate Philip Morris' dominance and discourage novel products that may be less harmful.

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For those who think that there can ever be fair competition between the government and private companies, another example to the contrary

Compare this letter to what Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fl) said on Tuesday:

"Many senior citizens have come to rely on [Medicare Advantage] coverage, and suddenly walking away from it, I think, is unconscionable," Nelson said Tuesday.

This letter is much less strident than Nelson's quote.

From the WSJ:

Political intimidation has always been part of the current Congress's health-care strategy: "If you're not at the table, you're on the menu" is tattooed on every lobbyist and industry rep in Washington. But Max Baucus's latest bullying tactics are hard to believe by even these standards, as the Senate Finance Chairman has sicced federal regulators on the insurer Humana Inc. for daring to criticize one part of his health bill.

Earlier this month, Humana sent a one-page letter to its customers enrolled in its Medicare Advantage plans, which offer private options to Medicare beneficiaries. Humana noted that, because of spending cuts proposed by Democrats, "millions of seniors and disabled individuals could lose many of the important benefits and services that make Medicare Advantage health plans so valuable." The Kentucky-based company also urged its customers to contact their Representatives. Pretty tame stuff, as these things go.

Mr. Baucus took it as a declaration of war. He complained to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal health-care agency, which on Friday duly ordered Humana to cease and desist. CMS claimed the mailer was "misleading and confusing" and told the company it has opened an official probe as to whether the mailer violated laws about how the insurers that manage Advantage plans are allowed to communicate with their customers, as well as other federal statutes. . . .

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91-year-old man holds burglar at gunpoint

From Palm Beach Florida:

A burglar early this morning clambered over a backyard fence on a quiet block on the city's west side. He picked the wrong house.

He made it maybe a couple of steps before Rettt the dog, a mixture of Rottweiler and Doberman pinscher, charged, tearing the intruder's shirt from his back in a growling, ferocious attack.

This gave homeowner Robert E. Thompson, 91, time to jump out of bed, grab his gun, a .38-caliber revolver loaded with hollow-point bullets, and to phone the police.

Then he went out back to let the guy know how he felt about home invaders. He raised the gun and shouted out in the darkness. He thought there might be three or four of them. He didn't care.

"The funny part was I didn't have any clothes on," said Thompson, a World War II veteran who was awarded a Purple Heart during combat tours in Europe. "I was standing out there with a .38 in my hand, and I was stark naked."

Already terrified of the dog, the burglar, who looked to be no older than 20, took a step toward the nude 91-year-old, and that was it for Thompson.

"I fired a warning shot," he said, and the burglar froze. "I wasn't going to let the guy get within six or eight feet of me. He spoke only Spanish, and I couldn't understand anything he was saying. I think he was more scared than I was, really." . . .

Thanks to CM Ross for sending me the link.


A few questions for Congressman Mike Ross

Congressman Mike Ross apparently has a few questions to answer. I have to say that this guy has bothered me a lot because he provided the critical vote in committee to get the health care bill out and then says that he opposes the bill. His vote won't be the deciding vote when the final bill gets to the House floor. He seems to get it both ways. He gives the Dems the crucial vote they need and then tells voters back home that he opposes it.

Arkansas Rep. Mike Ross — a Blue Dog Democrat playing a key role in the health care debate — sold a piece of commercial property in 2007 for substantially more than a county assessment and an independent appraisal say it was worth.

The buyer: an Arkansas-based pharmacy chain with a keen interest in how the debate plays out.

Ross sold Holly’s Health Mart in Prescott, Ark., to USA Drug for $420,000 — an eye-popping price for real estate in a tiny train and lumber town about 100 miles southwest of Little Rock.

“You can buy half the town for $420,000,” said Adam Guthrie, chairman of the county Board of Equalization and the only licensed real estate appraiser in Prescott.

But the $420,000 that USA Drug paid for the pharmacy’s building and land was just the beginning of what Ross and his wife, Holly, made from the sale of Holly’s Health Mart. USA Drug owner Stephen L. LaFrance Sr. also paid the Rosses $500,000 to $1 million for the pharmacy’s assets and paid Holly Ross an additional $100,000 to $250,000 for signing a noncompete agreement. Those numbers, which Mike Ross listed on the financial disclosure reports he files as a member of Congress, bring the total value of the transaction to between $1 million and $1.67 million.

And that’s not counting the $2,300 campaign contribution Ross received from LaFrance two weeks after the sale closed. . . .

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Government control of the internet

The WSJ headline runs: "U.S. as Traffic Cop in Web Fight: FCC Proposal on Bandwidth a Boon for Consumers and Silicon Valley, Blow to Telecoms." This will help Google, but it will hurt consumers and make the internet much less efficient. The government will make it so that heavy users won't be charged more for using the internet. Fortunately, there is some opposition.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski, in a speech Monday, proposed putting teeth into current guidelines on so-called net neutrality by making them full-fledged rules, and extending them to wireless carriers.

"The bar needs to be set very high when it comes to additional government intervention," said USTelecom, the phone industry's lobbying group. Cable giant Comcast Corp. said it will "be incredibly important for the agency to review the data to determine whether there are actual and substantial problems that may require rules."

Large phone and video providers, including Comcast, Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc., have argued the government shouldn't tell them how to manage their Internet networks. Wireless providers are worried that a surge in bandwidth-consuming applications such as video downloads could hobble their networks unless they are allowed to control the flow. . . .

UPDATE: From the Washington Post.

Republicans to Push Against Net Neutrality; FCC Says Start of Process
Senate Republicans moved Monday afternoon to prevent the FCC's proposed rules on net neutrality with an amendment to the Interior Appropriations bill that would tie up funding at the agency for new regulatory mandates. Observers said, however, that the move was unlikely to be approved in the Democrat-majority Congress.

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), ranking member of Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, said in a release:

"We must tread lightly when it comes to new regulations. Where there have been a handful of questionable actions in the past on the part of a few companies, the Commission and the marketplace have responded swiftly," Hutchison said in the release.

"The case has simply not been made for what amounts to a significant regulatory intervention into a vibrant marketplace. These new regulatory mandates and restrictions could stifle investment incentives," she said. Senators John Ensign (R-Nev.), Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), David Vitter (R-La.), Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and John Thune (R-S.D. co-sponsored the amendment.

Rebecca Arbogast, head of technology policy research at Stifel Nicholas, said the move was a standard vehicle for Congress to block what regulatory agencies were trying to achieve in the executive branch or in a regulatory agency. "But the likelihood of it getting passed it pretty low. This is standard procedure and a time-honored tradition but the Republicans are in the minority." . . .

UPDATE: These regulations were clearly done to benefit Google. AT&T has tried to point out that if Google is going to offer telephone services it should also be treated like a telephone company. Google of course disagrees.

When your long-distance company connects your call to a telephone served by a different company, it pays a fee to terminate the call. This fee can range from almost nothing to as much as 7 cents a minute. The difference is set by a number of factors, including state regulatory regimes. In most cases, those access charges far exceed the actual cost of completing a long-distance call, and every telephone user pays higher bills because of these charges.

So why do these charges exist? Originally, they were to subsidize service in sparsely populated areas, and they are still defended by the largely rural phone companies that benefit from them, many of which have allies in Congress. (Those phone companies get a number of other subsidies, too.)

Meanwhile, some enterprising phone companies, aided by local regulators, have taken to encouraging entrepreneurs to set up businesses that attract lots of inbound calls. Those include the free conference calling services, free fax lines and telephone pornography. The phone companies rebate some of the high call termination fees they receive to the companies running these services.

Maybe the commission will decide that Google, since it is turning into a telephone company, will need to connect to those lines and pay the fees. Maybe it will agree with Google’s argument that its services are different enough to be exempt from the rules AT&T follows. But consumers would benefit most if the commission used this as another prod to do the difficult work of bringing some rationality to the way that long-distance calling is priced.

The WSJ has some specifics about how the telephone regulations seem to apply differently to Google.

In a letter to the Federal Communications Commission, the phone giant accused Google of violating rules designed to ensure phone companies connect all calls. AT&T also accused Google of violating "net neutrality" principles, which are designed to ensure consumers can use any legal Internet services they want.

Google Voice is an Internet call-forwarding system that allows consumers to sign up for a free phone number that, when called, simultaneously rings all of a consumer's other phones.

Google acknowledged it restricts outgoing calls to some phone numbers, including adult chat lines and conference-call centers, which charge higher access fees to carriers. Blocking such calls reduces Google's expenses for the service.

An FCC spokeswoman said the agency had received the letter and was reviewing it, but didn't have any comment about whether it might investigate

The FCC "cannot, through inaction or otherwise, give Google a special privilege to play by its own rules," AT&T said in the letter. . . .

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What is the relationship between Government's share of health care spending and the growth in real spending?

This regression uses the log of health care expenditures per capita (using purchasing power parity in terms of dollars) on the long of the percentage of health care spending from the government, real per capita income, real per capita income squared, and year and country fixed effects. Using all the data available from 1960 to 2007 for the OECD countries, each one percent increase in a government’s share of health care expenditures increases health care expenditures by about 0.4 percent.

The entire estimate is available here.

. xi:reg lnhealthexppercap lnperchealthexppub percapitainc percapitainc2 i.year i.country
i.year _Iyear_1960-2007 (naturally coded; _Iyear_1960 omitted)
i.country _Icountry_1-30 (_Icountry_1 for cou~y==Australia omitted)

Source | SS df MS Number of obs = 969
-------------+------------------------------ F( 79, 889) = 703.36
Model | 1246.26407 79 15.7754946 Prob > F = 0.0000
Residual | 19.9391929 889 .022428788 R-squared = 0.9843
-------------+------------------------------ Adj R-squared = 0.9829
Total | 1266.20327 968 1.30806123 Root MSE = .14976

lnhealthex~p | Coef. Std. Err. t P>|t| [95% Conf. Interval]
lnpercheal~b | .4116497 .0477609 8.62 0.000 .3179124 .5053871
percapitainc | .0000428 6.03e-06 7.09 0.000 .0000309 .0000546
percapitai~2 | -5.44e-10 8.48e-11 -6.42 0.000 -7.11e-10 -3.78e-10
_cons | 2.413152 .1959603 12.31 0.000 2.028554 2.797751


"Acorn Helping Illegal Aliens Get Home Loans"

White House ties to ACORN. Of course, President Obama denied that he knew much at all about ACORN over the weekend.

"Frankly, it's not something I've followed closely," Mr. Obama claimed, adding he wasn't even aware the group had been the recipient of significant federal funding. "This is not the biggest issue facing the country. It's not something I'm paying a lot of attention to," he said.

Mr. Obama added that an investigation of Acorn was appropriate after an amateur hidden-camera investigation had found Acorn offices willing to abet prostitution, but he carefully declined to say whether he would approve a federal cutoff of funds to the group. . . .

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The bizarre CBO estimated deficit numbers for the Baucus bill

From the WSJ:

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office on Wednesday said that a health-care measure released by Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D., Mont.) would reduce the deficit by $49 billion over 10 years.

In a letter to Baucus, the CBO states the bill would cost a total of $774 billion, but would be offset by revenue-raising provisions, such as a 35% excise tax on high-cost health insurance plans, as well as spending reductions. The result, it said, would be a $49 billion reduction of federal deficits from 2010 to 2019. . . . .

Here is one huge mistake that the estimates are making:

The Obama/Baucus plan doesn't force people to buy insurance; it requires them to pay a tax if they don't. But the tax is so low that the end result will be the same as not requiring people to buy insurance. The tax for those who don't buy insurance ranges from $750 for the poorest single people to as high as $3,800 a year for families. Even without unlimited insurance benefits, the average insurance cost today is much higher: in 2008, it was on average $4,704 for individuals and $12,682 for families. But with no penalty for having a pre-existing condition, people will pay the tax and wait to buy insurance once they get sick. If people only buy insurance once they are already sick, insurance premiums will soar dramatically. In short order there will be much higher insurance premiums. . . .

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Evaluating Obama's Address to Congress on Health Care

Editorial that I was largely responsible for writing for the Washington Times starts this way:

In his Sept. 9 address to Congress on health care, President Obama assured the nation, "These are the facts. Nobody disputes them." The brazenness of the president's claim that nobody disputes his policy spin is over the top. Such a hardened position means that anybody raising objections against such a consensus is either a liar or an idiot.

Ironically, with all the outrage over South Carolina Republican Rep. Joe Wilson's yelling "You lie" during the president's speech, there has been precious little said about Mr. Obama constantly claiming that Republicans are lying. The president pointedly went after former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and her assertions about rationing when he fumed to Congress, "It is a lie, plain and simple." Despite all the theatrics, his statement is false. The Democratic bills before Congress do involve rationing.

In fact, we have a hard time even finding almost anything in the president's talk that is correct. Take his basic claims about the insurance industry. "In 34 states, 75 percent of the insurance market is controlled by five or fewer companies," Mr. Obama said. "In Alabama, almost 90 percent is controlled by just one company." As Fox News Channel demonstrated on Wednesday, the share of the largest five insurance companies in the 34 states is not 75 percent but merely 32 percent. For Alabama, the number is not almost 90 percent but 36 percent, which sounds a lot less threatening than what the president said. . . .

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Obama's crazy anti-trust enforcement

This is just the beginning of the cases.

The cooperative said that in 2008, it marketed 61.2 billion pounds of milk, representing 32% of the total milk marketed in the country. . . .

The problem isn't the level of concentration. The political problem is that milk prices are down, but that is not because of a sudden increase in concentration.

Dairy farmers nationwide are coping with historically low milk prices after a 36% drop in the past year to the lowest level in three decades. In 2007 and part of 2008, dairy farmers enjoyed high milk prices as a booming global economy boosted demand for milk around the world. Dairy farmers expanded their herds to cash in. Then, with the onset of the recession, demand for milk weakened and dairy farmers were left with an oversupply of milk, which depressed prices. . . .

Possibly someone can also explain to me how a coop conspires to lower the price it pays to its members who own the coop. Even if it somehow accomplished this, don't the members get the "ill gotten gains" back at the end of the year?


The Aftermath of the Clunkers program

Is this what the authors of the Cash for Clunkers program expected it to do?

But once the federal money dried up, so did the sales rally. Now, customers at dealerships like Silko Honda in Raynham are few and far between, and inventory is once again accumulating. . . .

“It was probably, in the end, a complete waste of taxpayer money,’’ said John Wolkonowicz, a senior auto analyst at IHS Global Insight, Lexington forecasting firm. “The dealers, who were supposed to be the primary beneficiaries, many were forced into cash flow problems because the government didn’t pay them in a timely fashion.’’

From the outset, there were problems with the Car Allowance Rebate System. It was supposed to start July 1 but was delayed until July 24. The rules were complicated, and the list of qualifying vehicles and other requirements changed repeatedly. And in addition to the formidable paperwork, the government website set up to process the deals kept crashing, creating a backlog.

Ray Ciccolo, president of Village Automotive Group, which operates eight Boston-area dealerships, said he has received $400,000 from the government, but that is only half of what he is owed. Ciccolo was in Washington last week to hear Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood address the National Automobile Dealers Association. Ciccolo said LaHood pledged to have all claims paid by the end of this month.

“There isn’t much you can do except wait,’’ Ciccolo said. . . . .

“This program was very good at getting product off the lot, but there haven’t been long-term benefits,’’ he said. “Dealers are reporting that showrooms are pretty dead right now.’’

Wolkonowicz said the fall slowdown may have been worsened by the program because many buyers came out early to take advantage of the program instead of waiting until now to shop. . . . .

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After telling Governor Paterson to drop out of race, the Obama White House denies that they told him that

Forget what you read in the NY Times. The WH denies that they told the NY Times what the paper says that they said. Fox News has this:

The New York Times reported this morning that President Obama sent a request to NY Governor Paterson asking him to withdraw from the 2010 Governor's race.

A Senior Administration official tells Mike Emanuel: "President Obama is not involved in any way. There are officials in the White House that share the concerns that are widely held in New York about the very challenging political environment confronting Governor Paterson."

The official says those concerns were expressed via the appropriate channels.

"Nobody asked him to get out of the race - it is Governor Paterson's decision to make. We're confident he'll make the decision based on the best interests of the state."

You can read the original New York Times story after the jump or here.

September 21, 2009


Gov. David A. Paterson defiantly vowed to run for election next year despite the White House‘s urging that he withdraw from the New York governor’s race.

Appearing tired and agitated as reporters crowded him at a parade in Harlem on Sunday, the governor said that he would not abandon his campaign to seek a full term.

“I have said time and time again that I am running for governor next year,” he said at the 40th annual African-American Day Parade.

Mr. Paterson would not characterize what he was told by the White House, saying that he would not “discuss confidential conversations.”

“I’m not talking about any specific conversations,” he said. “As I said, I am running for office.”

President Obama had sent a request to Mr. Paterson that he withdraw from the New York governor’s race, fearing that Mr. Paterson cannot recover from his dismal political standing, according to two senior administration officials and a New York Democratic operative with direct knowledge of the situation. . . .

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Some measures of economic activity, showing that this hasn't been the worst recession, let alone the worst depression

Both office and retail vacancies have been higher during each previous recession.



Obama could do something to stop racial recriminations and he does very little

Hume: (Obama's) repudiation is quite mild, he's really not slammed the door, he's really not sent a signal that 'I'll have no part of this,'If he did, and if he said, this is not about race, this is about honest policy differences and shouted it from the rooftops, that I think would be in keeping with the person he projected to us in the campaign which is post racial man, he hasn't done that and I think that leaves the door open to the toxicity that is likely to creep into the debate from here forward. People who are honestly opposing Barack Obama and there are lots of them, do not like being accused of a racist. . . . .

Hume goes on to say: "He is not doing all he could . . . ." The problem here is that when Obama says that it is not "mainly" about race it fans the flames of these concerns.

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Creigh Deeds: "I think that I made myself clear young lady" Reporter: "I am sorry, I am not trying to be mean, I just don't quite understand."

The Democratic Gubernatorial has a hard time explaining his position on taxes.

"I am not going to raise taxes."

"I know that we are going to have raise money for transportation."

This is also pretty funny about Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm.


How poor is the quality of US Health Care

I have made more than a few of these arguments myself previously, but David Friedman does an excellent job discussing the problems with the WHO ranking of health care systems in 192 nations.


Stuart Taylor on the Citizens United case before the Supreme Court

While I always respect Mr. Taylor's arguments, I think that he is wrong this time.

Kagan's main argument was that business spending on campaigns, even when done independently of the candidates, creates the same appearance of indebtedness and quid pro quo corruption that the Court has long held to justify banning direct contributions to candidates from corporations and large (above $2,400) contributions from individuals.

This particular argument has some force but is not entirely persuasive. The reason is that independent election spending by business corporations is not dramatically more corrupting than the independent spending of vast sums by super-rich individuals such as George Soros, which -- the Court has properly held -- the First Amendment protects.

A better argument against unleashing business corporations is that executives motivated solely by their companies' economic interests would be pouring into campaign ads money belonging to individual stockholders who had not consented to the executives' candidate choices and would in many cases disagree with them.

Oil executives, for example, might buy ads praising champions of more offshore drilling. But many of their stockholders no doubt have other political priorities -- such as legislation on health care, abortion, civil rights, drug laws, or education -- that might well lead them to oppose some of the same candidates.

"When corporations use other people's money to electioneer," as Kagan explained, "that is a harm not just to the shareholders themselves but a sort of a broader harm to the public," because it distorts the political process to inject large sums of individuals' money in support of candidates whom they may well oppose. . . .

People can own stock in whatever companies that they want. Presumably the company only takes positions that the majority of its shareholders support. Companies can even adopt bylaws that say a supermajority is needed to take certain actions. But to take the specific example discussed by Mr. Taylor, there are funds that only own stock in environmentally "responsible" companies (whatever they define that to be). If shareholders hold stock in companies that do this advocacy despite the shareholders opposing that position, it simply says that they don't hold that position very strongly.

It seems to me that the suggested rules that the Supreme Court should follow are very arbitrary. Shareholders themselves have a better notion of what is in their interest, and if actions that are not in their interest are occurring, they can take actions so that their money is not used to fund positions that they don't approve of.


Obama's promise from last fall to cut taxes

The entire speech is available here.

My plan - all together - is a net tax cut. My plan will cut taxes to a smaller share of the economy than they were under President Reagan. Under my plan, income taxes for typical American families will be the lowest that they've been in more than a half century. Everyone in America - everyone - will pay lower taxes than they would under the rates Bill Clinton had in the 1990s. And under my plan, middle class families will get three times as much relief as Senator McCain is offering. In fact, his plan gives absolutely nothing to over 100 million American households.

And I can make a firm pledge: under my plan, no family making less than $250,000 will see their taxes increase - not your income taxes, not your payroll taxes, not your capital gains taxes, not any of your taxes. My opponent can't make that pledge, and here's why: for the first time in American history, he wants to tax your health benefits Apparently, Senator McCain doesn't think it's enough that your health premiums have doubled, he thinks you should have to pay taxes on them too. That's a $3.6 trillion tax increase on middle class families. That will eventually leave tens of millions of you paying higher taxes. That's his idea of change. . . . .

Politico notes this today:

President Barack Obama blitzed the Sunday morning airwaves to pitch health reform but found himself on the defensive — denying the plan breaks his campaign promise not to raise taxes on the middle class and insisting the public insurance option isn’t dead. . . .

“For us to say that you've got to take a responsibility to get health insurance is absolutely not a tax increase,” Obama said on ABC’s “This Week.” “What it’s saying is that we’re not going to have other people carrying your burdens for you any more than the fact that right now everybody in America, just about, has to get auto insurance. Nobody considers that a tax increase.”

Critics of Obama’s proposals say that taxes and higher fees on insurance companies, drug makers and other industries would simply be passed on to consumers – also amounting to a hidden cost in the plan.

After he was pressed on it some more, in a testy exchange where Stephanopoulos at one point read the definition of “tax” from Merriam Webster's Dictionary, Obama held firm.

“My critics say everything is a tax increase. My critics say that I'm taking over every sector of the economy. You know that,” Obama said.

“But you reject that it's a tax increase?” the host said.

“I absolutely reject that notion,” Obama said. . . .

Here is the problem. This tax isn't just limited to those without health insurance. People making less than $250,000 will also pay this tax even if they have health insurance.

As an aside, I should also point to this related promise is available here.

When Bob Schieffer asked Obama what he was going to do about the deficit Obama promised to cut the it: “But there is no doubt that we've been living beyond our means and we're going to have to make some adjustments. Now, what I've done throughout this campaign is to propose a net spending cut.” . . .

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